Tung shows why he's still a big star

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am

Two-and-a-half years after he stepped down as chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa is back in the public eye, this time as the host of a television documentary.

Mr Tung, who confesses he has put on weight lately, features in a series about the degradation of the Yangtze River and people's efforts to restore it.

Chinese Rivers, produced by Phoenix Satellite Television, will begin airing on mainland television on January 1, but episodes with Mr Tung will not be shown until after the Lunar New Year.

The former chief executive, now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, will also host the English-language version, providing a commentary for the international audience.

Mr Tung received a star's reception yesterday during a visit to Chongming Island near Shanghai, where his role was announced at a news conference. Hundreds of Chongming residents, mostly elderly people, clapped and cheered when Mr Tung arrived at the island's plaza. It was in stark contrast to his hostile reception at Chinese University of Hong Kong two weeks ago, where protesters objected to his receiving an honorary doctorate.

Yesterday's event, at the point where the Yangtze enters the East China Sea, was Mr Tung's first press briefing since he resigned as chief executive on March 10, 2005.

Mr Tung, also the chief consultant for the programme, said he hoped it would raise public awareness on protecting the river so future generations would be able to enjoy a healthy Yangtze.

Asked if he would be more involved in Hong Kong and the mainland's environmental protection movement, he said: 'When I was stepping down as chief executive, I made two promises - one was to promote China in the international community, the second one was how to contribute to society as in the capacity as a CPPCC vice-chairman.'

Mr Tung, who cited health reasons for his resignation, said he was fine, and although he had earlier lost 6kg to 7kg, 'now the fat returns'.