Dear Subscribers and Friends
 
The Tung Chee-hwa Administration has effectively fallen in the sense that it is no longer able to function.
 
Since 1 July, the government has been unable to function normally in the face of the massive challenge presented by the protest of 500,000 demonstrators. The Central People's Government (CPG) is now involved as the Chief Executive (CE) appears to have become incapacitated. One day is therefore a long time - things remain fluid.
 
A. Consequences of poor anticipation
 
1. The Tung Administration paid no attention to what might happen on 1 July even though every sign indicated that at least 150,000-200,000 protestors would take to the street. Even this eNewsletter (28/6) estimated the upper limit could be 250,000.
 
2. When more than 500,000 people protested, the Administration was completely unready thus precipitating a political crisis that Hong Kong has never seen before.
 
B. 4 July statement
 
After saying very little and two rounds of cabinet meetings, the CE finally had this to say yesterday:
 
" ... I am weighing carefully the views that have been presented to me, the suggestions that have been made to me. I will let you all know immediately when a decision is made".
 
" ... I would like to reiterate that it is our duty as Chinese citizens, it is also a duty under the constitution, to legislate national security laws."
 
" ... It is also a very important part of our relationship with the central authorities".
 
C. Hot footing to Beijing
 
1. The CPG is asking for views directly. It is no longer dealing only with the Tung Administration as the crisis deepens in Hong Kong.
 
2. Evidence of hot feet includes James Tien's trip north. Tien is the head of the Liberal Party, a part of the ruling coalition in the cabinet and a minister without portfolio. He came back yesterday saying that the government may have to postpone the passage of the Article 23 national security legislation. Others are hot footing north as well.
 
D. Analysis
 
1. CPG embarassed: By dragging the "central authorities" into the fray, the CE presented a negative picture of the CPG forcing the issue on Article 23 legislation, which may well be sounding his own downfall. The CPG does not like to be embarassed.
 
2. Waiting for instructions: If the CE is no longer able to take decisions then decisions will be taken for him. Now that the CPG is looking at the issue directly and flexibility to the draft Bill is being considered, it shows that the CE and his officers had not explored flexibilities earlier even though opposition has been mounting for some time.
 
3. Chattering: Now that the CPG is inviting views, those who were reticent to speak (e.g. business leaders and pro-government folks) about their reservations to Article 23 are now doing so as they detect the change of wind.
 
4. Red faces: There are red faces among the mainland officials in Hong Kong with responsibility for local affairs and who "advises" the CE on relations with the CPG - had they helped to precipitate the political crisis?
 
5. Political solution: A political solution is needed before the 9 July when the draft Bill is schedule to pass. An aspect that must be considered is what to do with a CE that has been effectively disabled. The wisdom of the CPG is also being tested in respect of how it handlea Hong Kong.
 
6. Stay tune: The situation remains fluid.
 
CHRISTINE LOH
Civic Exchange, Hong Kong's independent think tank
www.civic-exchange.org