Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has just completed the first half of his five-year term, with sweat on his brow.
Many Hongkongers may be disappointed by his poor performance in handling political reform and a complete failure to stabilize home prices, as well as the decision that he apparently made to use tear gas on Occupy protesters on Sept. 28.
With Beijing’s blind support, Leung is likely to be able to stay on until June 30, 2017, some political observers say, assuming that he is not suffering from foot pain like his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa.
But even if Leung’s feet don’t hurt, his administration will probably remain a lame duck in the second half.
One does not need a crystal ball to tell that Leung will face more headwinds as he enters the second half of his term this month.
That is also the main theme of many editorials this year as Hong Kong enters the post-Occupy Central era.
Amid high property prices and political demands, people are rather unlikely to be in a happy mood when Leung gives his annual policy address on Jan. 14.
Ask Legislative Council members how they would rank Leung on a scale of one to 10, and he would score below average.
The mode would be zero (if not negative) from the pan-democrats, and the best he might get from his allies in the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong would be “no comment”, Ming Pao Daily said Monday.
The non-cooperation movement led by pan-democrats and student leaders will intensify and, together with the district council and Legco elections, will further polarize our society in the next two years, which will make CY’s remaining days as chief executive rather miserable.
Underneath the unpopularity is his lack of people skills. Leung upsets many people, whether they are his friends or foes.
Well, perhaps he is not humorous enough.
But at least he should be credited with his efforts to cement new relationships, as he is often seen mingling with people at private birthday parties that his predecessors would have skipped.
Failing to understand the youth
He also seems to have a problem communicating with youngsters, not to say he is not listening but merely to suggest he is not prepared to compromise.
A month before the end of the Occupy campaign, he made it clear in a closed-door meeting that he thought youngsters cannot be pleased and pledged he would not act like a “nice person” in resolving social conflict.
The fact that he was backed up by President Xi Jinping did little to improve his popularity among youngsters in this age of China-Hong Kong hostility.
They felt the chief executive did not care about Hong Kong as much as China, not to mention he was picked by just 689 of the 1,200 election committee members — only 2 percent of whom were born after 1980.
After the fraction of the population in poverty decreased in 2013, Leung claimed it was due to his efforts to improve the livelihood of the elderly. But is this true?
Official data showed that the number of Hongkongers living in poverty, which includes those who make less than HK$3,500 a month and four-person families whose monthly income is below HK$15,400, fell below one million in 2013 for the first time in five years, down 0.7 percentage points from 2012.
The government said the decline was due to the launch of the old age living allowance in late 2012.
However, excluding the effect of welfare benefits, the number of people in poverty actually grew by 30,000 people to 1.34 million.
So the problem was merely covered up by handing out cash, rather than being resolved. Isn’t a chief executive’s job easy?
In fact, people in different age groups would agree Leung failed to deliver what he had promised before assuming office.
Home prices keep surging
Stabilizing home prices through an increase in supply has, of course, turned out to be a bounced check.
Recently, the government said it will buy rural sites from property developers and Heung Yee Kuk landowners to build an agricultural park.
Some people, who have long been awaiting a significant correction of home prices, may hope that Leung will someday scrap the plan for the agricultural park and switch all those sites to residential use.
I’m sorry to say these thoughts might be too simple and somewhat naive.
First, landowners won’t sell their farmland at low prices. Speculation in rural sites will probably pull up the prices of those in prime locations.
Second, if such a plan could be carried out, its effect on the property market would only be seen several years later.
Leung would probably have no incentive to do it at all, as his top priority for the time being is seeking another term.
So, is Leung proposing this project to boost the agricultural sector or please the rural site owners? You guess.
To avoid being disappointed, we should try not to put any hopes on the second half of Leung’s term.
As friends on hkgolden.com always say, “You will lose if you get too serious”.
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