- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

HONG KONG Hong Kong's unpopular political leader, Tung Chee-hwa, was nominated yesterday for a second term assured of victory after gaining so much support from the election committee that no challenger can even get on the ballot.

Demonstrators for democracy lashed out at the prospect of Mr. Tung's certain re-election as chief executive and at the unusual electoral process that gives votes to just 800 members of a committee.

Most ordinary citizens dislike Mr. Tung, and critics say he wouldn't stand a chance in a popular election.

Mr. Tung was nominated by more than 700 of the committee members most of them allied with Beijing or large corporations with ties to Beijing. It was more than enough to keep alternative candidates out of the race.

Any challenger would need 100 nomination signatures from members of the committee and there aren't that many left.

"Such a manipulated system defies logic and is an insult to the people's intelligence," said opposition lawmaker Emily Lau.

"Mr. Tung does not represent the people and his policies will continue to serve the interests of his friends and cronies," Mrs. Lau said.

Mr. Tung, a former shipping tycoon, appealed for cohesion and pledged to rebuild Hong Kong's struggling economy, which is on the verge of its second recession since he took office when Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997.

Mr. Tung did not immediately claim victory, however. Electoral officials confirmed that his nomination petition contained at least 702 valid signatures, but he cannot formally be declared the winner of a new five-year term until the nomination period closes Feb. 28.

Veteran democracy demonstrator Leung Kwok-hung brought out a Yorkshire terrier to run against Mr. Tung, saying that since ordinary people can't get involved in the race, animals might as well. Mr. Leung said the dog could easily get nominated by "101 Dalmatians."

Mr. Tung was chosen by Communist Party leaders in Beijing to became the first Chinese leader of this capitalist enclave.

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