My Take

Hong Kong's Leung Chun-ying should forgo desire for a second chief executive term

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 6:06am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not strike me as an unintelligent man. So I am scratching my head as to why he still insists there is no real problem between the legislative and executive branches.

It's not just endless filibustering by a few malcontents in Legco, as he has claimed. It is war in all but name between the pan-democrats and the government. As a de facto opposition, they can't implement meaningful policies, but they can sabotage or delay controversial government plans such as new town developments in the New Territories, funding for waste management facilities and the double property stamp duty. There is now a backlog of over 40 items before the Legislative Council's Finance Committee.

Of 29 bills before Legco, only eight have been passed. Pigheaded Treasury Bureau officials are effectively aiding and abetting the pan-dems by refusing to reshuffle the order of the items on the Finance Committee agenda so that uncontroversial items can quickly be put before the committee for approval. Is there a way to break the impasse, which is symptomatic of deep fissures in our society?

One suggestion has been for Leung to resign. Everyone would cheer, but would it solve anything? Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor could step in, doing a repeat of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen when the city's first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa resigned amid crumbling popularity. Or the old election committee could shoe in someone else close to Beijing. Either way, the honeymoon would not last. Our political problems are systemic.

There is a workable halfway for Leung - to announce he would not seek a second term. Instead, he would focus the remaining three years of his term to making sure Hong Kong achieves universal suffrage as prescribed under the Basic Law by 2017. He may thereby regain some political capital with the general public, if not with the pan-dems. He would challenge the pan-dems to sabotage his eminently defensible policies to increase housing supply, bring down property prices and improve social welfare and education. He would also moderate the influx of mainland visitors.

Leung has always said he wanted a second term. But it's time for a strategic retreat, an honourable one for the history books.