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Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Sunday, 25 March 2007 00:11 UK

Profile: Donald Tsang

Donald Tsang, Hong Kong chief executive
Donald Tsang is easily recognisable due to his fondness for bow ties

Donald Tsang, re-elected on Sunday as Hong Kong's leader, remains a popular figure.

A recent survey found Hong Kong's chief executive is almost as well-liked now as when he first succeeded Tung Chee-hwa just under two years ago.

This is despite widespread unhappiness about the slow pace of democratic reform under his leadership.

An 800-member committee of officials loyal to Beijing determined the outcome of Sunday's election, with Hong Kong's seven million residents having no direct say.

Skilled administrator

A career civil servant and former deputy to Mr Tung, Mr Tsang is respected for his skills as an administrator, his calm demeanour and his strong financial acumen.

In contrast to his predecessor, he is also flamboyant, articulate and deals well with the media.

But critics of his period in office say he has lacked the political expertise and strength of personality to juggle the expectations of a restive public, a divided legislature and the Beijing government.

In particular, his aborted efforts to introduce some limited democratic reforms into Hong Kong's political system were heavily criticised.

A man passes a billboard promoting Hong Kong as a trade destination
The economy has fared well under Mr Tsang's leadership

Mr Tsang, 62, was born in October 1944, the son of a Hong Kong police officer.

Unlike most senior civil servants in Hong Kong, he did not attend university, joining the colonial government in 1967.

He is married with two sons, with hobbies said to include hiking, swimming and bird watching.

Apart from a spell in the 1980s when he was working on details of Hong Kong's transfer from British to Chinese sovereignty, most of his career prior to taking the top job in 2005 was focused on financial matters.

After a succession of trade and economic roles, he was appointed financial secretary in 1995 - the first Chinese person to hold the position.

It was in this role that he chose to intervene in Hong Kong's stock market during the financial crisis of the late 1990s. The move protected it from speculators and won Mr Tsang praise.

With his financial background, it is no surprise that Mr Tsang's stewardship of Hong Kong's economy over the past two years has won him admirers.

The economy has grown strongly in each of the past two years and unemployment has fallen to a seven-year low.

Democracy dilemma

Mr Tsang was made a Knight of the British Empire just before the 1997 handover and many said he had been too close to Britain for Beijing to accept him.

But despite his colonial associations and the fact he is a devout Catholic, Mr Tsang has maintained amicable relations with Beijing.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong
Democracy campaigners say Mr Tsang must show more leadership

His popularity and experience initially made him the stabilising force Beijing was looking for.

But the legislature's decision to reject his reform proposals early last year, disappointed that they did not go far enough, were a slap in the face.

Some observers said his reputation in Beijing may be seriously damaged by the setback but Mr Tsang has bounced back, focusing instead on strengthening the economy.

But the clamour for more popular representation is likely to define his second term in office.

Although he says there is no consensus on what democratic model Hong Kong should adopt, Mr Tsang has promised to resolve the issue during his next five years in power.

He has not ruled out direct elections - allowed for in Hong Kong's constitution - but has given no indication of when this could happen or, indeed, if they ever will.



SEE ALSO
Tsang seeks second term in HK
01 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong leader abandons reforms
12 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong looks to life after Tung
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong's leader Tung resigns
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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