Unlikeable Leung gets flak all round

Michael Chugani says Leung Chun-ying has done a lot in his first year, but as an unlikeable leader heis criticised for everything he does

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 11:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 11:56pm

I never thought I would say this, but I feel sorry for Leung Chun-ying. No, I am not a "Leung fun" - a new Cantonese expression, often used scornfully, that means a Leung fan. We've met several times but only on a professional level. Like others who've had contact with him, I found him difficult to size up.

I feel sorry for him simply because he gets flak for whatever he does. He's the opposite of the late Ronald Reagan, who was known as the "Teflon president" because no flak ever stuck. With Leung, everything sticks, often undeservedly. Forget praise, he doesn't even get grudging acknowledgement for the things he does right.

Let's look at some of the things he's got flak for - national education, the Manila hostage tragedy, the housing shortage, and the issuing of two instead of three free-to-air TV licences. National education wasn't even his idea, the housing shortage worsened before he took office, the Manila hostage tragedy was left unresolved by the previous administration, and the three applications for TV licences were made well before his time in office but, for whatever reason, were not issued. Leung inherited all of these politically charged issues.

Now let's look at the things he's done, and tried to do, in the 16 months he's been in office. He stopped mainland mothers from having babies in the city, ended the baby-milk-powder shortage, scrapped national education due to huge public opposition, secured a meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino to discuss the Manila tragedy, cooled the property market, set a poverty line, mapped out a long-term plan to ease the housing shortage, issued a blueprint to clean up our air, and doubled the number of free-to-air TV licences. Yet James Tien Pei-chun of the Liberal Party described him as the worst of our post-handover chief executives.

If impartially judged, Leung has actually achieved more than his predecessors and he's only a quarter of the way through his term. But that's the trouble; few judge him impartially, least of all the pan-democrats.

There's an old joke about Reagan: during a storm at sea he walked on water to save others. But the next day the liberal media reported: "Reagan can't swim". As the "Teflon president" he got away with a lot. Leung is our "fly paper chief executive". Everything sticks.

Has our politicised society become so demanding that it has lost its sense of reasoning? Or is it simply that Leung is an unlikeable leader? It's a mixture of both, but more so the latter. The way media and opposition politicians have been hounding Leung betrays an intense personal dislike for the man. He has a tough time winning loyalty even from many in the pro-establishment camp.

Since the TV licence controversy erupted I've asked myself numerous times: what if only Ricky Wong Wai-kay won a licence? We would have three instead of four free-to-air stations. Would that have sparked the uproar we're now seeing? Definitely not. It's Leung the man, not his policies, that's tearing our society apart. Many want him toppled. But we lack the good sense to understand we're only hurting ourselves by making our society ungovernable.

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