Leung Chun-ying seems to be getting increasingly belligerent and aggressive these days.
Shortly after the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Council vetoed Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment as pro-vice chancellor, Leung immediately appointed two pro-establishment figures, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu and Maggie Chan Man-ki, to the governing board of Lingnan University, despite fierce opposition from its staff and students.
It is apparent that Leung is determined to seize control of the eight universities in our city one by one.
Political struggle is the only craft that Leung is good at, and is probably the only magic weapon he can use to keep his job as chief executive and seek re-election, as hardline policies cannot only please his Beijing bosses but also win the hearts and minds of indigenous communists.
Therefore, Leung would probably keep stirring up controversies one after the other in the days ahead, because the more Hong Kong is thrown into disarray, the more political capital he will be able to accumulate.
Recently the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) took the city by storm by suddenly pressing charges against former chief executive Donald Tsang for “misconduct in public office”.
Rumor has it that Beijing has lately passed on a message to the local pro-establishment camp that it had no prior knowledge whatsoever of the charges pressed against Tsang, nor did it know that CY Leung had arranged for a secret meeting with HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson to put pressure on him over Professor Chan’s appointment.
It seems Beijing was trying to dissociate itself from the recent set of political maneuvers pulled by Leung to avoid political responsibility.
Such a rumor might not be entirely unfounded, as Elsie Leung Oi-sie, the former justice secretary and a seasoned party stalwart, openly admitted that she was astounded by the fact that the ICAC was pressing charges against Tsang, suggesting that it might not have been a direct order from Beijing or else she would definitely have known about it beforehand.
As far as the secret meeting between Leung and Mathieson is concerned, there is also nothing Beijing can do about it as it is already a fait accompli.
As a matter of fact, Leung has a definite advantage, in that he seems to be able to read the minds of both his allies and opponents.
He seems to be able to tell that the pro-establishment camp would not dare to challenge him directly for fear of his retaliation, nor would Beijing oust him from power hastily out of concern over the stability of Hong Kong.
And as long as he is toeing the party line and taking a tough stance on pro-democracy activists in his remaining time in office, there is no way Beijing would say no to his re-election in 2017.
However, Leung cannot afford to be complacent because he is basically skating on thin ice right now, with Beijing constantly looking over his shoulder and his opponents ready to draw their swords at any moment.
All they are waiting for is a minor mistake made by Leung, which they can use as an excuse to get rid of him. In fact, there is no shortage of means by which Beijing or his political enemies can crush him.
For example, as we all know, under Article 73 of the Basic Law, a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislative Council is required to pass a motion of impeachment against the Chief Executive.
The pan-democrats have made several attempts to impeach him in the past, but all of which failed due to the boycott of the pro-establishment camp.
If Beijing really wants to remove Leung from office without causing too much turmoil, all they need to do is to turn over the evidence gathered by the graft-busting task force sent by Politburo member Wang Qishan to Australia on Leung’s business connections with the UGL to pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong so that they can run a front-page story on that and swing public opinion their way.
After that Beijing can order its proxies in Legco to move a motion of impeachment against Leung based on the material. With the support of the pan-democrats almost for certain, the motion can easily be passed by a two-thirds majority, and by that time Beijing can officially oust Leung by the book.
One of the most notable merits of this plan is that, on one hand, Beijing can get rid of Leung through the established mechanism of the Basic Law and avoid being accused of interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong, but, on the other hand, it won’t let the pan-democrats take all the credit.
Since the entire impeachment process is spearheaded by the pro-establishment camp, it may also boost their election prospects in the Legco election in 2016.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 14.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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