28 January 2020
Chief Executive CY Leung has made a tough decision to retain Anthony Cheung (inset). Photo: HKEJ
Chief Executive CY Leung has made a tough decision to retain Anthony Cheung (inset). Photo: HKEJ

Anthony Cheung survives crisis, but accountability suffers

It was a tough decision for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to reject the reported resignation of Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung, who apologized earlier this month for the delay in the cross-border rail link project. 

Although the decision is somehow pragmatic, as the Leung wants to speed up the project’s construction pace, it will definitely hurt the government’s overall popularity, as well as the credibility of the accountability system.

The public’s supporting rate for the transport secretary declined by 17 percentage points from April to 26 percent while the objection rate increased to 31 percent, up by 15 percentage points, marking a record low for Cheung since he took office in July 2012, according to the findings of the latest survey made by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program.

The survey was conducted from May 5 to 8 and involved 1,005 Hong Kong people. The HKU report said the sharp decline may be due to recent cases of suspension of MTR services and the delay in the high-speed rail project.

Cheung said during a meeting of the Executive Council on Tuesday that he has expressed his willingness to resign over the rail link project, but the chief executive turned it down. Meanwhile, most members of the Executive Council have reached a consensus that Cheung should stay and it is the MTR Corp. (00066.HK) that should take the blame, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

MTR chief executive Jay Walder should be blamed the most because of his failure to adequately monitor and supervise the project’s progress and submit accurate reports to the government, according to several non-official members of the Executive Council.  They even proposed that the government cancel the bonus for Walder, which may amount to more than HK$10 million.

Meanwhile, the HKU report said the latest support index for CY Leung stands at 48.5 points, up 0.7 point from the level two weeks ago, with an approval rate of 27 percent and disapproval rate of 55 percent.

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EJ Insight reporter