26 October 2016
Carrie Lam (inset left) and John Tsang (right) have distanced themselves from Leung Chun-ying (center) over the Wang Chau housing project. Photos: Google Maps, HKEJ
Carrie Lam (inset left) and John Tsang (right) have distanced themselves from Leung Chun-ying (center) over the Wang Chau housing project. Photos: Google Maps, HKEJ

Is Leung losing support from his cabinet?

In an embarrassing twist, Leung Chun-ying’s top lieutenants have broken ranks with him over Wang Chau.

That’s hardly surprising given increased public resentment over the controversial New Territories housing project.

Leung sparked the latest rumpus by directly linking Financial Secretary John Tsang to the fiasco only to be rebuked when the latter distanced himself from his remarks.  

And just in case she was dragged into the fray, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam let it be known she had nothing to do with it.

What a difference a few hours make.

On Monday evening, Leung said the project is the responsibility of the Steering Committee on Land Supply chaired by Tsang.

That came after Leung was criticized for his role on a task force on Wang Chau’s development in which he spent too much time leading talks and lobbying support from village leaders.

Leung was ducking accusations he caved to powerful business interests in deciding to slash the project to 4,000 units from 17,000.

Later, he said the original target is on track and that the project will be developed in phases.

No such thing, according to Tsang.

Leung’s potential rival in next year’s chief executive election said there was never any discussion about building the project in stages.

Although Tsang was a member of Leung’s task force, he said he never attended its meetings.

The Information Services Department (ISD) published Leung’s version of the story, but not those of Tsang and Lam.

Which makes you wonder whether ISD is working for Leung or for the wider benefit of the government.

So Leung’s story is gaining traction in the official press — that he was the most suitable person, not Tsang or Lam, to lead the task force because there were issues that specifically pertained to his office.

Still, he has failed to explain why the project was scaled down other than throwing the ball in John Tsang’s court.

Also, did he succumb to pressure from rural interests and local politicians to move the project from a brownfield site occupied by free-loading landlords to a greenbelt area that forced residents of three villages from their homes?

What part of his role on the task force was official and what part was for his personal — or political — benefit?

By refusing to come clean even after classified documents appear to show him having had a direct hand in the fiasco, Leung is making a bad situation worse.

It’s not hard to imagine him dispensing favors to influential New Territories landlords with the chief executive election, in which he is widely expected to run, just five months away.

But it’s equally hard to see him getting the kind of support from his own team that can help his prospective candidacy if he keeps spreading blame but never taking any responsibility himself.

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EJ Insight writer

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