ANOTHER week, another series of protests. For Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, the demonstrations, coming on the day of official celebrations marking the handover's third anniversary, could hardly have been less welcome. Of course, protests are nothing new in Hong Kong; and they are a key marker of the territory's freedoms. It could be argued that yesterday's marches involved only 4,000 people; not an insignificant number, but not an enormous one either. What was significant, however, was the range of people who have turned out in the past two weeks. Yesterday's malcontents represented some 40 different groups. When such a cross-section of the community takes to the streets to voice grievances, it is time to take notice - and action. The fact that the protests took place on the date they did means they will undoubtedly attract more international media coverage than otherwise. Timing and perception count for a great deal, as Mr Tung must surely now acknowledge. The Chief Executive's disclosure that he scrapped a key policy commitment - of building 85,000 new flats a year - two years ago without announcing the fact, represents an extraordinarily dismissive attitude towards the public. The focus of the protesters' frustration yesterday was plain: it was the Chief Executive. Of course, to most sensible people, it is not rational to lay the blame for all Hong Kong's difficulties at the feet of Mr Tung. But the public is increasingly demanding accountability. Just as Housing Authority chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming bore the brunt of the public's outrage over a series of scandals that were largely beyond her control, it seems likely that Mr Tung personally will face more demands for political accountability. Polls, such as that conducted by the Democratic Party that, among other things, showed Mr Tung was less popular than former governor Chris Patten are of dubious value: the economic environment has changed profoundly since 1997. However, as a consummate politician, Mr Patten's great strength was his ability to communicate well. Mr Tung should take that fact on board. If festering discontent is to be defused, the Chief Executive urgently needs to explain policies, engage in debate and encourage the growing section of society that feels its needs are not being met and its voice is not being heard.