Chinese President Hu Jintao swore in Hong Kong's new chief executive on the 15th anniversary of the handover to China. Protesters are expected to take to the streets.
Beijing loyalist Leung Chun-ying, a self-made millionaire and surveyor, began his five-year term as leader of Hong Kong on Sunday, following an electoral race fraught with mud-slinging and controversy.
Leung, 57, replaces Donald Tsang as chief executive.
The new leader was selected earlier this spring, but his popularity has been hit recently by a housing scandal involving illegal constructions in a luxury villa, as well as his close ties to Beijing.
Opponents refer to Leung as a "the wolf," owing to his abrasive style. They question whether he will act in Hong Kong's best interests, particularly with regard to moving the city towards a full democracy.
The seven million people of Hong Kong currently cannot choose their leader. The chief executive is selected by an elite 1,200-member election committee, many of whom are Beijing loyalists.
Protesters hit streets
On Saturday, hundreds of protesters clashed with police as they tried to give Hu a 100,000-name petition asking for an investigation into the suspicious death of Chinese dissident Li Wangyang.
Tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets Sunday over a variety of issues, including the slow moves toward democracy and the perceived Chinese meddling in the city's affairs.
China has promised the direct election of Hong Kong's leader in 2017, but many are skeptical the poll will be truly democratic. Other issues the protesters are focused on include the increasing wealth gap, corruption and pollution.
Leung is known for championing grassroot causes, such as poverty alleviation and the need for more public housing. He has pledged to pursue more socially inclusive policies.
"We will safeguard the core values that we have treasured for years, resolve deep-seated conflicts, improve the livelihood of our people and work towards the harmony and stability of our society," Leung said last week.
tm/ccp (AFP, Reuters)