24 October 2016
Apart from toasting to Liaison Office chief Zhang Xiaoming and sending riot police to suppress protests, CY Leung seems to have done nothing to impress Hong Kong people. Photo: HKEJ
Apart from toasting to Liaison Office chief Zhang Xiaoming and sending riot police to suppress protests, CY Leung seems to have done nothing to impress Hong Kong people. Photo: HKEJ

Why CY Leung failed as a leader

Only someone with wholly atrophied sensibilities could be unaware of the current of unease that underlies Hong Kong like a tectonic plate testing its first tentative moves.

That self-confidence that envious Singaporeans were wont to label arrogance has been replaced by increasing uncertainty for the future. Yet, this is a comparatively recent phenomenon and it demands an explanation.

The morale of any community, regardless of its size, can usually be traced to the character and standing of its leader. The resilience of the British people during World War II drew heavily on Winston Churchill, who gathered around him a cabinet of all talents.

In recent times the success and stability of Germany could be attributed in no small part to Angela Merkel and her ministerial colleagues. By way of contrast, there is a substantial body of opinion that blames Hong Kong’s current sense of malaise on CY Leung.

But as an administrator he is probably no more or less inept than either of his predecessors.

The significant point of distinction is that he is identified with what a growing number of people of various political persuasions perceive as the mainland’s envelopment of Hong Kong by stealth and a correlative misalignment of our indigenous compass.

The Occupy movement was perhaps the most florid public expression of this concern. It was, one should remember, the means by which the young people of Hong Kong, upon whose shoulders the future must fall, articulated their deeply held convictions about the way in which those who, no matter how mendaciously, purport to be society’s leaders, are failing them.

The failure to recognize this by both the government and those cardboard cut-out amateurs posing as politicians, was a critical diagnostic failure on their part.

Not unlike a sub-clinical disease, the uncertainties have been festering while those with the responsibility for early diagnosis and treatment have frittered away valuable time in what George Orwell described as their “smelly little orthodoxies”.

Almost all the legislators, regardless of their political affiliation, are so infatuated with their own importance that they have forgotten that the public pay them to do more than make an occasional sound bite appearance in the Legislative Council.

The practicalities of a genuine democracy are a great deal more complex than blinkered insistence on universal suffrage and obsequious genuflections to Beijing do not equate to love of country.

It would be more cost-effective and less of a charade if the legislators’ seats were occupied by Madame Tussaud’s effigies. At least no-one would have any expectations and no-one would have to clean the floor after the ritual banana hurling exhibitions.

While these addle-pated recipients of public largesse are locking their papier maché horns over mutually contradictory and intractable positions, CY Leung and his pantomime cabinet are busy spending the young people’s inheritance on follies that draw off funds vital for the health and education of current and future generations.

The confrontational mindset over issues such as the co-location problem and appointment of the head of HKU’s governing council bespeaks a mischief-making agenda.

When the young see their putative leaders behaving so irresponsibly, is it any wonder that they have developed an unhealthy appetite for instant gratification?

I will have no truck with students shouting down speeches with which they disagree but why is it that they fail to appreciate that in so doing they too are denying free speech?

An expression attributed to Voltaire said it best: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Perhaps it is that they are tired of listening to the unadulterated garbage that spews forth from the mouths of those set in authority over them.

Meanwhile, as the Mong Kok unrest demonstrated, there are dark forces like the triads ready to exploit a genuine grievance for their own evil ends, confident that a frightened administration will blame its political opponents.

The renegades lurk in the shadows, waiting for their opportunity to strike and run, leaving others to answer for their detritus.

A more pertinent question, though, is to ask who decided to end the long-standing custom of hawkers setting up their stalls on the first day of the Lunar New Year?

The true test of a leader is the person who commands respect because he or she has the ability to handle a situation. More often than not the situation delivers the leader.

In any normal walk of life, those who fail that test have to give way to someone who does not.

Hong Kong’s problem is the lack of an individual with the qualities to inspire, to bring together the warring factions, to exercise the art of compromise and reconciliation by personal example of courage and shining integrity.

The Emperor Nero merely fiddled while Rome burned whereas CY Leung is busy blowing on the embers.

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EJ Insight contributor

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