03/24/2005, 00.00
Hong Kong
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A new chief executive, but what will change?

by Joseph Zen

In the March 20th edition of the diocesan paper Sunday Examiner, the bishop of Hong Kong gives his evaluation on the resignation of  chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SE) - After two weeks of rumour, debate speculation and still more guessing  surrounding his resignation, Tung Chee-hwa, citing health reasons, finally  announced on March 10, that he was stepping down as Hong Kong's chief  executive.

Throughout the whole process we, the people of this city, were kept in the  dark as if our duty were simply to wait, to wait like children fully  trusting in the arrangements being made by the parents.

Now that his resignation is a confirmed fact, we sincerely hope that Tung  will take a good rest and enjoy having more time with his family. He has  really endured much stress-working from 7.00am to 11.00pm- as he has all these years.

When someone in public office leaves his job, we cannot help but evaluate  his merits and shortcomings. As a group, we Catholics never called for Tung  to step down and now that he is gone, we do not know whether his successor  will be better or worse. But making an assessment of these last seven years  may be a positive endeavour in ensuring that past mistakes will not be  repeated.

In my opinion, the failure in governance of the Tung administration was  mainly rooted in the fact that, while there was division of labour, there  was no coordination. It was as if each particular bureau, department or  policy secretary was entrusted with a job that belonged to him or her  completely and exclusively, without the chief executive leading or the  other secretaries sharing collective responsibility.

The Right-of-Abode and Article 23 issues thus became the job of Regina Ip  Lau Suk-yee and its success or failure belonged to her. The so called  "School-based Management Ordinance" became the personal battle of Arthur Li  Kwok-cheung, (with Tung telling me that he was unable to help me in this  matter). In this way, Tung let his ministers fail and his ministers in turn  caused him to fall because, at the end of the day, he and the whole  government must take responsibility for all policies.

In this respect, when asked what my expectations or recommendations are  should Donald Tsang Yam-kuen become the next chief executive, my response  is that being a Catholic in no way guarantees that one will make a good  chief executive.

Tsang must share responsibility for Tung's failures-even more so for  policies of his own making, such as requiring new arrivals from China to  wait seven years before they are entitled to receive Comprehensive Social  Security Assistance (CSSA) and taking away four hundred dollars a month from wages of domestic helpers, through a minimum wage cut and a subsequent  levy on employers, the latter made under the pretext of a "retraining fund"  for local domestic workers.

Though Tung Chee-hwa is being praised for having made "one country, two systems" a success, I would have to disagree. My advice to anyone who wants  to be the next chief executive is that their most important responsibility is precisely to defend the principle of "one country, two systems".

It is understandable that the leaders in Beijing do not fully comprehend our system and it is obvious that when we insist in preserving it, they are jolted. Only the chief  executive-and to some degree all those who enjoy the trust of Beijing-can  help them understand that we, the people of Hong Kong, are all patriotic and when we criticise, when we shout and protest, we do this out of our love for our country and for Hong Kong.

I am afraid that up until now, our chief executive and all the powers-that-be, who are close to Beijing, have put us in a bad light, just to please the Central Authorities, pushing us to the point of confrontation.

 What a waste!

+ Joseph Zen Ze-kiun
Bishop of Hong Kong
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