Why we may see the back of Leung next year

June 27, 2016 13:42
The lack of clear support from Beijing for a second term for Leung Chun-ying is encouraging anti-CY sentiment to emerge increasingly into the open. Photo: HKEJ

Beijing has sent two messages to Hong Kong following the visit of top legislator Zhang Dejiang (張德江) last month.

Zhang’s "I’m all ears" promise turned out to have substance.

The dominant sentiment across the political spectrum in the city is that Leung Chun-ying should not be given another term as chief executive.

And Zhang heard it loud and clear.

Top cadres in Zhongnanhai were already well aware of the widespread animosity toward Leung, which has been simmering even within the pro-establishment bloc, so why did Zhang bother coming to Hong Kong to listen to the rants in person?

It was because the leaders figured it wouldn't do any harm to provide an opportunity for the anti-Leung coalition to engage in dialogue by speaking out in front of a top mainland policymaker for Hong Kong that they want someone else for the city’s top post.

And it may also be a hint that Beijing has opted to leave all options open at present, including ditching Leung if necessary.

The morale of the four democratic lawmakers -- Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, the Civic Party’s Alan Leong Kah-kit, the Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan and health services legislator Joseph Lee Kok-long -- who handed an anti-Leung petition to Zhang in their unprecedented meeting with a top state leader since the handover must have been given a boost after they expressed their dissatisfaction to the chief executive's Beijing boss right in front of Leung.

Zhang's reply is worth pondering over.

Media reports quoted him as saying, “changing the chief executive is not a matter that can be done overnight”.

He clearly meant Beijing needs time to do so.

Zhang also underlined that his words represent the thinking of the central authorities.

The meeting itself was the result of Beijing’s subtle shift toward making overtures to the pan-dems.

In the past, Leung's administration was unequivocally at daggers drawn with them.

Since Zhang’s visit, we have seen some interesting developments that all bode ill for Leung.

First, a rumor went around soon afterward about Beijing’s three basic criteria in selecting the next chief executive were that he or she must have the ability to forge a harmonious society, to command the mandate of the people and to assemble a team of high-caliber talent.

These criteria are similar to those Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing recently mentioned when he talked about the qualities desired in the city's next chief executive.

Suffice it to say that Leung doesn’t meet any of these prerequisites.

Earlier this month, HK01 weekly ran in full the confidential results of a public opinion poll by the Central Policy Unit, a Hong Kong government think tank.

It found that the stance of candidates in the September Legco elections on Leung’s re-election is a key determinant for more than 56 percent of the voters surveyed.

I find the expose particularly interesting, as previous CPU polls never linked a coming election to a top leader’s second term and the findings were all kept for internal reference only.

One wonders if the leak by HK01 was a carefully orchestrated move.

We are also seeing further momentum for the anti-Leung campaign.

Some front runners in the Legco election, like Ricky Wong Wai-kay, Chim Pui-chung and David Chu Yu-lin, have vowed to drag Leung down if they win Legco seats.

The Liberal Party, known for leading the “anyone but CY” bandwagon, also found that even among establishment voters, 30 percent would be in favor of a new leader.

And, it appears the dust has not settled on Leung’s UGL-gate -- regarding a HK$50 million (US$6.44 million) payment to him by the Australian company -- as Beijing has now reportedly reopened the case with its own investigators in Hong Kong looking for evidence of any misconduct.

Unsurprisingly, the pro-Beijing camp has now opportunistically distanced itself from the embattled Leung -- not a single soul has given him an endorsement for a second term.

All this could not be happening without Beijing’s acquiescence.

This appeared as separate articles on the online forum of the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 16 and 23. 

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 1, 2 中文版]

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Senior journalist with The Straits Times and political commentator