21 October 2016
Lawmaker Andrew Leung, who has never faced a contested election, is set to become Legco's next president. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua
Lawmaker Andrew Leung, who has never faced a contested election, is set to become Legco's next president. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua

Legco’s new leader: The art of hypocrisy

Andrew Leung will become the next president of the Legislative Council after Beijing’s Liaison Office is believed to have secretly instructed the pro-government camp to ‘elect’ him.

Leung is a polarizing figure who has often been criticized for a hostile and abrasive approach toward opposition members. But what the critics have not focused upon enough is this: Leung’s astounding hypocrisy.

Leung comes from a privileged background that gave him the means to attend university in Britain and return to Hong Kong where, in due course, he took over the family’s knitting business.

Benefiting from nepotism in his working life he had time to get heavily involved in trade associations and to become one of the ‘pet locals’ cultivated by the colonial administration. As things turned out, he has proved more adept as a functionary than as a businessman.

In the last year of colonial rule his services to the outgoing administration were recognized with the award of an OBE, or Order of the British Empire. Leung seems to have forgotten this accolade and does not mention it in the official Legco members’ biography, which does however list his awards from the post-colonial government.

Like many of his colleagues in the business sector, Leung made a swift transition from colonial lackey to ardent supporter of the new order. His membership of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference confirms the success of his transition.

Indeed the new order has served him well and he is now in the front ranks of patriotic flag-wavers.

Yet he clung onto his British citizenship after 1997, which would most probably have entailed renewing his passport in the period since the creation of the HKSAR.

The practice of retaining an overseas insurance policy while declaring loyalty to the People’s Republic is hardly confined to Leung but others have been wily enough to obtain foreign rights of residence for their offspring — while making discreet property investments overseas to ensure a base outside of Hong Kong (all three chief executives of the Hong Kong SAR have bases of this kind) — but sufficiently smart not to cling onto overseas citizenship.

Donald Tsang and Tung Chee-hwa were both said to have relinquished their foreign passports prior to vying for the top job.

Perhaps Andrew Leung was not aiming so high; hence he clung onto his British citizenship right up to the last minute, just before standing for election as Legco president, a post that is denied to overseas citizens.

Leung is familiar with switching horses as was seen in the wake of the Liberal Party’s 2008 election defeat when it ceased to be in the frontline of Beijing’s chosen instruments in Legco. He quickly left the party at this point.

Four years earlier, under the Liberal banner, he became a member of Legco via one of its rotten boroughs famous for tiny electorates and the lack of elections. Leung, who has never faced a contested election, remains the representative for the Industrial (First) Functional Constituency.

He thus has almost a decade of experience in the legislature but has left no trail of achievement other than an ability to get appointed to a large pile of committees and to be next in line for the presidency.

How he will perform in this role is not too hard to guess, given his intense dislike of the opposition camp. However should things change and a new regime replace the present one, it’s a fair bet that Leung will rapidly sign up as loyal follower of whoever is in charge.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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