17 November 2018
Being the top leader and supervisor of the three lawmakers and members of his cabinet who joined the walkout, Leung Chun-ying (inset) should be blamed for the veto of the election bill. Photos: HKEJ
Being the top leader and supervisor of the three lawmakers and members of his cabinet who joined the walkout, Leung Chun-ying (inset) should be blamed for the veto of the election bill. Photos: HKEJ

CY Leung must bear all the blame for the political reform fiasco

The resounding veto of the government’s election bill last Thursday has unquestionably incurred Beijing’s wrath, while sparking widespread astonishment in the international community.

Despite their superficial unison in denouncing pan-democrats, those who boycotted the voting are now engaged in a furious blame game, slamming their own teammates while declining responsibility for the outcome.

They’re now in the doghouse. They had agreed to submit themselves to Beijing to hoodwink Hongkongers into accepting a sham universal suffrage package in exchange for power and benefits, but it would be naïve to expect them to switch sides after what happened.

They have been really busy since then. Some rushed to China’s Liaison Office in Sai Wan to express their apologies and pledge their continued allegiance. (After all, without their mainland masters, they couldn’t have secured their Legco seats.)

Others opened fire at the eight members (mainly from the Liberal Party headed by James Tien Pei-chun) who ignored the walkout call and voted. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung even shed tears in public and voiced their profound remorse.

One can only marvel at their performance.

As for the question of who should be made accountable for the fiasco, the traditional Chinese philosophy in politics and governance suggests that when there is a blunder of this magnitude, ultimately it is always the top official who must bear all the blame.

So in the case of the landslide veto, all the scorn should be poured on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The reason is that three of the 33 pro-establishment lawmakers who failed to vote “yes” for the bill — Jeffrey Lam, Regina Ip and Starry Lee Wai-king — are members of the Executive Council, Leung’s cabinet.

In other words, they are all Leung’s direct subordinates. Through them, Leung can lead the legislature’s pro-government bloc, which is a vital vehicle to ensure an executive-led governance mechanism under the Basic Law.

The irony is that while the blame game among these lawmakers continues with no one prepared to accept responsibility and resign, Leung has called on everyone to focus on the economy and people’s livelihood issues, as if he had nothing to do with the bill’s overwhelming defeat.

As for the broader picture, Hong Kong has been in a steady decline since the handover but the pace has become precipitous — either in public sentiment, the economy or the political atmosphere — since Leung took over the helm.

The Pearl of the Orient is losing its glow. To sort out what exactly is causing all our woes may be unrealistic but we won’t be very much off the mark if we attribute the three years of troubles to Leung.

Some people believe the fiasco won’t be resolved unless some key figure is ousted from the political sphere. Also, there are conflicting views as to whether Leung should be given a second term.

Many are keen on his immediate expulsion but some fear that given Beijing’s stubbornness — it won’t yield to pressure even if it has done something woefully wrong — the current crisis can only deteriorate further before Beijing sees the need to alter its policy towards the territory.

Leung has only two more years to go and it’s about time Beijing considered the question: Should Leung be reappointed in 2017 or not?

Leung’s loyalty would be the biggest reason for Beijing to grant him a second term. But considering the damage he had done in the past few years, how much more suffering would he put Hong Kong through if he got another five years.

Hongkongers, if they became so desperate, might even rise in rebellion and push for independence.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 22.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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