After five days of speculation about Tung Chee-hwa's future, Hong Kong remains in the dark. All the signs point to his going soon. But no one in authority is prepared to say what is going on. When are we going to be told the truth? The silence is creating confusion, uncertainty - and all sorts of guesswork and speculation. This is not healthy. The issues in question concern the future of Hong Kong and all its people. We should not be kept in suspense any longer. There seems little doubt that Mr Tung is on his way out - even in the absence of any official confirmation. But the bigger questions concern what will happen next. How will the succession be handled? One central issue to emerge is whether the new chief executive should be appointed for a full five-year term - or only step in until the middle of 2007. We hope the confusion on this point is merely part of the uncertainty and guesswork flowing from the lack of an announcement about the future of Hong Kong's leadership. The idea of a two-year term might seem a convenient solution. After all, some candidates might be caught off-guard if a snap election is called. A two-year term would mean they do not have to wait long before getting another chance. It would also allow reforms to continue and a more representative system to be put in place for a fresh election in 2007. Beijing might also find the idea of a short-term chief executive attractive. This would make it easier to pacify groups that are unhappy about the choice of Mr Tung's successor. It would also give the central government two years in which to assess the ability of whoever gets the job - Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is seen as the favourite. But there is one huge obstacle standing in the way of electing a chief executive for only two years - the clear wording of the Basic Law. This states, in the plainest terms in Article 46, that a chief executive's term of office 'shall be five years'. There is no way this provision can be interpreted to mean anything else. No amount of clever legal advice or reference to mainland laws can turn five years into two. Trying to do so would harm the status of the Basic Law. It would seriously undermine the 'one country, two systems' concept and the rule of law. So the idea of a two-year term, however attractive it may appear, should not even be considered. It is a non-starter. There have been suggestions that the two-year term could be introduced by means of an interpretation delivered by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. This has already been done with regard to the right of abode in 1999 and political reform last year. Both decisions caused a loss of confidence in the idea that Hong Kong has a separate system and that its constitution means what it says. But at least the provisions concerned were a little ambiguous. No such argument can sensibly be put forward in relation to the five-year term. The Basic Law sets out what is to happen if the chief executive's position 'becomes vacant'. There is no ambiguity. The Election Committee chooses a new leader within six months - and the successful candidate serves a five-year term. This is certainly the Hong Kong government's position - or at least it was last May. Constitutional affairs chief Stephen Lam Sui-lung said that should a vacancy occur, the new chief executive gets a five-year term. He added: 'This provision applies to any chief executive. There is no exception.' It is to be hoped that the Department of Justice will stand by this position. The view that only a five-year term can be served is also supported by members of the Basic Law Committee - which advises Beijing on interpretations - and some NPC deputies. It is the only option possible under the Basic Law. Having a two-year term instead, might be considered convenient. But as Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said recently, in a different context: 'Justice according to law and convenience are not on speaking terms.'