Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Steady as she goes, says Donald Tsang

BLOOD TIES The Hong Kong chief executive put stability and harmony well before demonstrable democratic reform in his first address to the public

AP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's leader said in his first public address yesterday that the city's move toward full democracy should be gradual and orderly, but he stopped short of giving a timeline for political reforms.

Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), who took office four months ago, reminded the public that Beijing still has a major say in the city's affairs and that keeping a good relationship with the Communist leadership was important to economic growth and political change.

"We and our mainland compatriots are of the same blood," Tsang said. "We share a common interest and destiny. We ride on the same boat."

Minutes before the speech, radical Legislator Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), nicknamed "Long Hair," was kicked out of the legislature for wearing a gold cape and accusing Tsang of being a self-appointed emperor.

Tsang hasn't pushed hard for full democracy for the former British colony. And the lack of full democracy galls many Hong Kongers, who argue that the city -- one of Asia's most affluent, stable and literate societies -- is ready for universal suffrage.

In his speech yesterday, Tsang said that a taskforce was studying constitutional reforms aimed at creating greater democracy. But he provided no timeline for the political changes.

"Our constitutional development should be taken forward in a gradual and orderly manner toward the ultimate objective of universal suffrage," he said.

After his speech, he said at a news conference that Hong Kong's political system has its faults.

"It is far from perfect. We realize it. This is an interim step. We realize it and we have a destination of universal suffrage," he said. "That is a national policy. We are marching toward that final policy. The important thing is that we're always on the move."

Tsang took over as chief executive in June, replacing the unpopular Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), a shipping tycoon who quit with two years left in his term. Many believe Tung was sacked by Beijing, which feared that he was losing control of a city that was becoming increasingly politicized.

Tsang, a former finance minister and Tung's right hand man, has been savvier than his predecessor, who was viewed as aloof and insensitive to the needs of the public. Tsang has mixed more with the public and has been more accessible to the media -- which Tung frequently ignored.

Tsang used his speech to hit on several of his administration's themes: building a more responsive government, creating greater social harmony, cleaning the city's polluted skies, retraining workers and stoking economic growth by becoming more competitive.

"Strong government is a prerequisite for economic development," Tsang said.

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