Chief executive's policies will speak louder than his words

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


July 1 was a memorable day for me. In the morning, I was sworn in as a non-official member of the Executive Council in a grand and solemn ceremony with President Hu Jintao in attendance. In the afternoon, I watched the annual march on its route from Victoria Park towards Central.

Naturally, both events received plenty of media coverage. However, the TV reports of the march focused extensively on a moment when a few demonstrators clashed with police. Unless you saw the procession yourself, you would not see its scale, or the many different messages it was sending out.

The number of people was huge. I was watching for two hours, and there was no end to the crowds walking past in Admiralty. There were all sorts of people: young, old, families, Chinese, non-Chinese. There were people calling for labour rights, universal suffrage, pensions and much more. Some demanded human rights in China and a reappraisal of June 4, 1989. A lot wanted Leung Chun-ying to stand down - just hours after he had been sworn in as chief executive.

It was a very hot day. These were all, clearly, people who care deeply about this city and the country. Apart from a few exceptions highlighted on TV, they were clearly non-violent. Although their demands were quite varied, many of them were linked in some way to a desire for greater social justice.

I expect to be discussing many of these social and economic concerns at Exco meetings in the months and years ahead. Do I believe that, in five years' time, we will have made real progress in these areas?

I would not have agreed to join Exco if I did not believe we can give a better deal to people living in disgraceful housing conditions, to the elderly poor, to unskilled workers, to struggling families and to other members of the community who are deprived through no fault of their own. I certainly hope we will do it. If we do not, the people of Hong Kong will have every right to tell us to stand down.

But, as we hear every day, some of them are already shouting that Leung should go. The new administration is having no honeymoon period at all. Before it even has the chance to roll out policies, it is being attacked. One after another, people connected with the government have been accused of something, no matter how trivial. It is as if the mud-slinging that preceded the election in March never stopped.

We all know that, after a hard election campaign, some people do not welcome Leung as chief executive. In addition, some people have big doubts about his true agenda and his commitment to our core values. So there is resentment in some quarters, and a major lack of trust in others.

The situation is made worse by the coming Legislative Council election in September. The pan-democrats feel they can get votes only by fighting whoever is in power. In this case, this means they must oppose a government that wants to change the policies of its predecessor, be people-oriented and support social justice. I wonder whether they have thought it through.

As part of this opposition, Legco has delayed the proposed government restructuring. Leung's full team of officials will not be in place until after the election, and probably not until next year. This will not make the government's job easier and, if its performance suffers as a result, its enemies will probably attack it even harder.

For a few months, at least, the attacks may continue. But I believe that, as hard policies emerge, the public will see where Leung is coming from and that he deserves their trust. This administration wants to make our economy fairer and give the disadvantaged the help they deserve. Hopefully, we will be able to convince the people in time for next year's July 1 march.

Bernard Chan is a member of the Executive Council