24 October 2016
If lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu had not blown the whistle on the Wang Chau project, Leung Chun-ying (inset)’s involvement in the whole affair might have remained under the public radar. Photo: HKEJ, CNSA
If lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu had not blown the whistle on the Wang Chau project, Leung Chun-ying (inset)’s involvement in the whole affair might have remained under the public radar. Photo: HKEJ, CNSA

Wang Chau saga might prove CY Leung’s undoing

The saga of the Wang Chau housing project lays bare the long-standing collusions among the government, big business, clan leaders and the triads who have been reigning supreme in the New Territories for decades.

It is a dirty little secret that everybody knows but no one dares to unveil.

Such a covert four-party alliance and the unwritten rules they follow are just like the case of political donations.

Everybody knows that all politicians in Hong Kong are taking money from some big shots one way or another, but we seldom find any proof of that, nor do the people involved ever talk about it publicly.

All these dishonest dealings just go under the public radar.

As long as those who are taking down scores are not caught red-handed, it’s business as usual.

As far as the Wang Chau project is concerned, it would probably have remained under the public radar too if lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick had not blown the whistle.

Besides, the saga itself appears to have the perfect recipe for disaster: Leung Chun-ying chaired a task force on the project and “soft-lobbied” powerful clan leaders, and after that the housing project was scaled down substantially and the properties owned by these clan oligarchs were left untouched.

All these point to one thing: Leung could have cut a secret deal with these clan leaders – their vested interest would be protected as a reward for their political support.

That’s a win-win solution. As for the tens of thousands of grassroots citizens who have been waiting for years to get allocated a public rental housing flat, they are no doubt the biggest losers.

Anywhwere in the world, those in power reward their political supporters or allies with preferential treatment or favoritism.

But such dishonest acts must never be conducted in broad daylight, and those who are involved in such dealings must never leave behind any smoking gun either, or else chances are the media will be after them and they will definitely be in a big mess.

Sadly that’s exactly what happened with the Wang Chau project.

The incident could prove far more destructive to Leung’s political career than most people expect, as it may prompt Beijing to reconsider whether to grant him his second term.

Here’s why:

Even though what Leung did is just peanuts compared to the blatant and unabashed bribery and corruption so rampant among mainland officials, the fact that the media has been able to get hold of one secret government document after another on the project to prove Leung is lying indicates that some high-ranking civil servants could have deliberately leaked classified information to the press to embarrass the chief executive.

If that is true, then it will definitely be Beijing’s worst nightmare: CY Leung, its lackey, is losing the support of civil servants and can no longer keep discipline within his own administration.

It’s quite likely that the Wang Chau incident is not an isolated case and won’t be the last one. Similar leakages will keep coming as long as Leung pursues his bid for a second term.

Given that CY Leung’s own subordinates are now turning against him and there is nothing he can do about it, allowing him to remain in office would only mean no end of trouble for Beijing.

Unlike in 2012 when the pro-establishment camp tried to defy Beijing’s wishes by supporting Henry Tang Ying-yen, this time around the civil service is simply asking that Leung be replaced by somebody else.

And this time around Beijing could be more willing to give some serious thoughts to such a humble request.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 20.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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