• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 11:51pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 2:40am

Democrats should ride wave of discontent to force out Leung Chun-ying

Albert Cheng says they must unite in opposition to the new town development plan, the next rallying point after the Occupy Central vote

BIO

Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".  
 

If the democrats play their cards right in the next few months, Leung Chun-ying's days as chief executive may well be numbered.

The overwhelming turnout for the informal plebiscite organised by the Occupy Central movement has come as a total surprise, not only to the central and Hong Kong governments, but also the pan-democratic camp.

The Chinese authorities have sought to scupper the civil referendum by issuing a white paper to remind Hongkongers of Beijing's complete control over the special administrative region.

However, instead of dashing the people's dream for democracy, the high-handed approach backfired. So far, well over 740,000 residents have voted, thereby declaring their support for the Occupy movement.

The movement's leaders - the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, University of Hong Kong academic Benny Tai Yiu-ting and sociologist Chan Kin-man - had set themselves a target of just 200,000 votes. They even offered to bow out if fewer than 100,000 votes were received.

In the run-up to the poll, Occupy's online voting platform was hacked into by computers reportedly using IP addresses from China-funded institutions. The Chinese propaganda machine even denounced the poll as illegal.

Yet the people of Hong Kong have spoken. Even though the votes have yet to be tabulated, the message is loud and clear. Any official attempt to ram a window-dressing reform package down the throat of the pubic is now clearly unacceptable.

Leung initially refused to comment on the polls, telling reporters over the weekend that he had "nothing to add to what the government spokesperson has already said in the press release".

On Tuesday, however, the usually aloof chief executive sought to lower the temperature. In a nimble statement, Leung said the people's aspirations for universal suffrage in 2017 were in line with those of the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

His response, however, begged the bigger question of whether future nomination procedures would be so restrictive that popular democratic leaders would be barred from contesting the office of the chief executive.

Only a month ago, the pan-democrats were bitterly divided over their tactics. The younger generation of activists were impatient about the movement's protracted public engagement process. Questions were raised about whether the Occupy initiators could last to see the day when they actually call for action in the streets.

The tables have now been turned. The enthusiastic turnout has re-galvanised Occupy Central.

It is now up to the democrats to make the best out of this spectacular outpouring of collective discontent. If they can ride on the current sentiments against the authorities, they may not even need to activate their Occupy action plan before Leung submits himself to popular pressure.

Public discontent is so intense that people have started talking about a possible repeat of what happened in 2005, when the deeply unpopular Tung Chee-hwa was forced to relinquish his post as chief executive.

The northeastern New Territories project may well be the last straw on the camel's back for Leung.

This grand development project is the cornerstone of his vision of greater fusion between Hong Kong and the mainland. Leung has said that the northern part of the New Territories should be regarded as a hub for the entire southern China. He envisaged that mainland visitors could come to the northern areas without a visa.

Affected villagers in the New Territories and sympathetic young activists are determined to block the development project. They have been protesting for months.

At first, most of the pan-democratic lawmakers failed to realise the far-reaching political implications of the issue. Their reaction was lukewarm. It was only after the protesters begin to dominate the headlines that the democrats stepped up their opposition to the project.

The New Territories development plan is Beijing's litmus test of whether to keep Leung. The Legislative Council Finance Committee's deliberations on the project, which triggered the fiercest protests so far, are only part of a long process before the project gets the green light.

The democrats should echo the protests outside Legco by seeking every opportunity to derail the project in their chamber proceedings. Should this happen, Leung's inability to govern would become conspicuous. It will not be in Beijing's interests then to keep an unpopular, lame-duck chief executive.

Indeed, the democrats should have closed ranks in their opposition to the plan by blocking government requests.

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

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This article is now closed to comments

kongshan2047
Even if we do force Leung to step down and replace him with say Carrie Lam, does this mean Beijing will give in to whatever proposal HK demands for the CE election of 2017? Just ask yourself this question, has the removal of Tung Chee Hwa from office actually led to a better relationship between HK and the central government? In contrast, it actually made Beijing more alert and since 2003, the Central government liaison office had increased its intervention on HK affairs. If one believes that the central government will simply compromise and submit to the occupy Central movement, then I am afraid that is just wishful thinking.
whymak
Mr. Cheng deserves repeated rebuttals for his relentless efforts in using this column time and again to spin HK into anarchy.
A reader says he is "vile, disgraceful, resentful." Perhaps he is all that. For those who had the bad experience of listening to his arrogant putdowns of callers in his radio talk show, they are unlikely to disagree with this appraisal.
He might even sell his own mother if CY Leung were willing to play ball like Tsang Yum Kuen. That's no exaggeration.
Friends and acquaintances could still recall the real Mr. Cheng, the "aeronautical engineer" working in Vancouver airport. He must have perceived the mechanic's job as low status. Do you know from which university he received an engineering degree?
When asked who the woman was in his house answering the phone while he's at work, he told them the maid. The maid was his mother.
Mr. Cheng's "facts" beget his opinions, but many brain dead HKers don't realize that. In HK, many believed they are entitled to their opinions even if they are incorrectly deduced or based on falsehoods.
Mr. Cheng endless reiterations are based on his own facts. No one is entitled to facts. Every agitation with the singular goal to cause social disorder requires repeated rebuttals with same counter purpose.
Activists using entitlement of free speech seek to overthrow governments are fair game. There is no free lunch.
321manu
If he deserves repeated rebuttals, then of course you're free to deliver them. But does he, or any readers here, deserve cut-and-paste jobs on multiple threads? Rebut away, but it'd be more persuasive if you actually took the time to write individual rebuttals.
On a separate note, have you actually offered a rebuttal to what he wrote in this column? You've attacked his "arrogance", his apparent lack of filial piety, his apparent falsifying of credentials, his English skills, and his freedom of expression. It's just one big ad hominem. What you haven't done is to actually address what he wrote here. You might want to start with that next time.
As a suggestion, try telling us where his "facts" are flawed, and how your "facts" are better. Maybe indicate where his opinions have been "incorrectly deduced" and "based on falsehoods". You've laid down the metrics. Time to live up to the same standards you would impose on others. But next time, could you please lay off the hyperbole? "Every agitation with the singular goal to cause social disorder..."? Puh-lease. Listen, if we told you that we're now fearful, will you stop mongering it?
321manu
whymak,
why must you copy and paste identical comments onto multiple threads? Why why tell me why, whymak. Is it that difficult for you to concoct an original thought that you need to maximize its mileage in this pathetic way when you do?
virokick
What a vile writer this is.
Albert Cheng = vile, disgraceful, resentful.
CY Leung has already done his best under his circumstances.
It's not easy being a CE in HK.
Albert Cheng just writes bad things about CY Leung - as though our CE has done nothing good.
Albert Cheng ,in return I give you this = if you have nothing good to say about our CE and HK - get that hell out of HK !
whymak
Mr. Cheng,
Heaven knows no fury like an English semi-literate influence peddler scorned. For whatever reason, Mr. Cheng had Tsang Yum Kuen's ear. This led him to the delusion that the host of a street fighters' talk show has become a kingmaker and the trusted advisor of the former CE.

C.Y. Leung refused to play ball with sleaze. So Mr. Cheng took after Fortune Magazine and is now badmouthing the Death of Hong Kong.

Now what do you want, Mr. Cheng? You have come a long way from a nobody mechanic in Vancouver airport to wealth and fame in our city, and now your ingratitude and vindictiveness urges have blinded you to cast this death wish on all of us. Are you a decent person or monster?
John Adams
Mr Cheng
What a load of balls you are writing !
Total rubbish and scare-mongering
.
( And if CY is forced to step down who would take his place ? Henry "Mr basement wine cellar" Tang ? Mr Rafael bribed-by-the-Kwoks H u i ? ).
.
Pure B S .
.
CE's don't grow on trees and CY is doing his best for HK.
I for one would never take on his job even if you paid me a trillion $.
chuchu59
What's wrong with you Taipan? CY is finally showing some balls in confronting the official mouthpiece Global Times and you are calling for his head. He has mixed success on the housing front and has at least shown some stern resistance against the control of HK by the tycoons. What did your buddy Donald do other than wine and dine with them? Now at least his former aide **** is being dragged to the courts for having too intimate a relationship with tycoons.
Kevin Lau
It is not a good approach to exploite the recent discontent forcing Mr Leung to step down. If the chief executive is not coming from the democratic camp, the problems will exist forever in the city. To utilise the recent discontent to force Leung stepping down will only deteriorate the chaos for the city.
impala
I am disappointed in CY Leung's performance as a CE. Yet, I am not convinced replacing him will help. The root cause of the CE's problems is threefold:

1. He needs to keep Beijing happy - a job that regularly (and increasingly, because of the change of leadership up north) is in conflict with the interests of Hong Kong. Insane tourism numbers, the High Speed Railway, the Macau-Zhuhai bridge but also the one-way permit scheme and the cross-border school issue are all ultimately due to double reporting line.

2. He is mostly surrounded by a bunch of people on ExCo, LegCo and in top bureaucratic positions who appear to be clueless about sound, long-term public policy making, and who are instead more interested in protecting the vested interests of their (functional) constituencies and not sticking their neck out to ensure their own comfy (pension) benefits and pay are not jeopardised.

3. There is little viable alternative to the above. (1) certainly won't go away. Like it or not, our integration with the mainland and the growth of Beijing's influence will continue. We might be able to slow down the pace, but we can't change the tide. And as for (2), there is no credible opposition or even just meaningfully different faction in the DAB that could step up to the plate and provide a better government.

All of these reasons are systemic. What is needed more than yet another CE, is real (electoral) reform of our system of governance to improve (2) and (3).

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