My Take

Is Hong Kong leader CY Leung damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t?

Former rival Henry Tang says some in Beijing consider Leung a ‘thorn’, while many in Hong Kong dislike him, but if you think Leung is bad, just imagine where we would be now if Tang had won the last election

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:53am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:53am

Sometimes you almost feel sorry for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. For many locals, he is no more than a Beijing puppet who gives away our autonomy, disenfranchises our citizens and alienates our youth.

But within elite Chinese circles, he is apparently considered “a thorn in their hearts” by pursuing discriminatory anti-mainland policies, according to his one-time political rival Henry Tang Ying-yen.

Tang, a former chief secretary and current member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said many senior mainland officials were deeply dissatisfied with Leung’s policies that unfairly targeted mainlanders in Hong Kong.

“[Leung’s policies] give mainland people the impression they are not welcome,” he said. “Officials have a thorn in their hearts and said we have hurt the feelings of our compatriots.

“In this respect, I am with them. We are one family. Even if there are some disputes over trade or tourists, we can always sit down and talk. We are like two brothers, there is no reason why we can’t talk it over.”

Tang was presumably referring to restrictions imposed on cross-border milk powder purchases, the ban on mainland women giving birth in the city and the crackdown on parallel traders from the mainland. There are also Leung’s anti-speculation measures, which have deterred many mainland buyers from the city’s property market.

These policies turn out to be reasonably effective. That is why few people – especially pan-democrats and young activists – talk about them lest Leung gets credit for them. He is, after all, supposed to be a complete sellout when it comes to standing up for the city’s interests.

Tang isn’t making up those complaints from the mainland; they have been voiced before. He does have a motive in repeating them because those policies are seen to have hurt the retail and hotel sectors. These are dominated by businesses controlled by some of our most famous tycoons who were among Tang’s biggest supporters for his failed bid to become chief executive.

Tang has called for extending the individual visitors scheme to more mainland cities beyond the current 49 to help revive those sectors most dependent on mainland tourists.

If you think Leung is bad, just imagine where we would be now if Tang had won the last election.