The election's over, but Leung and his team are stuck in campaign mode

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am


Leung Chun-ying fought an uphill battle as the underdog in the chief executive election and eventually snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

He gave the impression that it was a hard-fought battle against top rival Henry Tang Ying-yen, the former chief secretary. With some strategic manoeuvring and underhand tactics, Leung managed to surpass him in the popularity ratings. Eventually, Leung won Beijing's endorsement and was elected with a smaller share of the vote than his two predecessors.

Before taking office, Leung had already drawn massive negative publicity following the media exposure of illegal structures at his luxury home on The Peak. After the news broke, Leung appeared evasive and was inconsistent in his explanations, causing the public to question his integrity and suitability for the top post.

He has since been hit by more scandals, including suspected illegal structures involving a number of his newly appointed top aides.

The Leung administration seems incapable of handling such crises and appears stuck in election campaign mode, by trying to resolve these problems through staged district visits. That won't help; people expect Leung and his team to begin taking real action now. If that's the best they can offer, it's obvious they know nothing about politics.

Leung has only himself to blame for his predicament. He has nothing to offer as a leader and a politician.

Before his inauguration, he announced plans for a zero-quota policy for pregnant mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong private hospitals. It made him appear tough and decisive, which won him a round of applause, albeit short-lived.

Just when he thought he had the public on his side, he was overwhelmed by more obstacles. This time, he was confronted with legislators' reluctance to approve his government restructuring plan. Leung is hoping to expand his team to five top secretaries and 14 bureau secretaries but filibustering tactics in the Legislative Council saw the process delayed.

Leung then tried to defuse the situation by making a personal appearance in Legco, hoping to press members to change their minds. His right-hand woman, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, even demanded that the council give priority to the restructuring proposal and handle it before the summer recess. Surprisingly, it wasn't the pro-democracy camp that was being unco-operative; Leung got little support from pro-establishment members.

Once in office, it seemed that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hadn't learned any lessons and again tabled the reform proposal in Legco and demanded that it be handled immediately. Again, it was rejected by members and it looks likely that it will have to be shelved until after the break.

The new administration has been engulfed in one controversy after another since taking over on July 1.

At the very top, we have Leung who has been reluctant to come clean on the illegal structure scandal. Then new food and health chief, Ko Wing-man, was found to have carried out illegal renovation work at his Kowloon Tong home. He is also suspected to have benefited from extra rate and electricity rebates as a result.

New transport and housing chief Anthony Cheung Bing-leung was caught changing his tone over the June 4 incident.

There is Lam Woon-kwong, who initially appeared reluctant to accept the post as convener of the Executive Council for fear of a possible conflict of interest with his current job as head of the Equal Opportunities Commission. In the end, Lam agreed to stay with the commission until his term ends, while remaining in the Exco appointment.

And, of course, Secretary for Development Mak Chai-kwong has now resigned after accusations refused to die down that he abused the civil-service rental allowance in the 1980s.

The Leung administration knows nothing about crisis management. All it does is put a bandage over a gaping wound, hoping that it will heal itself after a while. This government only cares about popularity ratings and refuses to tackle livelihood and political issues.

All the pledges on housing and land policies are empty promises. During election campaigning, Leung vowed to provide more affordable housing for the middle class and young people, in order to garner their support. Yet, there are no further proposals or details on how to move ahead with the building of more public flats and Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) units. Moreover, there seems to have been a retraction of the pledge of 'Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people' to improve their living conditions.

It takes at least four years to construct a new batch of public housing units, so we shouldn't expect any breakthrough or improvement in the public housing sector for at least that long. That means building 15,000 public flats and 5,000 HOS units a year, as was the target of the previous government.

There were many more election pledges made during the campaign period that look unlikely to see the light of day. As the new leader of Hong Kong, Leung should remember that words are cheap and action is everything.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.