POLITICS
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Leung Chun-ying

Leung Chun-ying pledges to tackle Hong Kong's core issues

Chief executive reassures voters he can handle any challenge the city throws at him, after one of the rockiest starts in Hong Kong politics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2012, 4:53am

After a tumultuous first 90 days in office, chief executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to tackle the city's controversial issues quickly.

Yesterday, Leung said he would rule on national education as soon as the committee reviewing its future reached a conclusion, rather than waiting for a written report, which might take months.

Summing up his political baptism of fire, the chief executive said he and his team could rise to any challenges the city presented.

He said: "I know the kitchen is hot, that's why we need people in it.''

Leung said many Hongkongers' objections to national education were oversimplified, focusing on the course having an excessively pro-Beijing bias and calling for its withdrawal.

During the Commercial Radio interview, Leung discussed whether scrapping the subject was synonymous with telling schools that wanted to launch the subject to rein in their plans.

On another sensitive subject, he slammed claims the government's development plan for the northeastern New Territories was an attempt to "sell Hong Kong land to mainlanders".

"Such claims are nonsense and groundless," he said, pointing out that when the plan was first introduced in 2008 no such allegations were made. Leung also pledged his allegiance to Hong Kong over the mainland, saying he would stand by the city if conflicts emerged between the two.

He cited his ban on mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong starting next year as an example, and the hold he had put on Shenzhen allowing non-permanent residents to hold multiple-entry visas to visit the city.

However, not everyone was convinced by his words.

"I don't think his performance lives up to his slogans," said Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung. "So far, I haven't seen him pushing through any policies amid tough challenges."

Choy said tens of thousands of Hongkongers taking to the streets to protest against the government's policies during Leung's first three months marked "the toughest beginning" of any chief executive.

Despite the committee's recommendation that the government "invalidate" the proposed implementation of the national education curriculum, he said opponents were still worried the subject might be revived.

Leung said he was keen to build bridges in the legislature. After most pan-democratic parties boycotted his lunch for new-elected lawmakers last week, he said he wanted to develop his relationship with the camp over more lunches and activities.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, acting chairwoman of the Democratic Party, said the first thing Leung ought to do was to clear up the problems he faced about his integrity and rebuild the public's confidence in him.

"Co-operation is built upon trust," Lau said. "If there is no trust, how can we co-operate?"

She suggested Leung invite independent political heavyweights, such as former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, to investigate the scandal surrounding the illegal structures at his properties on The Peak.