Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, faces a huge task to bridge a widening political gap, analysts said on Wednesday.

A mass rally on New Year’s Day pushed for his resignation and a swifter path to democracy under Chinese rule.

The protesters accused him of lying in a row over illegal structures at his luxury home — a highly sensitive issue in the space-starved city.

Pro-democracy campaigners, some waving flags from the British colonial era, called for direct leadership elections, while a pro-government camp said Mr. Leung should be allowed to get on with his job of addressing a slowing economy and housing shortages

Observers said the rare duelling rallies illustrate new divisions in the regional financial hub, where political discontent is increasing 15 years after Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule.

They said Mr. Leung faces an urgent task to build trust and avoid the fate of his predecessor, Hong Kong’s first post-handover Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, who had to step down after half a million people marched against him in 2003.

While Hong Kong has long had a vocal pro-democracy contingent, which on Tuesday held up posters portraying Mr. Leung as a vampire and a wolf, a new group is emerging which believes the city should get back to business.

The protesters who took to the streets to demand Mr. Leung’s resignation accused him of lying in a row over illegal structures at his luxury home. Beijing has said the city’s leader could be directly elected in 2017 at the earliest, with the legislature following by 2020. — AFP