Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa is set to announce his bid for a new term in office in the second week of next month, before meeting leaders in Beijing, a source said yesterday. The South China Morning Post has learned that December 11 has been tentatively fixed for him to declare his candidacy for the second chief executive election on March 24. The announcement would be earlier than many analysts had expected, but there are increasing indications that Mr Tung's election campaign has already begun. Yesterday, local deputies of the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference received calls from the Chief Executive's Office for a meeting with Mr Tung on Saturday. Delegates were told Mr Tung wanted to talk about the Policy Address and ways to revive the economy. Two NPC deputies said Mr Tung had never held a post-Policy Address meeting with them before. One, Ma Lik, said: 'It appears to be a move to pave the way for re-election.' Last night, a source close to Mr Tung confirmed the Chief Executive was 'actively considering' the re-election bid, adding 'it was a matter of timing'. He said the date of the Beijing trip had yet to be finalised and depended on the schedule of mainland leaders. One tentative date was December 20. It is understood Mr Tung originally planned to announce his candidature in mid-January, but decided to bring it forward on Beijing's advice. According to the two NPC deputies, Beijing officials from various organs including the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and United Front Department had sought views from them about the second chief executive election on a recent trip to Hong Kong. Mr Ma said: 'They asked about Mr Tung and whether there would be other candidates. They also tried to defend Mr Tung by saying many problems were not of his making.' Another source said the HKMAO and Beijing Liaison Office had already been asked to give top priority to the task of ensuring a smooth re-election of Mr Tung in the next few months. He said Mr Tung's election office was likely to be set up in the next two weeks. His senior personal adviser, Andrew Lo Cheung-on, will quit the Chief Executive's Office to become his campaign manager, it has been learned. Under the election schedule, guidelines will be published next month after scrutiny by legislators. A fortnight-long nomination period begins in mid-February. As it was likely there would be no serious contender, the second source said Mr Tung would try to secure as many nominations as possible. 'His target is between 600 and 700,' the source said. Only 100 nominees are needed under the Basic Law. One Election Committee member said: 'It would be difficult to refuse him if he asked. After all, you have to work with him for the next five years.' Leaders of major business groups have been invited to meet Mr Tung and he also held a reception for the Joint Professional Group, convened by Executive Council Convenor Leung Chun-ying, at Government House on Saturday. Some members of the Election Committee were also invited to the reception and a few were puzzled because they were not members of the Group. Yesterday Mr Tung delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the 14th general meeting of the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council. He presented a bleak picture of the economy and warned of an 'unexpectedly large' budget deficit following the September 11 attacks. 'More jobs will disappear before they reappear,' he said. Asked later about his re-election bid, Mr Tung said he was concentrating on his work and that he would announce his plans at an 'appropriate time'.