Andrew Leung has the credentials to be Legco president – by default

The job needs someone with a thick skin who is willing to be high-handed, play rough and pull the trigger, and the chairman of the house committee has proved he has these qualities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 12:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 12:54am

Three establishment lawmakers have joined the fight to be the next Legislative Council president. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, Paul Tse Wai-chun and Michael Tien Puk-sun have put their hands up. The pan-democrats are expected to field at least one candidate, but he or she has about as much chance of winning as running in a chief executive election.

So if the line-up doesn’t change in coming days, Leung is the shoo-in. That’s because, of the three, he is the only safe pair of hands as far as Beijing and the government are concerned. Both Tse and Tien are considered politically unreliable.

As the highest-ranking – and highest-paid – lawmaker, the Legco president gets to prioritise legislative agendas, monitor and rule on debates over bills and approve motions tabled by fellow legislators. He or she is supposed to ensure the smooth workings of the chamber.

But to do that, you need a reasonably cooperative legislature. And though the post is expected to be held by a Beijing loyalist, the two previous presidents, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, had the respect of mainstream pan-democrats or were at least taken seriously by them.

Beijing chats up Hong Kong lawmakers to learn views on who should lead them in Legco

Fat chance of that happening with the new legislature starting next month. The pan-democratic camp now has 30 seats, at least a third of which are being held by localists or those with localist sympathies. They are likely to try every trick in the book to make life difficult for the government. Filibustering and other delaying tactics against bills and budgets – not to say protests, disruptions and physical confrontations – are likely to be more frequent rather than less.

For the next president, you need someone with a thick skin who is willing to be high-handed, play rough and pull the trigger.

As chairman of the house committee, Leung has proved his mettle and earned the enmity of pan-democratic politicians by cutting them off and undermining their agenda. Tien says the next president should be popularly elected. That may be so but Leung’s party, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, ties with the Democratic Party as the second largest in the new Legco, with each holding seven seats. And, as house chairman, he was the No 2 lawmaker after the president in the last Legco. You can’t say he doesn’t have the credentials.