The shadow of Leung lurks in Lam’s reign

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is fighting to the last minute of his term to make decisions on controversial issues despite a lack of consensus among major stake-holders.Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is fighting to the last minute of his term to make decisions on controversial issues despite a lack of consensus among major stake-holders.

By Chris Yeung –

In a no-unambiguous reference to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, a pro-Beijing heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has cautioned the departing leader to mind his words when commenting on Hong Kong affairs after July 1.

The city, she said, should be governed by the current Chief Executive and his or her  team.

“Hong Kong people and non-establishment people may not be able to influence the overall scene when they make a comment. But as state leaders, (they) should be extremely careful.

“They should not give too many personal views,” said Mrs Fan, the only delegate from Hong Kong who sits on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Mrs Fan, who is not known as a fan of Leung, did not name Leung in the interview with RTHK.

But she named both former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. She said Tsang no long commented on Hong Kong issue after he stepped down in 2012. Tung, she said, only gave his views on Hong Kong issue at CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) meetings, of which he is a vice-chairman, who is given the status of state leader under the Chinese hierarchy..

Leung, whose term will end on Saturday, has refrained from making a clear promise not to comment on Hong Kong issues after he stands down. He has said Chief Executive, while in office, has regularly consulted local NPC and CPPCC delegates on the annual Policy Address.

Leung was elected as a vice-chairman of the CPPCC in March.

A source close to Beijing said Leung would not have any official role on Hong Kong affairs after July 1. Just as Tung, he said Leung would not sit on the Politburo’s Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs led by President Xi Jinping.

Despite the fact that Leung would be elevated to the national political stage in six days, there are fears that he would continue to make waves, if not trouble, in the city’s political scene.

Tall order for Leung to shut up

It will be a tall order for him to heed Mrs Fan’s advice to shut up when he no longer hold an official position.

This is partly because of his uncompromising personality and strong sense of self-belief in the way the city should be governed and the direction it should go.

His decision to rush through two highly-contentious labour issues this month, the last in his five-year reign, is illuminating. They include an arrangement to regulate working hours by contract, instead of a statutory working hours system, and an abolition of the offsetting mechanism for mandatory provident fund.

Both were approved at the Executive Council amid opposition from major stake-holders. Labour unions stood firm on the demand for mandating working hours. Both unions and major employers association opposed the government-proposed offsetting mechanism. Barring a U-turn, the relevant bills face a veto when they are tabled at the Legislative Council for an approval during the current term.

Speaking on Sunday, Leung said unions and employers have failed to reach a consensus on the offsetting mechanism in the negotiating process, nor they have made any counter-proposals on the government’s blueprint.

He said he would be happy to see both sides coming up with a new blueprint that won an approval from the Legco.

According to a press report, Leung had pushed for a stamp of approval at the special Executive Council meeting on Friday despite opposition by members from both unions and employers’ groups.

That Leung insisted to give an Exco approval to major issues during in his term reflects his keenness to do whatever it takes to ensure his policies will prevail even after he is no longer in power.

True, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who will take office on Saturday, can start all over again on such issues as working hours and MPF offsetting mechanism. The reality is that she and her team will no longer be able to work on a piece of blank paper. They will have to pay a political price if they decide to start from scratch or to overturn the Exco decisions on issues like working hours.

Leung influence lurks

Policies aside, it is apparently clear that the Leung factor has featured in Carrie Lam’s new team. Several key principal officials including Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah are widely seen as Leung’s close allies.

A brewing row over the reported appointment of Choi Yuk-lin, a vice-chairman of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, as deputy education minister also seems to have exposed a political tussle between Leung and Lam.

Choi Yuk-lin, a leader of a pro-Beijing education group, is tipped to be appointed as deputy education minister.

Choi Yuk-lin, a leader of a pro-Beijing education group, is tipped to be appointed as deputy education minister.

Press reports said Choi was named by the central government’s Liaison Office to become the education minister. But fearful of a massive public outcry, Lam has said no, but has conceded to offer Choi the post of deputy education minister.

Choi does not look likely to be the only candidate nominated by the Liaison Office and Leung to join the next ruling team.

By installing as many as possible people who share his views into the new team, Leung is keen to see the policies he spearheaded will be carried on by Mrs Lam, hoping that they will achieve success he could claim as part of his legacy not before too long.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, 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: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews.


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