With less than 11 months left in office, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang decides to start thinking long-term. Or so he claims in the press release. If we assume that officials give the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of HK suggestions in advance about what to ask Donald to announce in his forthcoming policy address, it seems like business as usual: money-wasting infrastructure projects and shotgun-like spraying of cash all over the place.
The DAB’s wish-list asks for more public housing, more sports stadiums, some hare-brained monorail system and an array of ‘one-off’ subsidies that have become part of the welfare furniture. The policymaking methodology for the latter requires two columns. On the left is a list of dollar sums: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 8,000, etc. On the right is a list of targets: electricity users, public housing tenants, rates payers, students, the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the middle class, and so on. Pin the two lists to a wall, put on a blindfold, throw darts and bingo – policy proposals. Even so, they seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, dredging up such desperate-sounding ideas as free tai chi classes for the elderly.
Donald shouldn’t be a hard act to follow, but all the signs are that Beijing will choose a successor who will struggle to match him at best. The first tentative supporters of undeclared candidates for next Chief Executive are starting to speak out, though they are small potatoes with no influence and little to lose by backing the wrong horse.
First Barry Cheung, boss of the Urban Renewal Authority, expresses approval for CY Leung, an old buddy. Then accounting functional constituency legislator Paul Chan, also a friend (and not a member of any political grouping), says the same. Like Rita Fan, Leung doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. Unlike Rita, he actually has ideas, and to people who can see past, or at least stomach, the creepy appearance and long-held, authentic pro-CCP leanings (as opposed to the cynical conversion to shoe-shining Rita and Henry underwent) he looks far and away Hong Kong’s best hope of avoiding stagnation and social division. There’s not much time left, and they have to at least say something now. Worst case scenario a few years down the road: Henry has clearly become CE Disaster Number Three, and they can say “I told you so.”
Arguably more authoritatively, businessman and member of the 99% symbolic Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chan Wing-kee has now come out for Henry, more or less saying that, sure, the guy’s a bit dim but it won’t matter. Although there’s no reason to suppose WK Chan has any insider information, his attitude has a ring of Beijing-think about it. It’s the non-sequiturs: “He doesn’t talk much, but he has the ability to achieve many targets,” and “His family business is large scale but he gave it up to join the government.” You scratch your head, think “huh?” and move on none the wiser.
The South China Morning Post mentions that Hang Lung property boss Ronnie Chan has also voiced support for Leung, and dismissed the other two possibilities as dumb – if not by name. This would be noteworthy if Ronnie Chan weren’t a maverick bordering on clown who almost relishes unpopularity (openly refusing to donate to the bizarre government-tycoon Community Care Fund). Sadly, Ronnie Chan’s backing is not a good sign for Leung.