The 5-Minute Briefing: Hong Kong's new leader

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The Independent Online

Who is Donald Tsang?

A 60-year-old career civil servant who will run Hong Kong after being confirmed by the Beijing-approved electoral college. Formerly the territory's top civil servant, he filled in as acting leader following the resignation of Tung Chee Hwa in March. Mr Tsang never went to university, but worked his way up the administrative ladder after joining the civil service in 1967. He played a vital role in negotiating the terms of Hong Kong's independence from British ruleand is considered an able administrator. But he came across as arrogant during the two-week election campaign, in which he refused to debate with his rivals.

What effect will Mr Tsang's election have on Hong Kong?

Not much. He has a reputation for being extremely decisive but his unswerving loyalty to Beijing suggests that he will be unwilling to push through any radical political reforms. His experience might see him become the stabilising force that Beijing is so eager for, but doesn't leave much room for optimism among those who feel China already wields too much influence over the former British colony.

What problems will he face while in office?

After the negotiations which led to Hong Kong's independence, the British and Chinese teams established rules for the territory, which was promised a regime of "one country, two systems" for 50 years after the 1997 handover. Hong Kong would retain a high degree of local autonomy, including control of its own social, economic, and political systems, while ceding foreign and defence policies to Beijing. But China can veto changes to Hong Kong's political system and it cannot directly elect its own leader. Mr Tsang will have to tread a careful line between preserving Hong Kong's independence on social and economic issues, while keeping his masters in Beijing convinced of his pliability.

What effect will his close ties to Britain have on his rule?

Although Mr Tsang was knighted by the Queen for his work on the Hong Kong independence negotiations, he does not use the title. This suggests he will maximise whatever leverage he can gain from his close ties to London while not forgetting that Beijing pays his salary.