Hong Kong has an outgoing chief executive and one in waiting for the next three months. Evidently, there is much to be done and the challenges ahead are formidable. That is why Leung Chun-ying wasted no time in getting down to business a day after winning the top job. He has already met Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as well as the heads of the legislature and judiciary. He also paid a visit to the central government's liaison office. While Tsang and Leung pledged to work on a smooth transition, it is necessary to ensure there will not be two power centres at work.
It is not surprising that the series of meetings has raised some eyebrows in political circles. This is Hong Kong's first transfer of power through the ballot box since the handover. In 2005, Tsang, was returned uncontested to serve out the second term vacated by Tung Chee-hwa. Two years later, the veteran public servant then won a full five-year term to rule the city until June 30 this year. In short, there has been no need for a handover until now.
It is disturbing to see Leung meeting the liaison office a day after being elected. If the courtesy call at the three branches of government is a reminder that Leung will become the new master of the house, the meeting at the Liaison Office could fuel speculation about its role in future. Leung explained that he was there to sort out the arrangements for the appointment ceremony to be held in Beijing later and to discuss how to make better use of the support Beijing can offer. However, many who are wary of growing interference do not find the explanation convincing. Understandably, Leung would like to make an early start to ensure his government will be up and running when the term starts on July 1. This includes putting in place a governing team and hand-picking members for the Executive Council, his de facto cabinet and the city's highest decision-making body. The government has spent HK$8 million on a temporary office for the chief executive-elect and seconded a team of top civil servants to support him. All these are necessary steps to help Leung prepare for the office.
During the meeting yesterday, Tsang called on the people of Hong Kong to back the leader-in-waiting and vowed to render the necessary support to him. The pledge is needed, especially in the wake of the perceived bias in the way the government has handled Leung's alleged conflict-of-interest affairs during the election. Tsang has said the authority to govern rests with him until June 30. But in the meantime people will naturally turn to Leung for insights on the way forward. So far, Leung has not expressed disapproval about any major policies introduced by Tsang. It would be in Hong Kong's interest for the two of them to work on a smooth transition and avoid running two power centres in the coming months.