22 March 2019
Leung Chun-ying (second from right) may be highly unpopular to the public, but he is exactly the kind of hardliner Beijing wants to be in charge of Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
Leung Chun-ying (second from right) may be highly unpopular to the public, but he is exactly the kind of hardliner Beijing wants to be in charge of Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

Why CY Leung is likely to get his second term

Outgoing Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah have announced that they may enter the race for the next chief executive, and the results of basically all opinion polls have indicated that the public is completely fed up with Leung Chun-ying’s confrontational style of government.

But despite all that, in my opinion CY Leung still stands a pretty good chance of getting re-elected. Here is why.

As we all know, even though CY Leung is highly unpopular not only to the public but also among business tycoons, who have a lot of influence in the Election Committee, it is Beijing, not those billionaires or the public, who has the final word on who is going to be the next chief executive.

From the point of view of our Beijing bosses, the only criteria for judging whether a person is up to the top job is the degree of their loyalty and eagerness to carry out whatever order is given to them by the central government.

And CY Leung is simply unparalleled in this regard. So why would Beijing fire such a loyal and steadfast employee on whom it can always rely to finish its tasks?

Jasper Tsang and John Tsang may have a definite advantage over Leung when it comes to winning over the public and facilitating social harmony given their relatively high approval ratings, but unfortunately, public support is no longer a concern for Beijing.

Once, our Beijing leaders were rather concerned about public opinions in Hong Kong, and it is for that reason that they replaced the highly unpopular Tung Chee-wah with the more popular Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, although rather reluctantly, in order to please the people of Hong Kong.

On top of that Beijing also introduced a series of measures like the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement and the Individual Visits Scheme in order to boost Hong Kong’s economy.

However, all their painstaking efforts to please us over the years have proven futile.

In the eyes of Beijing, the people of Hong Kong are simply like spoiled children who have remained as defiant as ever over the past decade.

Fed up with our ingratitude for their goodwill, our Beijing leaders then decided that it was time to ditch their appeasement policy and adopt a tougher stance towards Hong Kong, and hence CY Leung’s victory over Henry Tang Ying-yen in the CE election in 2012.

It is because Beijing believed that if both a business tycoon (i.e., Tung Chee-wah) and a seasoned civil servant (i.e., Donald Tsang) have failed to bring the people of Hong Kong into line, then why not put a hard-line party stalwart like CY Leung in charge of the city in order to put these defiant people in their place?

Moreover, the lesson of the so-called “Color Revolutions” perpetrated by the West which have toppled several autocratic regimes in Central Asia and Ukraine also contributed to Beijing’s policy shift towards Hong Kong.

And the Occupy Movement in 2014, which Beijing firmly believed was sponsored by the United States, has further reinforced its assertion that Hong Kong is under the constant threat of subversion orchestrated by the West, against which the Chinese government must always stay vigilant.

Given all these mounting external threats, how could we expect our Beijing bosses to replace the hard-line Leung Chun-ying with someone who is weak-willed?

As the saying goes, drastic times call for drastic measures.

Since the political environment in Hong Kong is getting increasingly volatile and chaotic, it is in Beijing’s best interest to keep a hard-liner in charge of the city in order to fight “enemies of the state”, both foreign and domestic, who are lurking around in our city.

CY Leung’s unquestioning loyalty to Beijing, his ruthlessness and his take-no-prisoner approach to pro-democracy activists might make him the most hated leader ever in this city.

However, rather ironically, these are exactly the qualities that Beijing are looking for when choosing the next chief executive.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 23.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Research fellow at SynergyNet

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