Amid speculation about the fate of Tung Chee-hwa after the July 1 rally, Beijing responded with a star-studded reception for the chief executive during an unusual visit in mid-July to help remove any doubts about its support for his leadership. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao led a team of senior leaders from the ruling Politburo who met Mr Tung on the political shake-up triggered by the half-million-strong protest against the national security bill and, more importantly, the performance of Mr Tung. Since then the central government has said yes to whatever Mr Tung has asked for. Businesses and professionals stand to benefit from early access to the mainland market after initiatives under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. The liberalised arrangements for individual visits by mainlanders has been a shot in the arm for tourism-related businesses. The feel-good sentiments were given a big boost when the first Chinese astronaut, Colonel Yang Liwei, visited Hong Kong for six days. Fast forward to last Sunday, and the governance crisis engulfing the Tung leadership surfaced again as hundreds of thousands of people turned up at voting booths to give a stamp of disapproval to his administration. The largest pro-government flagship, Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, attributed its worse defeat in elections since it was established in 1992 to its affiliation with the Tung administration. Party chairman Tsang Yok-sing has offered his resignation, pending expected approval at a central committee meeting on Tuesday. Whether Mr Tsang will stay on the Executive Council remains unclear. His party colleagues say a major change in their 'pro-government' stance is the only way out. Boosted by their success, the pan-democratic forces stepped up their fight to have appointed seats on the district councils abolished. They called for an immediate start to a constitutional review on democracy changes. Some analysts believe it is no longer an impossible dream that the Democrats may win half the seats, or 30, in the next Legco elections. The bleak scenario of a feeble government facing a more powerful democratic force and an adversarial Legco next year is likely to figure high when Mr Tung meets central leaders in Beijing on Wednesday, billed as an annual duty visit. Speculation is rife again in some quarters of the community that Mr Tung might quit next year. Asked about such a possibility, a Tung aide said: 'No way. It's mere wishful thinking by some people. Some people also want to spread the rumour to undermine the authority of government. Replacing Mr Tung by someone is easier said than done. It will only make things worse.' The Tung aide said the government would stick to a 'middle-of-the-road' approach after July 1, while avoiding any moves that might provoke public discontent. He maintained the political scene remained highly uncertain, and that if the pro-democratic forces went too far after the district council poll it could backfire on them. Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, of the City University's public administration department, said the show of people power in the district elections would prompt Beijing to seriously consider giving an early response to the question of democratisation. 'The further it ducks the issue the harder it is for the DAB to regain its power and influence in the local political scene ... Beijing needs to consider whether it should give a clearer position on the issue of constitutional reform to help ease the political pressure on the DAB.' He agreed that the possibility of the removal of Mr Tung remained slim. 'It would make a tremendous impact on the overall scene. The central authorities attach immense importance to the first chief executive under the policy of 'one country, two systems'. There will be a lot of bad implications if he is overthrown by people power.' Allen Lee Peng-fei, a local deputy of the National People's Congress, said Beijing's economic aid strategy to help defuse political pressure on Mr Tung had proved to be ineffective. 'Beijing has done a lot. Hong Kong people just say, 'Thank you very much'. They have more trust and confidence in Beijing, but their views about the government remain unchanged. A major surgery is needed,' he said. He urged the government to abolish the appointed seats to the district councils, revamp the Executive Council and dump unpopular advisers such as Equal Opportunities Commission member Raymond Wu Wai-yung. The government, he said, should play 'consultative politics' by sharing power with other political forces including the Democrats in policy- and decision-making. 'More than a dozen Democrats are still banned from visiting the mainland. Lifting the restrictions will be a good united-front tactic.' The head of the One Country Two Systems Economic Research Centre, Shiu Sin-por, fears pressure tactics by the pro-democracy forces for faster democracy could backfire. 'Today, you might have one million people demonstrating for universal suffrage. Tomorrow, you might refuse to pass a law on Article 23. How about the day after tomorrow? Will another [Taiwan President] Chen Shui-bian emerge in Hong Kong?' He said Hong Kong people would face a dilemma in demanding democracy. 'Sooner or later, they will find Beijing holds the key. But ... they do not want to confront Beijing on the issue. 'Yes, Beijing will find the political scene less stable now. But I don't see what other things it could do,' Mr Shiu said. Beijing leaders have remained non-committal on the issue of constitutional reform since the July rallies. Sources said mainland authorities would send officials to tap the brains of people from the community on the fallout from last Sunday's election in the next few weeks. Analysts say Beijing has apparently yet to come up with a detailed game plan on electoral changes in Hong Kong. One, a former government official, is adamant Beijing would rethink the fate of Mr Tung. 'The Beijing leadership knows very well the ability of Mr Tung. When you talk about the importance of good governance, can you really duck the issue of leadership?' James Tang Tuck-hong, dean of social sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said the central government would continue to uphold the leadership of Mr Tung while expecting him to improve his governance. 'The pro-democracy forces received a lot of support from within the society. But they have been excluded from the political process. The problem of governance will remain unresolved.' He said the government should provide channels for the middle class to participate in policy-making to instil a sense of ownership in governance of the city 'It is of utmost importance for the government to seek support from the middle layer of the society so that they won't become an anti-government force,' Professor Tang said.