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Leung Chun-ying

Good governance must remain the focus despite political turmoil

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying’s meeting with President Xi Jinping ahead of next year’s chief executive election should not divert from the work at hand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 1:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 1:11am

It doesn’t take much to set tongues wagging in Hong Kong, especially so when the city’s chief executive meets senior officials from the central government. Against the backdrop of the election race for the city’s top post in March and the rise of pro-independence sentiment, the meeting between President Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and Leung Chun-ying on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Peru has led to much speculation. While this is understandable, politics is just one of the many challenges facing Hong Kong and the government. It is important that we not lose sight of the need to tackle other issues, such as driving the economy forward and improving people’s livelihood. These are also the expectations that Xi has of Leung and the city.

During the 45-minute closed-door session, the president expressed his hope for Leung and his team to continue with holistic implementation of policies, fostering broad social consensus, developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood, Xinhua reported.

Xi Jinping sends anti-independence warning to Hong Kong

Xi also threw his weight behind the government’s handling of the row sparked by two pro-independence lawmakers. The pair had prompted the state’s top legislative body to step in with an interpretation of the Basic Law after they failed to properly pledge allegiance to the city as an inalienable part of China and to uphold the mini-constitution in their oath of office. Beijing’s support of the local government is reflected in Xi’s emphasis on the need to maintain national unity and political stability. As Leung rightly said, the notion of Hong Kong independence had no place under the “one country, two systems” formula.

Both sides have steered clear of the sensitive issue of Leung’s re-election at this stage, and for good reason. For one thing, Leung has yet to declare if he will run again. Beijing also does not want to be seen as openly backing a candidate lest the outcome of the election is seen as being predetermined.

That won’t stop the tongues wagging, though. While some observers noted that Xi’s remarks were neutral, others saw the endorsement of Leung’s governance as a sign of approval for him to seek re-election. Still others say Leung has failed to live up to Xi’s expectations of fostering broad consensus in society, referring to the widening political divide in the city over the past few years. Inevitably, the oath-taking saga and the jockeying for the chief executive post will be in the spotlight for some time. But they should not divert our attention from other pressing issues. The Leung team needs to show that it is not a sunset government.