Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 8 News List

It's time for Tung Chee-hwa to go

By Paul Lin 林保華

In the recent massive demonstrations in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) once again showed his obtuse and obstinate nature. People in China and the outside world alike were shocked by the July 1 demonstration of nearly a million people. Tung alone seemed to respond with "composure" because his authority came from Beijing. Even if several million people were to take to the streets, he wouldn't care as long as Beijing doesn't dismiss him from office.

Thus, on the three mornings following July 1, Tung uttered an unperturbed "good morning" to the journalists waiting for him. He didn't appear the least bit ashamed. Nor was he prepared to respond quickly. Instead he remained mired in inconclusive committee meetings.

Only on July 4, when Liberal Party Chairman James Tien (田北俊), who sits on Hong Kong's policy-making Executive Council, returned from a pilgrimage to Beijing and proposed delaying the legislation, did Tung sense the threat of internal division in his camp. This finally prompted him to respond on July 5.

He compromised on three particularly controversial parts of the draft national security bill being enacted in accord with Article 23 of the Basic Law. However, he remained intent on holding second and third readings on July 9.

On July 6, however, the Liberal Party insisted on postponing the legislation, and Tung knew that he would be unable to pass the bill in the Legislative Council. He was thus forced to announce on July 7 that the legislation would be postponed -- an event known as the "July 7 incident."

We can see from this series of events that Tung has completely lost the initiative and is retreating step by step in response to outside pressure.

As if having completed a major task by announcing the postponement, Tung subsequently went silent again for several days. He made no response whatsoever to the 50,000 residents of Hong Kong who surrounded the Legislative Council on July 9 to demand the return of power to the people. Then on July 10, Tung attended a lunch meeting and gave a speech. People expected he would make some important announcement, but he spent over an hour talking about why Hong Kong's secretary for health, welfare and food, Yeoh Eng-kiong (楊永強), was investigating himself over his handling of the SARS outbreak.

In the fight against SARS, Yeoh was widely criticized for covering up the epidemic. Tung organized a committee to investigate this issue and chose Yeoh himself to head it. After over a month of criticism in public opinion forums, Tung's explanation on this occasion was that because the investigation was focused on incidents, not people, there was no harm in putting Yeoh in charge. With this kind of obtuse and obstinate leader, can Hong Kong be saved?

After July 1, apart from local communists, the Law Committee of the National People's Congress and the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all of whom expressed support for Tung, the central government did not declare its position. There have been reports that Beijing sent a delegation to Hong Kong to survey popular opinion and even got in contact with the democratic faction there.

There have also been reports that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), who was in Shenzhen at the time, cursed Tung after seeing television images of the demonstration, saying "What the hell is going on!"

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