Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Hong Kong's Tung Chee-hwa tapped for top China post

PROMOTION?The move gave rise to speculation that the embattled leader is on his way out, but others think Beijing may be shoring up his status

AP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) has been nominated for one of the top political posts in China, reports said yesterday, sparking media speculation he will step down early.

The move was seen by analysts, however, as a bid by Beijing to shore up the flagging fortunes of the gaffe-prone leader in his last two years at the helm of the former British colony.

Tung, selected to lead Hong Kong when control of the city switched from London to Beijing in 1997, is among 10 local nominees to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a talk shop that advises the national leadership, the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper said.

Source said he was also being groomed to fill a vacancy in the body's group of vice chairmen, a position that confers state leadership and membership of the upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party, it said.

The list will be presented for approval to the full CPPCC when it meets in Beijing for its annual session on Thursday.

His proposed appointment has sparked media speculation that he will step down early, following two years of political crises, or take a reduced role in the final years of his administration.

Analysts like Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), however, believe the move was made to award Tung more status to strengthen his political clout.

"This is not a sidelining exercise," Cheng, a professor of politics at Hong Kong City University, told reporters.

"There is a vacancy in the body of vice chairmen, a very prestigious body. I think they want to give him greater status in recognition of the fact that he is Hong Kong's first-ever second-term chief executive," Cheng said.

Tung, who was a leading member of the Hong Kong Cabinet under British rule, was selected as chief executive of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese enclave in 1997.

Calls for his resignation have grown since a political row over governance of the city exploded in 2003 following a huge street protest by half a million pro-democracy activists demanding citizens have the right to elect their leaders.

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