The man who ran Leung Chun-ying's election campaign has dismissed suggestions that his administration is in crisis and says Leung can overcome what he called 'difficulties'.
Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, an executive councillor, told the South China Morning Post yesterday the administration was not facing a crisis despite seven cabinet members being mired in controversy.
'It's not a crisis. Obviously he is encountering difficulties. But they can be overcome,' Cheung said.
Five cabinet members are embroiled in a storm over illegal structures at properties they own: commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung, education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, health minister Dr Ko Wing-man, and Exco members Cheung Hok-ming and Bernard Chan.
Leung, who is facing doubts over his own integrity after the discovery of six illegal structures at his homes on The Peak - may also lose the head of his cabinet, Lam Woon-kwong, and Secretary for Development Mak Chai-kwong. Mak is accused of abusing government housing allowance more than 20 years ago, while conflict-of-interest concerns have arisen over Lam's dual role as Executive Council convenor and Equal Opportunities Commission chairman.
Cheung suggested an action plan to put out the fires. First Leung must fully explain his illegal structures. 'I believe people without bias will accept his explanation if he gives details of the story,' he said. Leung should also make the most of opportunities to show his determination to defend the city's core values.
On freedom of speech, Cheung agreed the police overreacted to a reporter who shouted a question about the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown at President Hu Jintao during his visit for the 15th anniversary of the handover. The Apple Daily reporter was held in a stairwell for 15 minutes.
Cheung said the government should start tackling real issues such as poverty and the shortage of affordable housing. 'By focusing on the right issues, the government will bring back the trust of the people.'
He conceded town hall meetings by Leung's team could be improved by addressing issues such as who is invited and who asks questions.
Cheung pledged after the election to make sure Leung listened to the public. But he himself appeared not to be doing so, to judge by comments attributed to him after the July 1 march. 'The high turnout proved Leung's vision that the city needs change,' he was quoted as saying.
Yesterday Cheung said: 'I didn't mean people who joined the march are Leung's supporters. I only saw their desire for change, and it's what Leung has proposed.'
He denied blindly protecting Leung, who he says is the city's best hope for change.
Cheung, who is chairman of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange and the Urban Renewal Authority, said: 'I have seen the results from the urban renewal process and I feel compelled to improve life in the city and to give people hope. I have been sincere. I have not changed.'