Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is often compared to Chris Patten, the last British governor. This is largely because Mr Tsang likes to call himself a politician and Mr Patten was a master politician, down to his fingertips. On becoming chief executive, Mr Tsang rejected the conservatism of his predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, and embraced the last British governor's approach, making himself more accessible to the media and the public. Yet, Mr Tsang seems unwilling to go as far as Mr Patten. While emulating Mr Patten's post-policy address town-hall meetings by holding a session last Friday in Sha Tin, the chief executive decided to keep the media out, something the last governor would never have done. It is interesting that Mr Tsang's popularity dropped after his policy address. In fact, it is quite extraordinary that the satisfaction rate of this year's speech was lower than that of Mr Tung's final policy address in 2004. 'By their fruits ye shall know them,' the Bible tells us, and it is striking that Mr Tsang was thoroughly denounced by some, and equally praised by others. The pan-democratic camp accused the chief executive of trying to dodge controversial issues, with Lee Wing-tat, chairman of the Democratic Party, labelling the address 'very disappointing'. By contrast, an official from the central government's liaison office described the policy address as 'very good' and said it had fully responded to the aspirations of society. A common complaint was that the speech lacked vision - but some elements of the media were willing to overlook this. Sing Tao, for example, noted that only eight months remained of Mr Tsang's term. It added that Mr Tsang would reveal his plans after announcing his intention to run for a second term. The Hong Kong Commercial Daily acknowledged that the policy address did not cover major issues such as health-care financing, developing Hong Kong into an education hub and transboundary transport links. But the newspaper said it was understandable that the government would focus only on what could be achieved within the next eight months. No doubt Mr Tsang did not want to sound as if he definitely would serve another term, but that is no reason for not speaking his mind or making clear his position on policies. Since he is going to run, it is even more important for him to take positions in public. A decade ago, Mr Patten faced the same dilemma. He delivered his last policy address, knowing that his term would end the following June, and knowing he had no possibility of serving beyond that date. And yet he did not hesitate to draw a road map for Hong Kong and to say without equivocation what he thought his successor should do. Last week, Mr Tsang ended his speech by saying that the next chief executive, 'whoever that may be', will have to address three issues: how to sustain economic development; how to further the development of a democratic political system; and how to build a harmonious society. However, he refrained from spelling out how he thought those issues should be tackled. Everyone knows that he is going to serve five more years as the leader of the city. But even if he is not going to continue in office, he owes it to the people of Hong Kong to give it his all as long as he is the chief executive. He has an obligation to tell us how he thinks those issues should be tackled. Mr Patten had no such reservations. In his last policy address, he pointed the direction in which Hong Kong should move in the future. While he acknowledged that his successor would have to decide how to go about it, he identified 10 key elements that he considered indispensable, including retaining social harmony, continuing to invest heavily in education, and retaining 'our autonomy in economic and trade matters'. There is certainly no need for Mr Tsang to behave like a lame duck, especially when Mr Patten, a real lame duck, did not feel constrained to behave in this way. Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.