Can Andrew Leung tame the new Legco?

October 06, 2016 11:55
As Andrew Leung’s predecessor Jasper Tsang has put it, the first few weeks into the new Legco term will be a window of opportunity for Leung (pictured here) to improve relations and develop mutual trust with opposition lawmakers. Photo: HKEJ

It is almost a foregone conclusion that Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who has been a lawmaker representing the industrial sector since 2004, will become the next Legco president.

Now, it is also agreed that his job over the next four years is going to be daunting as confrontations and war of words -- and even possible physical clashes -- among the members of the new Legco, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting next Wednesday, are likely to escalate.

As one of the longest serving incumbents and chairman of the House Committee during the last Legco term, Leung's practical experience in chairing Legco meetings is certainly beyond doubt. However, he has one major weakness: he was first elected to Legco through the functional constituency representing the industrial sector in 2004, and then returned uncontested for three consecutive terms thereafter.

In other words, he is the first ever Legco president who has never taken part nor won in any popular election since the 1997 handover.

With that "original sin", it remains highly questionable whether Leung is compelling and convincing enough to tame the newly elected and highly popular young pro-democracy lawmakers and put them in their place, not to mention that Leung is not as highly respected and senior as his predecessor Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing among the pro-establishment camp.

Besides, given the grudge rivalry between the Liberal Party and the Business and Professionals Alliance (BPA) to which Leung belongs, it's hard to tell whether the pro-establishment camp will stay united under his leadership as Legco chief.

Partisan gridlock and relentless filibusters already rendered the last Legco almost dysfunctional, and things are likely to get worse over the next four years. As such, it remains to be seen whether Leung, who is known for a hard line towards the pan-democrats and a take-no-prisoners attitude when chairing meetings, will further exacerbate strife and conflict in the Legco chamber.

As Jasper Tsang has put it, the first two weeks, or a month at most into the new Legco term, would be a decisive window of opportunity for Leung to improve relations with the pro-democracy camp and develop mutual trust. If he fails to grab that opportunity, things are likely to turn a lot more difficult for him over the next four years.

That said, we hope that both Leung and the pro-establishment camp can seize the opportunity and extend an olive branch to the pro-democracy camp, rather than wage a full-scale battle against them on issues such as chairmanship of the various Legco committees like they did in the past.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 5.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal