Date
18 January 2017
Leung Chun-ying's single-minded focus on China is coming at the expense of opportunities for Hong Kong in other parts of the world. Photo: Xinhua
Leung Chun-ying's single-minded focus on China is coming at the expense of opportunities for Hong Kong in other parts of the world. Photo: Xinhua

How Leung’s blind loyalty to Beijing is undermining Hong Kong

When it comes to setting direction, this government has lost its way. It’s tethered to China like nothing else matters outside of it.

Take Leung Chun-ying’s obsession with “one belt, one road”, Beijing’s grand plan to create an economic corridor from Asia to Europe.

The contours of that plan are only emerging and many countries along this futuristic version of the Silk Road have yet to sign on.

By his latest public statements, Leung Chun-ying thinks it’s already a success — an utter and complete success.

“From the Hong Kong perspective, we have so many opportunities. In the future, no matter what the shape of China’s economic development… Hong Kong people should tap such opportunities,” he said.

Interestingly, he made the remarks after an “authoritative figure” was quoted by the official People’s Daily last week saying China’s development will be L-shaped.

That means economic growth will fall — it’s already slowing markedly — and bounce along the bottom for the forseeable future.

On Tuesday, Leung doubled down by saying China is Hong Kong’s biggest and most important economic partner and has the highest potential for growth.

There’s no quarrel about that but he is missing the point. 

Leung’s single-minded focus on China is coming at the expense of opportunities for Hong Kong in other parts of the world.

When China itself is encouraging its citizens and its companies to go out and invest somewhere, Leung is married to the idea that Hong Kong should put its eggs in China’s basket.

That thinking is likely to give rise to related policies.

Hong Kong people are already heavily invested in China.

Local businesses are no longer confined to southern China but have spread far and wide across its cities and the hinterland.

That means they are deeply and widely exposed to any prolonged slump in the economy just as they benefit from an economic boom.

But the best judge of those risks are the companies themselves, not beholden politicians like Leung.

Which is why many people are suspicious of Leung’s motives. Is he doing all these things for economic or political reasons?

We can see Leung being a cheerleader for his bosses in Beijing but we don’t expect him to back his loyalty with our economic fortunes.  

It’s interesting that he fired his latest volley for “one belt, one road” ahead of an “inspection” visit by Zhang Dejiang, the top official responsible for Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

The trip coincides with a forum on the economic plan but observers see it as a kind of performance assessment of Leung’s administration.

That is yet another sign of Hong Kong’s eroding importance under the “one country, two systems” principle which was designed to give it a high degree of autonomy from the central government .

Zhang Xiaoming, head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, already plays an increasingly wider role.

it’s now almost impossible to miss Beijing’s hand in the smallest detail of policymaking by Leung’s government and its response to public criticism.

It’s more than a coincidence that all this is happening at a time when localism and self-determination are trending topics in Hong Kong.

If Beijing wants to show who’s boss, it does not need Leung’s pandering. It has already made its point.

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SC/JP/RA

EJ Insight writer

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