Donald Tsang's exclusive club breaks pledge
The writing is on the wall. One month after the dust of the chief executive election has settled, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has moved to play hardball with his opponent, or more specifically, the Civic Party.
On Tuesday, Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit, who carried the democrats' banner in the chief executive race, was kicked off the Urban Renewal Authority board in the latest reappointment exercise.
In a clear departure from tradition and practice, Mr Leong was not reappointed after his two-year term. No explanation has been given. The Chinese press, citing unnamed sources, claimed that top Urban Renewal Authority officials and the relevant policy bureau were unhappy with Mr Leong's performance.
In contrast, two other legislators - Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Fred Li Wah-ming of the Democratic Party, who have served on the authority's board for six years - have each been handed two-year terms. This is despite the fact that their reappointments contravene a much-publicised government policy of capping the length of tenure to the same statutory advisory body at a maximum of six years.
Mr Chan, Mr Li and Mr Leong were elected to the Kowloon East geographical constituency in the 2004 Legislative Council election.
Their appointments to the authority's board in 2004 were seen as a clear attempt to forge closer ties with legislators from the major parties. Such links have been given added significance in view of the imminent approval of a massive rejuvenation plan for the ageing Kwun Tong district - one of the key redevelopment projects on the Urban Renewal Authority's books. Now, there are no Civic Party members on the new-look board.
The government's power play makes a mockery of Mr Tsang's pledge, in his election victory speech, to lead an inclusive administration . 'The third SAR government, under my leadership, will be a government that represents all social strata and one that strives to balance the interests of all sectors,' he said.
It has also raised doubts about the chief executive's promise to groom political talent and foster a better working relationship between the government and the legislature.
In view of the sharp differences between Mr Tsang and the pro-democratic political parties, and the prevailing tension in their relationship, it is understandable that he would be hesitant to offer democrats key posts in the Executive Council and on his ministerial team.
However, the door to bodies that handle livelihood issues, such as the Urban Renewal Authority, could and should be open to people representing different political views.
This would enable the democratic opposition to take part in the decision-making process of statutory bodies that are integral to the executive. Engaging major political forces in the legislature will boost communication, enhance mutual understanding and help resolve differences on contentious issues - like urban renewal.
Mr Leong's case comes after the government decided not to reappoint Kwok Ka-ki, who represents the medical constituency in the legislature, to sit on the Hospital Authority after he had served just one term. Dr Kwok has been heavily criticised by top officials for his role in the campaign against reclamation. Officials have also attacked the Civic Party for its staunch opposition to the government complex at the Tamar site, among other issues.
If hopes were high that Mr Tsang would start afresh in his relationship with opponents in his second term, they are dimming quickly. Mr Tsang's political baggage and obsessive fears towards his opponents are proving too heavy for him to discard easily.
Chris Yeung is the Post's editor-at-large