17 September 2019
Since he took office, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (right) has been acting like a figurehead, while the Liaison Office under Director Zhang Xiaoming appears to be pulling the strings on local affairs from behind the scene. Photo: HKEJ
Since he took office, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (right) has been acting like a figurehead, while the Liaison Office under Director Zhang Xiaoming appears to be pulling the strings on local affairs from behind the scene. Photo: HKEJ

Why Zhang Xiaoming pitch is not convincing

As the highest ranking representative of Beijing in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR, recently published a 6,000-word article in local Chinese newspapers.

Titled “Facilitating universal suffrage with Hong Kong characteristics through confidence in the system”, the article has laid down the most comprehensive arguments in favor of the political reform proposal so far.

To give him his due, although Zhang’s arguments were largely open to dispute, at least he was trying to reason. In contrast, the task force led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in promoting the government proposal, has performed poorly over the past two weeks. The top officials on her team were neither well-prepared nor reasonable, and were unqualified in terms of both IQ and EQ.

Still, the reasons Zhang laid down were hardly convincing.

In his article, he stressed that the government proposal put forward by the SAR government under the framework of the 31 August 2014 resolution of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee is the most democratic system ever introduced to Hong Kong, and is fully in line with the Basic Law together with the “one country, two systems” policy.

He went on to argue that the current proposal has four major merits — constitutional, democratic, legitimate and steady.

With regard to the idea of “confidence in the system” which he brought up in his article, Zhang was actually referring to three aspects, namely “confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’”, “confidence in the capability of Hong Kong people to run Hong Kong”, and “confidence in the revival of the Chinese nation”.

Ironically, the three “confidences” that he suggested in his article are exactly the reasons why the people of Hong Kong do not have confidence in the government’s political reform proposal.

Let’s start with public confidence in the “one country, two systems”. That, in fact, is continuing to diminish since the handover as the governance capability of chief executives handpicked by Beijing has been getting worse one after the other, especially after Leung Chun-ying assumed office in 2012 — his approval ratings have remained disastrous.

To make matters worse, Beijing released a white paper last year, in which it redefined the meaning of “one country, two systems” by making “two systems” subordinate to “one country”, and openly questioned the separation of powers in Hong Kong.

It is hardly an overstatement that the confidence of the Hong Kong people in “one country, two systems” has hit a record low.

Leung Chun-ying has been acting like a figurehead since he took his job, and it appears it is the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong that is pulling the strings behind the scene on local affairs.

Moreover, much to the dismay of the public, nepotism and favoritism have become the dominant factors in Leung’s administration when it comes to the appointment of key personnel, resulting in the fact that more and more people have begun to question whether Hong Kong people can really run our city effectively. Leung Chun-ying indeed should be held accountable for our loss of confidence in ourselves.

Meanwhile, while China’s rise to the great power status seems unstoppable, Hong Kong is increasingly being marginalized in recent years, with communist propaganda continuing to play up the view that Hong Kong can’t even survive for a week without the investments, tourists, or even food and water supply from the mainland, and therefore the people of Hong Kong should feel grateful.

The truth is that the continued influx of mainland visitors has brought a high social price to our city, and the intensity of the conflicts between locals and mainland visitors has reached crisis levels.

If Beijing is really sincere in winning the hearts and minds of the people of Hong Kong, what it should do is respect and uphold the core values of our citizens, which are democracy, freedom, equality, justice and the rule of law, elements that make us who we are today.

The article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 8

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former radio talk show host; Columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal