A step in time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 1996, 12:00am

Headline writers may be disappointed, but Tung Chee-hwa's sometimes chaotic press conference last night said much about the man and his vision of the path towards the office of chief executive.

Mr Tung did not quite say yes, and he certainly did not say no; his 'maybe' seemed to echo the inherent caution and wisdom we are led to believe reflects his personality. Such may simply reflect his awareness of the importance of the job and the size of the task. Despite his refusal to commit himself, Mr Tung gave every appearance of a man at ease who is anxious to sew up as many loose ends as possible before taking the final plunge.

There was little sign of the publicity-shy tycoon last night. Instead, Mr Tung came across as an avuncular figure who kept his calm amid the melee. He appears to be at pains to ensure that he fully understands all that the job requires - and to get an insight into all levels of Hong Kong life and the aspirations of its people. The decision to call the press conference and then announce that he had not yet made that decision may seem strange, but, in the circumstances, there is a logic to it. Mr Tung, it seems, wants to be quite sure that he has enough backing and authority to do the job properly. He has now made it clear that he sees himself as a potential chief executive, but has left himself an escape hatch if things turn out not to his satisfaction in the coming weeks.

Perhaps he chose this as a way of taking the population along with him as he seeks counsel from different sectors of the community. One thing is certain, even more than previously: his every move will be subject to intense scrutiny.

Mr Tung called for more candidates to come forward, and it will be excellent if others do so. It is, however, unlikely that they will be able to launch their campaigns in the way he launched his without formally doing so last night.