Hong Kong 'becoming ungovernable without a ruling party'

As relations between the government and lawmakers worsen, analyst says the problem is HK's leader can't have any political affiliation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 5:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

The city is becoming "ungovernable", and the political system barring its leader from being a member of any party is to blame.

So says political scientist Dr Cheung Chor-yung, of City University. "It is not an overstatement to say that Hong Kong is becoming ungovernable. It is clear that the government is having great difficulties in pushing forward its policies," Cheung said.

"The current political system is designed so that no party, whether it holds the majority or not in the Legislative Council, can become a ruling party. There is no incentive for legislators to cooperate with the government."

The chief executive cannot be a member of any political party or do anything that has that effect, according to the ordinance.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is frequently criticised for not listening to the views of lawmakers. But political commentator Danny Fung Chun-chiu said the pan-democrats, who have shown increasing hostility towards Leung, should also take responsibility for the situation. "It takes two to tango and both [the legislature and the government] should be held responsible for [worsening relations]," he said.

Leung himself is not prepared to admit that relations have deteriorated, even after police had to be called into the Legislative Council chamber early this month when independent Wong Yuk-man hurled a glass in his direction. Wong was later arrested and released on bail. It came after other pan-democrats had staged a walkout at the start of the meeting. They wanted Leung to take seriously the huge turnout at the July 1 pro-democracy march. Yet Leung said last week: "There is no problem between the executive and legislative branches."

Leung's attitude was not helping, said Fung. "[Leung] may be part of the problem; if you don't think there's a problem, you won't try to resolve it."

The legislature has been almost paralysed by protests in recent months, with filibustering by radicals delaying voting on government proposals.

Cheung said the root of the problem was discontent with the political system, and distrust of Leung - who is seen by some as Beijing's man in Hong Kong. In the first seven months of his term, beginning July 2012, Leung faced a confidence vote in the legislature and an impeachment vote.

But the main source of conflict is Beijing's promise that the chief executive poll in 2017 will be the first held under universal suffrage, with many fearing that the city will end up with a watered-down version of democracy.

Some, like lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, of radical prodemocracy group People Power, are not prepared to compromise. "Unless we have genuine democracy, I see no way out," he said.

Chan's party has "declared war" with the government, vowing to stonewall any policies tabled in the legislature. That has left 17 funding requests facing a delay of at least three months - including three landfill extensions, an incinerator project and a low-income family allowance.

Legco's Finance Committee extended to Saturday its final meeting before the summer break to deal with a huge backlog of funding requests due to filibustering by Chan, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of People Power and Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the NeoDemocrats. They were trying to block of HK$340 million funds for new-town developments in the northeastern New Territories. The People Power duo, with Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats, had earlier delayed voting on the budget bill by tabling most of the 1,192 amendments that pushed the debate to 130 hours over 14 days.

Relations have also soured between the government and the pro-establishment Liberal Party since it refused to toe the line last year over free-TV licences. James Tien Pei-chun has said Leung is at risk of becoming a lame duck.