So what made Tung Chee-hwa openly declare that he should be referred to as the Chief Executive and not the Chief Executive-designate? Hardly anyone in Beijing, except for the Preparatory Committee (PC) Secretariat, seems to be able to give a categorical answer on how Mr Tung should be addressed publicly - mainland officials were evasive when asked the question and the pro-Beijing dailies in Hong Kong, Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, appeared unable to make up their minds. They were referring to him still as the 'designate' the day after Mr Tung made his statement last Wednesday. At least publicly, even Lu Ping , the director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Foreign Ministry spokesman remained non-committal on the subject. Zhang Junsheng , the vice-director of the local Xinhua (New China News Agency) seemed to be the only person to go further. He said there wasn't a 'yes' or 'no' answer and urged us to stop discussing the issue. But should we heed Mr Zhang's advice? Is it true that there is no special meaning attached to the issue? On the surface, it looks a storm in a teacup and now that Mr Tung has pledged that his declaration did not amount to a threat to the power of the present administration, then we should take it as a passing issue of no significance. But if you try to work out the rationale behind Mr Tung's declaration, you can see that the controversy will not just go away. Reportedly, a day before Mr Tung spelt out his stance, Preparatory Committee member Nellie Fong talked to the media about the legality of the provisional legislature. She insisted it was wrong for the media to still refer to members of the caretaker assembly as 'designate' because as soon as they were elected on December 21, they were already members and not councillors-elect. By the same token, said Mrs Fong, Mr Tung should also be the Chief Executive and the 'designate' reference was unnecessary. If this is the logic followed by PC members, or Mr Tung himself, then the question of whether Mr Tung should be referred to as the Chief Executive-designate is not as trivial as Mr Zhang claimed it to be. Of course, provisional legislators and Mr Tung, if they so wish, can call themselves anything before July 1 as long as that title is not tantamount to bestowing upon them the authority and legitimacy that goes with the title. But if dropping the 'designate' reference is a preamble to the subsequent claiming of power and authority for Mr Tung and the caretaker assembly to do things which cannot be undertaken until the SAR is officially established, then it is a very dangerous path to tread. Where is the legal basis for the provisional legislature to start to enact laws before the changeover and where is the constitutional basis for the new chief to exercise power such as signing bills passed by the transitional assembly before the handover? Mr Tung contradicted himself by suggesting last Wednesday that he would have the power to sign bills passed by the provisional legislature but, 24 hours later, saying that before July 1, he would not and could not exercise power. He was also uncertain about the title of his official team. When asked whether the 'no designate' logic should also apply to his team-designate, he said he thought so, though he still had to think about it. The implications of this 'no designate' business are huge - questions such as the constitutional and legal basis of the chief executive and the transitional legislature to assume power and the double identity of senior civil servants will certainly arouse intense public scrutiny.