Donald Tsang

Handouts unlikely to boost Leung

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am

Handing out sweeteners would not be a cure-all remedy to stem the plunging popularity of new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, according to a veteran politician.

Dr Leong Che-hung (pictured), 73, former lawmaker and chief of the Hospital Authority, ended his seven years' tenure on the Executive Council as Leung took office on Sunday.

Instead of sweeteners, the new administration should provide a blueprint to tackle health care, the ageing population and the wealth gap, said Leong.

'Why don't we argue less over political issues and focus on livelihood problems?' he asked.

'I think the silent majority [in Hong Kong] will not hold their hands up expecting sweeteners. What they hope for is a good blueprint and ways to achieve it. I think this - rather than just sweeteners - will give confidence to Hongkongers,' Leong said.

'Handing out sweeteners, to be frank, can give instant pleasure but may not be good in the long run. I firmly believe in the Hong Kong people, and believe that many Hongkongers will not be satisfied even if the government hands out money.'

His remarks came as Leung's support rating slid to a new low - down to about 51 points out of 100 - since his March election victory, as shown in separate polls by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme and the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

As Hong Kong celebrated the 15th anniversary of the handover, Leong said society was not united.

As to how to unite people with different political views, he said: 'I believe democracy is everyone's desire. To some extent, Hong Kong already has a clear road map to democracy. There will be universal suffrage in the chief executive race in 2017 and in the Legislative Council polls in 2020. 'Do we still have to argue so much over democratic development at this stage?'

Leong predicted that the scandal over illegal structures at Leung's home on The Peak would die down. 'He is so shrewd that it will be solved eventually. I am not so worried.

'I think we should not just focus on what happened over a few days - or solely on this issue - but also on what the new government will do.'

Asked if he found Leung honest and reliable, despite public disquiet, he said: 'He fully understands the government structure and digs into the details [of policies].

'[Formerly] as [the Exco] convenor, he gave advice about the [government's] operations. We found him experienced, and certainly placed trust in his experience.'

But Leong has reservations about Leung's plan to appoint non-official Exco members to head important consultative committees and statutory bodies such as the Housing Authority, the Education Commission and the Hospital Authority.

'The government should appoint different people to different bodies to help collect a wide variety of views, but not the same person on both Exco and the consultative panels,' he said.

Recounting his service, Leong said highlights were the 1997 handover, his service at the Provisional Legislative Council and the battle as chief of the Hospital Authority against the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.

Leong praised former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as energetic, detail-minded and with a deep knowledge about the government's operations. Tsang's integrity was never affected, he said, by the controversy over him accepting favours from tycoon friends and lavish spending on hotels during official trips abroad.