One clear sign that Hong Kong’s political development has not progressed all that much in the past decade was the sight of the same group of politicians in the papers again recently.
There was former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and his special adviser Paul Ip Kwok-wah. Then we had Antony Leung and his buddy Frederick Ma.
And let’s not forget the elegant Elsie Leung.
Together, they represented the ministerial class of 2003, the year of SARS, one of the low points in Hong Kong history.
Now the same group of people is back, having established a think tank aptly named “Our Hong Kong Foundation” which is set to make its debut next month.
Together with former chief secretary Henry Tang and former Hong Kong Monetary Authority czar Joseph Yam, this group of 70 – mostly retirees — are behind-the-scenes movers and shakers that could shape the future of Hong Kong.
Come 2017, one of them could be Hong Kong’s next leader, unless incumbent Leung Chun-ying has what it takes to please Beijing given that his popularity is at a record low amid the protest movement, according to the latest survey. His deputies, interestingly, are polling much better.
It’s likely that Beijing will pick someone from the new group — Antony Leung, Henry Tang or others — as long as the chosen one has Tung’s blessing.
It’s sad that 17 years after Hong Kong’s return to China, Beijing’s circle of trust is limited to 70 people. Even sadder is the fact that these people are the very same ones who called the shots 11 years ago, which shows how very little times have changed.
You could say Beijing rewards loyalty but you could also say it has not made enough new friends in Hong Kong.
Of course, the crux of the distrust lies in the fact that Beijing has failed to groom political talent so that it’s forced to use the same group of people who proved ineffective during their time in office (think of Antony Leung and Lexus, Fred Ma and penny stocks, Henry Tang and his basement etc).
Their common denominator is Tung, Hong Kong’s first post-colonial leader, who enjoys Beijing’s confidence.
His rise in mainland politics comes in stark contrast to his seven-year tenure as chief executive which ended in his downfall.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Tung will not be another Putin, who keeps coming back to power. Who wants an 80-year-old chief executive by universal suffrage (if any) anyway?
Some say Hong Kong lost a decade under former chief executive Donald Tsang who seldom tackled thorny social issues. No one wants him back either.
But it looks like we’re going to see old ghosts being resurrected at the rate our political development is going.
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