Two of Hong Kong’s top cabinet ministers have resigned, plunging the government already shaken by recent protests deeper into a political crisis.
Officials on Wednesday announced the resignations of Security Secretary Regina Ip and Financial Secretary Antony Leung, triggering immediate speculations about the very political future of the Chinese’s territory’s chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa.
Ip and Leung have in the recent past been the subjects of growing popular ire.
Massive street protests swept Hong Kong after the authorities attempted to push through an anti-subversion bill championed by Ip. The scale of the protests forced the government to concede defeat and drop the draconian features of the bill.
Leung was bitterly criticized for buying a luxury car just before he announced a tax hike on vehicles.
Analysts said the resignations of the two most unpopular cabinet ministers may still not be enough to bail out the Beijing-appointed Hong Kong chief executive.
“This is not the end of the story. People want a better system and the campaign is now directed at greater democracy,” said political commentator, Andy Ho.
A former British colony, Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Public anger at Tung, who had been installed by China and not popularly elected, has rapidly been taking the shape of a pro-democracy movement.
A late night government statement said Tung would fly to Beijing on Saturday to brief Chinese officials on the latest situation.
Political analysts felt the resignations could further embolden the territory’s residents to increase pressure on the government for greater democracy and right to elect their own leaders.
“Beijing’s biggest worry is that Hong Kong will get out of control and demand full democracy. To the Communists, things must be under control…what if such a trend offucrs in other places in China and they start wanting more autonomy?” said political commentator Lo Chi-kin.
But some expressed hopes that the government would draw lessons from its present travails.
The resignations may prompt the government to be more responsive to public demands in the future and sidestep more political turmoil, they said.