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May 16th, 2012:

Concerns surface about HK chief exec’s ties to Beijing

Amid cheers for quick action on some issues, CY looks a bit too close to the masters across the border, reports Asia Sentinel

The majority of Hong Kong’s 7.1 million people were happy that Leung Chun-ying won the small-circle competition to become the territory’s next chief executive against a clearly incompetent opponent. But as July 1 approaches – the date for his installation in power — worries are mounting about what he stands for and whether he is more than just a smart, well-programmed Beijing apparatchik.

Hong Kong’s Chief Eexecutive elect Leung Chun-ying. Pic: AP.

For sure, CY, as he is generally known, is getting a good press for his promise of quick action to increase housing and land supply and in particular to increase production of public rental housing. The latter is urgently needed as high private-sector prices, themselves partly the result of minimal supply and developer land-hoarding, have forced many households to abandon any idea of ownership and to look to the low-cost, public rental sector. There is also a huge need for cheap accommodation for the rapidly growing number of old people currently living in dismal circumstances such as cage homes.

Leung also looks set to move for quick action on other issues of public concern such as pollution, to which the current administration of Donald Tsang has devoted much talk and precious little action. Hopes are high that Leung’s political appointees will be able to take decisions and ensure that they are implemented. Daily public appearances and speeches have given the impression of Leung as a hands-on leader at ease with the public and ready to press the flesh in markets and housing estates.

However, another side to his personality is also coming to the fore, which is likely to become a matter of contention. He has not only proposed a major reorganization of the government but insisted that it be in place very soon – preferably before he takes office and certainly before the current Legislative Council session ends in late July. With legislative elections due in September, the new legislature will not meet till after that.

Leung is presenting the changes as a necessary part of pushing for more pro-active government. However, critics reasonably ask whether enough thought and discussion has gone into the proposals. There is even a question of whether Leung himself initiated them or they were handed down to him by Beijing string-pullers. The fact is that Leung has no experience of government, no experience of the civil service and no experience of being popularly elected.

The proposals are supposed to speed decision-making by creating two new senior political posts of deputy chief secretary and deputy financial secretary. Some bureaus would report directly to either the Chief Secretary or Financial Secretary, others (including education) only to their deputies. The proposals involve a total of some 50 new posts costing HK$72 million a year. Whether this extra layer of political appointees and decision makers would speed decision-making is questionable, as is the political motivation behind it.

C.Y. may have role planned for city’s environment chief

Howard Winn
May 16, 2012

Speculation is mounting that Edward Yau Tang-wah, the secretary for the environment, is in line for a job in chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’s administration. This may come as a surprise, since his performance has been widely perceived as less than stellar. Should he ever speak about what has been a miserable experience, he will no doubt say that his hands were tied by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who had no desire to move on issues such as improving air quality since this could prevent pet infrastructure projects from going ahead. As a result, Yau spent five years sitting on his hands and when he couldn’t avoid it, fudging environmental issues in the Legislative Council. The big surprise is that he is apparently being considered for director of the Chief Executive’s Office, a position held by Professor Gabriel Leung. He has done a stint as director of government information. Another candidate for this job, according to the speculation, is Richard Yuen Ming-fai, who since last September has been permanent secretary for food and health. If Leung is looking for someone who does what he’s told, Yau is his man.