Given the full confidence and trust of Beijing, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa is playing a pivotal role in bringing about greater economic integration with the mainland as Hong Kong's economy heads towards recession. But as Mr Tung emphasises the need to 'go north', there are fears that Hong Kong will no longer be what it was - contrary to the promise of keeping a capitalist system intact under 'one country, two systems'. This is the broad observation of academics and politicians on the sensitive question of how Mr Tung handles relations with the mainland. Battered by an economic crisis and drastic economic restructuring, City University academic Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the community had been understandably looking towards the mainland for new development opportunities. 'Economic integration is the megatrend that no one can resist . . . Mr Tung has a strong advantage in handling the issue because he is fully trusted by Beijing,' Dr Cheung said. He cited the increase of mainland visitors, the deferral of Shanghai's plan to build a Disney theme park and 'economic rescue measures' being considered by Beijing for Hong Kong to show how Mr Tung has given full play to the China 'trust factor'. At a meeting with Mr Tung during his recent duty visit to Beijing, President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji reaffirmed full support to help Hong Kong develop its financial, logistics, trade and tourism sectors. Top Beijing trade officials will also discuss with the Financial Secretary, Antony Leung Kam-chung, details of a free-trade area for Hong Kong and the mainland. But Dr Cheung, an associate professor on government and public administration, cautioned against 'over-reliance' on the mainland. 'We should leave it to the market to strive for a win-win situation. It's a wrong mentality if Hong Kong tries to rely more on preferential policy from the mainland, but not our own strengths.' Democrat legislator Yeung Sum said his party supported greater economic contact: 'The question is whether our Government has been able to fight for our rights and interests on issues such as detention of Hong Kong businessmen on the mainland.' Dr Yeung pointed out it was vital for the Chief Executive to maintain Hong Kong's systems while dealing with the mainland. 'His biggest failure is that he has failed to preserve 'one country, two systems'. Maybe he does not understand, or he does not believe in it. He has rewritten the successful factors of Hong Kong in his governance,' he said. 'On the economic front, he is asking favours from Beijing. The decision not to prosecute [former newspaper tycoon] Sally Aw Sian shows he emphasised personal relationships more than the rule of law. 'He is asking people to go north to find jobs and do business and failing to find ways to maintain Hong Kong's systems. It will be futile if Hong Kong becomes another Shanghai.' Dr Yeung said he shared former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's fears about being too 'inward looking.' In her departing speech to the Asia Society in April, Mrs Chan underlined the importance of 'separation' between Hong Kong and the mainland if the policy of 'one country, two systems' was to succeed. Dr Yeung said: 'Hong Kong people do not oppose the resumption of sovereignty. The question is how to preserve Hong Kong's uniqueness. The policy will become increasingly blurred if [the Government] keeps telling people it will be fine as long as we can get economic benefits from the mainland.' City University political scientist Joseph Cheng Yu-shek said although Beijing should be praised for not overtly interfering in SAR affairs, its eagerness to help the Chief Executive and the Hong Kong economy was not necessarily a good thing. 'It will be a threat to 'one country, two systems' if we cannot manage our own affairs well. Our clear edge is our values and systems: rule of law, freedom of information and speech. We must maintain our characteristics,' Dr Cheng said. Professor Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, pointed to a recent poll by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme that showed more people had confidence in the central Government than the SAR Government. 'More people feel the development of the mainland has become more favourable to our development even though they still do not accept their values and ideology,' he said. Professor Lau said Mr Tung took the middle ground in handling sensitive mainland-Hong Kong issues such as the Falun Gong meditation group, which is outlawed on the mainland. 'The issue of mainland-Hong Kong relations remains untested. It remains unknown how Mr Tung would handle the situation if one million take to the streets [against China] - similar to the 1989 Tiananmen protests,' he said. City University's Professor Cheung said Mr Tung was guided by pre-1997 thinking in handling relations with the mainland. 'Under such thinking, China will allow Hong Kong more freedoms so long as it continues to prosper economically. On the political front, it's better not to touch it or talk about it,' he said. 'It's time to put aside old baggage and rethink the concept of 'one country, two systems'.' Cheng Yiu-tong, a local deputy of the National People's Congress, said: 'Mr Tung has been very active in strengthening contacts across the border. But senior civil servants are still bound by their old thinking in handling mainland matters.'