Although nothing is official yet, Chief Executive-elect CY Leung’s administration is starting to materialize in the form of rumour and anonymous sources (in print here and here). It seems to be the inevitable way of things in Hong Kong. The government-in-waiting has to clear top-level appointments with Beijing, and any appointees with foreign passports will have to ditch their barbarian citizenship. Assuming the unattributed mutterings are true…
Secretary for Development Carrie Lam will be Chief Secretary. She was also tipped for the post before CY’s rival Henry Tang fell from grace with the celestial authorities, reflecting the universal acceptability of a Type O negative, capable technocrat and civil servant. She is also popular with the public; no real reason – she just doesn’t irritate people as much as most of her peer group.
One of Carrie’s big moments was a couple of years ago. CE Donald Tsang had no policies to put in his policy address, and she proposed preserving several older buildings around Central (Central Market, the old Hollywood Road police barracks, etc). Sir Bow-Tie thought the idea was deranged; the whole purpose of the Hong Kong government, after all, is to enlarge its financial reserves by selling land for development. But it was the nearest thing to a policy he could find, and the rest is history – in stone.
Financial Secretary John Tsang will be… Financial Secretary. Millions of people dance with joy in the streets of Hong Kong this morning on the realization that they will still be getting their annual fiscal entertainment: the mind-bogglingly inaccurate government surplus/deficit forecasts and the absurd one-off handouts scattered around to everyone at budget time every year, for want of anything else to do with all the cash. Or will that change? It will be interesting to see what difference a new big boss makes.
In theory, this symbol of continuity is supposed to help the process of ‘reconciliation’ between the tycoon-supported Donald Tsang faction and the uppity populist outsiders who comprise the new regime. Personally, I think the less reconciliation takes place, the more fun we will have. The FS’s number-one job now will be fixing the housing problem, which could offer an interesting test of reconciliation with property barons. The SCMP article makes a fuss over how John Tsang is a major free-markets freak. There is no evidence for this in practice. The division of one commerce bureau (under the FS) into two focusing on specific sectors like technology and tourism looks like a precursor to a more interventionist approach. Maybe John will not last out the whole five-year term.
(A subject for another time is the bigger context: a trend in the developed world toward mercantilism-as-ideologically-acceptable in response to growing wealth gaps and the statism/corporatism of emerging economies. This would support CY’s presumed intention to try to pick winners and to lobby Beijing for privileged local access to the Mainland economy.)
The Deputy CS will be Lam Woon-kwong, who for a former civil servant is quite an interesting guy, and not just because of his seen-with-woman-at-hotel-in-Tokyo problem years back. Eyes rolled when he parachuted in as boss of the Equal Opportunities Commission because he was obviously a government yes-man aiming to curb the trouble-making body. Instead, he suddenly got into ethnic minorities and gay rights. His portfolio is likely to include labour, education, culture and population policy, which offer lots of opportunities for a pro-underdog, liberal do-gooder. Maybe he is CY’s token non-jackboot-authoritarian. At least those crumbling schools full of Nepalese kids might get a lick of paint.
The Deputy FS will be Ceajer, or Professor KC, Chan. He is currently a joint number-two to the FS anyway, and probably a highly qualified and indeed endlessly fascinating person. (Is it a misspelling of Caesar? Interestingly, CY has an aide called Kaizer (Lau Ping-cheung of ‘triad dinner’ fame). The German word ‘Kaiser’ is of course descended from the Latin ‘Caesar’, and so is the Russian ‘Czar/Tsar’, so will CY hire someone called, say, ‘Tzar’ to make the trio complete? Just wondering.)
The Standard says Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lung will be replaced, because of his opposition to ‘interpretation’ by Beijing of the Basic Law, by pro-Beijing former Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen SC. The implication is that Yuen has no qualms about the bizarre process whereby Beijing amends Hong Kong’s constitution by declaring the wording to have new and hitherto hidden meanings. The method must have Leninist origins, and Rimsky is of course a Russian name (as in composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), which is all rather ominous. On a brighter note, maybe he knows someone called ‘Tzar’.