World

Hong Kong's leader to step down: reports

Hong Kong's controversial and unpopular leader could leave office as early as next week, according to reports.

Hong Kong's controversial and unpopular leader could leave office as early as next week, according to reports from the former British colony.

Unidentified sources said 67-year-old Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will cite ill health as the reason for his departure, speculation that made newspaper headlines in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Beijing has already accepted his resignation, according to a number of reports.

Some observers suggested that the real reason Tung would step down is because Beijing had lost faith in his ability to ensure stability in Hong Kong. The Communist leadership thought it would be better for him to leave as soon as possible.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday, Tung declined to comment on the speculation, but did say he would "make an announcement at an appropriate time."

Tung's deputy, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, is expected to replace him.

Tung has ruled Hong Kong since Britain handed over control of the territory to China in 1997. He had been elected by an 800-member, pro-Beijing committee.

The son of a wealthy Shanghai shipping family, critics accuse Tung of mishandling major crises, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 outbreak of SARS.

He's resisted calls for greater democracy in the region, ignoring two major demonstrations in the past two years that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Hong Kong.

It's rumoured he may be appointed to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an elite panel that advises the government.