One speech, one belt, and wi-fi for all: CY Leung stretches it out

Alex Lo reviews the Chief Executive’s policy speech and finds its connections to Hong Kong’s community, China’s policy and ongoing controversy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

The Chief Executive, who is always banging on about technology and innovation, has promised to double the number of “hotspots” for free internet connection around the city to 34,000. The idea is to make Hong Kong one of the most “connected” cities in the world. It’s not just more, but also better and faster connection.

Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

Coupled with an initiative to provide seating at bus stops around town, you can already see people lingering for hours, not waiting for buses but playing with their phones.

For sure, there are long sections in his policy speech about the rise of our city as a yuan hub and mainland integration. But in an age where people are glued to their smartphone screens, what do you think people really care about?

Meanwhile, Leung and his translators show real courage by challenging the central government. No, I don’t mean the Lee Bo affair in which five booksellers are missing, presumed by some to be under detention on the mainland. It is that they have now shortened Beijing’s one-belt-one-road initiative to just belt-and-road.

Alas, pro-government lawmakers and key officials have no such luxury; many visibly struggle to keep up and stay awake.

It’s not clear if Leung had obtained prior approval. Beijing may not take kindly to the renaming. But while we are at it, why not just call it B&R? Yes, that might prove confusing to some, but no one really knows what the one-belt-one-road initiative is really about anyway.

An extra HK$1 billion will be injected into existing scholarships for university students from countries covered by B&R. So expect not just more mainland students but those from faraway places that end with –stan. Our xenophobic localists will surely welcome such a development.

Overall, the speech is distinguished by its length. It was budgeted for more than two hours, with a merciful 10-minute break. There are, unfortunately, no political fireworks like last year when he denounced localism, separatism and various related –ism by singling out Undergrad, a student magazine produced by naughty students at the University of Hong Kong.

Given its length, we wonder if that’s the real reason pan-democratic lawmakers keep up their protests in the legislative chamber. By interrupting, pan-dems such as “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip get ejected from the chamber and so are spared the full speech.

Alas, pro-government lawmakers and key officials have no such luxury; many visibly struggle to keep up and stay awake.

Leung should have taken a page from Barack Obama. The President’s final state of the union address, which addressed significantly weightier global issues, lasted just 58 minutes.

If Leung does run for a second term, as he has hinted he will, we suggest he promise to keep future addresses to under an hour.