Chief executive’s appointment to top national body a chance to increase understanding
CY Leung can reflect Hong Kong’s views to the highest levels of central government, to the benefit of both sides
Former chief executives of Hong Kong stay in the public spotlight for different reasons. Having stepped down 12 years ago, Tung Chee-hwa remains active as a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and head of Our Hong Kong Foundation, a policy think tank he founded. The city’s second leader, Donald Tsang Yam-keun, made headlines for the wrong reasons. Convicted and jailed last month for misconduct in public office, Tsang is still struggling to clear his name with a judicial appeal. It now looks like the third chief executive will also continue to be a newsmaker after he steps down by the end of June.
The confirmation of Leung Chun-ying as another CPPCC vice-chairman, a status equivalent to a state leader, is as much a recognition of him as of Hong Kong. The national united front body used to have two Hongkongers in the leadership ranks. While the body is essentially advisory in nature and does not wield substantive powers, it would be good if the views of Hongkongers could be accurately reflected to its senior echelon.
Leung was heavily involved in the state advisory machinery even before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China. After assuming the chief executive’s post in 2012, he has been actively promoting liaison with mainland cities under the concept of “internal diplomacy”, and has expanded the number of Hong Kong representative offices on the mainland. It remains unclear whether promoting former city chiefs to CPPCC leadership posts has become a norm. But Leung’s good understanding of local and mainland affairs makes him a suitable choice, as reflected in the much-publicised handshake and informal chat he had with President Xi Jinping at the end of the CPPCC closing ceremony yesterday.
The appointment has put Leung on par with Tung and former Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah. What sets it apart though is that Leung is still an incumbent chief executive, whereas Tung’s and Ho’s appointments came after the end of their terms. Inevitably, the move has fuelled questions, not only because of the dual leadership roles but also because of the controversy over an undeclared HK$50 million payment Leung received from an Australian engineering firm. Leung has repeatedly dismissed questions over the payment, which arose from his former employment before he took up HK’s top post. The holding of two positions simultaneously raises questions over the one country, two systems principle. We trust the chief executive will take steps to avoid clashes in his remaining three months or so in office.
It is to be hoped that Leung and Tung can play a more positive role in contributing to better understanding and cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland.