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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Second minister quits in HK crisis
Antony Leung
Leung: Controversy over luxury car
Hong Kong's government has been plunged into uncertainty following the resignations of two senior ministers.

Finance Secretary Antony Leung said he was quitting on Wednesday, just hours after security chief Regina Ip handed in her notice.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa did not explain either resignation but is flying to Beijing on Saturday to brief Chinese officials on the situation.

He is himself under dual pressure over his anti-subversion bill, which is wanted by Beijing but has sparked a storm of protest in Hong Kong.

Analysts say Mr Tung may hope that by losing two controversial figures in his government he can restore some political support.

Mr Leung had come under increasing pressure to resign following a furore over a luxury car he bought in February just weeks before he upped the tax on such vehicles.
ARTICLE 23 BILL
Outlaws: Reporting state "secrets"
Criticism of Beijing authority
Access to "subversive" material
Threatens currently legal groups, such as Falun Gong

The purchase led to widespread public criticism and the Justice Department said on Wednesday that it was still considering whether to bring corruption charges against Mr Leung.

As for Ms Ip's resignation, the government said it had been prompted by "personal reasons".

However, analysts said Ms Ip's determined handling of the anti-subversion bill - known as Article 23 - had made her position untenable.

The government had back-tracked on the bill amid criticism that it could undermine Hong Kong's political, religious and media freedoms.

Under fire

The outcry over Article 23, which saw 500,000 people protesting in the streets at one point, led to Mr Tung delaying attempts to get the bill approved by the legislature.

Since then, there have been increasing calls for the unpopular Mr Tung to resign or at least to shake up his government.

BBC correspondent Francis Markus says the way the Hong Kong Government decides to handle the security bill will be crucial.

But the ill-fated legislation is just one item on a whole list of grievances against Mr Tung's Beijing-backed administration, our correspondent adds.

Mr Tung also faces pressure from Beijing, which regained sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 and wants the anti-subversion bill passed.

Beijing's top representative to the territory, Gao Siren, said on Wednesday that continued opposition to the anti-subversion bill would harm Hong Kong's economy.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Francis Markus
" A lot of critics of the government will say people resigning will not be enough"



SEE ALSO:
Tung Chee-hwa: Beijing's favoured son
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: China's concern at HK protests
09 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK delays anti-subversion bill
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK rally for more democracy
13 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK's scandal-hit finance minister
16 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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