Poor approval ratings and an impending exit from Hong Kong’s top post seem to have made little difference to the work style and attitude of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
After failing to win the support of most Hongkongers and also apparently earning the displeasure of the bosses in Beijing — probably the real reason why he is out of the 2017 CE race — one would have expected Leung to be somewhat humble and conciliatory toward perceived opponents.
But such hopes have proved to be wishful thinking, as the outgoing leader continues to practice his peculiar brand of politics marked by confrontation and arrogance.
On Tuesday, Leung offered fresh evidence that he won’t be changing his political style or stance just because he will be demitting office later in the year.
Ahead of a weekly Executive Council meeting, Leung was seen engaged in a war of words with a former opposition lawmaker who wanted to submit a petition in relation to a town planning project.
As Leung was readying to take questions from the media ahead of the cabinet meeting, Civic Party’s Kenneth Chan sought to hand over a petition related to a controversial Ap Lei Chau development plan.
According to Chan, who is an academic at Hong Kong Baptist University, Leung lashed out at him, apparently perceiving him as someone who is anti-China.
Pointing to an area in the government headquarters, Leung is said to have told Chan: “This is a place where the Chinese flag is flying, what are you doing here?”
The inference was that Chan is not a patriotic person and that his actions are not in line with the government’s interests.
Chan said that Leung snatched the petition letter from his hands abruptly, and accused the chief executive of acting like a dictator.
Chan’s petition was in relation to a government plan in Ap Lei Chau that involves rezoning of some prime harborfront land to facilitate construction of new housing.
Opposition groups and conservationists have opposed the plan, citing environment, traffic and other concerns.
Soon after the encounter with Chan, Leung, through an online blog article, cited two previous statements made by the Civic Party member wherein the latter made reference to the national flag not rising again, implying the fall of the Communist Party.
Leung also wrote that he would welcome Chan to witness the flag-raising ceremony outside the chief executive’s office every morning.
Now, it is quite clear that Leung had kept Chan’s previous utterances in mind and seized the opportunity Tuesday to criticize him in public.
Insulting a perceived anti-China figure would help cement Leung’s image as a firm pro-Beijing leader, the chief executive feels.
That may be so, but what are Leung’s exact compulsions at this point in time?
Leung has less than six months to go before he demits office, but that doesn’t mean the end of his political goals.
Chan suggested that Leung is upset that he won’t be able to continue as Hong Kong’s leader for a second term.
While he prepares to hand over power to a new leader, Leung wants to ensure that the incoming administration sticks to the policy approach of the past few years.
There may be a new person at the helm, but the Leung legacy of unfailing loyalty to Beijing should continue, the chief executive seems to think.
Leung’s hard-line stance toward opponents and anti-establishment groups is becoming more intense, even as his public approval ratings remain very poor.
According to the latest survey of the public opinion program of the University of Hong Kong, Leung’s latest approval rating is 23 percent, while the disapproval rating was at 67 percent, giving a net popularity of negative 44 percentage points.
After Leung took office in 2012, Hong Kong society has become more divided and polarized. Anyone who opposed his administration was labeled as being inimical to Hong Kong’s long-term interests.
People who are merely demanding a democratic determination of the future of Hong Kong are being accused of being independence advocates.
A month ago, Hong Kong people cheered Leung’s decision not to run for a second term, as they felt that his departure can help heal the rifts in society.
But it seems that Leung and his supporters, as well as Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, are keen to ensure that there won’t be any change in policies even with a new administration.
Anyone seen as anti-Beijing should be kept in check, through all possible means, the establishment camp feels.
This is perhaps why Demosisto lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow democracy activist Joshua Wong saw demonstrations staged against them after they took part in a political forum in Taiwan last week.
Law, Wong and some others traveled to Taipei to attend a seminar hosted by Taiwan’s New Power Party.
The democracy activists were greeted with protests at airports in Hong Kong and Taiwan, with pro-Beijing groups accusing them of trying to stir trouble.
The overall objective is to crush self-determination talk among people and lay the ground for a Leung loyalist, Carrie Lam, to join the chief executive race.
Lam, who has stirred a controversy by suddenly announcing a China-related museum project, has shown that that she has taken lessons from her boss Leung and that she too can act like a dictator.
Bypassing normal procedures for the museum plan, which will see Hong Kong have its own version of Beijing’s Place Museum, the chief secretary has demonstrated that she is no different from Leung.
But as Lam’s prospects brighten, Hong Kong people are justified in asking this question: If Beijing had some reservations about Leung, why are they allowing a replacement to follow Leung’s style?
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