Student Rosanna Man Pui-shan taught Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa a good lesson - that petitions and protests have become such a daily feature of Hong Kong life that even a young student like her did not feel intimidated to exercise her civic right in front of authorities. Mr Tung was said to have been stunned when she handed him a petition explaining her plight of losing her sixth-form place at her old school, even though she scored eight HKCEE Grade As. The occasion that they met, a gathering arranged for Mr Tung to meet a group of 171 outstanding students, was supposed to be a great honour for the 16-year-old. Social niceties were expected. But Rosanna stuck to principle and raised her grievance with Mr Tung. It was an opportunity too precious to waste. The surprise encounter should remind Mr Tung of any apprehension he may have in keeping direct contacts with members of the public. Since he took the helm, Mr Tung has by and large dodged protesters and petitioners. This is understandable because direct public confrontation with people who find faults with him or his administration is embarrassing. For a conservative person like Mr Tung, the best place to sort out differences is behind closed doors. Perhaps it is this style that prompted the latest suggestion that he is going to drop the option of holding public meetings to explain his maiden policy address next month. His planned post-address publicity programme is said to be three-pronged: a press conference, question-time session with the provisional legislature, and radio phone-in session. Presumably, by agreeing to attend the radio phone-in programme, Mr Tung is not afraid of handling public queries. Anyone can call him and ask him difficult questions just as they can in a public meeting. But a key difference between a radio show and a face-to-face meeting is the possibility that people who may not like his policies will take the opportunity to stage protests at the venue, shouting at him and calling him names. For someone not used to such confrontations, he may see this as too much of a humiliation. Thus, Mr Tung's instinct is likely to push him towards dropping the public meetings. If he really wants to show his accountability to the public, he can easily argue that the radio programme is precisely meant to achieve that aim. Reportedly, Mr Tung is still weighing his options and trying to assess what the public reaction is likely to be if he does reject holding the public meetings, a practice introduced by former governor Chris Patten. Democrats believe that he should keep the practice while others maintain it is unfair to force him to live in the shadow of Mr Patten and follow whatever the former Governor did. Members of the public have yet to express their views but it is likely that the majority of people would be in favour of more direct contacts with the Chief Executive. Unlike Mr Tung, the community will not see it as such a big deal if there are scores of protesters or petitioners present at the public meetings. Most people, like Rosanna, are used to it. Even Mr Tung himself has repeatedly said that protests and demonstrations are part of Hong Kong's culture, so there should not be any reason why he should avoid this form of public expression. Hong Kong is a very mature modern society. If anyone is to behave radically and irrationally, the public is fully capable of judging who is in the wrong. If Mr Tung is really contemplating dropping the meet-the-public sessions, he still has time to change his mind. It would be a good opportunity for him to explain his policy initiatives, earning him more public respect than any humiliation he might expect to suffer.