Leung Chun Ying

100-day target a stress test for Leung

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2012, 12:00am

If one day is a long time in politics, how about 100? Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has just 77 days to go before reaching that symbolic target. But a chaotic start to his term, after he was sworn in on July 1, has led to speculation that Beijing is considering a plan B - replacing him if he fails to put his house in order by mid-October, when he will reach 100 days in office.

Two pro-Beijing heavyweights - Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing and Cheng Yiu-tong, the honorary president of the Federation of Trade Unions and a member of the Executive Council, the chief executive's top advisory body - have ruled out any notion of a plan B.

Tsang, who once expressed an intention to run for chief executive, last week strongly ruled out any possibility that he was Beijing's 'plan B' candidate when grilled by the media. Cheng accused those of speculating about Leung's replacement as being ignorant of China's politics.

'Compared with a five-year term, 100 days is very brief,' Cheng said. 'How can Beijing give him such a short probation period?'

Tsang and Cheng's response merely added fuel to the fire, triggering more political gossip. Is the speculation about Leung's early departure a reasonable guess in a messy situation? Or does it reflect wishful thinking on the part of certain people who apparently still do not accept Leung's appointment as chief executive?

It will be interesting to see what does happen as Leung approaches the 100-day mark.

Each year, the chief executive rolls out his annual blueprint in the October policy address. Apparently, unable to wait that long because of the turbulent political situation, Leung last week announced a series of livelihood relief measures to try to pacify the public and to draw the community's attention back to his government's policies.

This raises the question: what other measures or sweeteners will be handed down in October? By then we'll have an enlarged Legco after the September 9 election with membership going from 60 to 70 seats.

Candidates from various political backgrounds are already rolling up their sleeves, trying to win the hearts and minds of voters.

In Beijing, the 18th Communist Party congress is expected to be held later this year, probably in October, when the next generation of leaders will be chosen. Will there be a new set of Hong Kong policies after that? We can only guess and wait.

It is in this political climate that speculation arose about Leung's '100-day probation', even before he had properly taken his seat at the Tamar complex in Admiralty. Regardless of speculation, it is at least a psychological stress test for the new chief executive, and an indication of the depth of Beijing's trust in him.

If history is a mirror which reflects the past for the benefit of determining the future, it may be interesting to consider one of China's greatest classic works of literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, for some clues.

The war for dominance among the Wei, Shu and Wu states following the end of the Han dynasty (BC206-AD220) involved many plans, including psychological ones. One famous story is Zhuge Liang's 'empty fort strategy', in which the Shu kingdom's prime minister scared off his enemies by pretending that an empty fortress he was guarding was full of troops waiting to confront their attackers.

Yet despite the wisdom of all the heroes in each of the three kingdoms, no one could last long and eventually, one by one, each fell into the hands of others. It was not until the establishment of the Western Jin dynasty (AD265-AD420) that China was reunited. The opening line of Luo Guanzhong's novel, 'anything long divided will be united eventually, anything long united will be divided in the end', was perhaps the most quoted philosophical theory in China for centuries.

Could it be that the speculation about Leung's 100-day probation is another kind of 'empty fort strategy', devised by his opponents to increase the pressure on him? Time will tell.

One thing is certain: there is not the slightest trace of any hope for immediate unity among the pro-establishment camp, not to say the whole 'Hong Kong camp', despite constant calls from Beijing.

History may tell us that internal divisions could be the first step towards final unity, even though that unity is still far away.