Leung faces bumpy road
It hardly seems just 12 months since Leung Chun-ying became the city's leader. From the national education fiasco to an export ban on baby milk formula; from locals-only land sales to zero birth quota for mainland mothers; from scandals among his team to the rift within the pro-Beijing camp - so eventful was his first year that there is no shortage of examples to show how good, or bad, the chief executive is, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.
Campaigning with the slogan "seeking change amid stability", Leung inspired hope as a reformer. His platforms on the economy and livelihood were focused and well thought out. As soon as he assumed office on July 1, he wasted no time tackling a wide range of deep-seated problems. Hopes were high that he could provide adequate affordable housing, clean up the environment and lift many out of poverty, as promised. Regrettably, developments over the past year have taken many by surprise, with the new team embroiled in scandals and fiascos, one after another. Inevitably, keeping the government agenda rolling became difficult.
Credit goes to Leung for considerable accomplishments, despite difficult times. These include curbing further travel for Shenzhen tourists amid rising cross-border tensions and cooling off the overheated property market with a hefty stamp duty. Leung did not shy away from detailing what he said he had achieved in a 29-page work report on his first year in office. However, the inclusion of some trivial items and unfinished business from the previous administration has raised eyebrows. Unsurprisingly, he was criticised for trying to dampen the turnout of the annual mass protest today.
Leung is absolutely right in saying that there is no room for complacency, for he is judged not just by what he has achieved, but also what he hasn't. Many of his campaign promises, such as increasing the annual flats production target, have yet to be honoured. Politically, he is still resisting calls for an early consultation on universal suffrage. Opinion polls showed he is less popular than a year ago, while discontent with his rule has surged to a new high.
The road ahead is bumpy. The pressure to deliver surges as Leung enters the second year. Without any loyal support in the legislature, fostering consensus and development will be difficult. Perhaps he can consider revamping the cabinet to improve governance. Ultimately, party politics should be developed further to resolve the deadlock.