Leung rejects call for Exco reform and says he will not replace Barry Cheung
Chief executive says body has 'evolved' and he will not replace HKMEx founder Barry Cheung
Tony Cheung and Gary Cheung
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has dismissed the need to reshuffle the Executive Council and replace Barry Cheung Chun-yuen after his resignation.
Leung also stressed that his earlier decision to reappoint Cheung as chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority had been "fair and normal".
Cheung stepped down from all his public posts on Friday after police interviewed him in their inquiry into his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.
Leung's comments came after calls from Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and lawmakers for reform.
Tsang said Exco, the core policymaking authority, had been losing power since the handover and its functions and composition should be reviewed.
On Sunday, the Chief Executive's Office said Leung was "willing to listen" to views on Exco's operations. But Leung emphasised yesterday that Exco had "evolved" since the handover and that meetings were "smooth and efficient".
He said: "In my administration, [Exco's] involvement has been deeper [than before], and they took part in formulating policies at an earlier stage."
He also dismissed speculation that he could seek a replacement for Cheung from the business sector.
"The vacancy question doesn't exist because there wasn't a requirement on the number of non-official members … I don't have a plan to appoint anyone into Exco or to reshuffle it," Cheung said. Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party, had earlier called for a replacement for Cheung, but said she respected Leung's decision.
Ip also suggested the political atmosphere had changed since the handover, so it was difficult to compare the Executive Council before 1997 and afterwards.
But Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun, a former executive councillor, said Exco "made people feel it is just a rubber stamp". Leung evaded a question about whether he knew Cheung was in financial difficulty when he reappointed him URA chairman less than two months ago.
He said only that the reappointment was made according to normal procedure.
Leung also said he knew nothing about rumours Beijing might be considering replacing him.
Allen Lee Peng-fei, a political commentator and a former deputy to the National People's Congress, said he was contacted by a mainland friend with direct links to the central government.
"My friend asked me to give him possible candidates who would be able to replace Leung," Lee said. "I did give him a name a few weeks ago, but he told me that the mainland authorities found the person unacceptable."
Lee said the central government knew well the problems with Leung and his team.
According to the University of Hong Kong's latest poll, Leung's public satisfaction rating has slipped 2.3 points to 46.7 points.
Of the 1,023 respondents, 44 per cent were dissatisfied with the government's performance - a rise of 8 percentage points - with only 26 per cent satisfied.