25 October 2016
Given the public's distrust toward Leung Chun-ying, almost every policy initiative proposed by his administration is viewed with serious and sometimes unfounded suspicion. Photo: HKEJ
Given the public's distrust toward Leung Chun-ying, almost every policy initiative proposed by his administration is viewed with serious and sometimes unfounded suspicion. Photo: HKEJ

Leung credibility crisis affects Medical Council reform bill

Thanks to Leung Chun-ying’s blatant abuse of power, Hong Kong people have completely lost faith and trust in the current government. As a result, citizens tend to look upon every policy initiative proposed by the government with deep and sometimes unfounded suspicion.

The recent controversy over the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 is an example of how an initially well-intended proposal put forward by the administration after years of discussions can suddenly become so unpopular just because Leung is hated and not trusted at all.

Public opinion is so much against the bill even though the vast majority of people barely know what it is truly about.

This is because the view that Leung is always up to no good has become so deep-seated among the citizens that they simply no longer trust anything associated with him or put forward by his administration.

It is also ironical that the medical community including doctors and members of the healthcare sector who are so opposed to Leung and his bill right now actually used to be his big fans during the chief executive election back in 2012.

With all his craftiness, fancy words and empty promises, Leung was able to lure their votes and defeat his rival Henry Tang Ying-yen.

Yet it didn’t take too long for the medical sector to find that Leung is actually not the person they can count on to defend their interests. I bet most of them must be stamping their feet now for having voted for the wrong guy.

However, to be fair, despite the fact that Leung is so tricky, untrustworthy and unpopular, it doesn’t necessarily mean any legislative initiative put forward by his subordinates must be bad and sinister in nature, at least not this one.

In fact for years there have been calls among society for reforming the Medical Council in order to break doctors’ domination of the body and bring it more into line with the interests of patients.

Above all, there is a pressing need to speed up the process of handling patients’ complaints in the council. The Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 was formulated to address these calls.

Perhaps the bill would never have provoked such a public backlash and would already have been passed by Legco if Tang was the chief executive instead of Leung.

Like I mentioned, many of those who are opposed to the bill are only driven by their distrust toward Leung, and don’t even know what the bill is all about. Even if some of them do know what’s what, their worries about the bill are mostly unfounded.

For example, some are worried that by doubling the number of lay members in the Medical Council from the existing 4, Leung can appoint his proxies into the council, thereby giving him majority votes to lower the threshold for overseas-trained doctors to practice in Hong Kong and open the floodgates to unqualified mainland doctors.

The truth, however, is that under the proposed bill, three out of the four additional lay members are to be nominated by patient rights organizations and the remaining one by the Consumer Council, rather than being directly appointed by the chief executive.

Even if, in the worst case scenario, all the four new lay members happen to be Leung’s supporters, they will still be in minority in the Medical Council, which will continue to be dominated by the representatives of local doctors’ unions in the days ahead.

In other words, the proposed bill won’t change the status quo in the Medical Council at all, nor will it give Leung the leverage to change the rules governing doctors’ practice in our city. The notion that the passage of the bill will lead to an influx of unqualified mainland doctors is both groundless and misleading.

Sadly, many people still buy into such false notion because of their total lack of trust in Leung and his government.

It has become crystal clear that Leung’s loss of credibility has put his government in a bad situation. The longer he remains in office, the worse things will get.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 15.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former radio talk show host; Columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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