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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 22, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 42

A Matter of Unfinished Business
Hong Kong's Tung looks set to go for another term

It's all in the dates. Outlining a vision of Hong Kong as one of the great world cities of the future, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa identified some milestone years. 2003: By then, he said, air-pollution-causing respirable particulates will be reduced by 60%, and all diesel-fueled taxis more than seven years old should be off the road. 2005: Nitrogen oxide emissions will have been cut by one third. 2006: After then, diesel-fueled taxis will be a thing of the past.

A Matter of Unfinished Business
Hong Kong's Tung looks set to go for another term

Hong Kong: Fall-Out Over a Symbolic Event
What did Tung say?

Clean and Creative: Tung's vision for Hong Kong

Daily Briefing
Of Environments and Economies: Tung's speech gets mixed reviews (10/07/99)

Market Q&A
Tung policy address a dud in Hong Kong (10/07/99)

These and other Green targets were wrapped up in a $3.9 billion pollution-busting package to be phased in over the next 10 years, by which time Tung sees Hong Kong as being on a par with London or New York for its quality of life and economic vibrancy. The measures, delivered in a policy speech Oct. 6, were praised for their farsightedness. In fact, they look so far into the future they go beyond the end, in 2002, of Tung's term as chief executive. Significant? Many people think so.

There is now a growing belief that the 62-year-old former businessman has decided that one term is not going to be enough to finish the things he wants to achieve. In 1997, when he delivered his first policy speech in the wake of the departure a couple of months earlier of the British administration, he unveiled a program that promised more housing, better education and improved welfare. A year later, Hong Kong had been swamped by the Asian economic crisis and some of the initial goals had been washed overboard. The emphasis was on survival and maintaining self-confidence. Now, with the worst of the storm passed, Tung is seen as being back on track - with the added responsibility of cleaning up the environment.

Questioned in the past about whether he was interested in a second term, Tung has always been evasive - too busy to think about it, too far into the future, too speculative. But recent comments by senior figures in the business community suggest the topic is firmly on the agenda. Says billionaire Henry Fok Ying-tung: "Tung is smart at handling matters and I personally think he has done well." Not exactly a full-blown endorsement, but coming from Fok - a "godfather" figure with great influence in Beijing, where he is described as a "patriotic capitalist" - the words carry considerable weight. So does anything uttered by tycoon Li Ka-shing. His assessment of the chief executive: "I think he has done his level best. Many of the problems we are facing are inherited from the previous administration." Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen and Vice President Hu Jintao have both endorsed Tung's work - and the Hong Kong leader's prominent position among VIPs gathered in Beijing for China's Oct. 1 celebrations indicates his relationship with President Jiang Zemin is as sound as ever.

But while the central government may see Tung as a safe pair of hands in difficult times, his performance has dismayed Hong Kong liberals and the civil-rights community. His commitment to the rule of law is seen as wobbly and, in the latest incident, he is now accused of attempting to suppress the annual vigil marking the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing. Tung's critics add that by refusing in his policy speech to entertain any acceleration of political development, he failed to understand that to be a world-class metropolis, Hong Kong has to be a pluralistic and democratic society.

Hovering somewhere in the sidelines is a proposal by a government commission to set up an officially appointed body to watch over the press - a suggestion that has resurrected fears voiced before the handover of tighter controls on the media. Even the business community has found Tung sometimes wanting, particularly in the way he has stressed Hong Kong's Chineseness to the detriment, they say, of English-language skills and the city's key attraction: its role as a cosmopolitan center open to international businessmen and innovative ideas.

But, as former British premier Harold Wilson famously said, a week is a long time in politics. And Tung has more than two years before the next chief executive is selected. In 1996 he was chosen by an election committee of 400 people handpicked by China. Next time, that group will be expanded to 800, representing four sectors: industry, the professions, labor and related activities and members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and Hong Kong members of the National People's Congress. The 800 will be picked by a host of junior committees drawn up by the Tung administration in consultation with China.

As Tung-friendly as the selection process is likely to be, the chief executive will still have to do some canvassing - Hong Kong style. Ma Lik, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People Congress and a member of the last election committee, told Asiaweek: "For 1997, Tung might have struck three to five deals with committee members to get their vote. Next time, he will have to come up with 30 deals. Not many people are happy with him."

Maybe, but there do not appear to be any rivals for the job. Tung's No. 2, Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, has more popular backing than her boss, but few of the people who support her will have a say. And, anyway, she is still suspect in Beijing's eyes for having stood alongside the last British governor, Chris Patten, when he broadened electoral franchises that China later dismantled.

Some have identified Leung Chun-ying, the ambitious senior member of Tung's Executive Council of top advisers, as a possible candidate in 2002. As a friend of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and a member of the Preparatory Committee that laid the groundwork for Hong Kong's handover, he has the right connections and pedigree. But the 44-year-old businessman dismisses the idea. Even 2007 is out of the question, he maintains. "By then," he told Asiaweek, "I hope life will be slower - more time for my family and more time for my garden." And more time to check out the lie of the political ground, no doubt.

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