It's not Leung, it's the system

Michael Chugani says whether Leung stays or goes is irrelevant to the city's development as long as our leader lacks a proper mandate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 1:36am

All this talk about the central government having a reserve plan to replace the unpopular Leung Chun-ying makes me want to say this: it's the system, stupid, not the chief executive. Changing the chief executive would change nothing. Hong Kong would still lurch from one political crisis to another. The Occupy Central movement would still march on.

That's because whoever Beijing chooses to replace Leung would still be labelled a puppet. So it's not the chief executive that needs changing, it's the system.

Besides, who would Beijing choose? Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, whose family prefers to reside in Britain? That would make scandalous fodder for her foes. She is as despised as Leung by those in the so-called Henry Tang Ying-yen camp who accused her of double standards in handling Tang's and Leung's illegal structures.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, perhaps? She has not hidden her ambition to become chief executive. But wouldn't Beijing be inviting even more trouble by choosing someone who was detested for being the prime promoter of the much-hated Article 23 national security legislation?

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing toyed with standing for election last year. But the trouble with Tsang is that he refuses to confirm or deny if he is, or was, a member of China's communist party.

Maybe Beijing has a secret candidate in mind. But you can be sure it wouldn't take long for people to dig out the skeletons in his or her cupboard, as they did with Tang's basement and extramarital affairs and Leung's illegal structures. They are now tumbling out of Barry Cheung Chun-yuen's cupboard. The truth is that Hong Kong doesn't have anyone charismatic enough to win hearts and minds across the political spectrum, let alone someone anointed by Beijing.

We talk of Beijing replacing Leung as if it could snap its fingers and install a chief executive as Britain did with governors. We must first have the charade of a small-circle election. Who can forget the comedic drama of the last one?

We had the spectacle of TV crews hovering in cranes over the houses of Tang and Leung as government inspectors searched for illegal structures; Tang's weeping wife taking the blame for their luxurious illegal basement; Leung's campaign staff fending off claims they had sought help from an allegedly triad-linked man nicknamed Shanghai Boy; and Leung rejecting stinging claims by Tang during a TV debate that he had suggested tear gas and PLA soldiers to quell violent protests. Somehow, I can't bring myself to believe Beijing would want to go through all that again so soon by replacing Leung.

Leung would not be on the shaky ground he is today had he not been the anointed winner of a small-circle election. A proper mandate would have allowed him to focus public attention instead on his many decisive steps to deal with livelihood issues.

Hongkongers love to gamble. Would you bet on his downfall? I sure wouldn't. I think he'll serve out his term unless, of course, a million people attend the July 1 march or the Occupy Central civil disobedience turns riotous.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.