Four months after he quit the city’s top job, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying is still very much around. For one, he has become a state leader in his capacity as vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
In fact, he is taking a high profile, attending public functions both here and in the mainland to promote the Greater Bay Area integration scheme and the One Belt, One Road initiative advocated by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Using the Chief Secretary Office email address [email protected], CY Leung has sent out at least 30 email alerts to apprise receivers of his latest activities. In the latest one issued on Tuesday, he talked about the Belt and Road initiative offering Hong Kong youth a new runway for career development.
He also promoted a scholarship program sponsored by Raymond Lee of Lee & Man Paper to encourage students to explore career opportunities in Belt and Road countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, India, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
Just recently Leung announced the establishment of the Belt and Road Hong Kong Center, a supposedly non-profit organization that is operating as a limited company, to play the role of a connector between China and other countries.
The center will initially focus on acting as a bridge between Hong Kong and other countries, providing opportunities for Hong Kong youngsters to experience international cooperation, cultural exchanges and humanitarian assistance to developing countries.
But its key role is to promote the Belt and Road initiative, which is China’s way of expanding its global influence.
It is not yet clear how the center will exactly operate, but it will plan and initiate projects, as well as mobilize local and overseas governments, social forces, and other institutions and individuals to execute these projects. It says its funding will chiefly come from donations.
Leung is the center’s chairman of the board. Its directors include Sophia Ko, Raymond Tang, Lau Ping-cheung, Peter Sit, Cheung Chi-kong and Lau Ming-wai, all close allies and partners of the former chief executive. It’s fair to say that the center is a foundation of the pro-Leung camp after Leung’s exit from the SAR government.
Although Leung stressed that the center is a non-profit organization working for the good of Hong Kong and mainland China, it cannot be denied that it is taking care of its own business rather than implementing a local or national policy. The party to benefit from its activities is Leung himself.
That’s why it is reasonable for the public to raise concerns over its finances and the potential benefits it will bring to its officials. Leung and his partners could very well use the center to enhance their influence in the establishment, perhaps even recommend officials to take up key roles in the Hong Kong SAR government and the central authority.
Hong Kong people are very much concerned about what officials do after they leave the government, about ethical practices and conflicts of interest. Several key officials in the CY Leung administration have joined local tycoons as special consultants, and people cannot help but think that they are hired to provide internal information to serve the interests of their new bosses.
In Leung’s case, he is using his capacity as a state leader to engage in supposedly non-profit activities in furtherance of the Belt and Road objectives. But where it will be getting the funding for its activities is of much concern to ordinary people.
The center is being funded by donations, but how can the public believe that its activities will not promote the selfish interests of its founders and directors?
Some of Beijing’s efforts to advance the Belt and Road initiative are called “civil exchanges” to make it clear that they are not official activities. Nonetheless, these activities are backed by the state and enables the government to influence the policies of other nations to serve Beijing’s objectives. At the same time, these activities fall into a zone that is outside public scrutiny.
On Tuesday former Hong Kong home affairs secretary Patrick Ho was arrested by US authorities over an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme in Africa. Officials say that he and a former minister of Senegal represented a Chinese state energy company and sent huge sums of money to officials to secure deals using US banks.
This is only the latest case of a former Hong Kong official involved in scandals. We all remember CY Leung’s UGL saga, in which he received HK$50 million from an Australian engineering company during his incumbency as chief executive and did not disclose it.
We should keep a close eye on Leung’s non-profit activities to make sure he is not using them for his own benefit.
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