Whisper it softly – CY Leung may be back in 2022
The former chief executive has been working hard to insert himself into political rows, and the rumour is he wants to take up his old job again
Former city leader Leung Chun-ying might have felt a tinge of jealousy when he accompanied his former No 2 and current Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor at the opening of the cross-border express rail at the weekend. The cruel irony of Hong Kong politics had him accompanying Lam, instead of the other way around.
His successor now reaps the benefits of the many controversial battles he fought as chief executive. Among these is a neutered legislature, which enabled the quick passage of a bill for joint law enforcement with mainland officers at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.
It was Leung and his secretary for justice who did much of the heavy lifting in setting up the bureaucratic and legal procedures to screen election candidates and even disqualify winners. These were the precursors to banning the secessionist Hong Kong National Party this week.
But by earning the enmities of much of the public, he had to give up seeking a second term and effectively handed his job to Lam on a platter. So it’s not completely crazy that an old rumour is being recirculated that Leung wants his old job back in 2022.
He has been, puzzlingly, working hard to insert himself into political rows, such as his war of words with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for inviting National Party boss Andy Chan Ho-tin to talk about Hong Kong independence. He must have known Chan’s party would be banned before the month was out.
Still, he picked on the club’s lease with the government when Lam clearly didn’t want to make an issue of it, and stole her thunder by rounding on the FCC before Chan’s party ban.
What was not widely reported on the day of Chan’s speech were pro-China rallies outside the FCC calling for national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law and against separatism. They were rallying around Leung’s long-standing pet causes.
Lam might have gained control and placated critics by purging her administration of Leung loyalists, but she has also ruffled feathers. Leung’s favourite columnist, Wat Wing-yin, has been uncharacteristically attacking Lam over her mishandling of the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut.
During his tenure, Leung had to contend with the so-called Tang clique of powerful tycoons – named after his vanquished election rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen.
Now, it’s Lam’s turn to worry about a Leung clique whispering she is too soft and demanding every few weeks Article 23 legislation.
So, 2022 for Leung?