Lean times

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:29pm


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Since winning the election, chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying has been ramping up efforts to raise his popularity. He has conducted numerous district visits and has sought to resolve the problem of a heath-care system overloaded by mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong, though he has yet to provide any details.

But he still hasn't made clear who will be in his administration.

Leung is excellent at promoting himself. According to the University of Hong Kong, his approval rating jumped from 38per cent to 46per cent in just two weeks following the election. In other words, he has won more public acceptance without actually doing any solid work. It shows that Leung is a shrewd politician; he knows how to go along with, or even manipulate, public opinion.

For example, he knows that the public wants the popular secretary for development, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to take over as chief secretary. So, to please the masses, he has sent out signals that she is likely to be first choice for the post. If Lam's appointment is approved by the central government, it will no doubt boost Leung's popularity. But if Beijing prefers to keep the unpopular Stephen Lam Sui-lung as chief secretary, Leung will not be blamed.

Both Beijing and Leung know Hong Kong needs a strong governing team, but the reality is that Leung is incapable of gathering a group of talented people to join the administration.

The public expects the Leung administration to find solutions to social conflicts. But this can't be done without qualified people. Yet Leung cannot attract enough of the right people to join him, partly because Hong Kong lacks political talent. I seriously doubt he can fill all the posts in an expanded team of five top secretaries and 14 bureau secretaries.

Fully aware of the situation, Beijing already has a plan in place - to allow the existing principal officials to stay on if they wish. A number have reportedly expressed an intention to leave, including Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, director of the Chief Executive's Office Gabriel Leung and Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung. Secretary for the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee is likely to go as well. Furthermore, if Stephen Lam is replaced by Carrie Lam, he won't stay, either. That means seven out of 15 principal officials may leave after June.

In the meantime, Leung is talking about expanding the team to include four new posts. Where is he going to find the right people?

So we can understand why Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun has reluctantly agreed to take up the directorship of the Chief Executive-elect's Office temporarily. Leung has even appointed non-permanent resident Chen Ran, a former member of the Communist Youth League, as a project officer at the Chief Executive-elect's Office.

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing has hinted that those principal officials willing to stay on would serve only half a term, allowing Leung time to build up his team. No wonder almost half the existing team looks like they will throw in the towel.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk