Leung's vow to meet the people falls flat
New chief executive Leung Chun-ying's vow to meet the public regularly in town-hall style assemblies was widely belittled yesterday - a day after his first round of such visits - with one commentator labelling him hypocritical.
Critics raised questions about the motive for the meetings, suspecting Leung of seeking to favour his supporters in Beijing-loyalist parties, gaining them publicity ahead of September's legislative election.
Leung and some of his ministers visited six districts on Monday afternoon, spending 75 minutes in each to take residents' questions.
In Tseung Kwan O, one resident asked why the environment minister had not attended the meeting in a district that was battling encroachment by a landfill, while the education minister was there.
And while Leung has publicly earmarked housing as his policy priority, the minister concerned, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, did not appear at any of the meetings.
Lingnan University political science professor Li Pang-kwong said the ministers in question probably did not appear at the meetings because they were planned hastily. He also said it would be impossible for the Chief Executive's Office, with its current manpower, to have done any real analysis of people's views during the assemblies.
Chinese University political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung accused Leung of hypocrisy.
'People are tired of such shows. It's no longer like 20 years ago, when governor Chris Patten staged his meetings. Hongkongers have grown in political wisdom,' Choy said. 'By staging a show and pretending to be listening to views, Leung was just being hypocritical.'
Someone with knowledge of the matter said that Cheung's absence was due to confusion arising from his dual role overseeing both housing and transport.
Leung had planned to make the former Democratic Party vice-chairman head of a separate bureau on housing, if his restructuring plan had been approved before he took office.
Leung's first assembly two days ago was staged at a community centre of the Shau Kei Wan Kai-fong Welfare Advancement Association - a group with connections to the Beijing-loyalist camp.
All meeting moderators, meanwhile, were the respective District Council chairmen - most being establishment-friendly figures.
'All five people chosen by the moderator to ask questions at the Shau Kei Wan session were from the pro-establishment camp,' Democrat participant Joanna Leung Suk-ching said.
She also asked why the moderator chose who asked the questions, rather than following the standard practice of drawing lots.
But Eastern District Council chairman Christopher Chung Shu-kun, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, insisted that council heads were the right choice.
'I fully represent public opinion,' he said.
The Chief Executive's Office said that district councils had the best grasp of public views.