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Tung Chee-Hwa’s resignation and Hong Kong’s future
The Epoch Times
3/19/2005

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa has handed Beijing his resignation, citing poor health and stress, according to Hong Kong newspaper reports on March 2.
BBC reports on March 2 explained that there is more behind Tung Chee-Hwa’s “resignation” at this time. In an interview with the BBC, Hong Kong’s senior political analyst Hong Qingtian said that after Tung’s resignation, the tenure of the next chief executive elected within six months will be five years. This would resolve the challenge from pro-democracy groups, which have demanded a universal suffrage to elect Tung’s successor in 2007. Hong also added that the timing of Tung’s resignation was “good.”

The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, indicated that Tung will announce his departure once his nomination as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is approved on March 12. Tung’s tenure is due to expire at the end of 2007.

Both the governments of Hong Kong and Beijing refused to confirm Tung’s resignation

There have been numerous rumors in recent years that Tung might step down before his second term expired in 2007, in particular after he was elected substitute member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on February 28. Tung arrived in Bejing on March 2 to attend a meeting of the CPPCC, which opened the following day. He declined to comment to reporters, except to say, “Thank you. I’ll make any announcements at an appropriate time.”

Officials of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said that they have not heard of Tung Chee-Hwa’s resignation, and didn’t know the source of the news.

Declining Popularity During His Eight-Year Tenure

During his first tenure in office, Tung faced a number of economic crises, including the Asian financial crisis, a record-high unemployment rate and the collapse of the real-estate market, which hit Hong Kong people particularly hard.

Tung’s possible early exit has been broached since 2003 when his government was plunged into crisis after more than 500,000 people took to Hong Kong’s streets to protest the anti-subversion laws proposed by China.

On December 20, 2004, while attending the anniversary of Macau’s handover to China, Chinese President Hu Jintao publicly reprimanded Tung Chee-Hwa for the Hong Kong administration’s poor performance in the eyes of officials from Beijing and Macau, saying that the problems emerging in Hong Kong after its handover to China must be examined. Tung’s political popularity plummeted to its lowest level.

Tung’s Resignation Is Welcomed by Hong Kong People

Mr. Li, a 56-year-old office worker, said, “During the past seven years, Tung hasn’t achieved anything. Isn’t his resignation good news? The only bad news is that we don’t know who will be his successor.”

When referring to the Beijing government behind the scenes, he said, “Whoever succeeds to the post will still obediently follow the orders from his ‘master’.” Otica, a Pilipino who has lived in Hong Kong for ten years, stated, “Many Hong Kong people don’t like Tung Chee-Hwa.”

Donald Tsang Is Likely to Be the Successor

If Tung’s resignation is confirmed, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang will take over for Tung as acting chief executive. It is very likely that Donald Tsang will be Hong Kong’s second chief executive after the new election later this year.
Donald Tsang, the son of a policeman, holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and joined the civil service in 1967. He was appointed financial secretary in 1995, the first Chinese to hold the position after 150 years of British incumbents. Mr. Tsang participated in the draft of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and received a knighthood (KBE, Knight of the British Empire) from the British Sovereign in June 1997 for his distinguished service to Hong Kong. He also successfully stopped speculators from manipulating Hong Kong’s currency market in the financial crisis that swept across the region in 1997 and 1998, and steered Hong Kong through the serious recession.

Appointed as chief secretary of administration in 2001, Mr. Tsang ranks second to the chief executive. During his tenure as chief secretary, he has headed the Constitutional Development Task Force, and his performance has been highly recognized by Beijing.

Cai Ziqingng, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that Donald Tsang showed his allegiance to the central government on the critical issue of constitutional reform, which gave Beijing confidence in him. His cordial relationship within the government bureaucracy, outstanding leadership and high popularity made him Beijing’s preferred choice for Hong Kong’s next chief executive.

Should Mr. Tsang take the office of chief executive, the biggest challenge facing him would be how to strike a balance between Beijing’s interference and the continued call for democracy by Hong Kong residents.

The End of Jiang Zemin’s Era

Mr. Zhang Wuyue said that although Tung Chee-Hwa’s popularity was always very low and Hong Kong’s economic situation was not good during his first five-year tenure, he was still given a second term in office. Other than Jiang Zemin’s staunch support, the general public couldn’t come up with other convincing reasons to warrant Tung’s second term.

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