Good leaders rule with a vision. They outline the challenges ahead, map out an action plan and get the people to rally behind them. In the Hong Kong context, this is done with a policy address, delivered by the chief executive at the beginning of a new legislative session in October each year. Having deferred the annual ritual to January to have more time for preparation, Leung Chun-ying realised he could not deny the public the access to his plans and thoughts in the meantime. It is good to see that Leung recognises the need to better engage the community and a newly elected Legco, especially when his team is still battling one crisis after another over the past three months.
If yesterday's mini policy speech on his vision and governing philosophy is meant to enlighten, the new leader has not got the job done. During the 45-minute address, Leung expounded his views on issues like relations with Beijing, poverty, housing and conservation. Some problems have been put into perspective. For instance, Leung rightly pointed out that the tension arising from mainland travellers does not mean we should shut ourselves away from the mainland. He also sensibly shelved the controversial government restructuring proposals to focus on other pressing issues.
But the top leader also risks diagnosing without giving prescriptions. Many challenges he mentioned are nothing new. In a city where results matter, people could be excused for taking his speech with a pinch of salt. It is not reassuring to hear that the slow pace of development in the past means we need two years to regain the lost ground before making real progress. The lack of substance in his speech means it is hard to tell if we are on the right track. People can only wait and see, pending his full policy speech.
With Leung's popularity still in the doldrums, we appreciate why he has cited a wealth of examples to dispel the impression that he does not stand for Hong Kong's interests. His conciliatory tone, when summing up the achievements and failures in his first three months, is also commendable. But whether he can swing opinion remains to be seen.
Leung said our rich development potential could be seen from a perch on the city's mountains. He urged people to remain confident in our strengths and not to lose sight of the opportunities. Now that he has shared his views, he will be judged by how well he tackles the problems.