Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is still getting to grips with his new role as leader of Hong Kong. It is too early to expect any significant shift in policy. But much is expected of the acting chief executive - hot favourite to win the election in July. Hong Kong people are eager to see some changes and are watching to see how he shapes up. Mr Tsang's first public speech since taking the helm was delivered at the University of Hong Kong last Friday. It provided him an early opportunity to begin asserting his style of leadership. He did not pass up the chance. The principles set out by Mr Tsang were broadly in keeping with those so often espoused by Tung Chee-hwa - not surprising during this transitional period. But there were some subtle - and perhaps significant - differences. Some parts of the speech could have come straight out of Mr Tung's guide to governing Hong Kong. There was a familiar call to maintain stability and prosperity - and no mention of political reform. The identification of social stability and economic growth as factors that set Hong Kong apart was also predictable. More surprising, perhaps, was Mr Tsang's description of Hong Kong as Asia's 'world city'. It is a tag that Mr Tung had made his own. Mr Tsang did not, however, overstate the claim, admitting it was more of an aspiration. The media, he noted, often referred to Hong Kong's positioning as Asia's world city, but 'more often than not, it is when people feel we have not lived up to the benchmark'. It is interesting that the acting chief chose to place so much emphasis in the speech on the factors that make Hong Kong different. Our city's international, cosmopolitan and multicultural make-up featured prominently. Mr Tsang even highlighted the role played by foreign nationals in making Hong Kong special. In this respect, the speech was less like one by Mr Tung, who was often accused of placing too much emphasis on Hong Kong's predominantly Chinese character. Indeed, Mr Tsang's remarks were more in keeping with the speeches of former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Similarly, Mr Tsang stressed the importance of being tolerant and respecting different views in the community. Inclusiveness had also featured in Mr Tung's policy address in January. But the then-chief executive had preceded it with a declaration that people who doubted the central government would be 'helped' to change their minds. Mr Tsang focused more on the need to 'accommodate different views'. The government, he said, was committed to compromise. This will be necessary if Hong Kong's fragmented political system is to be held together. But compromise will not be so easy when tough, controversial decisions have to be made. The critical role played by the civil service was played up by Mr Tsang in his speech. This is to be expected, partly as a result of his long experience as an administrator - and also because Beijing now sees the civil service as a strong source of stability and support. What this means for the 'accountability', or ministerial, system remains to be seen. Mr Tung said in January the system would have to be improved. Mr Tsang mentioned the need for accountability in his speech - but not the discredited system. Perhaps he intends to achieve accountability in other ways. This was the first of what will be many speeches delivered by Mr Tsang as Hong Kong's leader. It is still early days, but the speech - with its emphasis on Hong Kong's diversity, international character and tolerance - was a promising start. There is, however, a big difference between talking and doing. Mr Tsang's remarks about the importance of the rule of law had a hollow ring to them as a result of the ongoing controversy over the length of the next chief executive's term. Mr Tsang's prospects of success will depend not so much on his ability to make a good speech - but whether that speech is credible. In other words, he must show that his words will translate into action.