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'Political Crisis' Faces Hong Kong's New Leader

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'Political Crisis' Faces Hong Kong's New Leader

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'Political Crisis' Faces Hong Kong's New Leader

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's a pretty bad first day of work when hundreds of thousands of people march through the streets, calling for your resignation. That's what happened yesterday to Hong Kong's new leader. NPR's Louisa Lim is in Hong Kong with the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD NOISE)

LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: More protests greeted Hong Kong's new leader, Leung Chun-ying, this morning as he kicked off a listening tour of the island. Visiting a welfare association, he met protesters - both for and against him.

LEUNG CHUN-YING: (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: Leung said he hoped he could fight together with the people, and he vowed to listen seriously and humbly to people's demands.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

LIM: If he was listening yesterday, he couldn't have missed the calls for him to step down. Organizers say 400,000 people took to the streets. When asked why the turnout was so big, lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung's answer was simple.

LEUNG YIU-CHUNG: He is a liar. He'll always tell lies. So people don't like him, and people come out to say no to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

LIM: The new leader was selected by an elite committee, but he received just over half their votes. Building regulations had sunk his main contender - specifically, the discovery he had a huge, illegal basement. Leung himself vowed he was clean. But just last week, he was discovered to have six illegal structures in his house. He's a surveyor by trade.

The strength of opposition to him has surprised analysts.

IVAN CHOY: It is the first day of the new administration. It already mobilized about 5 percent of the populations. I think you should say that it is a political crisis.

LIM: Ivan Choy, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He says Leung's problems are compounded since he's not entirely trusted either by pro-government politicians, or by the business sector.

CHOY: When you find that you have a large rally to oppose C.Y. Leung but at the same time, you cannot consolidate the business tycoon and the pro-government camp to support you, you would be in a more serious political crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

LIM: There's been public dissatisfaction at the influence of Hong Kong's powerful tycoons, and Leung had been the candidate pushing change. But today, one newspaper called him a lame duck. Joseph Cheng, from City University, says he is damaged.

JOSEPH CHENG: More than half of the population in Hong Kong have strong doubts on his integrity. He is seen to be a weak chief executive. He has to depend much more on support from the Chinese authorities. And people wonder if he has the political will, and the political support, to challenge the vested interests, especially the big businesses.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

LIM: For Beijing, there are also concerns the massive protests could serve as an inspiration to mainlanders. Censors have been busy deleting pictures of the march, on Chinese Twitter. But mainland tourists were in awe.

MR. LEE: (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: This is extremely good, said a 26-year-old mainlander who gave his name as Mr. Lee. I'm very moved. I'd very much like to live in this place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

LIM: President Hu Jintao was in town for the inauguration. At a gala, he sang with the new chief executive. Sing a song of praise for our dear motherland, the chorus went, towards prosperity and a strong nation. China's leaders already face a difficult power transition this fall, following a domestic political scandal. They may now fear their choice of leader in Hong Kong could undermine them further.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Hong Kong.

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