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Tung Chee Hwa

Tung Chee Hwa or officially Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) (born May 29, 1937) took office as the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special administrative region of People's Republic of China in 1997, following the reversion of sovereignty from U.K. to the People's Republic of China. Tung suddenly found himself responsible for the development of Hong Kong with its new identity as part of the PRC.

Born in Shanghai, Tung's family moved to Hong Kong when he was ten and his father (Tung Chao Yung 董浩雲) went on to become a very successful entrepreneur. After the death of his father, Tung took over his father's multi-million dollar business. However, poor management and bad decisions took him to the brink of bankruptcy. Desperate for help, Tung turned to the Beijing government, which helped stabilize his business with political intervention. Thankful for rescuing his family enterprise, Tung's loyalty to the Beijing government was assured. The central government saw Tung as the ideal person to head a puppet government, mainly due to his adament loyalty. Tung won a landslide victory in the election for Chief Executive of the new government as many had expected (the 400 voters of the electoral college were carefully chosen by the Beijing government and cannot be said to have adequately or appropriately represented the people of Hong Kong).

Following years of prosperity and promises of stability from Beijing, the people of Hong Kong had high hopes as their city broke free from British colonial rule. However, the economy started deteriorating only a few months after Tung took power and never recovered since. Although the economic situation was a result of a global stock market crisis and could not be accounted as Tung's fault entirely (see Asian financial crisis), people started to lose faith with him and his new government as jobs were lost and property values plunged. Many Hong Kongers view him as an outsider, because of his Shanghainese heritage and tinged Cantonese accent.

Tung's leadership in his first five years in office was often the subject of jokes and ridicule, if not more so in his second term. First of all, he used every chance he had to get his close friends and associates into his cabinet, regardless of their abilities. Scandals involving Tung's Finance Secretary over the purchase of a luxury vehicle weeks prior to the introduction of a car sales tax have not helped the Tung administration's credibility. Tung also systematically purged high ranking officials who had years of experience in the government but did not display total obedience towards him (notably Anson Chan[?], the long-standing head of Hong Kong's Civil Service, who resigned in 2000). At the start of his second five-year term, the majority of Tung's cabinet were personally chosen by him, but many of them do not possess relevant qualifications and/or experience to their respective posts.

Efforts to introduce Article 23 amendments to the Hong Kong Basic Law have faced a hostile response from lawyers, church groups, banks, journalists, foreign governments, and international human rights organisations. On 1 July 2003, Hong Kong's largest ever public rally consisting of approximately 350,000-500,000 people, filled the streets on Hong Kong Island and demonstrated against the introduction of the new laws.

In an attempt to show his usefulness to the Beijing government and to prove his critics wrong, Tung came up with a long list of reform proposals during his five years in office. They include reforms in housing, finance, education, industry, labour, etc. The reforms have not been notably effective.

In April 2003, developments in relation to the SARS epidemic have further jeopardise Tung's popularity in Hong Kong: slow response (when compared to Singapore) in dealing with the crisis resulted in multiple deaths, a strained hospital service, and panic amongst the populace. Efforts to galvanise the morose population of Hong Kong against the killer virus have fallen flat.

It is generally received that Tung's abilities as a businessman, though not yielding much success either, have not translated well into the political arena.

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