Leung Chun-ying is yet to take office as the next chief executive, but his popularity has slipped once again. According to the latest poll by the University of Hong Kong, his overall approval rating dropped by 2.2 points to 54.3 per cent. Only 46 per cent of respondents support him, a drop of 10 points in a month, while 41 per cent disapproved of him as the next chief executive.
The drop was most likely caused by the fact that he changed his mind with regard to the appointment of Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun as the director of the Chief Executive-Elect's Office. During the election campaign, he said he wouldn't appoint Law but because of the lack of a trusted candidate, Leung had to break his promise.
As a former senior principal official, Law has always appeared to be rather rude and aggressive. She certainly wasn't popular when she was permanent secretary for education and manpower. Most people will remember her heartless remarks regarding teachers' suicides in 2005 and 2006. She rejected claims that the deaths were related to pressure from education reforms at the time, saying that, if there was any link, why did only two kill themselves? Her comments caused a furore.
During the election campaign, Law again exposed her aggressive nature. She wasted no time in finding out who handled the inquiry into the West Kowloon Cultural District scandal involving her boss, Leung.
In order to canvass support for Leung at the start of the election campaign, she held meetings with political parties, accompanied by a man with alleged triad connections. The Independent Commission Against Corruption subsequently stepped in after Leung's election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen was reportedly intimidated by triad-related people. Many were concerned Leung might have become involved in 'black gold' politics. Even though the ICAC investigation was closed with no charges being lodged, Law should have been held responsible for the blunder, which damaged Leung's reputation.
Law is already pushing people around in the administration. Her bullying attitude has caused a lot of resentment. Law has tried to get involved in the textbook issue, telling officials how to tackle rising prices. She even tried to tell media organisations how to do their job and how they should report news. When this backfired, she blamed her subordinates.
Leung is proposing to restructure the governance team and expand it from three to five top secretaries and 12 bureau secretaries to 14. The revamp, expected to cost about HK$72 million, will fundamentally alter existing practice as well as the governance structure. So, it's not unreasonable for the Legislative Council to take its time in considering the proposal. Still, Law insists that the matter should be fast-tracked by Legco without public consultation.
When pressed by some legislators to further elaborate on the restructuring proposal, Law refused and, in turn, accused lawmakers of being troublesome. Her forceful and hostile behaviour will bring more damage than benefit to Leung's administration. Leung is an excellent politician. He shouldn't let victory go to his head. He must use his judgment to recruit the right people.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org