Has Leung really secured Beijing’s blessing to seek second term?

March 27, 2015 10:48
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying must secure Beijing's approval if he wants to seek a second term. Photo: Reuters

Recent remarks by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have fueled a lot of speculation about his intention to run for a second term.

Just a couple of days ago, he said, “I wouldn’t rule out any possibility at this stage.”

Even though Leung appears coy about his plans, his busy schedule of late hints that he is going to seek re-election.

Last Saturday, when he attended the 2015 Fight Crime Conference, the Hong Kong leader heaped praises on outgoing Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung for his “untiring efforts, selfless devotion and distinguished performance”.

One might still remember that only a few months ago, at the height of the Occupy Movement, Leung publicly stated it was the frontline police commander’s decision whether or not to use tear gas on the crowds, and he was among those who personally ordered the police to stop using it against the protesters, which to some extent suggested that his relationship with the police force was anything but close.

Given that the performance of the police during the Occupy Movement has won the approval of top leaders in Beijing, it is easy to understand why Leung should hold out the olive branch to the police to improve their relationship if he really wants to run for a second term.

While Leung held the police commissioner in high regard, he also invited pro-establishment figures for tea breaks at the Government House over the past weekend, another indication that he is warming up for his re-election campaign.

And a few days ago, when he said he would not rule out any possibility regarding his decision to run for a second term, he also seized the opportunity to pitch himself as a competent leader, noting that his election promises had been delivered one after another over the past two or three years.

He went on to say that this offered him a strong foundation on which he could bring his job to the next level.

Yesterday he again assailed the pan-democrats for their filibustering tactics at the Legislative Council, and asked the public to vote them out of office in the coming elections. This is yet another sign that he is determined to run for a second term.

At the end of the day, however, it is Beijing who has the final word on whether he can hang on to his job for another five years. So the important thing for Leung is to secure Beijing’s favor.

Some so-called authoritative sources have been quoted in reports as saying that Beijing is quite happy with Leung and is likely to give him the green light to seek a second term.

Others have reservations about that. They said that when National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang highly praised the SAR government and the police force for maintaining stability during the Occupy Movement and setting a remarkable example to other law enforcement agencies around the world, he didn’t mention Leung specifically.

Several pro-establishment figures have pointed out that the peaceful resolution of the Occupy Movement was not so much because of Leung’s efforts as it was of Beijing’s behind-the-scene maneuvers.

They noted that several key Beijing leaders were stationed in nearby Shenzhen, giving out direct orders, and what the SAR government did was simply liaise with the central authorities.

Others in the political sector also pointed out that Beijing should have learned the lesson of the 2012 chief executive election, and is therefore unlikely to reveal its favored CE hopeful at this early stage, in order to avoid the same kind of misery that Leung’s rival Henry Tang Ying-yen went through in that contest.

Simply put, talk that Leung has already secured Beijing's blessing to seek a second term should be taken with a grain of salt.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 26.

[Chinese version 中文版]

Translation by Alan Lee

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.