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  • Dec 27, 2014
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PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 3:49am

Are illegal structures more important than Leung’s leadership skills?

Michael Chugani says we need to decide which is more important: the chief executive’s morality or his ability to get things done


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Richard Nixon lied about the Watergate cover-up. Bill Clinton lied about his sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. And Leung Chung-ying's alleged lie? Minor unauthorised structures at his Peak home. OK, a lie is a lie, whether it involves a flower trellis or something as sensational as a US president's involvement in the cover-up of a secret break-in at a rival party's headquarters. But does lying about minor illegal structures make Leung unfit to lead? Clinton lied about a major sex scandal and yet went on to become one of America's most popular presidents.

Some argue Leung's sin is not as simple as what he knew and when he knew about his illegal structures. It's that he duped us into believing he was more qualified morally to lead than election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen, who had tried to cover up his luxurious illegal basement. If I remember correctly, Tang owned up fairly quickly when caught. He faced the cameras with his sobbing wife to apologise. His biggest sin was letting his wife take the blame for the basement. That cost him the election. Leung, however, didn't come clean that quickly. He delayed and dodged for months.

But it is academic now to wonder whether Tang, dubbed the well-meaning but stupid pig during the election, would have made a more honest leader than Leung, dubbed the cunning wolf. Like it or not, Leung is our leader. The question before us is what is best for Hong Kong, to take a moral stand and demand his resignation, or to hold our noses and let him lead so he can tackle our many urgent social issues?

Taking a moral stand means dragging out the current political turmoil indefinitely. Leung won't resign unless the central government makes him. And that won't happen unless there is a repeat of the 2003 protest when half a million people took to the streets, which forced the resignation of Tung Chee-hwa. But looking the other way means letting a liar lead. Can we be sure he won't dupe the people again?

Let's match Leung's illegal structures with what he's done as leader in the six months he's been in office. He blocked the flood of mainland women hogging our hospital beds to give birth here, cracked down on parallel goods traders, reversed an easing of visa rules that would have seen even more mainlanders swamping our city, introduced measures to cool the property market, imposed a hefty tax on mainland property speculators, set aside land for flats that will be available only to Hongkongers, and agreed to setting a poverty line.

That's a lot by any measure. His predecessor had resisted doing many of those same things despite immense public pressure. But instead of being praised for what he has achieved, Leung is being pummelled. Does that mean we demand integrity more than achievement from our leaders?

John F. Kennedy was a womaniser but is remembered as a great US president. Jimmy Carter is a man of integrity but is remembered as a failed president. Do we let Leung's questionable integrity get in the way of his achievements? Is a liar unfit to leader no matter what? Or do we say, as many do, "OK, he is shifty but let him achieve things for us"?

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



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This article is now closed to comments

It is clearly unacceptable to many that the deception took place during the already-flawed election process, and many feel cheated. To ask the question about who can take over now and do a better job anduse that as the excuse to keep CY there is not only dumb (there are many who would do a better job) but to abandon whatever little sense of justice we have left in the Hong Kong society.
The comparison with Nixon, Clinton or even Kennedy (did CY pressure or pay you to say that? Sounds like something an egomaniac like him would come up with) is really quite inappropriate.
Dear Michael:
While I agree with you in some degree ability shall sometimes bypass integrity,I do not like your way of putting forward comments.Do you have hard evidence to accuse Henry Tang of using his wife to shift illegal structures' burden?A journalist is employed to report,to investigate,not to judge.You are playing the role of a under-ground court's judge. You mentions somebody's wife including the US presidents' private life just to attract eye balls.You are nothing but a sheer tabloid journalist.May you study Chinese (may be you already know Chinese) and post your"comments" in some Chinese tabloids,the job seems right up your street.
Excellent article Michael. Sick and tired of ppl complaining about CY's integrity. Some lawmakers are just causing trouble for the true nature of their complaints which is the absence of universal suffrage and that he was not truly elected by the people. Lets not become a Taiwan or India where democracy is having to listen to every single voice and debate about each and every minor issue or else nothing gets done. Let's see if he can really do something for society like make housing truly affordable for the lower and middle class and wrest back some power from the big 4 property players who have enslaved HK's poor and enriched themselves for half a century.
I would like to see all these lawmakers who keep this integrity/illegal structures issue to drag on at Legco to declare they have never had any illegal structures in the last 30 years at their homes.
Let our CE do his work, and judge him after two or three years. As mentioned in the editorial, don't overlook his achievements in just only six months.
Morality aside, the law on "illegal structure" and its enforcement is passe' as most home owners in Hong Kong have "illegal structures" such as putting up window over ones' balcony; its enforcement is netiher here nor there. So why make such a big deal as since when politicans succeed on integrity or honesty? CY should (and will) be judged whether he has the ability and guts to deal with so much complex issues facing HK while kawtowing to the overlords up north.
Seemed to be. For the Pan's there is no other way and topic to attack CY. They tasted blood and won't let go. Politics? Who cares?
Richard Nixon lied and he resigned. Did the Americans forgive him because he was the one who broke ice and re-established relationship with China? No, the Americans chose integrity and he had to go, period. Clinton did the stupid thing while in office and he tried to avoid the moral consequence by saying it wasn't an actual intercourse. Not exactly a lie per se. JFK was a womanizer as you said, but he wasn't a liar. Jimmy Carter was a lousy president, but he wasn't a liar either. Leung lied while campaigning for the CE position and this swung the public opinion. Beijing had no choice but yielded to his election because of the poll reading. A lie is a lie. Michael, your logic is very dangerous and to say we can look the other way if it is a small lie. Again it is dangerous to say that the liar has done good and let us forgive him. We cannot teach our children this type of thinking, can we? You are comparing Leung with the lousy and greedy CE, Donald Tsang. It is farcical to say the least. Anyone could have done better than Tsang. To say that Leung is great by surpassing Tsang is tantamount to setting the bar close to the ground! Michael, this piece is truly heart broken, comparing with your previous writings.
Bill Clinton said on TV "I did not have sex or sexual relationship with that woman (Monica)" So, you don't think oral sex is sex? Bill Clinton also lied about his sexual relationship, yet he became one of US most popular president, and is still quite popular with citizens from other countries.
Betraying your wife and have a 'sexual relationship' (maybe not a sexual intercourse) with other woman, is that not a lie? Or is that not integrity related?
It;s a bit early to be trying to turn him into a saint Michael. Sure he's done quite a lot but lets see how it pans out in the next couple of years. He still has to properly address two difficult situations - Articles 23 and 145 of the Basic Law. His opening gambit on these two fronts show troubles ahead.
Article 23 - We have a duty to enact this (as per the basic law)
Article 145 - We want to enact this (as per the basic law) but it might be too difficult.
CY I think Michael could be more like Thatcher - a polarising influence on society that we either love or hate. Not a figure that can bring people together for the common good.


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