22 September 2019
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (center) finds the administration's traditional allies trying to bring him down. Photo: Bloomberg
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (center) finds the administration's traditional allies trying to bring him down. Photo: Bloomberg

Small circle elections will dominate HK politics again

While the pan-democrats remained completely silent during the 1st anniversary of the 831 Resolution, the pro-establishment and traditional leftist camps have been pretty busy attempting to bring down Leung Chun-ying.

It has become obvious that after the political reform package for the 2017 election was defeated in June, Hong Kong politics will once again be dominated by small-circle elections, and I can see no way out of the present political stalemate.

Recently the Liberal Party, which represents the vested interests of big real estate developers, has turned increasingly aggressive in picking fights with Leung Chun-ying.

Party chairman Chung Kwok-pan even stated in public that he won’t allow Leung to run for a second term. This has resulted in a pointless war of words between the two sides over the “active non-intervention” approach and the so-called “appropriately pro-active” way of governance.

In fact, the arguments made by Leung against “active non-interventionism”, first proposed by former financial secretary Charles Philip Hadden-Cave in the early ’70s, only exposed his complete ignorance about economics and the true essence of the economic philosophy of Hadden-Cave.

After all, Leung might be very good at pulling political maneuvers to deceive the public or persecuting his political opponents, but when it comes to running the economy he is a complete layman.

What else can we expect from him apart from toeing Beijing’s line on the 12th Five-Year Plan?

In fact, the debates between the advocates of “free economy” and “active non-interventionism” have continued for decades since the ’70s.

However, the problem facing our economy today is not the conflict between different economic beliefs, but rather, the unchecked expansion of government-funded organizations such as the Trade Development Council, Airport Authority, MTR, Urban Renewal Authority, Housing Authority, etc., which are increasingly dominating our economy and strangling the growth of small businesses in the city.

To make matters worse, these monster organizations often collude with big businesses to make whopping profits at the expense of public interest. That is the exact reason why the business environment in Hong Kong is rapidly deteriorating these days.

Those who are still obsessed with the empty debates over different economic schools of thought, including the Liberal Party chief and our Chief Executive, are simply missing the point on this critical issue.

On the other hand, apart from a small bunch of opportunists, the traditional and orthodox leftist camp in Hong Kong has never supported the Machiavellian Leung Chun-ying wholeheartedly.

The recent removal of Tsang Tak-sing, a highly respected figure in the leftist camp, as home affairs secretary only deepens the conflict between the two sides.

Outraged and desperate, the leftists then retaliated by campaigning against him and isolating him to prevent him from getting re-elected.

It appears the leftists are mounting another round of political onslaughts against Leung lately. Outgoing Legislative Council President Tsang Yuk-sing is actively putting together his own political think tank and has publicly stated that he will support any capable person with a heart and vision in running for chief executive in 2017.

Meanwhile, the highly respected leftist guru Ng Hong-mun openly tipped Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah as the next Hong Kong leader, and said it would be in the best interest of Hong Kong for a civil servant to run the city.

Ng actually dropped a political bombshell by publicly rooting for John Tsang, because once a civil servant “returns to the throne” again, it will represent a radical departure from Beijing’s current approach to ruling Hong Kong, under which the city is to be governed by “party cadres”.

It will also mark the total failure of the decade-long efforts of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong to nurture its own local political elites.

However, no matter who is given the chief executive job, as long as the 831 Resolution is still in force, and as long as Hong Kong people are still denied their right to choose their own leader through a genuine election, the political turmoil in our city will only escalate.

Our citizens have already awakened to the power of nativism and self-determination, and there is no way anyone can put the genie back into the bottle.

The article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 2.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist