Tung Chee-hwa's office last night said a magazine report stating the chief executive would step down early was 'completely made up'. The swift response came after the Express Weekly reported that Mr Tung had signalled to the central government he was ready to step down before his term ends in 2007. Citing inside sources, the magazine's latest issue, published yesterday, said Mr Tung was disappointed he failed to have a personal meeting with President Hu Jintao or Premier Wen Jiabao during National Day celebrations in October. Soon afterwards, he sent out 'secret signals' that he wanted to step down early because of declining health. In a short statement, the Chief Executive's Office said there was no factual basis to the story. A spokesman for the office expressed 'deep regret' over the report. The magazine's report appeared after Mr Hu ordered Mr Tung and his ministers to improve governance and acknowledge inadequacies in what was widely seen as a public dressing down during the fifth anniversary of the Macau handover. Mr Tung and his cabinet subsequently tried to play down the remarks, saying they had been voiced before and that it was really an appeal for unity.