I won't be a yes man, says Leung
Tanna Chong, Gary Cheung and Colleen Lee
Leung Chun-ying yesterday vowed not to be a 'yes man' and to deal with Beijing officials in accordance with Hong Kong's interests, despite growing fears that the central government's liaison office is extending its hand into the city's political affairs.
The chief executive-elect was speaking about his controversial 90-minute visit on Monday to the liaison office, which prompted talk that Beijing may be intervening.
Asked if he would say 'no' to liaison office intervention, Leung replied: 'Over the past two decades I have said 'yes' and 'no' [to Beijing] according to the incident itself and the long-term interests of the city.'
Leung was referring to pre-handover times when he 'communicated to Beijing' his thoughts on allowing mainlanders to work in Hong Kong as domestic helpers and the scope of activities of the PLA in the city. Beijing accepted his advice. It is understood that at the time of the handover in 1997, he took young PLA officers on a night visit to Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Ma Tei to help them understand how plain-clothes police operated, as an example of the need to maintain a low profile.
Some mainland officials suggested allowing mainlanders to work in Hong Kong as domestic helpers after the handover. But Leung expressed reservations because he felt it could lead to conflicts between the mainlanders and local employers. The mainland officials dropped the idea.
But Leung was a staunch supporter of national security legislation in line with Article 23 of the Basic Law, a proposal that was shelved after 500,000 people marched in 2003.
Leung caused a stir by spending three times as long at the liaison office as he spent with incumbent chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Monday. He dismissed the concerns and stressed that Hong Kong 'only has one governing team'.
Still, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the increasingly salient role of the liaison office was worrying, and noted Tsang's administration had grown more reliant on the office to lobby for support on controversial policies.
'A careful person like Leung would have calculated the media and public repercussions arising from his high-profile visit to the liaison office - he is doing a favour to the office,' Choy said. He argued that the liaison office was turning into a 'second governing team', responsible for political work 'outsourced' by the Hong Kong administration.
He was referring to the liaison office lobbying for votes in the Legislative Council over contentious issues. In the most recent case, lawmaker Lam Tai-fai revealed that he and five other Beijing loyalistst had been summoned to the liaison office and asked not to support a motion to invoke Legco's special investigative powers to look into a row over Leung's alleged conflict of interest when he was a judge in a 2001 West Kowloon arts hub design contest.
Meanwhile, losing chief executive candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan said he would prefer a meeting to discuss policies instead of the courtesy call offered by Leung.
The Democratic Party chairman, who came a distant third in Sunday's election, was responding on a radio show after Leung made the offer through his campaign office chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.
He said he was also discussing with Cheung the possibility of Leung meeting representatives of all the pan-democratic parties.
Leung earlier suggested having a beer with Ho and Henry Tang Ying-yen after the election. But Ho said it would be best for Leung to join Sunday's march against liaison office interference in the election, and then drink beer with the protesters.