Outgoing chief denies he was pushed out by Beijing, saying it was ailing health that forced him to stand down Tung Chee-hwa formally submitted his resignation to Beijing yesterday, ending a historic and troubled reign as Hong Kong's first chief executive under Chinese rule. Announcing his decision at the end of 10 days of intense speculation, Mr Tung said his ailing health was affecting his judgment and decisions. Looking cheerful and relaxed, he also firmly rejected any suggestions he had been sacked or pressed to quit. 'Since the third quarter of last year, I have been getting tired very easily. My immunity has weakened and sickness comes here and there,' he told a press conference after emerging from a special cabinet meeting at 5.30pm. Standing alone at the podium in the Central Government Offices, he said he had submitted his resignation an hour earlier. The resignation is expected to be formally accepted during this weekend's visit by Mr Tung to Beijing. At the same time Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will be named acting chief executive ahead of an election that must be held within six months, and which Mr Tsang is tipped to win. Mr Tsang will also act in the post after Mr Tung flies to the capital this afternoon. Mr Tung told the press conference he hoped, and believed, his team of ministers would stay on. Speaking of his reasons for standing down, he said: 'I'm turning 68 this year. Time won't stand still. My health has been affected by continuous 16 to 18 hours of work every day. 'The work of the chief executive is very heavy. The responsibility is huge. If I stay in the job, my health will be affected. It's not just the health aspect, it's about your work, about the way you think and judge your issues. If you are tired and your health is no good, it's not good. 'I think it's better for me to step aside and to have another person to carry this thing through, because there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I think it's a responsible thing to do.' The central government had no immediate public response to Hong Kong's leadership change. Central government liaison office director Gao Siren said the resignation would be considered seriously. He said Mr Tsang had 'good cooperation' with the civil service and Mr Tung, which gave him the edge to work as the acting chief executive. A statement released last night by the semi-official China News Agency praised Mr Tung for his hard work and loyalty to Hong Kong. It said there had been rain and storms during his governance but Mr Tung's contribution to the practice of the 'one country, two systems' formula had been enormous. Mr Tung will fly to Beijing today to attend the closing ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, where he is set to be elected as a vice-chairman. Yesterday he apologised for the speculation since his new role in the CPPCC became known and news of his pending resignation leaked. 'The resignation of the chief executive is a big issue ... I cannot come to you and ask 'what do you think of that'. That's not the way. I hope you can understand. It doesn't happen very often.' Stressing that Beijing had repeatedly affirmed his work, Mr Tung said 'this is simply not the case', when asked if he was pushed out after a public dressing down by President Hu Jintao in December. He said his doctor had warned him to adjust his work pattern and lifestyle. 'Otherwise I will go more downhill and even more tired.' He said the moment for serious consideration came in January when he needed painkillers to help him stand for long enough to deliver his policy address. Mr Tung had wanted to deliver it sitting down but aides said that would be bad for Hong Kong's image. 'The night before, I had a painkiller and then read the policy address for more than one hour. I felt unwell, but I could still carry on. So the next day I had another painkiller and did not use a chair,' he said. 'The incident reminded me to seriously consider stepping down.' Mr Tung repeatedly fended off calls for him to stand down during the seven years and eight months of his rule, during which he became increasingly unpopular. Asked yesterday about his favourite reply 'To quit is easy, to stay needs courage', he said: 'That was 21 months ago. At the time, the economy was very bad and society was not stable. It would have been irresponsible had I left at that time. 'Today, the economy is the best ever since the handover. Society is more stable ... To leave is a responsible thing to do, particularly when my health is not good.' Mr Tung said that after steering Hong Kong through one stormy challenge after another, his biggest regret was not being able to finish the second term. 'My feelings are mixed. Having worked as the chief executive, there is a kind of unexplainable relationship with Hong Kong and its people. It's a very special feeling, a kind of a sadness.' Describing it as a life honour to have led Hong Kong down the untravelled road of 'one country, two systems', Mr Tung thanked the public for their patience and understanding over the years. 'Not one day passed when I did not work to ease your suffering and address your needs,' he said. In an unusually relaxed mood, he cracked a few jokes when fielding tough questions in the room packed with local and foreign reporters. 'I can't continue [standing] like this, I've got to find a chair,' he said, when asked to take a few more questions. But he was quick to defend his health when asked if CPPCC vice-chairman would be too demanding a job. 'I think I will be able to cope with that after some rest.' He pledged that he would not return to his family business or other companies, in an apparent attempt to address worries of a lack of rules on his activities after stepping down.