Make-or-break for Hong Kong leader CY Leung as he prepares to deliver his policy address
Leung Chun-ying has delivered on some promises but if he wants a second term in office, now is the chance for him to show his worth
The pressure for Leung Chun-ying to honour his election pledges has never been higher. On Wednesday, the chief executive will deliver his fourth policy address. It is also the last occasion for him to roll out a full year of initiatives and fulfil his promises. Intriguingly, the public does not appear to have high hopes of the remaining 18 months of his current term. If a recent survey is anything to go by, nearly half of the respondents said they had no expectations of the policy address. Against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive legislature in an election year, Leung may think a steady-as-it-goes approach is the safest strategy.
That does not mean Leung can sit back and do nothing, though. Lying prominently in his in-tray are the three tasks set out by President Xi Jinping (習 近平 ) during Leung’s recent duty visit to the capital. In the most unequivocal terms, the state leader urged Leung to foster economic development, improve livelihoods and maintain stability and harmony. The aspirations are also shared by the local community.
Routine as it sounds, the agenda given to the city’s leader is no easy task, especially as the mainland’s economic growth slows. How to capitalise on Hong Kong’s unique position to develop new engines of economic growth will be a major challenge.
Politically, social cohesion and cross-border conflicts remain an issue. The divide fuelled by the Occupy protests in 2014 still lingers, as reflected in the opposition to the appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as the head of the governing council of the University of Hong Kong. Indeed, the new year appears to have got off to a troubling start, with the “one country, two systems” principle being called into question following the mysterious disappearance of a handful of booksellers specialising in publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party. The controversies do not augur well for a smooth year ahead.
Having somewhat lowered the number living in poverty and introduced ambitious housing supply targets while chasing off speculators, Leung can arguably check a few items off his to-do list. But amid an ageing population and an acute housing shortage, the mission is not yet fully accomplished. He also has to work harder on other fronts, including a law on standard working hours, and the controversial offsetting mechanism for severance and long service payments under the mandatory provident fund scheme. He should seize the opportunity of the policy address to fulfil as many of his pledges as possible, especially if he is eyeing a second term.