By Chris Yeung –
With his annual pilgrimage, or duty visit in official rhetoric, to Beijing just one month to go, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying cannot wait to report to his boss the state of Hong Kong under his reign. Taking advantage of a trip to Peru to attend the APEC summit, Leung was given a 45-minute session with President Xi Jinping on the city’s latest situations.
At a time when the 2017 chief executive election is clouded with uncertainty, pundits have kept a close watch on the messages carried in official statements and the pair’s body gestures for a clue on the race. The conclusion is: no message. That is indeed the message.
Despite the hype about Beijing’s grave fears about the so-called rise of Hong Kong independence movement, Xi chose not to comment on the issue at the brief photo-call session for Hong Kong media.
Judging from Xinhua’s official report and remarks made by Leung on the session after it was held, Xi has apparently not gone any further on the issue of separatism than officials have said hitherto at the Peru meeting.
The message cannot be clearer. Beijing has no intention of pouring more oil to the fire on the highly-sensitive issue. And, also importantly, Xi has no new message on the chief executive race for Hong Kong people.
If Leung and his allies have held out hope that Xi would give him a much-needed boost to him by praising his handling the oath-taking saga, it was a case of shattered dream.
Nor Xi gave any hint of a positive view on Leung’s re-election bid during the session. Mindful of the risk of being interpreted in one way or another, the President went into length on the 30-odd hours of flight from Beijing to South America at the photo-call session.
Re-election not discussed, Leung says
Leung said the issue of re-election was not discussed at their meeting.
Triggered by the oath-taking antics of the Youngspiration pair Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, the swearing-in saga has soon escalated into a political wrestling involving the executive, legislative and judicial branches. China’s top legislature has decided to step in. Then came the National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law.
According to one line of thinking prevalent in different quarters of the society, the more chaotic Hong Kong has become the greater the chance of Leung’s re-election bid.
If the theory floated before the 2012 CE race still prevails, result of the 2017 election would have become a foregone conclusion. Apparently not.
With Hong Kong slid into governance crisis and worsened schism in the society, Leung would have been anointed for another term for him to maintain order in times in turbulence.
That Beijing seems to remain undecided is because the theory has not worked in the past four years. The hard-line approach of Leung has made things worse. There are more, not less, chaos.
With almost no chance of any improvement in harmony if Leung stays at the helm for five years, Beijing is faced with the dilemma of whether to support Leung’s bid for a second term.
Any arms-twisting moves among members of the 1,200-strong Election Committee by Beijing to keep Leung in power may no longer work under a secret ballot voting system. Even if it works, the political fallout will be unfathomable, not to mention the likelihood of a massive protest against Leung on July 1 next year to “celebrate” the 20th anniversary of the change of sovereignty.
Director of State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Wang Guangya, has spelled out public support as one of the three criteria for the post of the chief executive. The other two are “love China, love Hong Kong” and good governance capability.
Leung has and will fail the popularity and harmony test. The verdict of his governance record, meanwhile, is mixed. He has no doubt scored high marks in loyalty and patriotism.
The wish of the majority of Hong Kong people is crystal clear, nevertheless. They want to stop the society from further dividing.
That will mean a change of the chief executive. Until after Beijing has made a decision, they could only give a message of “no message” on the city’s next chief executive.
Chris Yeung is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.
Photo: Picture taken from APEC official website