Leung's uninspired policy address should disappoint his supporters

Albert Cheng says his housing policies were nothing new, and proposals to alleviate poverty were either non-existent or too vague

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 1:50am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying survived the bid at the Legislative Council last week to impeach him, but the attempt was a historic first. The 27 pan-democratic lawmakers who supported the bid will be fondly remembered for trying to make a difference.

Of course, we did not have an option to impeach the governors under British colonial rule.

After the handover in 1997, even though the people of Hong Kong were quite displeased with the performance of the previous two chief executives - Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen - it never occurred to the pan-democratic camp that there was a need to force them out of office. The most they did was to move a motion of no confidence to voice their discontent. They knew impeachment was a last, powerful resort that should not be abused.

With regard to Leung, the pan-democratic lawmakers had no choice but to respond to widespread public outrage. The pro-government lawmakers who voted against the impeachment showed blatant disregard for public opinion.

Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming , recently told the media that Leung had the central government's backing. But his explicit backing of Leung was a symbolic gesture more than anything else.

At the Legco meeting over the impeachment motion last week, a number of pro-government lawmakers inadvertently showed their true colours.

James Tien Pei-chun, who vehemently criticised Leung not long ago, was absent during voting.

Lam Tai-fai, who had voted for an earlier motion of no confidence against Leung (which failed to pass), this time voted against the impeachment motion.

Paul Tse Wai-chun was even more ridiculous. He, too, had voted for the motion of no-confidence against Leung, but said that, by resorting to impeachment, we must be sure that Leung was guilty of dereliction of duty.

He even defended Leung by saying that, although there were illegal building structures at his home, it was a matter that happened before he became the chief executive.

What kind of logic is that? It is a matter of integrity. If Leung did something illegal before he took office, that still goes to show he is not a person to be trusted and certainly could not a leader for Hong Kong. As a lawyer, Tse should have been able to differentiate between right and wrong. Some of the other lawmakers were equally unbearable.

Those who vehemently defended Leung over the illegal structures inadvertently pointed out some interesting facts.

First, Leung is a cautious and meticulous person, so there is no way he did not know about the illegal building works at his home. Second, he is not crafty; rather, the opposite.

His supporters who are so eager to give him a chance to implement his policies and prove himself would do well to look to his maiden policy address.

He again manipulated facts and figures, and his policy address was a disappointment.

As a self-proclaimed housing expert, his housing plans are abysmal. He had for a long time attacked his predecessor Donald Tsang for lacking a feasible and comprehensive housing policy.

Tsang built 15,000 public housing units and over 9,000 private ones each year during his five-year term.

Now, Leung is proposing to build 75,000 public housing units and about 4,000 Home Ownership Scheme flats in the next five years.

The estimate for the number of private residential flats coming onto the market may be higher than during Tsang's time, but in substance his housing policy is no different from that of Tsang.

Leung's proposal to expedite pre-sale approval applications for incomplete flats to meet market demand will benefit property developers rather than buyers and end users.

He also failed to deal with the pressing issue of alleviating poverty, especially for the aged. His specific policy measure to alleviate poverty is through improving the economy.

Then he tried to divide the community by asking young people not to fight government plans to develop housing estates (such as in the northeast New Territories). Otherwise, he warned, the government would not be able to supply enough flats for them in future.

The idea of setting up the Financial Services Development Council, to boost the city's financial co-operation with the mainland, is also a waste of time. The list of ineffective policy proposals goes on.

Those who refused to support the impeachment motion should be kicking themselves now. And others who said he should be given more time to implement his policies should take back their words.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but his maiden policy address could well be his last.

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