CommentInsight & Opinion

Opponents may regret forcing wounded Leung into a corner

Lau Nai-keung says government now has no option but to fight back

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 8:39pm

In Hong Kong, it's no longer clear who is governing. The ongoing free-to-air TV licence fiasco is just one glaring case in point.

Some people keep asking why the government granted only two licences instead of three, denying one to Hong Kong Television Network. If this is a valid question, then why not grant four or, for that matter, 400 licences?

An inexperienced and underfinanced set-up with an ambitious plan of operating 30 channels clearly deserved to be thrown out. But there are people who want to usurp this discretionary power of the executive, and by so doing undermine the tradition of the Executive Council together with the entire political system. This is a sure-fire prescription for anarchy.

The problem is that more and more people seem to buy this nonsense, including representatives of the Leung Chun-ying administration, with some Executive Council members joining the dissident chorus. In any case, the damaging leaks started dripping from day one. How can anyone conduct serious business in Exco any more?

The Hong Kong government now abhors making decisions because every one will invariably hurt somebody's interests and spark controversy.

The Hong Kong government now abhors making decisions because every one will invariably hurt somebody's interests and spark controversy

Whenever there is controversy, the government is put on the spot and whatever it says or does is bound to be wrong, so much so that it is afraid even to do the right thing, like deciding how many TV licences to grant and starting national education.

The last chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, procrastinated and sat on these issues for years, passing the buck to Leung, who came under attack almost immediately after taking action.

Another controversy in the making is the government's plan to rezone part of the Central waterfront for military use, where the PLA pier is already being built. Under the 1994 Sino-British deal, it was agreed that the People's Liberation Army would build a military dock at the site, and the government said it was bound to honour this agreement. The PLA has said it plans to make the area available for public use most of the time.

The whole arrangement has been approved by the district and legislative councils; it is all legitimate and proper. But dissidents have blamed our weak government for not daring to stand up to the PLA, and a Town Planning Board public hearing is now under way.

Plainly, what is there to object to? Whatever the outcome, at the end of the day, can Leung tell the PLA: "Sorry, sirs, we cannot let you build your pier on this piece of land which is rightfully yours and was originally a pier, because a small group of people choose to disregard this fact and I don't know how to say no to them"?

Frankly speaking, the government has no grounds and no right to object. No consultation - public or otherwise - can change this.

It cannot help the Hong Kong government, and ultimately Leung, to pass the buck and save him from doing what is necessary.

Leung and his cabinet and counsel may not have perceived it, but objectively speaking, his government is now cornered. It cannot duck its responsibility, and has no way out except to fight back.

I have known CY for 30 years and one thing is certain: this man will not give up fighting. Now that he is pushed into a corner, he will fight back. He has to, and he will. He will stand there and take the punches, as he is doing now, but he will not quit.

This reminds me of the metaphor which our top leaders have recently used repeatedly with their American counterparts: a desperate rabbit will kick the eagle. Think twice before provoking CY any further.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development

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