Leung Chun Ying

Come clean

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2012, 12:00am

Today is judgment day for Leung Chun-ying. It could make or break him. Today he faces a hostile grilling by legislators about the explosive scandals that are rocking his administration.

There is the bombshell resignation and the Independent Commission Against Corruption's arrest of development minister Mak Chai-kwong after just 12 days on the job. He allegedly scammed the system to get a government rent allowance. And there is the unsavoury business of food and health minister Dr Ko Wing-man, who turned two flats into one without proper permission and claimed property rate rebates for both.

But, today, legislators will mostly go after the chief executive himself. They want to wring from him the whole truth about the illegal structures at his Peak home. Will he finally come clean, or will we end up still wondering?

TV cameras can be cruel. They magnify things - the facial expressions, the body language, the avoiding of eye contact and the evasive answers. This lets viewers judge if a person is a truth-teller or a liar. Leung's speciality is the double negative. Listen for that, too.

But Leung has a trump card - his poker face. Friends and foes alike agree he can look you in the eye and say one thing but mean another. If he plays that card, it could flummox the cameras. Will he choose to be that smart, or, should I say, stupid? Hopefully not. As the saying goes, you can never fool all of the people all of the time.

In any case, now is not the time to even try. Just two weeks in office, Leung is already sinking into quicksand. I cannot remember a more nightmarish start to a new administration. Isn't Leung supposed to be politically savvy?

How, then, do you explain the messy way he handled his illegal structures scandal? Surely he would have known that making Equal Opportunities Commission chief Lam Woon-kwong the Executive Council convenor would spark public fury over a conflict of roles. And who conducted the background checks on Mak and Ko before they were given such high positions?

Leung won the small-circle election with the promise to make society fairer as he watched rival Henry Tang Ying-yen being swallowed whole by his luxurious but illegal basement. Forget about his moral attack against Tang when he himself had six illegal structures. The question is how Leung can deliver his promise of change when his own integrity and that of his administration are in the meat grinder.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had said she trusted Mak 100 per cent. Days later, the ICAC arrests him. What does that say about Lam's own credibility? Mak was to have played a key role in fulfilling Leung's promise to make housing more affordable for the grass roots.

What are the grass roots supposed to think now that Leung is so rocked by scandals that he can't possibly focus on the livelihood issues he had promised to tackle? The man they put their hope in has lost their trust. Maybe today Leung can pull a rabbit out of the hat to win them back. That won't happen if he wears his poker face. It may if he reaches out with genuine sincerity.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com