17 February 2019
The Policy Address given by Leung Chun-ying (center) had less to do with the interests of Hongkongers than his hopes of persuading Beijing to grant him a second term as chief executive. Photo: HKEJ
The Policy Address given by Leung Chun-ying (center) had less to do with the interests of Hongkongers than his hopes of persuading Beijing to grant him a second term as chief executive. Photo: HKEJ

A 2-hour lesson from CY in bad governance

As a service to readers, I had planned not to mention CY Leung’s Policy Address, as there is quite enough boredom in the world without adding to it.

However, my best intentions were thwarted after reflecting on this matter, and it has increasingly struck me that this single event more or less encapsulates everything that is wrong about the way the Hong Kong government operates.

Let’s start with the very manner of its presentation.

It took the chief executive around two hours to deliver this address. And it was delivered with a rigid determination to stick to the script and avoid any risk of making it interesting.

Even the world’s worst elected politicians learn something about delivery or at least make an effort to speak in ways that do not look as though they are reading from shopping lists.

CY, of course, has never contested a real election and has not even bothered to study what might be required to garner popular support. He even boasted after his address that he was not looking for popular support.

Here, at least, he will get what he wants.

It is cruel to compare CY’s efforts at producing an annual policy address with the efforts of US President Barack Obama, who, by coincidence, delivered his State of the Union address on the same day.

Obama is a superb orator and understands that setting out the government’s vision for the coming year requires an injection of inspiration.

When tackling very difficult subjects, such as gun control, the president tilted back and talked not just about what he proposed but why he was proposing tougher controls and illustrated the very high cost of inaction.

Mr. Leung, meanwhile did little more than read out a hodgepodge of to-do items supplied by the civil service.

And, as ever, because the bureaucrats just love them, the CE obligingly set up more committees to slow everything down.

You can’t blame the bureaucrats for being bureaucratic, as it is indeed their job to administer and provide to-do lists, but the chief executive is supposed to have a coherent vision of where Hong Kong is going and how it is going to get there.

One reason it took CY twice as long as the US president to deliver his address is that someone must have told him that more was better — or maybe he just felt that if he got down to the level of talking about non-slip floors in public lavatories (no kidding, he did just that) he would be seen as a practical doer who was somewhere beyond politics.

However, the impression he left was more of being little more than a town hall clerk with a big clipboard.

At a time of heightened anxiety about the credibility of the “one country, two systems” concept, he did absolutely nothing to address these fears.

Instead, he spoke glowingly of what his administration had achieved.

This detachment from reality is precisely the kind of thing on offer when the National People’s Congress and similar bodies hold their stultifying meetings.

Yet there was a bit of the vision thing in CY address. Unfortunately it was not his vision but a rather lame and embarrassing echoing of the vision set out by his boss Xi Jinping, who has been pushing this “One Belt, One Road” thingy.

Much hilarity has resulted over the number of times CY solemnly used the words belt and road.

Even greater contortions have been made in striving to explain why it was his No. 1 priority.

It’s all rather vague, but apparently the rationale is that if Hong Kong fails to clamber aboard Xi’s belt and road, opportunities will be missed, chances of riches in Kyrgyzstan will be foregone, and goodness knows what other hopes of prosperity would be lost as the road curls its way toward the Urals without Hongkongers driving along the highway.

Like all grandiose schemes, this one will soon be forgotten.

But maybe constant repetition of this mantra will have been heard by the Communist Party chiefs when they sit down to pick the new CE.

This brings us to the nub of the problem, which is that Hong Kong is led by someone who does not consider himself to be accountable to the people he leads.

The increasingly isolated Leung concluded his seemingly endless peroration with these words, quoted in full to give a flavor of the rest of this nonsense:

“Over the past year, in line with the concept of seeking change while maintaining overall stability, the current-term government has continued to work with the community to improve Hong Kong’s social and economic development.

“Our concerted efforts have born fruits.

“In the year ahead, to make the best use of the new opportunities arising from the 13th Five-Year Plan, the Belt and Road initiative as well as innovation and technology, all of us must join forces to work for the short-, medium- and long-term development of Hong Kong.”

Let me offer a quick translation: “Please, comrade, can I be the next CE?”

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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