Leung Chun-ying

Change brings risk and opportunity for hero or villain Leung Chun-ying

If Leung Chun-ying realises his vision, he could yet become a hero against all odds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 4:59am

Hong Kong is a city of contradictions with an innate spirit at once irreverent and untameable.

Yet it survives and thrives against all odds. Take the protest marchers. They are a Hong Kong phenomenon. Full of sound and fury, they air their grievances in the open, under a forest of banners, including Union flags which stick out a mile with a historical poignancy.

Venting anger and pent-up emotions, they chant their slogans, the hot favourite being: "Leung Chun-ying, a liar-king".

Nothing is sacred, and there is nothing secretive about these protests: no subversive plots, no dark conspiracies.

These protesters demonstrate that freedom is alive and kicking. Should these protests ever be silenced, while problems remain, Hong Kong might be dead.

It was against this background that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the son of a cop, delivered his first policy address on January 16, one might say, against all odds.

A lucky man, he had survived, in his brief six months in office, a legal challenge to his position, a failed attempt to impeach him which followed hot on the heels of a failed vote of no-confidence in the Legislative Council.

Tall and straight and speaking in a deep well-modulated voice, he delivered an address, lasting some two hours, on his vision for Hong Kong. It was a good address as far as policy addresses go. The emphasis was on major issues, many of which had, ironically, already been identified by the noisy demonstrators.

The collective vision of the government put the emphasis on economics, land supply, health and education, an ageing population, poverty and pollution and, above all, housing. Additionally, the government is working on various aspects of effecting the full democratic election of the chief executive in 2017 and a revamped legislature in 2016.

There are innovative ideas, too, such as the delegation of limited powers to the District Boards; and the setting up of umpteen new councils and committees to develop economics and eliminate poverty - and all this within the maintenance of Hong Kong's pre-eminence under the rule of law with a low tax structure and an international outlook.

It's all good visionary stuff.

No doubt legislative councillors, with their length and breadth of expertise, will pick the policy address to pieces in their usual inimitable style.

However in reality, whatever the merits and demerits of the promises made in the policy address, the litmus test of success lies in the government achieving meaningful progress and delivery within the next five years. Previous economic policies of past governments, colonial or otherwise, have largely maintained status quo under the philosophy of a small government.

The current policy under Leung is turning this around, seeking change while maintaining stability. The past laissez-faire policy is now stood on its head and changed to "being appropriately proactive".

Every change brings with it opportunities and risks. There will be difficulties, seen and unforeseen, ahead.

In Homer's Iliad, Achilles is a hero despite his imperfections. A true hero must be a courageous challenger despite overwhelming difficulties, whatever the cost. Who knows? If the many promises made in his policy address are realised, Leung could yet be our Achilles, against all odds.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien was secretary for health and welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a legislative councillor from 1995 to 1997