Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Help, Hong Kong’s legislature has been taken over by amateurs

Alice Wu can hardly believe the missteps involving a document edit and a pro-establishment lawmaker who should have been known better – the latest in a series of scandals that has engulfed the current Legislative Council

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 May, 2017, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 May, 2017, 7:02pm

It has been a painful few months, watching amateurs from across Hong Kong’s political spectrum trip up over themselves. Can you imagine how our freshman Legislative Council president, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, would write his first annual report?

The Sixth Legislative Council, returned in September 2016, began with unprecedented chaos. I was elected president under trying circumstances, with some railing against my status of being “handpicked by Beijing” and opposition members staging a walkout. All the while, I was pinned under a cloud of suspicion over the renunciation of my British nationality.

“The Fifth Legislative Council saw the ‘significant milestone’ – in the words of my predecessor Jasper Tsang – of an expanded legislature. I think we top that milestone, by getting ourselves embroiled in a drama centred on the validity of oaths and the subsequent disqualification of two members. I was dragged through the mud. Just 14 days into my presidency, I was asked to step down .”

Rest assured that this will not be the version to go down in Legco history. The antics were amateurish, but we can trust the professional secretariat to present the account in a better light.

Not that it won’t be tough. Fresh material keeps surfacing for what will surely become the legislature’s Year of Living Amateurishly.

With several fresh faces unseating veterans in the election, the generational changing of the guards in the legislature was always going to be interesting. But how! It’s hard not to feel nostalgic for the “good old days” when professional politicians put on an entertaining show while managing to get very little done.

Why Hong Kong’s legislature is a world-class circus, run by clowns

So far this term, we saw the Leung Chun-ying government steamroll its way over Legco to get two members disqualified. Then there was the aborted proposal for a legal amnesty for those involved in the 2014 Occupy Central protests. The latest was an utterly stupid scandal involving a Microsoft Word edit over the scope of a Legco investigation into an undeclared HK$50 million Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received from Australia firm UGL. Holden Chow Ho-ding, who was vice-chairman of the Legco panel, made the mistake of letting Leung – the subject of the investigation – edit a panel document and submitting the changes to the panel, without telling the panel who made them.

The public can forgive a mistake, but conceit isn’t easily forgiven. Common sense would have put Chow in the spotlight, have him beat his chest, issue a loud “mea maxima culpa”, and bow out of the investigative panel as penance. But instead, Chow followed Leung’s lead in making excuses and pointing fingers, though he did quit in the end.

With friends like Holden Chow, who needs enemies?

Our legislature is no longer challenging because of its contentious nature. It is challenging because we have members who don’t know what they’re doing.

After the Legco election in September, political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung voiced his concerns over the influx of newcomers, fearing that the less skilled could be taken advantage of. Choy was talking about the pro-democracy camp, but, as we have seen, it’s universal.

So, it may be a good thing for Hongkongers that incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has reportedly been having trouble recruiting the new faces she promised for her administration. At this point, Hong Kong may not survive any more amateurs on the political scene. As for our legislators, some humility and a lot of hard work are in order.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA