IF an exodus of top government officials does take place, we can be
sure that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will be growing a few more
silver strands. A little bird has told us that he has been unhappy
after his recent annual visit to Beijing. Why?
Well, we learnt that he was asked some controversial, if not
embarrassing, questions by President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji
and Vice-Premier Qian Qichen in Zhongnanhai.
Mr Tung was asked to explain his decision to grant the Cyberport
Project to a company associated with business tycoon Li Ka-shing
without the benefit of an open tender.
Next, he was asked to explain the government's decision to grant Walt
Disney Company land for its theme park on a 50-year lease, renewable
for another 50 years.
The third question was why his government was studying the possibility
of setting up a casino in Hong Kong which could affect the gambling
industry in Macau, set to become part of China.
But then, our fine-feathered friend chirped, the nation's leaders
praised Mr Tung for his decision to bid for the 2006 Asian Games. Some
BOTH Mr Tung and his top aide, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, are rightly
worried about the impending "exodus". But then, they should not be
passing the buck neither the blame nor the responsibility to the
legislature or the media.
They should earnestly be asking questions. For instance, is something
wrong in the working environment at the government's highest levels?
That could be one place to start.
The impending departure of Secretary for Financial Services Rafael Hui
Si-yan may not be a case in point as it is understood he had wanted to
quit since late 1997 when the Asian financial turmoil struck.
More unexpected was the news that the head of a bureau close to the
heart of high-tech advocate Mr Tung himself, Secretary for Information
Technology and Broadcasting Kwong Ki-chi, would be leaving soon.
It is said that even Mr Tung and Mrs Chan were surprised by the report
that Mr Kwong had applied to be the chief executive of the Hong Kong
Exchanges and Clearing.
Two stories have been circulating about the reason why Mr Tung's
high-tech expert was quitting. One said he was attracted by the high
salary and another said the government itself wanted an experienced
and talented man from officialdom to hold the key financial post.
But we have just heard a third version, and that is Mr Kwong is said
to be very unhappy in his job because he always feels frustrated
working with both Mr Tung and Mrs Chan.
It seems that the two lack mutual trust, which naturally affects their
working relationship. Obviously, Mr Tung and Mrs Chan each have a
different working style.
So, what Mrs Chan told the media on Thursday that the media's prying
into the privacy of officials and legislators' treating them too
harshly is just a part of the picture. It does not fully explain why
even officials enjoying the fullest trust of Mr Tung want out.
And while we are at it, we advise both Mr Tung and Mrs Chan to look
more closely at how things are going in their backyard. For it seems
that a third senior official one who has been closely identified
with administration policies is "thinking" about leaving, too.
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yueng admitted
at a Wednesday function that he would consider a ministerial
appointment if he was given a "golden handshake".
IT IS indeed a strange world. While others want to leave, still many
others want to stay on. Secretary for Home Affairs David Lan
Hong-tsung is going to retire in May next year when he turns 60 and
hopes to stay on until June 2002, but it seems that Mr Tung is not
inclined to grant him his wish.
It's a different case with Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie.
We've learnt that she has accepted Mr Tung's offer for her to stay on.
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