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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
NewsHong Kong

Exco has been losing power and authority since handover, says Legco chief Tsang

Jasper Tsang says city's troubled policy-making body has been losing power since the handover and calls for review of its make-up and function

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 12:07pm

The city's core policy-making authority, the Executive Council, has been losing power since the handover and its function and composition must reviewed, the head of the legislature has urged.

His suggestion follows last week's resignation of Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who is being investigated by police in connection with his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange. Another Exco member, Franklin Lam Fan-keung, has been on indefinite leave of absence since November after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said Exco was not living up to its past role.

"During British rule, the Executive Council was a body with actual power. [Its members] had a strong say in front of the governor; their words carried a lot of weight," said Tsang, who sat on the executive councils of former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. "There was a rule that if the governor reached a decision contrary to the majority view in Exco, he needed to ... give specific reasons on record, which would be seen by the British government. Today, we can't see the Executive Council performing the same function," Tsang said.

Exco's website still says that if the chief executive does not accept its majority opinion, he needs to put the specific reasons on record. And the Basic Law stipulates that Exco is the body responsible for helping the chief executive make policy decisions.

Tsang noted that the number of Exco members and the ratio between officials, lawmakers and people from public life were "completely unregulated".

"The chief executive decides solely who sits on Exco and when to terminate their appointments," Tsang said.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a current member, said Exco's power had "diminished in the face of a rise in de facto party politics".

"In the old days, when Exco made a decision, that was it. Because Legco was appointed, we can't expect Exco [now] to function with the same decisiveness and authority."

Professor Ma Ngok, of the Chinese University, said Exco had become a "political reward" for the chief executive's supporters, resulting in a loss of authority.

The Chief Executive's Office said Leung "is willing to listen to" views on Exco's operation.

Meanwhile, Jasper Tsang said there was no need to improve on Exco's "already stringent" rules on declaration of interests.

Barry Cheung ignored questions from reporters as he left his Repulse Bay home last night.


Exco members then and now

Some members of Chris Patten's Exco

Baroness Dunn non-executive deputy chairman, HSBC
Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen first Chinese executive director at HSBC
Sir William Purves chairman, HSBC Holdings
Andrew Li Kwok-nang Queen's Counsel, later first post-handover chief justice


Some members of Leung Chun-ying's Exco

Barry Cheung Chun-yuen chairman, HKMEx (resigned on Friday)
Franklin Lam Fan-keung founder, HKGolden50 think-tank (on indefinite leave)
Cheung Chi-kong executive director, One Country Two Systems Research Institute
Starry Lee Wai-king DAB lawmaker
Laura Cha Shih May-lung first non-mainlander as vice-chairperson of the China Securities Regulatory Commission


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This article is now closed to comments

The majority of the public do not like an Exco which is far removed from the people, some of whose members appear to be sadly lacking in basic honesty, and which has a dearth of genuine talent. The people of Hong Kong do not trust a government in the pocket of tycoons. They also fear that insidious mainland influence will overwhelm the institutions which protect civil liberties, human rights and freedoms. In China, force, not consensus, ultimately rules policy. We don't want that here, but it seems our leaders are too paralysed with obsequiousness to stand up for us.
What is wrong with EXCO is a lack of integrity. Exco members under British rule were not selected according to cronyism or self-interest. What has happened more and more since the handover, is the growth of a system of cronyism, particularly under the last Chief Executive. This still goes on because the present CE does not seem able to break away from the clique which entrenched itself, many of whom are only there to serve special interests. Then there is also the malign influence of Beijing and the Liaison Office which has neither respect for nor understanding of open, honest government accountable to the public. Hong Kong is now ruled from behind high security fences and closed doors by self-appointed pocket emperors.
All those who think the Exco has structural problem is dead wrong. The members should be selected by the Chief Executive no less than a US president picks his cabinet members. You need a like-minded team to push an agenda effectively. The Exco is not exactly a legislative body where different opinions are built within the system. My concern is more if there is enough number of insiders left who are able and clean. The near future of Exco I am afraid of the political climate we are in that undermining CY Leung by digging up dirt any chance could have by opponents is not encouraging. The last CE election seems hasn’t stopped perhaps until a change of CE. A revisit to Tung’s resignation? Perhaps CY Leung must draw outsiders for a change and hope not again a rotten apple to help him to govern. Exco system is still sound with check and balance.
The President of Legco shouldn't talk so much and become like all the legco members. Look in the mirror and into your own cupboards and count the hidden skeletons. It is a typical HK habit for politicians to take the holier than thou moral high ground when they are themselves guilty of misdemeanors and illegal acts.
That said, it is true that the number of investigations and charges launched against friends, people he put in high office and close supporters makes me wonder what kind of shady people our CE likes and associates with. Almost every kind of connection since his campaign days to now seems to be tainted with some kind of wrongdoing.
Maybe his case is not the exception but the rule - all our politicians and people in high office and public posts have something to hide and are at least petty wrongdoers or worse. They keep going at someone else and talking until something happens or someone spills the beans to reveal all their own dirty linen.
I expect a continuous leak of this poison but hope it will rid us of some of the troublesome canker which seem to enjoy auto-immune reflectors.
hard times !
If even the chief executive himself has lost both power and authority and has become a laughing stock to certain extent and suffering from a popular rating of just 28% or even lower, how can we expect our so-called policy-making body---the Executive Council not to lose its power and authority ? Right ? Maybe what Legco president,Jasper Tsang said was right: it is time for the Exco to have its make-up and function to be seriously reviewed as it is much inferior to the Exco during the British rule when then the Exco members' words carry heavy weight and were advisors to the Governor in town, not to say their status and position were highly respected ! Ask current affairs commentator,Mr.Li peng-fei for confirmation !


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