22 October 2016
Leung Chun-ying is alluded to in a People's Daily article about privilege and special treatment. It comes just days after he was accused of abusing his power. Photos: HKEJ,
Leung Chun-ying is alluded to in a People's Daily article about privilege and special treatment. It comes just days after he was accused of abusing his power. Photos: HKEJ,

Beijing mouthpiece won’t let CY airport saga die down

It doesn’t take much to see that Leung Chun-ying fits the argument in a revealing People’s Daily article about privilege and special treatment.

Leung is not mentioned in the article but the fact it was published just days after he was accused of abusing his office in an airport incident involving his younger daughter makes him a topic of conversation again.

The article, titled “Special treatment for special issue”, targets politicians who use their influence to obtain certain privileges not enjoyed by ordinary citizens.

It criticises the “abuse of special arrangements by some government officials” and the use of such privilege to avoid responsibility. 

“Some officials even turn special treatment for special issues into their own arrangements … that could trigger doubts about the transfer of interests through their official capacity,” it says.

If Leung thought he had dealt with the matter after releasing an official denial and after his allies took pains to point out no harm was done, he was clearly mistaken.

The question now is not whether he abused his authority but whether he overestimated it.

China’s state organs have a way of clipping the wings of the powers that be.

That’s China’s style of politics which allows the state to exercise self-restraint, or at least show some semblance of it, by whipping wayward officials into line.

The article argues that politicians who obtain special arrangements must explain them to the public.

Even so, these should be for specific circumstances and subject to certain limits, it says.  

The article calls for improved handling of “accidental affairs” so that there are fewer opportunities for officials to bypass procedures.

These points fit the circumstances in the Leung family airport saga.

First, they said that Leung Chung-yan had left her carry-on bag behind by accident.

Then they insisted that it be brought over to her — which airport personnel did – even though she was already in a restricted area 

Immediately, airport regulations were bypassed. The luggage did not go through a new security check and was carried to a restricted zone by a person other than the passenger.

The government, from the Security Bureau to the Civil Aviation Department, did its best to reassure a skeptical public that at no point was safety compromised — that the bag went through a full security check before it was brought aboard the plane.

Henry Tang, Leung’s rival in the 2012 chief executive election, was quick to offer some contrast.

On Monday, he told journalists that he had reminded his children that no one should expect advantages from their position.

This is not the first time Leung and his family have been in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

During the 2012 election campaign, it was revealed that Leung had built an illegal structure on the roof of his flat on the Peak.  

In 2014, Leung was reported to have received HK$50 million (US$6.45 million) in secret payments from an Australian company.

And last year, his older daughter Chai-yan figured in a public slapping incident with her mother.

Leung’s unpopularity is not helping him win public sympathy, although in fairness, those family problems are not unique to his situation.

But in the context of his official capacity, these are scrutinized like no other.

No one knows how Beijing reacted to the latest incident, or if it did at all.

But judging by the timing of the People’s Daily article, Leung is on notice to clean up his act.  

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EJ Insight writer

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