The constitutional hurdles for direct election of Mr Tung's replacement appear insurmountable. But since the shelving of the national security bill, the word "insurmountable" seems to be fading from the Hong Kong lexicon. The territory's people may yet give the world another surprise.
Given the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong, it would be wise for President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to dump Mr Tung and give Hong Kong a fresh start.
The recent demonstrations in Hong Kong against a draconian national security bill and Tung Chee-hwa have led some observers to suggest that Hong Kong people are anti-Beijing. They are wrong. Far from being anti-Beijing, many of Hong Kong's residents are favourably disposed towards the Chinese leadership. That could change, though, if Beijing blocks the local reforms they are demanding.
The Pentagon's proposal to sell missiles to Taiwan must rank in a league of most ill-considered policy initiatives by itself. Obviously, the timing for pressuring Taiwan to purchase these systems is awkward. The US should seek all the diplomatic and strategic help it can get from China, and clearly it is no time to slap Beijing in the face.
If the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia can reach a basic understanding on how to handle North Korea, the effort to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program and accept a reasonable "more-for-more" agreement, while not easy, should enjoy a reasonable chance of success.
The record of past U.S. experience in democratic nation building is daunting. The low rate of success is a sobering reminder that these are among the most difficult foreign policy ventures for the U.S. Unilateral nation building by the U.S. has had an even rougher time-perhaps because unilateralism has led to surrogate regimes and direct U.S. administration during the post-conflict period.
While the world's attention is riveted on Iraq, the United States cannot afford to ignore the brewing crisis in Korea. The Bush administration's approach to North Korea is quickly moving from the inexplicable to the irresponsible. If it continues on the current course, America could soon find itself confronted with the unpalatable choice between a nuclear-armed North Korea and war.