Leung Chun-ying can't get away with relying on smart rhetoric forever, lawmakers and academics said after the new chief executive failed to impress on his debut question-and-answer session with lawmakers.
They accused Leung of playing with words rather than addressing questions - with perhaps the most flagrant example coming in an exchange with independent pan-democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo.
Leung first refused to answer Cheng's question about illegal structures at his home on The Peak, citing a court case challenging his election as chief executive on the grounds that he misled voters.
'I am a lawyer ... I feel your rejection absurd because the court is still deciding whether to take the case,' Cheng fired back.
'There is no reason you cannot answer this: did you build the flower bed after you had moved into your home?'
Leung replied: 'Cheng just mentioned a 'flower bed', his description was problematic - no 'flower bed' was involved in the whole incident.'
A trellis, rather than a flower bed, has been at the heart of questions about whether illegal structures at the house had been installed by Leung or the previous owner. But Leung did not address the question any further.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said the public would soon see through Leung's evasive rhetoric.
'His deployment of vocabulary to dodge the integrity problem is not an art but false make-up which will soon lose effect as the public gets used to it,' Lee said, while Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said Leung's handling of the question belonged in the playground, not the Legislative Council.
'Is he still in primary school? It was a childish and trivial way to handle the question. Yes he escaped from answering at that point, but the rhetoric could not help him to rebuild his integrity,' Ma said.
'People will soon get tired of his rhetoric and speculate about the real policy implications whenever he announces new plans.'
Ma said he expected the chief executive to carry on relying on rhetoric in the coming days.
Former legislator and Executive Council member Allen Lee Peng-fei said Leung's performance was flat and unsurprising. 'It was funny that he dodged all questions over the illegal structures by saying he 'did not know' and attributed it to 'serious negligence' - the integrity problems remain,' Lee said.
But he said Leung's performance demonstrated political skills beyond those of his predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, as he turned what was supposed to be a grilling about the scandals that have overshadowed his first fortnight in office into a mini-policy address.
'It was smart of him to distribute all those policy benefits today. But I expect there are more relief measures to come in October's policy address,' Lee said.
Leung's opening speech yesterday went on for 20 minutes, longer than those of his predecessors, and Legco president Tsang Yok-sing asked him to accommodate two extra questions in the 90-minute session to make up for it.