Leung Chun Ying

Patience pays

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am


Related topics

By now, it should be pretty obvious that our new chief executive is an impatient man. Even before taking office, he was busy making changes that he had promised in his election campaign. But fate had the upper hand, and Leung Chun-ying's government restructuring will have to wait, as will his vows for 'change'. Of course, it doesn't help when the president openly tells you that your first order of business is to work harder on harmony and stability.

Chances are, the delay in restructuring plans, the illegal structure scandal and the July 1 rally turnout will have put a damper on his first days in office. His election campaign chief and now executive councillor, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said the turnout proved Leung's vision that the city needed change. But no matter how Cheung spins it, the high number merely shows that people are more than ready to interrupt the government's work to make these changes.

This must be frustrating for Leung and his new team. People seemed to want the 'change' they proposed, but are also tying their hands at the same time. The quicker the Leung administration learns to accept political reality - that people rejecting the status quo does not mean they will embrace him - the quicker the new government can find its mojo.

Equally, Leung's team must understand that tactics that worked in an election campaign may not be suitable for the office. Here's a case in point: walking into a crowd with a stool, a notepad and a pen is fabulous for the campaign. But this down-to-earth approach isn't really a good idea for the second day of office.

Town hall meetings are one of the more effective ways of reaching out to the public. But perhaps the impact of doing it the day after July 1 - Hong Kong's most politically hyped day on the calendar - and sending out a team of mostly new faces with little public-engagement experience wasn't properly assessed. It should have been no surprise that protesters turned up to disrupt Leung's district visit. It was simply politics of bad timing.

It is only fair that we give Leung and his new team time to get their bearings, and the public is far too sophisticated to believe that changes can happen overnight.

Likewise, the government should do the same for the public. There is little doubt over the new chief executive's desire for change. But building a consensus, the least glamorous part of the job, is ever so necessary if Leung has in mind reforms that have a long-term impact. As in life, building a relationship of trust takes time, and in this current political environment, it will take every ounce of patience and humility our new chief can muster.

Indeed, our new leader and his team should take a little time to ponder the old adage found in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:

'There is a time for everything ... a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.'

And if the first week of office has taught the team anything at all, it has to be this: timing, in politics, is everything.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA