«Letter to Hong Kong» the Chief Executive

March 31, 2007

Fellow citizens,

      Last Sunday I was elected as the third term Chief Executive of HKSAR. Naturally, I am delighted to have won and I can tell you that this election held special meaning for me. I would like to share with you not only the joy of victory, but also my mixed feelings during the campaign.

      I am 62. I joined the government 40 years ago as an Executive Officer II, before joining the Administrative Officer (AO) grade. During my long career in the civil service, I went through AO's "elitist" training and was driven by a conviction that we are guardians of Hong Kong's interests. Without admitting it, we prided ourselves on our superior competence and judgment. We truly regarded ourselves as elite, and I had held this view over the years.

      With this "elitist" mindset, I never shied away from debating policies, pressing them ahead against all odds and challenging the authorities. Government officials need to establish their own authority to earn the public trust in the government. This elitist confidence, however, might easily turn into complacency, leading us to believe that every thing is under our control because we know best. When criticised, we hardly asked ourselves why we became so insensitive to the needs of our people. Instead, we asked why the public failed to appreciate our good intentions in serving the best interests of Hong Kong.

      I held these thoughts for a long time and the inner struggle intensified in the election. After being appointed as the Chief Executive in the 2005 election, I realised, as I said in a Letter to Hong Kong entitled "Stepping out of Government House", that I had to lower my own posture. After all, running an election was far more than that. In regular district visits or Legislative Council sessions, I wore the hat of the Chief Executive. In the election campaign, however, I was no different from the other candidate in that people on the street could snub me and I had to abide by the same tight time rule in election debates. I recalled an episode on Valentine's Day, February 14, when my election team and I were presenting flowers to passers-by in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. A young man refused to take the flower. Others might not have any hard feelings about this, but I was hurt. I was thinking that all I wanted was to rally your support and show my goodwill, why the cold shoulder?

      At the election forum organised by the Election Committee on March 1, Alan Leong and I had a heated debate on stage. While my opponent's supporters kept cheering for him, I had this in mind: why should they keep picking at me like this?

      When I was preparing for the second debate on March 15, a Christian theologian's prayer called "Serenity Prayer" came to mind. It had dawned on me that by offering myself as a candidate, I must be ready for criticism or even irrational political attacks. I must give a chance to the public to reject me.

      Government officials, I surmise, were used to considering themselves as elite. They formalised decisions behind closed doors and told the public, "We have made the best choice for you, so there is no need for further discussion." I know it is time to change this mindset.

      For a man with an elitist approach for 40 years, it took me a lot of will power to make the decision to "step forward" for the election. I really admire the people of Hong Kong. They are kind and direct. Their warm responses reassured me that my determination to "step forward" for the election had paid off. After winning the election on March 25, I embarked on an open-top bus tour to thank the public. Though they did not have the opportunity to vote for me, I remain grateful to them all. I was a bit emotional then, because while the two-month election campaign might have been short, its impact on me was profound.

      I will take my promises seriously. I sincerely wish that you will say to me in five years' time, "CE, you've really got the job well done!"

      I thank God for granting me this most wonderful experience in my public service career.


  Donald TSANG Yam-kuen  
Donald TSANG Yam-kuen,
Chief Executive