Leung Chun-ying

Critics of cabinet choices fail to see bigger picture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing moved to end a filibuster to make way for a discussion of the chief executive-elect's proposed government restructure. But it's still uncertain whether the proposal can be heard and approved before Leung Chun-ying takes office on July 1 because the pan-democrats, reluctant to be seen as rubber stamps, will not endorse the plan amid rising public pressure.

In the meantime, public debate is raging over the candidates for Leung's expanded team of two top secretaries and their deputies, and 14 bureau secretaries.

Some of the fiercest debate is over Leung's selection as culture bureau chief. It's been reported that the current favourite is home affairs undersecretary Florence Hui Hiu-fai, whose father is alleged to be a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Leung's initial choice was believed to be former Arts Development Council chairman Ma Fung-kwok. Then it was arts advocate Ada Wong Ying-kay, a close friend of Leung's, who also helped shape his cultural policy during election campaigning.

However, Wong's alleged close links with the pan-democrats are said to have raised suspicion among Beijing loyalists and at the central government's liaison office. As a result, Hui is now believed to be the front runner.

But, as soon as she was tipped as the choice, she became the target for criticism. Critics pointed to her alleged communist background while cultural activists said she is not qualified because of her lack of knowledge about arts and culture.

I don't believe Leung would be unable to implement his policies if he couldn't enlarge his governance team. I think he is too eager to push things through, and that has prompted a lot of resistance from the pan-democrats.

As the next chief executive, Leung has the power to choose whomever he wants to join his administration. Like it or not, that's the way it's going to be. The only thing his opponents can do is to delay the process.

I can't really say whether Hui is qualified to head the new culture bureau. To be honest, that is insignificant at this point. Most importantly, whoever is in that position has to work closely with Leung and agree with his vision in order to implement and realise his cultural policies.

It's nonsensical to say Hui would be unfit to head the bureau or unable to develop and diversify our cultural sector just because of her family's alleged leftist leaning.

If Leung, who is rumoured to be an underground communist, has made it to the chief executive post, it's beside the point whether Hui's father is a leftist or not. Her family background is irrelevant.

We should also point out that the other two purported candidates also have leftist links.

Ma is a local deputy of the National People's Congress while Wong's father, Philip Wong Kin-hang, has a close, long-term association with Beijing. Her younger brother, Kennedy Wong Ying-ho is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Why didn't the critics point to those links? It's obvious that Hui's detractors are focusing on personal issues rather than looking at the bigger picture.

When it comes to arts and culture, Hui's knowledge and qualifications in this area are not necessarily inferior to Wong's. The general definition of culture is a way of life and the arts are part of the way of life of a city.

The cultural activists support Wong because of their intricate relationship and close long-term affiliation. They believe that Wong heading the bureau would allow them access to abundant resources. This is a typical example of rent-seeking behaviour.

On the contrary, Hui, who has no affiliation with the cultural sector, will obviously be a better choice. At least we can be certain there will be no bias when it comes to resource allocation because she has no vested interests. But, in the end, it's up to Leung - it's his administration, so it's his choice.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.