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Constitutional battle looms in Hong Kong over Tung successor

[JURIST] As anticipated [JURIST report], Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee Hwa submitted his resignation Thursday, citing health reasons for leaving his post two years before the expiry of his second 5-year term. He denied claims that the Chinese government had pressured him into leaving office, although Chinese officials had made it clear in recent public meetings that they were displeased with Tung's handling of recent political and administrative problems in the former British colony, which became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Tung had particular problems with a strict new security law which became the focus of mass protests in 2003. Tung's early resignation raises an important constitutional question under the territory's Basic Law [text], as it is unclear whether the mandated election of a new chief executive by an 800-person committee would allow a successor to sit for a full five year term or simply hold office for the remaining two of Tung's administration. Chinese government officials are said to favor the latter interpretation, which gives them more political flexibility. Taking over from Tung in the short term will be his deputy, Donald Tsang [BBC profile], a veteran of the British civil service, who is expected to be the leading candidate in the upcoming vote. Read a transcript of Tung's remarks announcing his resignation [HK government press release]. BBC News has more.

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