Hong Kong’s first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa assumed office on July 1, 1997 when the city was handed back to China by Britain. The scion of a shipping family was reappointed to a second term.
In 2003, the city government proposed a national security legislation, known locally as Article 23. Ostensibly, the legislation would target those endangering national security, but there were concerns among residents that it would affect their rights and freedoms. This stoked a major protest in Hong Kong in July 2003.
Tung stepped down in March 2005, citing health reasons.
His unfinished term was passed onto Donald Tsang, a former civil servant in the British colonial government. Tsang was subsequently reappointed, leaving office in 2012 after serving seven years in total.
Towards the end of his time in office, Tsang was embroiled in various corruption allegations and eventually stood trial after stepping down. He was convicted of misconduct in public office but the conviction was later quashed by the city’s top court.
In recent years, the pace of succession quickened. Hong Kong’s third leader Leung Chun-ying who has a background in real estate, left after just one term of five years, as his popularity sank following the 2014 Occupy Movement.
The trajectory has been similar for current chief executive Carrie Lam, whose term has been marred by the 2019 anti-extradition Bill protests and more recently, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While she was in office, Beijing also passed a broad national security law, bypassing the approval of the city legislature.
The former civil servant will finish her term on Jun 30 and said she would not be seeking a second term due to family reasons.
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