The decision to accept Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's resignation was a tough one for the mainland leadership because his early departure indicates, among other things, that Beijing's policies towards Hong Kong have been out of kilter with the city's needs and aspirations and that the central government is partly to blame for its problems. Sources said President Hu Jintao and Vice-President Zeng Qinghong made the call and secured the consent of former president Jiang Zemin - Mr Tung's biggest supporter in the central government - and members of the standing committee of the Communist Party's politburo. Mr Tung's imminent departure also reflects a gradual but continuous shift by the central government from a hands-off approach to taking an increasingly active role in Hong Kong's affairs. Under Mr Jiang's reign - with former vice-premier Qian Qichen in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs - Beijing was eager to prove to the outside world that the 'one country, two systems' concept would work in the SAR and basically left it alone. The debacle over the Article 23 anti-subversion law and the huge July 1 protests of the past two years prompted a rethink by Beijing. President Hu publicly declared that the implementation of the 'one country, two systems' concept had become a 'new issue' for the leadership - mainland code for saying that Beijing would pay close attention to, and not hesitate to take the lead, with regard to the Hong Kong issue. Beijing's deliberate decision to keep Mr Tung's resignation and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's promotion under close wraps until the last moment has surprised almost everyone in Hong Kong, from pro-Beijing supporters to pro-democracy campaigners. The pro-Beijing supporters have complained bitterly behind closed doors about Mr Tsang's elevation but it is already too late for them to change anything. After studying Hong Kong's political scene closely over the past two years and dismissing its party politics as 'immature', the mainland leadership has finally subscribed to the notion that the corps of more than 170,000 civil servants handed over from the colonial era is the most influential and biggest stabilising force in Hong Kong. Mr Tsang, who consistently ranks among the top government officials in popularity polls, could easily garner support from the majority of Hong Kong residents, civil servants and the business community. His elevation should be welcomed by the international community, particularly the US and Britain, whose opinions can still make officials in Beijing nervous. Positive reactions to Mr Tsang's appointment could also help ease concerns over the 'one country, two systems' concept, which many believe has come under considerable strain because of the way Beijing has handled the succession.