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Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong doctors’ advice: reject medical reform bill, and then get rid of CY Leung

Albert Cheng says legislation to reform the Hong Kong Medical Council in useful ways is likely to fail purely because doctors are so sceptical of the chief executive’s political intentions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 7:54pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has driven Hong Kong to the brink of ungovernability. Even well-intended government policy initiatives are now met with public distrust, intense opposition and persistent filibustering in the legislature.

The Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 is now in danger of dying an unnatural death on Friday, as this term of the Legislative Council draws to a close. The proposed changes are meant to increase lay participation in the Medical Council, improve its complaint mechanism and facilitate the practice in Hong Kong of doctors trained overseas.

These are all noble objectives. Many medical doctors, however, are so sceptical of the chief executive’s political intentions that they have demanded their Legco representative reject the bill in its current form. Dr Leung Ka-lau has obliged, with the support of the pan-democratic parties.

The distrust is not groundless. The chief executive has a poor track record when it comes to key appointments

Under the bill, the Medical Council is to expand from 28 to 32 members. The opposing doctors argue that the suggested change will allow Leung to appoint four more of his cronies, who will manipulate the professional regulatory body to allow, for example, an influx of doctors from mainland China.

The distrust is not groundless. The chief executive has a poor track record when it comes to key appointments. Ask anyone at the University of Hong Kong. Leung Chun-ying’s fingerprints are all over the demise of the former dean of the faculty of law, Johannes Chan Man-mun, and the rise of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. He also named Maria Tam Wai-chu, a deputy to the National People’s Congress, as chairwoman of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s operations review committee, which oversees all investigations by the graft-buster. The choice was widely questioned, as Leung himself is entangled in a possible ICAC investigation.

Leung explained that he intended to delegate the future Medical Council appointments to the Food and Health Bureau, which oversees the medical and health care portfolio. That assurance has failed to allay the doctors’ worries.

Running out of time: Hong Kong’s No 2 official in final plea for lawmakers to pass medical reform bill

The bill is running out of time. The Legco sitting on Friday will be the last before the assembly is dissolved to make way for elections in September.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Only four months ago, the dissenting councillors used the same tactics of consistently asking for a head count during the debate to scupper the Copyright (Amendment) Bill. They cited their distrust of the chief executive as a major reason why they could not endorse the long-overdue update to the city’s copyright regime.

The copyright bill was eventually parked to make way for other government business. This time around, the chief executive has refused to budge. The administration insists that its opponents should either take it or leave it. Leung Chun-ying would rather sacrifice the bill than suffer another loss of face in Legco within half a year.

The doctors’ leaders now warn Leung that he will have to pay at the next election

Officials have pledged to table the amendments afresh in the next term of the lawmaking body. But it is doubtful how the odds for the bill will improve after the Legco elections. The reality remains that a handful of councillors can bring Legco to a grinding halt.

In any case, the medical practitioners who are against the bill only have themselves to blame for the current state of affairs. After all, many of them contributed to Leung’s ascent to the helm. Four years ago, Leung was dismissed as an also-ran at the outset of the race for the city’s top post. However, his rival, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, fumbled and fell. Several professional bodies, including those of the doctors, opted to side with Leung. The medical profession accounts for 30 of the seats in the 1,200-member Election Committee for the selection of the chief executive.

The doctors’ leaders, including the Medical Association’s Dr Choi Kin, now warn Leung that he will have to pay at the next election. The doctors are certainly not alone in their call to oust Leung. The wish to get rid of the incumbent chief executive has emerged as a unifying campaign theme for all Legco candidates outside of the pro-establishment camp.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk