With the chief executive election just around the corner, a growing number of supporters of Leung Chun-ying have either shown reluctance to endorse him for a second term or openly criticized his performance.
They ought to do more than that. They owe it to the Hong Kong people to offer their sincerest apologies for the mess CY Leung has brought to the city.
The latest to turn their back on Leung is movie director Alfred Cheung.
Cheung told a radio program that he felt obliged to apologize to the Hong Kong people for supporting Leung four years ago, noting that his choice led to social conflicts in the city.
“I regret having supported Leung in 2012,” Cheung said. “I came out to support Leung mainly because of my belief that Hong Kong needed competition in the chief executive election.
“I wanted to challenge Beijing because it was [former chief secretary Henry] Tang who was about to be endorsed at that time.”
Cheung acknowledged that he was too naive to understand the workings of politics, that he did not understand then that the election was being controlled by some people behind the scene.
After the elections, the filmmaker had apparently seen the light and started to distance himself from his former idol, saying that he was infuriated after hearing Leung tell one lie after another.
Cheung cited the unauthorized building works at Leung’s house and the incident at the airport where the chief executive allegedly used his influence to help his daughter bypass security rules to retrieve a forgotten luggage.
Leung had denied wrongdoing in both cases, but Cheung said: “Such word games are beyond my tolerance for a politician.”
Cheung is not the first of Leung’s former supporters to change their mind about him.
In 2013, actor Anthony Wong expressed his regret for having supported Leung, saying that the chief executive had failed to move Hong Kong to progress.
And just recently, another former Leung loyalist, Dr. Gabriel Choi, also expressed his dismay over Leung after the government proposed to amend the composition of the Medical Council, the watchdog of the medical profession.
Choi was a high-profile supporter of Leung in 2012, but the doctor changed his mind about Leung in view of the government’s proposal to add four lay members to the council.
The fear is that the reform bill will lower the standards of the local medical profession and allow mainland doctors to work in Hong Kong.
Back in 2012, Leung had a great public relations machinery to burnish his image and win the support of the election committee.
He was then seen as a political outsider, a fresh face in a scene crowded by people perceived to be beholden to tycoons.
He was portrayed as a problem solver, unlike incumbent officials who seemed to have been caught in the stasis of government bureaucracy.
Leung also adopted a down-to-earth personality, someone who cared for the grassroots, the underprivileged in society.
But of course, nothing would have happened if Beijing did not change its mind and pick Leung over Tang at the last minute.
In the early part of 2012, many people had thought that Beijing would choose Tang and expected him to be the next chief executive.
But Tang’s popularity nosedived following a series of negative news about him, including an alleged extramarital affair and unauthorized building works in his apartment in Kowloon Tong.
Finally, Beijing bestowed its blessings on Leung, who secured 689 votes from the 1,200-member election committee.
Many of Hong Kong’s elite did embrace Leung in 2012 as they wanted someone who could drive Hong Kong forward.
They felt Hong Kong lacked direction under former chief executive Donald Tsang, who had been a civil servant for a long time.
They were betting on Leung to solve Hong Kong’s housing problem and enhance social harmony.
As chief executive, Leung managed to make headway in just a few of his election promises, but what he has accomplished most during his tenure is to transform Hong Kong into becoming a part of China.
According to the latest poll conducted by University of Hong Kong’s public opinion program in early July, Leung’s popularity rating is 40.1, way below the warning level of 45.
His latest approval rating is 22 percent while his disapproval rating is 58 percent, giving him a net popularity rating of negative 36 percentage points.
If Beijing is taking popularity into account in choosing the next chief executive, Leung should definitely be eased out, especially if he is compared with Financial Secretary John Tsang and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who still enjoy positive popularity ratings and are seen as performing very well as government officials.
It is not surprising, therefore, that all of the pro-Beijing political parties, which are busy preparing for the Legislative Council elections in September, refuse to endorse Leung for a second term.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-Beijing party, said it’s not yet appropriate to discuss the issue of Leung’s re-election.
It is, of course, simply trying to avoid getting dragged into the issue during the election campaign.
But it is likely to be a major election campaign issue, and it is interesting to see how the Legco candidates will position themselves with regard to this issue.
Many of the candidates are likely to avoid being seen as supporting Leung.
But for those who supported him four years ago and would like to turn their backs on him now, they should first issue a heartfelt apology for their mistake of inflicting CY Leung on the public.
If they refuse to do so, Hong Kong people should vote them out of Legco.
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