28 October 2016
Relations between the legislature and the government are unlikely to improve much given the opposition camp's lack of trust in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo:HKEJ
Relations between the legislature and the government are unlikely to improve much given the opposition camp's lack of trust in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo:HKEJ

CY Leung remains the biggest obstacle to reconciliation

A day after the Legco election results, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issued a statement in which he vowed that his administration will work aggressively to enhance communication with the new legislature and facilitate cross-border exchanges for the lawmakers.

He also called on the incoming lawmakers to join forces with the government to create a better future for our city.

Now, I am not sure whether Beijing will welcome the idea of allowing pro-independence lawmakers to set foot on its soil, and also whether the young lawmakers will themselves be interested in doing so.

However, there is one thing I am pretty sure about. Leung’s wish to enhance partnership with the incoming Legco is unlikely to materialize, because he is himself the biggest single obstacle to reconciliation between the legislature and the executive branch.

As long as Leung remains in office, I don’t see any prospect of Legco truly getting along with the government.

And why is that? As the outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing has put it in an interview earlier, Leung’s bellicose and confrontational style of governance, his instinctive hostility towards the pan-democrats and his “you-are-either-with-me-or-against-me” mindset are making it almost impossible to improve relations between the legislative and executive branches.

That is the reason, Tsang said, why he is thinking about running in the CE election in order to break the current political deadlock.

In my opinion, Tsang seemed to have pulled his punches in the comments, since I believe even if Leung changes his mindset and extends an olive branch to the opposition in good faith — which is almost impossible — relations between our legislature and the government are still unlikely to improve.

That is because even if Leung is willing to put aside his differences with pro-democracy lawmakers, they are unlikely to let him off on several critical and contentious issues.

The first issue the pro-democracy camp is very likely to come after Leung and his administration when the new Legco convenes next month is the mysterious removal of Rebecca Li Bo-lan as the acting head of the investigative unit of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) back in July.

It is almost for sure that the opposition will demand that a Legco inquiry be conducted into the matter and follow the facts wherever they lead, especially to find out whether Beijing or Leung had interfered in the key personnel arrangements of the ICAC.

Despite the fact that the pro-establishment camp will almost for certain veto such demand using their majority in Legco, the debate could re-ignite public concern over the progress of the ICAC’s probe into Leung’s alleged receipt of HK$50 million from the Australian firm UGL, which could snowball into yet another political crisis for Leung.

Another issue which the pro-democracy camp is likely to follow up is to propose amendments to Article 3 and Article 8 of the existing Prevention of Bribery Ordinance so as to make them applicable to the Chief Executive as well.

During his election campaign in 2012, Leung publicly agreed to push for that amendment once he got elected as CE. However, four years on, Leung and his administration are yet to deliver that election promise, citing excuses such as the time-consuming examination of the complicated constitutional implications of changing the law.

In fact the government’s foot-dragging over this issue has already aroused suspicions among the public that Leung might have ordered his administration to postpone amending the law for fear that the opposition may use it against him over the UGL case.

I am sure the pro-democracy camp won’t leave the government alone unless it can provide a clear and definite timetable for amending the law.

Frankly speaking, there are a considerable number of our fellow citizens who are dismayed at the partisan gridlock in our legislature and want to put an end to all the squabbles in Legco. After all, the pro-establishment camp still had the mandate of 40 percent of voters in the Legco election.

The question, however, is that it appears our chief executive has failed to come up with constructive ideas on how to break the political deadlock in Legco, nor has he shown sincerity in addressing the real concerns of both the pro-democracy camp and the general public.

For example, instead of promising to review the existing daily quota of 150 under the current One-Way Permit scheme for mainland immigrants, which has remained a subject of heated debate in society over the years, all Leung can come up with is a promise to facilitate “cross-border exchange between Legco members and other mainland cities”.

That sounds more like a publicity stunt rather than a policy initiative that aims to get things done.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing personal when it comes to my comments on the chief executive. What I am doing is just calling a spade a spade. This is my question: how can Leung expect to improve relations with Legco when he himself is the biggest obstacle?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 14

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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