24 October 2016
Lots of Hongkongers would like to see anybody but Leung Chun-ying as the next chief executive, but there is no guarantee his successor will be any better, and he or she could be worse. Photo: HKEJ
Lots of Hongkongers would like to see anybody but Leung Chun-ying as the next chief executive, but there is no guarantee his successor will be any better, and he or she could be worse. Photo: HKEJ

CY’s successor: be careful what you hope for

I think it is only fair to warn readers of a sensitive disposition that some of what follows may be taken as words of praise or even support for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chung-yin.

This is all the more shocking because, on the off chance that you have previously read a column by this author, you most certainly would not have seen anything along these lines before.

However, here we are as the debate hots up on the question of who will be the next chief executive.

And as it flows, there is, for understandable reasons, a groundswell of support for the ABCY option – which, for those at the back of the class, means “Anyone But CY”.

Mr. Leung, meanwhile, is busy out on what in Hong Kong passes for being the campaign trail.

He has, for example, delivered a long, self-justifying television interview to TVB.

He has also been busy inviting voters, which in the local situation, means members of the tiny 1,200-strong Election Committee, for cosy chats, some of which are fueled by drinks and food, and he has been getting his admittedly small band of allies to go out and about to talk up his “achievements” in office.

As for the other putative candidates, all of whom, with one significant exception, are sort of campaigning while sternly insisting that they have no ambition for high office — unless…. 

Some of these candidates are more obvious than others, such as Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, John Tsang Chun-wah, Anthony Leung Kam-chung and, of course, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who at least has the decency not to hide her naked ambition.

Usually, by this stage in the game, the small cabal in Beijing that decides who will win the “election” has started putting out signals as to who is lucky enough to be enjoying the Mandate of Heaven, otherwise known as the Stamp of Communist Party Approval.

However, there appears to be some doubt up in Beijing, so the signals are mixed.

At one moment, there is lavish praise for CY; at another, we hear some expressions of doubt.

Then there were the widely leaked remarks about John Tsang not being up to the job, etc. etc.

In other words, no decision has yet been taken.

The problem for the sycophants who make up the Election Committee is that they want to be told what to do.

They most certainly do not wish to face the terrible uncertainty of making their own decision.

Meanwhile, the democratic legislators committed a major blunder when they used their rare and very brief meeting with national legislature chief Zhang Dejiang to request that Beijing dump CY in favour of someone else, thus implicitly endorsing the farcical manner in which the selection is conducted.

They obviously believe in the ABCY principle, yet may it not be the case that someone actually worse than CY lurks in the wings?

Memories are short, but at the time the Mandate of Heaven passed to Mr. Leung after it was snatched away from the terminally hopeless Henry Tang Ying-yen, many people thought or at least hoped that CY wouldn’t be so bad.

Mind you, there were even higher hopes for the first chief executive, Tung Chee-wah, and we all know how that ended.

So, maybe we should be focusing more on the system that produces these people rather than its product.

The fact of the matter is the ultimate arbiter of who will be Hong Kong’s chief executive is President Xi Jinping, who is busy carrying out a purge of party members for what might loosely be described as ideological reasons but are more potently connected with his desire for absolute personal control.

In these circumstances, the primary qualification for Hong Kong’s next chief executive is proof of loyalty to Xi.

It may therefore be assumed that CY is a shoo-in for a second term in office.

However, in the byzantine world of Chinese politics at the highest levels, personal rivalries are intense and vicious.

It is entirely possible that for some hard-to-fathom reason, CY has managed to acquire enemies in Beijing who are bad-mouthing him.

His personality is such that he has no shortage of enemies in Hong Kong’s own pro-government camp, and they, in turn, may well be able to spread some poison about CY up north.

On the other hand, there may well be some other candidate for the job lurking in the wings armed with pro-Xi credentials of a very splendid kind, or even Ip might finally be able to persuade the bosses in Beijing that any fears of her possessing independent ideas has been entirely expunged from her person.

CY, on the other hand, has the dubious benefit of being a known entity.

Other candidates for the job could turn out to be even worse.

Indeed, as the selection process is entirely about who will best serve the Communist Party, the incidental question of who is best for Hong Kong is likely to be way down the list of qualifications.

As ever, the warning for the ABCY camp should be: be careful what you wish for.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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