• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:22pm
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 2:29pm

Beijing should loosen the reins on Leung administration

Frank Ching says Beijing should give the Leung administration authority to deal with pressing issues such as universal suffrage


Frank Ching opened The Wall Street Journal’s bureau in Beijing in 1979 when the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations. Before that, he was with The New York Times in New York for 10 years. After Beijing, he wrote the book Ancestors and later joined the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Tensions are palpably rising in Hong Kong, with simultaneous pro- and anti-Falun Gong protests, pro- and anti-establishment rallies, the emergence of the Silent Majority group to oppose Occupy Central, and the political targeting of police by protesters.

Paradoxically, amid all this, the debate on political reform is moving forward. Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office, lunched with pan-democratic legislators and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying discussed constitutional reform with politicians and academics over dinner.

The problem is that none of these players - Zhang, Legco members, democrats and the Hong Kong administration - is in a position to make decisions on universal suffrage. Everyone knows it is Beijing that will call the shots.

For the 2012 Legco election, it was the central government that finally ended the deadlock in the legislature by approving reforms proposed by the Democratic Party. But the fact that then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was so publicly shunted aside on such a key issue cost him tremendous credibility, a blow from which his administration never recovered.

There is a real danger that the same thing will happen to the Leung administration, which has suffered from low public approval since assuming office. From Beijing's standpoint, 2017 is still four years away and there is no urgency to deal with the matter. But in Hong Kong, it is vital that the Leung administration should be seen as acting on the issue, which is affecting its ability to handle other matters. It is not enough for mainland officials to deny rumours that there is a Plan B for a new chief executive.

To prevent a recurrence of what happened to Tsang, it would be wise for the central government to delegate authority to the Leung administration to deal with the universal suffrage issue. Sure, it is a sensitive matter, but the central government really should not be micromanaging issues in its special administrative regions. After all, Leung was elected by the Election Committee and then appointed by the central government.

Beijing should realise that if it doesn't delegate this authority to him, his job of running Hong Kong, difficult as it already is, will become even more so. He will be doubly hobbled, seen as being illegitimate for lacking a public mandate and, at the same time, not being trusted by the central government.

Actually, during his year in office, Leung has already been given authority by Beijing to handle certain matters, including lodging a protest to the Japanese consul general over Diaoyu activists from Hong Kong who were detained by Japan. More recently, Beijing let him handle the Edward Snowden affair, which he did with aplomb.

Since the central government doesn't want to be directly involved in negotiating with various Hong Kong forces - particularly the democrats - the only viable solution is for it to delegate the authority to the Leung administration. That would really be "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong".

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator. Frank.ching@scmp.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FrankChing1


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Mr. Ching disgraceful and pathetic? This applies to you who paint everything with a black-and-white broad brush. There are more diverse opinions within the Communist Party than most democracies, and we could only guess what major policy decisions may affect us.
It's all about one country two systems. Whether we like it or not, we can protest and scream, certain things in this system are ironclad. We have no Article 23. Occupy Central will bring about unforeseen consequences because it undermines our rule of law and economy. Wise people would avoid it. Can you trust those hate filled demonstrators and counter demonstrators?
Hatred of CCC begets spite from Hk'ers who want status quo. The cauldron of hatred is stirred by witches of Apple Daily and the Democracy Cult. Once when the cycle of violence begins, blaming who starts it becomes academic. It is a chicken-and-egg conundrum as who the real culprit is.
Being Chinese, I am ashamed to admit this is a Chinese ethnic defect. Most of time, we are kinder and gentler than Westerners. We seldom offend our parents, family and friends. We value harmony. But when religious emotion erupts, we become orders of magnitude more uncivilized than Western societies.
Destructive passions of Democracy cult could no longer be contained. Without institutional backing, election in the manner the mob wants will be a disaster. We are between a rock and a hard place.
Like punctuated equilibrium in biology, HK may face extinction.
Who is the central gov't? the CCP
Who runs beijing? the CCP
What are mainland officials? members of the CCP
I don't see what your problem is... You'd just rather him write "Communist party" instead of vary his English? He's not self-censoring he's just making his writing less boring and repetitive. Apparently you just want to hear how bad the CCP is and can't figure out abstract relationships without being told...
I think we can all read between the lines.
“Beijing’s reins on Leung administration”
how do you know there were such?
“Beijing should realise ...”
“central government doesn't want …”
“central government really should not …
” it would be wise for the central government to” … etc etc
Please, could you change your didactic style
and cut to the chase?
Here’s a summary of your prolixity:
A kind reminder to LCY
Act after balancing various parties’ interests
and accept consequential responsibilities
The cauldron of hatred is stirred
not simply
by witches of Apple Daily and the Democracy Cult
but also by assets of CIA’s NR,
OHMS Six, Box 500,
and Jōhōhonbu
Jasmine is the harbinger of PP (pivot to pacific)
While not the most open
China is the most infiltrated country
HK badly needs a strong leader and Art 23
Those who dislike and doubt me, don't worry
they've checked me out
I'm just harmlessly talkative
I heard the complaint against hicks
that their taste for cover is dilettante
FCC doesn’t require The Brothers Karamazov for membership
The HK taxpayers shell out a king's ransom for CY's salary...he definitely should get more leeway.
Punctuated equilibrium in biology...
I like that analogy! :) I bet few here have even heard of it.
The mob will always get what they deserve.


SCMP.com Account