Tycoon Tung names his dream team

Critics excluded from Hong Kong cabinet
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The Independent Online
Tung Chee-hwa, who will head Hong Kong's first post-colonial government, yesterday unveiled the membership of his Executive Council, or cabinet. The line-up gives a strong indication of the sort of regime Mr Tung intends to run after the colony's handover to China.

The cabinet is balanced between new- and old-order personalities and displays a sensitivity to fears that someone as rich as Mr Tung will be surrounded by fellow tycoons.

In the past, colonial executive councils always had a representative from the mighty Hongkong Bank and the big trading houses, or hongs. Mr Tung's cabinet has no such person sitting at the table, although he has taken in Charles Lee, a lawyer and former stock- exchange chairman who is close to Li Ka-shing, the territory's richest man.

Half the members are businessmen, a couple of whom are rich but not as rich as Mr Tung, who used to head the Overseas Orient shipping group. By way of balance, the executive council for the first time has a trade- unionist as member. He is Tam Yiu-chung, a stalwart of the pro-Peking trade-union federation.

Among the rising stars of the new order is Leung Chun-ying, who many people view as a successor to Mr Tung. Mr Leung has established a highly successful property conglomerate which married his considerable entrepreneurial skills to his impeccable political connections in Peking.

While Mr Leung represents the most visible face of the new order, Mr Tung has taken on board Chung Sze-yuen, one of the most famous veterans of the old order. Sir Sze-yuen served as the most senior executive councillor during the 1980s and played an influential role during the negotiations for the change of Hong Kong's sovereignty.

Like three other members of the Tung cabinet, Sir Sze-yuen seems to have abandoned the use of his knighthood. Dame Rosanna Wong, who was ennobled in the last honours list, and is only one of two members of the Patten cabinet to survive, has also dropped her new title. The former Chief Justice, Sir Ti-liang Yang, became plain Mr Yang when he joined the so- called election race which was won by Mr Tung. He appears to have been rewarded for his efforts to give credibility to the election.

Significantly, there are no members of the new cabinet who could be described as providing a bridge to critics of the incoming government, especially the Democratic Party, which commands majority popular support.

Mr Tung is clearly staking out a position for himself as a firm defender of Peking's policy. In a landmark speech on Thursday night he outlined a position of supporting what he described as "traditional Chinese values", rejecting "political partisanship which creates gridlock" and leads to decisions "based on short-term expediency rather than the long-term interest of the people".

He defended the controversial recommendation of a Chinese advisory committee to amend civil-rights legislation and restore old colonial powers limiting the right of assembly and association as "legalistic and technical in nature and not controversial".

Mr Tung's style in dealing with critics oscillates between the avuncular and behaving remarkably like Chinese officials who are unaccustomed to being questioned.

Under questioning following his Thursday speech, Mr Tung turned on one reporter, saying that it did not matter what he believed because the position outlined by himself was the one he believed in and that was what mattered.

The Governor, Chris Patten, had Mr Tung in his cabinet as the nominal voice of opposition. Mr Tung has presumably learned something from this experiment and decided not to repeat it.