First day on the job a tough one for C.Y.'s team
Tony Cheung, Joyce Ng, Colleen Lee and Stuart Lau
The new government was greeted by a barrage of challenges on its first working day, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, ministers and Exco members fielding questions about contentious issues.
These included the illegal structures at Leung's home on The Peak, the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and Sunday's protest march.
The secretary for transport and housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, was put on the spot about a 2009 remark he made about the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. In 2009, the 20th anniversary of the crackdown, Cheung said there should be a review of the official verdict. But yesterday, the former vice-chairman of the Democratic Party said that while he felt the crackdown was a tragedy, 'you do [a review] only when you have thoroughly investigated the matter.
'I hope we have a chance to fully understand it. I feel I need to sort it out fairly and reasonably.'
He agreed the alleged suicide last month of June 4 labour activist Li Wangyang was suspicious and there should be an investigation.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Development Mak Chai-kwong fielded questions on the illegal structures at Leung's home at No4 Peel Rise. His initial failure to disclose them has raised questions about his integrity.
Lam and Mak were being interviewed on radio when a caller asked: 'Is there a problem with Leung's integrity in the matter? Either answer 'yes', 'no', or you 'don't know'.'
Lam said she believed that it was a matter of negligence, not integrity. On his arrival at the government headquarters yesterday, Mak said he needed more time before making a comment.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, who faced protests and questions during district visits with other ministers on Monday, was asked if such public pressure scared him. The former private-sector architect and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Green Building Council said it would not. 'I have met the public before when doing different planning works,' he said.
Asked to comment on Monday's protest against Leung, newly appointed executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said: '[The protest] was normal because Hong Kong is a diverse society and people enjoy freedom of expression.'
He said Sunday's march - for which turnout estimates ranged from 63,000 to 400,000 - reflected Hongkongers' desire for change.
'They want the government to change how it does things, to deal with their pressing concerns and implement policies that will cater for their needs.'
Reappointed executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong hit back sharply when asked on radio about suspicions aired by marchers that Beijing's liaison office was intervening in the governing of Hong Kong. He said such suggestions were 'the opposition's most malicious attack on the pro-establishment camp'.
Members of the Society for Community Organisation protested outside the Chief Executive's Office, where the Executive Council was meeting. The group called for the building of more public housing each year to shorten the waiting time for low-income people.
Members of the Civic Party also gathered outside the government headquarters in Admiralty, requesting a meeting with new education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim to raise its concerns.
When Leung led out his 14 non-official Exco members to meet the press yesterday, he insisted that Monday's meetings were successful.
He will also change how Exco is run. 'The meeting that starts at 9.30am does not have to end at noon, it can continue until 4.30pm if needed,' Leung said. The Exco summer break will be cut to only two weeks from eight to nine weeks.
Lingnan University political scientist Dr Li Pang-kwong said the ministers' answers would do little to tackle the difficulties Leung's cabinet faced. Li believes a sincere apology over the illegal structures is key. 'He has to seriously give his account of the illegal structures scandal.'