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In Policy Address, Hong Kong's Leader Plays It Safe


In his second policy address since he took office last year, Hong Kong's chief executive played it safe, avoiding controversial issues or bold action plans.

In his political blueprint for the coming year, Hong Kong's chief executive Donald Tsang focused on developing the territory's economy, improving people's livelihoods and fighting pollution.

He shied away from hot issues such as the democratization of Hong Kong - a topic that has dominated the territory's politics since the former British colony was returned to Beijing's control in 1997.

Tsang merely stated that both the Beijing and Hong Kong governments support universal suffrage, without saying when and how this will happen.

"What is certain is that both the SAR government and the central government are determined to achieve the ultimate goal of having the chief executive and the entire legislative council elected by universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law, in light of the actual situation in Hong Kong and in a gradual and orderly manner," he said.

The chief executive also avoided other contentious issues, such as the proposed introduction of a goods and services tax, which is very unpopular with many Hong Kongers.

Tsang, a veteran civil servant in Hong Kong's administration, took office in March 2005 after his unpopular predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, stepped down. He is expected to seek another term when his current one ends next March.

Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at Hong Kong's City University, says this is the reason the chief executive took a cautious approach in his policy address, making it hard for political opponents to attack him.

"In this policy address he has chosen to concentrate on what we call 'motherhood and apple pie issues' such as the environment, the consolidation of the family and so on, which are certainly non-controversial issues and widely accepted by the community," he said. "However, on the negative side one may probably say that this is very likely the least substantial policy address in the past two decades or so."

Cheng expects that Donald Tsang will be re-elected by the members of an 800-member, Beijing-controlled election committee next year. But, although ordinary citizens play no part in the process, popular support for Tsang in Hong Kong is high.