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Hong Kong: Tung to Run For Second Term - 2001-12-13


Hong Kong's top official will run for a second term in office, despite having little public support.

The Chinese government hand picked Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to run the city in 1997 and many citizens see no alternative to him.

Tung Chee-hwa kicked off his campaign for a new five-year term at a gala reception Thursday. The former shipping executive does not have to compete very hard to win - Hong Kong's chief executive is elected by an 800-person committee which is heavily influenced by Beijing, and he is unlikely to face an opponent, given that he has China's support.

Speaking through a translator, Mr. Tung emphasized his record and dislike of political wrangling.

"I have accumulated my experience in my first term and that gives me the advantage to stand in front of the people of Hong Kong and to propose solutions to problems that we are facing, rather than engage in quarrels," he said.

Mr. Tung, however, does not have much public support. A new poll by researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University indicates that just 16 percent of the population want him to stay in office.

Many people blame him for the city's economic and political drift in the past few years. Mr. Tung took office when China resumed control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 - just before the Asian economic crisis hit the local economy.

The city this year fell into its second recession, because of the global economic slump. Others believe he hasn't fought hard enough to protect Hong Kong's broad autonomy from mainland China - as guaranteed by the territory's post-colonial constitution known as the Basic Law.

Emily Lau, a member of Hong Kong's legislature and a Tung opponent, says many people simply dislike the undemocratic system under which he was chosen. She says people find him high handed and unable to deal with territory's problems.

"It appears that many people are unhappy with him, but they think that he can not do too much about the economic situation. So they are unhappy with the other aspects of him, not necessarily the economic difficulties," he said.

Political scientist Joseph Yu-shek Cheng, at City University of Hong Kong, says the public sees no alternative to Mr. Tung, in part, because they do not think the central government in Beijing will permit one.

"Chinese leaders have been saying that since Hong Kong's returned to China, everything has been going on well in Hong Kong, so replacing Tung simply means that things have not been going well, and this is not in accord in with the official line," he said.

Other political analysts note that Beijing places great emphasis on continuity and consensus. The analysts say keeping Mr. Tung in place gives China's leaders that continuity and gives them more time to build a consensus on the territory's future.