This may be hard to believe, but I actually feel sorry for CY Leung

Chief executive has the best of intentions on public housing supply but comedy of errors means his political career could be at an end

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 9:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 9:13am

Just as you think Leung Chun-ying’s popularity couldn’t fall any further, the Wang Chau saga may well have sealed his political fate. We may be seeing the unravelling of his bid for a second term as chief executive even before it formally started.

Leung has finally owned up that he was solely responsible for making the decision to drastically scale down the public housing development project in Yuen Long from 17,000 units to just 4,000, while leaving the balance to be built in phases. This was after he tried to spin his way out of the controversy.

He made housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung take the rap for “informally consulting” with village strongmen who may have direct financial interests in illegally occupying some of the land earmarked for the development. Then he hinted that Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah might have a role in dividing the development into three phases, something which many informed people have never heard of.

But leak after leak to the news media – no doubt provided by at least one government insider – made it impossible for Leung to maintain his cover story.

His taking responsibility for the decision is essentially an admission of guilt, however much he may deny it. But instead of seeing this fiasco as an example of corruption or collusion between the government and rural powers, it’s more of a failure of will.

Leung’s housing policy to jump-start the supply of flats is absolutely necessary. And targeting so-called brownfields – as is the case with Wang Chau – for housing development is in the right direction. But the rural New Territories and its representative body, the Heung Yee Kuk, is one of the few supportive constituents the Leung administration has left.

Leung and his closest aides didn’t realise the length to which the kuk’s cronies would go in demanding their pound of flesh in return for their support.

He started off with the laudable intention of increasing public housing supply in one go in Wang Chau, only to cave in the face of hardball opposition from rural strongmen.

Many people believe Leung is a villain. I rather think he is a bit of a tragic hero with deep flaws as a leader.

He almost broke down at the end of the press conference on Wednesday when he said every attempt to increase housing supply was made through tough work. I felt sorry for him.