Beijing loyalist critical of policy reversals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am


A leading Beijing loyalist yesterday criticised the government for its repeated policy reversals, which he said made it hard for allies to lend their support.

Executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, president of the Federation of Trade Unions, said the government failed to build sufficient trust with its political allies and did not do enough to consult them on key policies.

Citing the government's recent reversal on its initial proposal to scrap Legislative Council by-elections, Cheng said officials were not good judges of public sentiment and that the government's allies in Legco often learned of policy proposals just before their announcement.

'The government flip-flopped in the face of public opposition,' Cheng said. 'That made some pro-government lawmakers rethink their support for the administration in the future because they feel they tend to pay a heavy political price for their support.'

On May 17, some pro-government lawmakers said they were told of a proposal to scrap by-elections only hours before it was announced by Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung, while other lawmakers learned of it from the announcement.

Three days after the July 1 march, which drew the largest turnout since 2004, the government decided to delay voting on an amendment to enact a ban by-elections. About 218,000 people took to the streets on July 1, according to organisers' estimates. Police put the figure at 54,000.

The announcement of a delay in voting was made six days after the government had offered concessions to critics of the plan to scrap by-elections - a plan for which pro-government lawmakers had earlier voiced support. 'The government hasn't done enough in building mutual trust with the government-friendly camp,' Cheng said. 'I appreciate officials' intention of keeping policy formulation confidential but it makes things difficult for pro-government lawmakers if they are not consulted during the policymaking process.'

Representatives of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions have seats on the Executive Council, but some non-official Exco members have raised concerns about a lack of consultation in the early stages of policy formulation.

Cheng said Beijing was not ready for full-fledged party politics but it had to come to terms with the fact that Hong Kong's government was facing difficulties in securing stable support from political parties.

The Executive Council has described former National People's Congress delegate Allen Lee Peng-fei's proposal to form a coalition government comprising of politicians from pro-government and pan-democratic parties as too idealistic.

'I think the pan-democrats are unwilling to join the governing coalition because they are happy with scoring points by attacking the government,' Cheng said.