28 October 2016
C.Y. Leung's administration has to rebuild mutual trust with the pan-democrat lawmakers if it is to get anything done for the people of Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
C.Y. Leung's administration has to rebuild mutual trust with the pan-democrat lawmakers if it is to get anything done for the people of Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

What’s on agenda for Leung’s meetings with lawmakers?

After the ugly defeat of the electoral reform in the Legislative Council, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s government is undergoing minor changes aimed at rebuilding trust with political parties, including the pan-democratic ones.

It seems Leung is abandoning his “political struggle” style of ruling Hong Kong and now wants to make friends with his “enemies”.

The Civic Party was one of the first political parties contacted by Leung for a meeting. The first invitation was made at the last minute last week, so the party failed to make it.

Its leader, Alan Leong, said Saturday he and fellow members Claudia Mo Man-ching and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang are due to meet Leung on Thursday, although he did not know what was on the agenda.

Leung already met Liberal Party members on Friday and discussed several economic issues, including ways to improve the business environment for small and medium-sized enterprises, and whether it would be possible to revive the industrial sector.

He even raised the idea of having regular meetings with the Liberals.

Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan said regular talks with Leung could help improve the relationship between the administration and the legislature.

The two meetings arranged by the chief executive indicate that Leung is trying to find a way to improve relations and mutual trust between the government and lawmakers.

His administration has long been criticised for engaging in a political struggle with people with different opinions, including politicians and lawmakers.

That ended up splitting Hong Kong into two camps, pro-government and anti-government.

This split helped ensure Hong Kong’s failure to implement universal suffrage in 2017, as the administration did not play a constructive role in communicating with the opposition parties and the Beijing authorities to try to agree on an improved electoral framework for the election for chief executive.

In fact, the relationship between local political parties and the government has worsened to its lowest point since Leung was elected as the city’s chief three years ago.

Leung wanted his supporters outside the political arena to play a role in the government and tried to ignore the importance of local politicians.

Even the traditional pro-Beijing comrades had different views from Leung’s on certain government policies.

The administration has taken a hostile altitude toward the opposition parties and labeled them the obstacle to the execution of government policies, since the pan-democrats have the power to reject or delay government funding for new initiatives.

But it seems that the government has realized it was abusing its power in bundling for the legislature’s approval certain controversial policies, such as the establishment of the innovation and technology bureau, with funding for livelihood-related initiatives. 

The democrats have expressed their concern about such an arrangement.

The day after the Beijing loyalists walked out from the legislature during the historic vote on electoral reform, the government made a U-turn by moving its request for funding for the tech bureau from the front to the back of the queue, behind 11 livelihood-related initiatives.

This resulted in 47 lawmakers from both camps approving the funding for those initiatives, ending the delay in providing additional subsidies to lower-income Hongkongers to which the government committed in its budget.

What does Leung’s sudden change of mind imply?

The tech bureau, which Leung has considered one of his key priorities since he was elected, managed to secure approval from the legislature earlier this year after four years of debate.

Leung insisted the bureau’s purpose is to boost technological development in Hong Kong, but the pan-democrats saw it as a way for Leung to create positions to reward his supporters.

Meaningless political arguments like this, which have been the major obstacle preventing the Leung administration from implementing its policies, resulted from Leung treating everything from the perspective of a political struggle.

Anybody who opposes the government will be his enemies.

But the fact is the pan-democrats also approved the funding for the livelihood measures. The government and Leung should now have no excuse for weak execution of its policies.

However, that’s not enough for Leung to remove all the obstacles that face him.

To succeed in pushing forward Hong Kong’s economic development, he should give up his confrontational style toward different parties and make a point of hearing the voice of the public.

At least, he should respect the right of lawmakers to filibuster in the legislature to demand a clear direction for his policies instead of condemning them for wasting public time on policy studies.

They are working for the good of the whole city.

If Leung continues with his confrontational style, the gap between him and the lawmakers could further widen, and no one will be able to help him then.

It’s time for Leung to learn how to compromise if he wants to be re-elected as chief executive.

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EJ Insight writer

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