19 October 2019
CY Leung (inset) wants young politicians to work with him. A candidate from  Youngspiration (background) campaigns ahead of the recent district elections. Photos: HKEJ
CY Leung (inset) wants young politicians to work with him. A candidate from Youngspiration (background) campaigns ahead of the recent district elections. Photos: HKEJ

Too late the hero: How CY blew his chance with young pols

Say what? 

Young winners in Sunday’s district elections couldn’t believe their ears when Leung Chun-ying said he wants them to close ranks with him.

One group, Youngspiration, dismissed the offer outright, calling it meaningless and absurd.

They are responding with pointed questions. 

If his government truly cared about young people, why wait all this long to reach out to them?

Or, more precisely, why did the government have to wait until these young candidates won in the elections before taking their concerns more seriously?

Leung wants these young politicians to join government bodies and give their input in formulating policy.

In another place and time, this kind of outreach would be unifying.   

But Leung must now be aware that his overtures are not welcome.

Worse, these are being met with suspicion.

Some of his intended targets are accusing him of feigning good faith and having a hidden agenda, citing his government’s track record of playing off both sides of the political divide and members of his own camp.

Leung Chung-hang, convenor of Youngspiration, called the invitation meaningless.

It [the government] just wants to keep our mouth shut and cut our exposure to the public,” he said.

Youngspiration, which sprang up from last year’s democracy protests, won a seat in Kowloon City, with its nine candidates collecting more than 12,000 votes.

Together with other newcomers, the so-called “umbrella soldiers” landed eight seats, backed by more than 70,000 votes.

Many of them defeated political veterans.

The Neo Democrats, a breakaway faction from the pro-Beijing camp, won 15 of 16 seats they contested.

By contrast, the pro-establishment camp lost 11 seats, although the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong captured 298 seats out of 431 to keep its stranglehold on district politics.

Leung Chun-ying is working against that backdrop but he scattered obstacles around him even before he thought of co-opting young politicians to his agenda.

That is because he has a hard time understanding that the issues that are important to these young politicians are the same things young Hong Kong people in general are fighting for.

They want a real say in their own future, not lip service from their government.

The fight for genuine universal suffrage, social justice, job opportunity, income equality etc. is only a means to that end.

They’re disenchanted with a government they distrust.

Leung’s best chance to address their concerns came and went with the street protests last year.

A year and an election later, he still thinks the cards are on the table.

Good luck to him.

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EJ Insight writer