Legco election is over, but not the political sniping

Michael Chugani says the election may be over but Leung can expect little let-up from critics if his performance continues to disappoint

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 10:37pm

How long has it been since Leung Chun-ying formally became our leader? Exactly 72 days. Political honeymoons are supposed to last 100 days. Leung wasn't expecting a honeymoon, but neither was he expecting such a pummelling so soon after taking office.

His backers have blamed politicians for stirring up issues such as national education to win votes in yesterday's Legislative Council election. They claimed the dust would quickly settle after the elections and the government could finally begin governing.

Well, the elections are over, and Leung has finally done a U-turn on national education. Will politicians give him his 100 days of harmony? Believe that only if you believe former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie's ludicrous notion that the hunger strike and protest against national education outside the government headquarters amounted to anarchy.

It is people like her who love to preach political harmony yet smear as troublemakers those who express opposing opinions. How does it help harmony when peaceful protesters are labelled anarchists? Is it anarchy when law-abiding students and parents fast to protest against something they genuinely oppose?

The protesters were not seeking a lawless Hong Kong. They were not even challenging the government's authority. They just wanted the government to withdraw an unpopular policy. They only exercised their democratic right to protest peacefully when the government refused. Maybe Elsie Leung is confusing democracy with anarchy.

Sure, there's always mileage in attacking the government during elections. That's politics. But anti-national education protesters had not played into Legco candidates' hands; they even booed some who showed up at the protest.

Yes, the candidates had attacked the chief executive on divisive issues as part of their campaigns. But he was already sinking into quicksand. He made the gaffe of paying homage at the central government's liaison office the day after he was elected. Revelations of illegal structures at his home after he had attacked rival Henry Tang Ying-yen's illegal basement further hurt his popularity.

Scandals over his choice of development secretary didn't help. Mak Chai-kwong had to resign when the Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested him for allegedly fiddling his government rent allowance. Paul Chan Mo-po, who took over, is still stuck in a scandal over links to subdivided flats. But Leung's poor handling of national education was the real game changer.

Leung has struggled to meet the people's expectations on key issues. His promise last week of land for 1,100 flats exclusively for Hong Kong residents will take years to realise.

Leung's sudden skipping of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference was pure politics. He would be foolish to think that by backtracking on national education and announcing popular policies just before yesterday's election, his opponents will now back off. He has made himself an easy target. People always shoot at easy targets.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com