25 March 2019
Ricky Wong blames the chief executive for the  across-the-board deterioration, regression and polarization in basically every segment of Hong Kong's society. Photo: HKEJ
Ricky Wong blames the chief executive for the across-the-board deterioration, regression and polarization in basically every segment of Hong Kong's society. Photo: HKEJ

Why Ricky Wong’s move may be start of Leung Chun-ying’s downfall

Ricky Wong Wai-kay, founder and chairman of Hong Kong Television Network Ltd. (01137.HK), recently announced he is considering running for a seat in the Legislative Council in September.

The only reason he will do so, he said, is to push for the removal of Leung Chun-ying as Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Wong’s announcement wowed many across the local political spectrum.

If elected, Wong said, he will work aggressively to rally lawmakers and elites from different sectors who are against Leung and form a united front to make clear to Beijing and even the international community their belief that the people of Hong Kong deserve a better leader.

Wong said that under Leung’s rule, the city has witnessed an across-the-board deterioration, regression and polarization in basically every segment of society, and Leung should be held personally accountable for that.

Among his favorite candidates for the next chief executive, Wong named lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Legco president Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

However, he stressed that basically anybody will do — as long as it is not Leung Chun-ying.

Wong’s words have struck a deep chord in the hearts of many people in Hong Kong, who have become so discontented and frustrated with the government that they are desperate to have a new chief executive.

Yet, despite the fact that Leung is so unpopular and his approval ratings have hit rock bottom, there are still three types of people who are in favor of his re-election.

The first type is those who have benefited from Leung’s coming to power, such as the government officials and executive councillors he has appointed.

The second type is the political opportunists who are willing to take a risk and place their bets on Leung because they firmly believe he is still in favor with Beijing.

The third type is the extreme left and die-hard communists who sincerely support Leung’s tough stance against the pro-democracy movement.

Apart from these three types of people, there are also some others who are not strongly opposed to the idea of Leung getting his second term.

These include the “loyal subjects” who have no problems with Beijing’s interference in our city’s affairs.

At the other extreme, they also include the small bunch of extreme separatists, for whom the more hated Leung is, the more convincing their pro-independence cause will be.

Frankly, if Beijing does really take public opinion in Hong Kong seriously, like it has said on numerous occasions that it will, it should order Leung to publicly announce that he will not run for his second term, so as to curb the anger of the public.

If that actually happens, then at least the prospects of the pro-establishment candidates in the upcoming Legco election will be substantially boosted, because they will no longer have to stand by a chief executive who is so immensely unpopular.

Unfortunately, I don’t think things are going to neatly fall into place like this.

There are two reasons.

First, as we all know, the last thing the Communist Party will do is bow to public pressure and risk losing face.

So, the more intense the public pressure for the removal of Leung, the more likely that Beijing will continue to support him.

Second, Leung might be doing his job very poorly, but at least he is a loyal party stalwart, and it might be unwise to decide his future so hastily.

As Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, Leung’s deputy campaign manager back in 2012, has put it, unless Beijing firmly says no, Leung will definitely run for a second term.

Lau said there are three possible options in front of Beijing.

First, allow Leung to run, and pick someone who has no hope of winning to run against him, so as to make it look like a real contest.

Second, let Leung and another pro-establishment hopeful run, and leave the final decision to the Election Committee.

Third, prohibit Leung from seeking a second term, and let two fresh faces compete with each other for the top job.

I don’t have any insider information.

However, I believe it would be a logical inference that if Beijing did want to get rid of Leung, the third option would probably be the best bet.

And if Beijing did go for it, then it would be in its best interest to get this message across to the pro-establishment camp before the Election Committee subsector election in December, so as to avoid infighting between the pro-Leung and anti-Leung factions, and above all, to prevent the pan-democrats from fishing in troubled waters.

Wong’s taking the initiative to try to form a united front against Leung might prove to be a decisive act and the tipping point that marks the beginning of Leung’s downfall.

If Wong’s plan succeeds, it will be a good thing not only for Hong Kong but also for “one country, two systems” as well.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 18.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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