Hong Kong leader has mapped out the road ahead but falls short of how to negotiate the potholes
Leung Chun-ying’s policy address offers the right direction but few solutions on how to tackle local, national and global challenges
Despite having only 18 months left in his current term, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is keen to show that he still has a lot to offer. His fourth policy address is rich in directions for Hong Kong’s development but short on solutions to some controversial issues. Entitled “Innovation for the Economy, Improve Livelihood, Foster Harmony, Share Prosperity”, the two-hour speech was packed with accomplishments and new commitments on various fronts: from the 13th national five-year plan and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to public toilets and bus stop facilities; from a ban on the ivory trade to a review on asylum seekers; and from free kindergarten education to more Wi-fi hot spots, the catch-all approach makes the address the longest in recent years.
The emphasis on developing the innovation industry and the “Belt-Road” initiative – mentioned dozens of times in the speech – has set the right development directions. They are set to be the city’s new engines of growth. The initiatives in education, health care and environment can also help improve people’s livelihood. New public and private housing supply will reach 97,100 and 87,000 units, respectively, in the next few years. They echoed the tasks entrusted to Leung by President Xi Jinping (習近平).
READ MORE: Three surprises and two omissions: Leung Chun-ying’s last full-term Hong Kong policy address
The initial reaction was mixed, with some praising Leung for being pragmatic and others saying the speech was Leung’s worst, as it lacked solutions to some long-standing problems.
Leung apparently steered clear of political hot potatoes, such as the disappearance of booksellers, the co-location of customs and clearance facilities for the future cross-border high-speed railway and intensifying Hong Kong-mainland tensions. He also did not dwell on issues like retirement protection, standard working hours legislation and the offsetting mechanism for long service payment under the mandatory provident fund scheme, which were all were part of his election platform in 2012.
Leung said he would strive to provide favourable conditions for fostering social harmony. This has to be matched with concrete actions. The political divide arising from the 2014 Occupy protests remains as wide now as it was then. The tension will surge further when the debate on his outstanding election promises intensifies in the coming months.
Finding the right direction is just the beginning. The real challenge is to steer Hong Kong through the uncertainties arising from the economic slowdown and stock market turmoil on the mainland and the bleak global outlook.