27 February 2020
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (inset) may find good advice in the words of George Soros and Confucius. Photo, Reuters
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (inset) may find good advice in the words of George Soros and Confucius. Photo, Reuters

Words of wisdom from Confucius and Soros as Leung turns 60

Forgive Leung Chun-ying. He doesn’t seem to be a man who appreciates different opinions in the city he governs.

But perhaps that is because he had not reached the age of 60 for according to Confucius, “at 60 my ears are attuned”.

Happy birthday to the Chief Executive. He just turned 60 and was back at work yesterday after a short summer break.

Also celebrating his birthday would be George Soros, who is 84 and still happily punting and spreading his philosophical idea of an open society.

Soros and Leung had little in common. Back in 1992, when Soros broke the Bank of England and pocketed one billion pounds from shorting the British currency, Leung started planning for his first surveying business (DTZ) and left Jones Lang Lasalle as the firm’s youngest partner in 1993.

Last year, both men met in Hainan at the Boao Forum for Asia but we suspect there may be a lack of discussion between them.

After all, the legendary financier had a bad reputation in Asia as he targeted Asian currencies during the 1997 financial crisis.

That year, Leung introduced the 85,000 public housing annual targets (which he has yet to achieve after almost 17 years).

Both men have different political agendas. Soros is a firm believer in an open society and he works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. He also puts money where his mouth is.

As for Leung, he recently signed up with the anti-Occupy Central movement in his personal capacity and vowed to oppose the use of any illegal means to achieve any goals on political reform.

Imagine if Soros could teach a thing or two about democracy to Leung. He would waste no time in telling Leung how a full and fair discussion is essential to democracy.

In an interview with PBS radio host David Brancaccio in 2003, Soros famously said: “The people currently in charge have forgotten the first principle of an open society, namely that we may be wrong and that there has to be free discussion. That it’s possible to be opposed to the policies without being unpatriotic.”

Unlike an open society, Hong Kong has a somewhat different interpretation of patriotism.

Leung recently suggested that the Chief Executive should be a person who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong”.

So are the judges, who are required to love the country as well.

If Soros could advise Leung on his current government plight (with hopes for a second term), he would probably emphasize the message of bad government he told Buzzflash a decade ago.

“Most of the poverty and misery in the world is due to bad government, lack of democracy, weak states, internal strife, and so on. We do need to intervene, to improve political and economic conditions inside countries that have bad governments, where people are suffering.”

Let’s hope that Leung’s political fortunes will change for the better now that he is 60.

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EJ Insight writer