CY Leung denials cause more damage, say analysts
Analysts shocked by Leung's unconvincing performance in Legco session say it puts more pressure on lawmakers over no-confidence vote
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's effort yesterday to dampen controversy over his illegal structures evaded key questions and shocked political analysts, who said his statement, "I did not say I had no illegal structure", did more harm than good to his efforts to salvage credibility.
The Legislative Council session in which Leung was grilled by lawmakers for 1½ hours over the structures at his Peak home was punctuated with apologies, loud protests and a rare heated exchange between Leung and a pro-establishment lawmaker.
Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun asked Leung: "Do you feel you cheated to get the position [as chief executive]? You said loud on TV that you had no illegal structure."
Tien, a supporter of Leung's election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen, was referring to Leung's attack on Tang in a debate in March for having an illegal basement in his house.
Leung replied: "In fact, in my memory, I did not say I had no illegal structure."
It was later disclosed that Leung had an basement room in his house at 4 Peel Rise on The Peak that he had bricked up five months before the election.
He said he could have handled the case better by contacting the Buildings Department, but he did not because "I didn't think this illegal structure was a particularly big issue, because it wasn't me who made it."
Leung struggled to give a direct reply to many questions, including whether he would resign if he felt "ashamed" and if he would apologise to Tang.
Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the political effect of Leung's "I did not say" statement was devastating: "It's just like if you accuse someone of committing a crime, people will assume you have not done the same thing."
Ma said Leung's bad performance would put pressure on pro-establishment lawmakers, who have to decide how to vote on a motion of no confidence tomorrow.
A source close to Leung said the government would gauge public sentiment today, adding: "He tried his best, whether people take it or not."
He said he did not believe Leung had lost his allies because the pro-Beijing camp needed to appear critical in such a session.
Wong Kwok-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said Leung had not shown enough sincerity and gave the impression he was "too obstinate". But his fellow unionists would not support the vote of no confidence as it "did not show Leung has an integrity problem".
Key questions remaining unanswered after the session include whether there is a basement in the ground-floor Stanley flat where he used to live, and why he did not show the sealed basement extension at 4 Peel Rise when he led a media tour in June of six other structures found by the Buildings Department.
Leung was also unable to satisfy lawmakers who asked, one after another, why he did not make the extension public before issuing a written statement last month.
Leung said only that when he moved into the Stanley flat 10 years ago, he received a notice from the Buildings Department that there were some illegal structures, and he had "handled it".
Political analyst Sung Lap-kung said Leung was "staying in combat mode", which could do more harm than good.
"The performance of C.Y. did not stop blood from flowing. People expected him to be forthcoming. But he did not fully respond [to criticism] and [did not] sincerely apologise," Sung said.
However, Sung said he believed the central government would let Leung stay on for the time being for the sake of political stability.
Timeline of C.Y. Leung illegal structures issue
May 2011 Leung Chun-ying tells reporters he has no illegal structures at his homes.
October 2011 Leung realises that a 200 sq ft room extension at his house at 4 Peel Rise on The Peak is unauthorised.
November 2011 He demolishes the structures and seals the extension with a brick wall.
November 27 He declares his chief executive bid.
March 16, 2012 Leung criticises election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen in a televised debate over Tang's hidden basement.
March 17 Leungs wins the poll.
June 21 Ming Pao Daily reports that Leung has an unauthorised trellis at his house.
June 22 Leung shows reporters six illegal structures at his houses, excluding the extension.
June 25 In response to the Apple Daily, Leung's office denies he has an unauthorised room at home.
June 26-28 The Buildings Department inspects the site and finds that the wall of a store room does not match the building plan. It writes to Leung about it, but tells Apple Daily it found no unauthorised room.
June to November The department reminds Leung three times to submit data.
July 4 Lawmakers launch a judicial review against a "false claim" in the election that Leung had no illegal structures.
November 13 The Court of Final Appeal rejects lawmakers' appeal.
November 23 Leung makes public an unauthorised 200 sq ft room, already sealed up.
November 29 Officials say the room is 322 sq ft, and urges Leung to remove it.
December 7 The department says its staff were denied entry to Leung's home in Stanley, said to have an illegal basement.