Hong Kong: Leung Chun-ying, a millionaire property consultant seen as close to China's communist rulers, was sworn in as Hong Kong's new chief executive on Sunday.

"I vow to defend the Hong Kong... Basic Law," Leung said in Mandarin as he read out the oath before Chinese president Hu Jintao, then shook hands with the head of state in front of around 2,300 guests in a harbour front hall.

Leung proceeded to swear in the members of his own government, in front of a backdrop featuring both the Chinese and Hong Kong flags, with the national emblem slightly larger.

The Basic Law is Hong Kong's mini-constitution, which guarantees the former British colony civil liberties not seen in mainland China under the "one country, two systems" model set up when it returned to Chinese rule.

The swearing-in came as Hong Kong marked the 15th anniversary of the handover, with Hu targeted by protestors demanding greater democracy and railing against Beijing's meddling in local affairs.

Leung was elected in March by a committee stacked with pro-Beijing elites.

"I will seek to perform my best to repay the trust given to me by the central government and the people," he said in his inauguration speech as the chief executive, essentially an enhanced city mayor.

"I will honour my election promise to bring change to Hong Kong while preserving stability," he added.

Leung, 57, has faced persistent accusations that he is a secret underground Communist Party member -- a claim that he vehemently denied.

He takes over the city of seven million people at a time of growing complaints about a worsening gap between rich and poor, as well as rising property prices which have put home ownership out of reach for many.

Leung takes over from Donald Tsang, a bow-tie wearing bureaucrat the end of whose term of office came amid a series of controversies over his close ties with business tycoons.


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