Tung Chee-hwa's leadership of the Hong Kong SAR in the past two years could be characterised as someone with an eating disorder.
When Mr Tung took the helm on July I, 1997, he did not seem hungry for action and initiative. He left an impression that he lacked the appetite to be the decisive and pro-active captain of a strong executive-led government that he promised to be. Recurrent issues served to his table were left largely untouched.
He was accused by the media of squandering his precious time gracing social functions instead of taking a more prominent role in tackling genuine crises, including the bird flu. The killer H5NI virus refocused international media attention on the SAR for the first time since the handover. Images of the poultry slaughtered in the clumsy clean-up operation epitomised the status of affairs of the Tung government.
The government bureaucracy was haunted by a mood of uncertainty, while even bureau chiefs had to second-guess what their new boss was up to. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, for instance, had to make an embarrassing U-turn on his pledge to continue offering public land lots for auction at the onset of the Asian financial turmoil.
Mr Tung was also criticised for tailing to learn any lesson from the bird flu episode, as the grand opening of the Chek Lap Kok degenerated into a laughing stock. Rather than take a leading role in co-ordinating damage control, he disappeared from the limelight as cargo flights in and out of Hong Kong ground to a halt.
A sea change, however, took place as Mr Tung started his second year in office. Apparently having established an inner circle of trusted aides, coupled with Beijing's total trust in him, he appeared more assertive and determined.
His menu for reform became longer and longer as he shed his earlier image of a wishy-washy politician who loathed confrontation of any sort except with the pro-democracy activists. Mr Tung seemed dissatisfied with what he already had on his plate.
He was resolute in inviting the National People's Congress to nullify the local Court of Final Appeal's ruling on who among the mainlanders were entitled to permanent residency in the SAR. The legal fraternity was so upset about the flagrant violation of the integrity of the local judiciary that even usually reserved lawyers took to the streets in a vote of no confidence in the Government.
Mr Tung has also alienated another powerful sector in the community - property developers. He decided to grant the right to develop the proposed Cyberport to Richard Li Tzar-kai without tender procedures, under the pretext of cutting through the red tape. Other players in the field immediately denounced the move as an act of favouritism.
Meanwhile, the Tung government is on collision course with the medical profession later in the year with plans to revamp the provision of medical services in the SAR.
That will coincide with plans to reform the Government's 1 80,000-strong civil service. Some trade unions have already indicated there will be protest action.
In addition, Mr Tung has also been determined to cut back handouts to welfare recipients portrayed by authorities as new immigrants from the mainland with little incentive to earn a living of their own.
Within just a year, those who found themselves victimised by the Government's policies have swelled to include the professionals who form the backbone of the community. There is little doubt Mr Tung is emulating his role model, Lee Kuan Yew, as far as steam-rolling opposition to his policies is concerned.
The question is whether there is room for anything else on his plate.
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