Despite putting up a good fight, Hong Kong lost to Qatar, 2-nil, in Thursday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Shortly after the match, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took to Facebook to praise Hong Kong’s performance only to find that his well-intentioned comments had backfired and drawn widespread criticism from netizens.
By Monday morning, his post had received more than 40,000 “dislikes”.
Leung has no one to blame but himself.
He said he watched the last eight minutes of the match on TV after returning from the Baoao Forum in Hainan.
Yet, from those eight minutes, he concluded that the match was “historic” and the Hong Kong team displayed “unparalleled perseverance by hanging in there until the last minute”.
He said he was proud like every Hongkonger.
Netizens were having none of it.
They accused him of less than whole-hearted support for the team and of trying to take advantage of their performance for selfish reasons.
In fact, an increasing number of Hong Kong people doubt whether Leung is really one of us.
After four years as chief executive, Leung has created the impression that he serves the interests of Beijing, not Hong Kong, by his policies and governance.
Sure, he has implemented pro-Hong Kong measures in recent years such as restricting the amount of baby formula mainlanders can bring back across the border and pressing Shenzhen to suspend multiple travel permits to its residents but these came only after enormous public pressure.
With no one but themselves to rely on to protect their interests, Hongkongers are beginning to see promise in nativist groups.
That has in turn prompted politicians of all kinds to declare their “indigenousness”.
By contrast, Leung is generally perceived as anything but native.
Leung’s last policy address, in which he fawned over China’s planned Asia-Europe economic corridor (One Belt, One Road), only fueled public suspicions that in his mind, Beijing, not Hong Kong, comes first.
He might be accountable to Beijing under the Basic Law but let’s not forget it is Hong Kong he governs.
In that dual role, he has done a horrendous job, his “yes man” image seared into our collective consciousness.
Not surprisinlgy, his public approval rating is in a free fall.
The storm of Facebook “dislikes” on his football post is only a hint of what to expect going forward.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 29.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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