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Tung Chee Hwa

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Tung Chee Hwa
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Tung Chee Hwa

Tung Chee Hwa (Template:Zh-tsp) (born July 7, 1937, or the 29th day of the 5th month in the Chinese calendar) was the first elected Chief Executive (July 1,1997March 12,2005) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). He took office on July 1, 1997 after the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China and was elected again to a second five-year term in 2002.

His first term was hampered by the Asian financial crisis and criticism of his style of governance. As a result he was frequently subject to attack and ridicule by pro-democracy activists and legislators, the media and academics. Foreign news outlets such as Time Magazine, The Economist and wired news services portrayed him as being (deeply) unpopular and singularly ineffective. Dissatisfaction among the public towards Tung has grown consistently throughout his tenure and culminated in huge protests in 2003 after the outbreak of SARS and the Article 23 controversies, when sloganeers demanded that Tung step down. About 20 months after all the controversial topics, Tung announced his resignation due to health reason on March 10 2005.

Before the handover Tung was known as a conservative businessman with traditional Chinese values and strong connections to the People's Republic of China.

Contents

Early life

Born in Shanghai (or Zhoushan), Tung's family moved to Hong Kong when he was 10 and his father, Tung Chao Yung, went on to become a successful entrepreneur in the shipping sector. After the death of his father, Tung, as the elder son, took over his father's business.

However, with the decline of the shipping industry and Tung's failure to diversify, the business foundered. According to some accounts, the then PRC government, through Tung's friend Henry Fok, propped up the business by handing his company contracts on arms shipments, in addition to his loan from HSBC. Some further speculated that Tung, whose family was once pro-Kuomintang, became loyal to the PRC government in return for this assistance.

Election to the office of Chief Executive

In early 1997, Tung won a landslide victory in the election for the first term of Chief Executive, out of four candidates, by an electoral college of 400 voters. Tung subsequently took office as Chief Executive designate, with the assistance of a newly formed cabinet (Executive Council) and a few officers seconded from the then Hong Kong government to help in the preparation of the HKSAR government.

The government designate pledged to focus on three policy areas: housing, the elderly and education. Measures on housing included a pledge to provide 85,000 housing flats each year to resolve the problems of soaring property prices. The Asian financial crisis that hit Hong Kong in months after he took office made this objective almost immediately redundant and collapsing property prices were, in fact, a far more pressing problem in the years between 1998 and 2002 .

First term

Tung formally took office on July 1, 1997, with a high initial popularity among the public. Nevertheless, a few months after, the regional economy deteriorated rapidly after the Asian financial crisis. With job losses and plummeting values in the stock and property markets, people started to lose faith in Tung and the HKSAR government. Some commentators attributed the plunge in the property market to his counter-indicated home-building initiative.

During Tung's first term the government came up with a number of reform proposals and plenty of grand infrastructure projects were proposed, including a technology park, a science park, a Chinese medicine centre and a Disney theme park. But too often his administration was seen as bungling, particularly during the confusion of the first days of the new airport, the mis-handling of the avian flu epidemic, education reforms (including teaching in the "mother tongue" (Cantonese) and mandatory English examination for teachers), the Right of abode issue, and the disagreement of his political views with the popular then Chief Secretary, Anson Chan. Tung's popularity plummeted with the economy.

Second term

Tung Chee Hwa, with nominations from more than 700 members of the electoral college, was uncontested in the election for a second term. According to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance, nominations from at least 100 members of the 800-strong electoral college is required to be a candidate.

Accountability system

In an attempt to resolve the difficulties in governance, Tung reformed the structure of government substantially starting from his second term in 2002. In a system popularly called the Principal Officials Accountability system, all principal officials, including the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Secretary for Justice and head of government bureaux would no longer be politically neutral career civil servants. Instead, they would all be political appointees chosen by the Chief Executive. The system was protrayed as the key to solve previous administrative problems, notably the cooperation of high ranking civil servants with the Chief Executive. Under the new system, all heads of bureaux became members of the Executive Council, and came directly under the Chief Executive instead of the Chief Secretary or the Financial Secretary. The heads of the Liberal Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, two pro-government parties in the Legislative Council, were also appointed into the Executive Council to form a "ruling alliance", a de facto coalition.

Crisis of governance in 2003

The first major move of Tung in his second term was to push for legislation to implement Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law in September 2002. However, the initiative drew a hostile response from the pro-democratic camp, lawyers, journalists and human rights organisations. This stoked public concerns that the freedoms they enjoyed would deteriorate. The sentiment, together with other factors such as the SARS epidemic in early 2003, when the government was criticised for its slow response, strained hospital services and the unexpected death toll, resulted in the largest mass demonstration since the establishment of HKSAR, with an estimated 350,000 - 750,000 people marching on 1 July 2003. Many demanded Tung to step down.

In response to the protests, the leader of the Liberal Party, James Tien, resigned from the Executive Council on evening July 6, signifying the withdrawal of the party's support for the bill implementing Article 23. As a result, the government had to postpone and later withdraw the bill from the legislative agenda. In late August, Regina Ip, the then Secretary for Security who was responsible for implementing Article 23, resigned for personal reasons. Another Principal Official, Finance Secretary Antony Leung, who earlier suffered from a scandal over his purchase of a luxury vehicle weeks prior to his introduction of a car sales tax, which was dubbed as the Lexusgate scandal, resigned on the same day.

It was the most serious crisis of Tung's administration and some considered it a break-up of the short-lived ruling alliance. The events also boosted civil awareness among the public and the popularity of the pro-democratic camp. Tung's government subsequently encountered difficulties in implementing many of its policies due to irrational oppositions from the so-called pro-democratic camp.

Subsequent developments

During the debate over Hong Kong's constitutional development, Tung was criticised as not reflecting effectively the views of the pro-democratic camp to push for 2007/08 universal suffrage to the PRC government. Although the primary target of popular opposition was the PRC government, Tung's lack of support for the pro-democratic camp resulted in his low approval ratings.

Tung's cabinet suffered another blow in July 2004 when another Principal Official, the Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food, Dr. Yeoh Eng Kiong, resigned on July 7 to take political responsibility over the public outcry towards the government's handling of the SARS outbreak in 2003, after the release of the investigation report of LegCo over the issue.

In late-2004, the Tung administration was rocked by another embarrassment as the large planned sale of government owned real estate, The Link REIT, was cancelled at the last moment by a lawsuit by a single irresponsible tenant. This incident furthered popular perceptions that the Tung administration was inept.

With the subsequent improvement in the economy over 2004, unemployment fell and the long period of deflation ended. This resulted in a decrease in public discontent as the government's popularity improved, and popular support for the democratic movement dwindled with a protest in January attracting a mere few thousand protestors compared to an estimated 500,000 people in the July 1st protests of 2003 and 2004. However, the popularity of Tung himself remained low compared to his deputies including Donald Tsang and Henry Tang.

Resignation

Main article: Tung Chee Hwa's resignation

Tung's reputation suffered further damage when he was openly criticised by Hu Jintao in December 2004 for poor governance; though Tung himself insisted that he retained the President's support.(BBC News Online (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4109613.stm)) Nevertheless, in his January 2005 Policy Address, he gave a rather critical verdict on his own performance. He subsequently resigned from his office in March 2005 citing poor health, but many speculated that he was forced to step down by the Chinese central governement. All these seemed grounless. Right after his resignation, he was elected the post of vice-president of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). His resignation has sparkled a constitutional debate of whether his successor should fill his remaining term of two years or start a new term of five years.(BBC News Online (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4415257.stm))

See also

External link


Preceded by:
(Governor of Hong Kong)
Chris Patten
Chief Executive of Hong Kong
1997-2005
Succeeded by:
Donald Tsang (acting)

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