It’s safe to say this early that Leung Chun-ying is gunning for a second term two years out.
He can’t be making all those political noises and posturing without thinking about 2017 when his five-year stint as Hong Kong leader is up.
On Wednesday, he flagged his intentions when he told a high-powered Credit Suisse conference that pan-democrats will be punished by voters in next year’s Legislative Council elections.
Replying to a question from the floor, he was more emphatic. “For those who are registered voters, vote them out next year… the Legco elections will take place sometime in the third quarter next year… go to the polling stations, vote them out,” he said.
It was not the first time Leung had publicly targeted pan-democrats in such a forceful manner.
At every opportunity, he has been telling voters to throw out lawmakers who supported last year’s street protests and those who filibustered bills. That means pan-democrats.
Last year, he told the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce that his government is trying to implement policies faster but pan-democrats are obstructing them.
”We want to do that, but we can only do that with the support of the people, so whoever you think is standing in the way of government formulating and implementing policies quickly, shout at them,” he said.
It’s easy for Leung to incite the public in this way, even pick up a few enemies among the electorate. He would not be needing their vote if a proposed framework for the 2017 chief executive election is rejected by legislators as expected.
In that instance, the selection process will revert to the 2012 formula under which Leung was anointed by a 1,200-member panel representing vested interests.
He stands a better chance under that arrangement than being voted by universal suffrage, assuming he ends up on the ballot by the grace of a nominating committee likely packed with Beijing loyalists.
Which is why his withering attacks on pan-democrats, which only harden their position against the proposed election scheme while he appears to work for its passage in Legco, serve his own interests.
That aside, Leung’s unpopularity is not going to help him influence the public regarding voting out pan-democrats.
And it’s not going to be different this time around from 2012, the last time the establishment tried — and failed — to win control of the chamber.
That year, pan-democrats won 18 seats in five geographical constituencies, or 54.21 percent of the vote, while pro-Beijing candidates captured 17.
By also dominating the functional constituency contests, pan-democrats ended up with 27 seats in the current Legco.
In contrast, Leung sailed to the top job on the back of an election committee, winning just 689 votes from its 1,200 members comprising tycoons, professionals and people chosen by Beijing.
Do the math and try to rationalize how someone without a public mandate is so brazenly going after people who were elected by nearly two million voters.
Sure, the government can argue Hong Kong people were represented on the election panel. Really?
It’s no secret that Beijing treats pan-democrats as obstacles to its policies on Hong Kong and Leung takes his marching orders from the central government.
Increasingly, he is being seen not as a bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China but as a wedge between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy forces.
And his most recent actions and statements depict him as someone hostile to people who oppose him or his government.
What’s ironic is that the more pan-democrats dislike Leung and show their distaste for his politics by humiliating him with a veto of the election bill, the more he benefits.
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