Leung Chun Ying

For C.Y, the only way from here is up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am

Barry Cheung Chun-yuen was being too clever by half. Responding to the high turnout in the July 1 rally, the chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority said this only proved that his boss, new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, had been right about the city's problems.

'The high turnout proved Leung's vision that the city needs change,' said Cheung, who is also chairman of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange and a new member of the Executive Council, the government's de facto cabinet.

The more the merrier, according to Cheung? This is a bit much. Good political spin should not look like you are trying too hard. Many people at the rally were calling for Leung to quit even before he was sworn in. The next day, the chief executive was trapped at a town hall meeting for almost an hour after activists blocked the exit. All this couldn't have been much fun for Leung, now supposedly at the pinnacle of his career.

But here's the thing. Cheung may be right after all. Leung and his government could not have started at a more dismal level, so things can only look up. When Leung's two predecessors, Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, began office they were, if not popular, at least able to assume a level of public sympathy. Look where they are now. One was forced to quit, while the other left office in public dismay if not actual disgrace.

Suppose all the worst suspicions that his critics and enemies harbour about Leung are true. Say he really is a Beijing stooge, a closet communist, 'a chameleon', a hater of liberty, a liar and a cheat. Well, we can hardly do worse than flood the streets with 400,000 protesters calling on him to quit.

My guess is that Leung is not Lucifer incarnate. Beijing will give him lots of leeway. He probably spent too much time studying surveying in college to have read Marx or Mao properly. And it would be futile for him to try to suppress civil liberties as guaranteed under the Basic Law.

If air quality improves, property prices come down a bit and living standards rise for middle- and lower-income families, things could look up for Leung. Maybe.