16 February 2019
In this 2012 file picture, CY Leung celebrates Father's Day with grassroots constituents in Sham Shui Po district. Photo: HKEJ
In this 2012 file picture, CY Leung celebrates Father's Day with grassroots constituents in Sham Shui Po district. Photo: HKEJ

Leung ‘poor people driving HK’ comment catches fire

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-yin is facing withering criticism days after saying an open election would result in government policy being driven by poor people.

The latest barb came from Leung supporter Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organization, who accused him of being out of touch with reality.

Ho criticized Leung for suggesting the less privileged are not entitled to the same rights enjoyed by the rest of Hong Kong people.

Nelson Chow, a professor in the University of Hong Kong, said Leung’s remarks will intensify social conflict, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

On Monday, Leung told a joint interview with the New York Times and two other foreign media outlets that an open election being sought by pro-democracy protesters would require a nomination process that would include all Hong Kong people.

Since more than half of the population make less than HK$14,000 (US$1,805) a month, Leung said poor people would end up dominating the election process and ultimately driving government policy.

The remarks caused outrage.

“Even the National People’s Congress does not hold such a view,” Ho said, referring to China’s cabinet, which recently handed down an election framework for the 2017 chief executive election.

Ho said there are one million people below the poverty line, which means they are a minority in Hong Kong’s five million-strong voting population.

Chua Hoi-wai, chairperson of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, said Leung’s comments are discriminatory and are at odds with international human rights standards.

Of Hong Kong’s 3.5 million-strong labor force, 48 percent or 1.7 million people earn less than HK$14,000 a month, according to official data.

However, the statistics do not include the non-labor sector.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Leung’s office defended his remarks, saying these were intended to stress that any chief executive candidate will have to satisfy the needs of different sectors.

In separate statements, it said the 1,200-member nomination committee comprises representatives from the industrial and commercial, transport, social welfare, sports, religious and other constituencies.

Leung was trying to make a point that the nomination committee has to have a “balanced representation” and acknowledging that income disparity is one of the problems that are high on his livelihood agenda, the statement said.

More than 100 people from dozens of organizations, including the League of Social Democrats and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest Leung’s remarks.

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