Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not look good six months before what he hopes to be his re-election.
September is supposed to be an important month for him to show off his accomplishments, that is while the economy is still looking upbeat, comparatively speaking, and the new – and expectedly more contentious – Legislative Council is yet to convene.
But Leung is right now facing a lot of flak in one area which is supposed to be his expertise, given his surveying background: property. And the issue, if he fails to handle it properly, could prove his undoing.
A small plot of land in Wang Chau in Yuen Long has turned into a huge powder keg after Leung got personally involved in the controversial housing project.
Twenty-eight legislators signed a petition asking Leung to come clean on why the government has apparently scaled down an original plan to build 17,000 public housing units in the area.
The issue, first raised by first-time Legco member Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, suggests some sort of cooperation has been forged among rural leaders, triad gangs and the government.
Over the weekend, the government issued three clarifications on the controversy, even after CY Leung himself stressed that the original development plan remains on track.
What makes it even more controversial is that Leung chose to be personally involved in the issue, when he could have easily delegated the task to his deputy Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor or his secretary for development Paul Chan Mo-po.
In effect, the issue has gained political color: Leung appears to be more interested in securing rural leaders’ support than in protecting public interest.
One of the statements coming from his office states that Leung had not personally lobbied rural leaders opposed to the project in exchange for support, but confirmed that he chaired one meeting on Wang Chau in June 2013.
If Wang Chau doesn’t drag him out of the coming CE race, the sharp rebound of the residential property market probably would.
Leung has been trumpeting his accomplishments in increasing land supply and launching tightening measures aimed at diminishing the power of property tycoons and making housing more affordable to small players and consumers.
But the strong buying in late summer after Brexit provides fodder for his critics to accuse him of failing to control surging property prices.
Some local media observers believe that Leung has accomplished 40 percent of what he has promised to do in his first four years in office.
If that’s the case, why not let others take over and finish what he has done so far?
Rumor has it that his subordinate John Tsang Chun-wah would quit next month to prepare for the March contest.
The popular financial secretary has dismissed speculation that President Xi Jinping wants him to become Hong Kong’s leader.
That’s because during a banquet at the recent G20 summit in Hangzhou, the Chinese leader approached him, shook his hands and engaged him in a brief chat.
But it is quite clear – if Beijing doesn’t indicate its preference – that whoever wins a fight between Tsang and Leung is going to rule this city.
Interestingly, the talk now shifts to whether Leung is allowed to be in the race at all, according to former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, citing remarks by news website HK01 owner Yu Pun-hoi and outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yuk-shing.
We’re not worried if Lee is wrong, but we will be if Leung wins.
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