Leung the man for the job, says Tung
In rare comments on Hong Kong's public affairs, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has voiced support for embattled incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying, and praised the city's core values.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Tung, who backed Leung during the election campaign, described him as a 'good leader, competent and with clear-cut vision on what he needs to do'.
Even before Leung takes over from Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Sunday, the pressures of office have been intensifying, with demonstrations expected to coincide with President Hu Jintao's visit and a growing row over the illegal structures found at Leung's home on The Peak.
Pressed for his views on the illegal structures - an issue that destroyed the hopes of Leung's rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, to become chief executive - Tung said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on how he should handle the crisis.
Instead, he said Leung's tenure should not be judged on 'one or two events. It's about the big picture, about the ability of the person'.
As for Hongkongers' concerns about their city's core values - democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech - Tung said these were shared by all Chinese people.
'We all try hard to make it work, to make it successful,' he said, adding that he believed these values would be left 'intact' in Hong Kong.
Tung canvassed for Leung during the campaign leading to the Election Committee vote on March 25 that chose the former Executive Council convenor over Tang. But he did so behind the scenes, given his special status as a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultation Conference, a role of equal rank to state leader.
Tung agreed that Leung faced a tough start to his new job but said that was to be expected.
'It's about the ability to get people behind him, which he should be able to do,' he said. 'Every city and country, everyone, is facing huge challenges ... We all have challenges, but the question is how to better use our advantages; this is the job for the new chief executive'.
Tung, Hong Kong's first chief executive, resigned three years into his second five-year term after a series of controversies and massive public protests.
According to Tung, the key advantage for Hong Kong is the 'one country, two systems' principle whereby Hong Kong runs its own affairs while remaining part of China.
'We have China backing us, we have creative people, and unlike other places, we have a financial surplus we can put to good use,' he said.
But Tung said he understood some people's concerns that 'one country' might overshadow 'two systems' and why there were calls for measures to protect Hong Kong's core values.
'It's not just the core values of Hong Kong, it's the core values of every Chinese person,' he said.
'Every one of us wants the core values to continue to be there ... Hong Kong is a pluralistic society. They can say what they want, but at the end of the day the proof is in the pudding.'
'One country, two systems' was an untried concept that 'has become an everyday reality in Hong Kong and in every aspect of our daily life', and it was in the mainland's and Hong Kong's interest to ensure the formula worked well.
'Hong Kong and the country share the same destiny, it is not a matter of which is more, which is less ... they are both there,' Tung said. 'It has worked for 15 years and it will work for many years to come.'
He added: 'If 'one country, two systems' works, why not keep it,' referring to its continuation after its scheduled expiry in 2047.
Since his resignation in 2005, Tung has spent most of his time and efforts promoting Sino-US relations and travelling around the world.
He said the US economy was picking up slowly but surely and that the latest move by France, Germany, Italy and Spain to come up with a solution for the euro zone debt crisis was a positive sign.
But he conceded that there was not much that Hong Kong could do at this stage except be prepared for any fallout.
'When I started [as chief executive] they talked about the death of Hong Kong,' Tung said.
Since then, many of his foreign friends had told me him that this prediction had been wrong.
'I still believe Hong Kong is the most fortunate place ... In five years' time, come and talk to me, let's see who is right. I think I'm going to be right.'