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Hong Kong Executive to Rebuild 'Responsive' Government After Public Pressure - 2003-07-20


Having received the support of his superiors in Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa now has to rebuild his depleted government and his credibility with the public. Critics of Tung Chee-hwa say they plan to keep the pressure on for more democracy in Hong Kong, even if democratic reform is to be administered by Mr. Tung himself.

China's President and Prime Minister gave Mr. Tung a ringing endorsement in Beijing Saturday, indicating that he will continue to govern Hong Kong despite persistent calls at home for him to resign.

Mr. Tung is under particular fire for proposed national security legislation, whose provisions many fear will undermine the former British colony's freedoms. More than that, he has been criticized for lack of political sophistication and for what has been called an arrogant style of governing.

On Sunday, Priscilla Lau, a Hong Kong Deputy to China's National People's Congress, called Mr. Tung's government "elitist" and said he and his aides have to change their ways.

"Instead of considering the opinion of the public, they just put forth their idea without consulting the public," she said. "So I think that is the problem."

Ms. Lau is among a number of public figures proposing that Mr. Tung delegate some duties to a deputy who is more sympathetic to the public.

This idea of a deputy was first proposed by Shi Yinghong, an influential academic in Beijing. Mr. Shi wrote bluntly that Mr. Tung "lacks political skills," and said a deputy should be appointed to take care of the political side of his job.

A half million people poured into the streets on July 1 to oppose Mr. Tung's proposed national security legislation and, in many cases, to call on Mr. Tung to step down. But most observers seem to agree that after Beijing's expressions of support on Saturday, no resignation is likely in the short term.

Richard Tsoi, one of the organizers of the July 1 protest, said earlier this week that no further demonstrations were planned for the moment, for fear that Beijing might see them as a threat and overreact.

After Mr. Tung left Beijing, however, Mr. Tsoi said more demonstrations will be staged if Mr. Tung does not make serious changes in the way he governs.

Before Mr. Tung left for Beijing, he had postponed consideration of the controversial legislation. No date for a renewal of the debate has been set, but Chinese President Hu Jintao did make it clear Saturday that the leadership expected the legislation to be passed.

Mr. Tung also has to rebuild his government. Two of his top ministers, both of them highly unpopular resigned last week as the political crisis grew. The well-respected director of health, Margaret Chan, announced Saturday that she was resigning to take up a position with the World Health Organization.

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