How much energy did Hong Kong’s pro-democrats burn up pursuing (now former) Chief Executive CY Leung’s HK$50 million UGL non-compete conflict-of-interest corruption scandal hoo-hah saga? Was it worth it?
Even if the ICAC and other authorities had wanted to nail the guy, CY was never in serious danger. However generous the sum might seem to ordinary folk, and however slimy and evil the individual, the payoff seems legit and unremarkable by oh-so fastidious business standards. It’s not CY’s fault that Hongkongers from humble backgrounds have to work their way up in the world through such tawdry professions as real-estate intermediary.
By making such a fuss about the payment and non-declaration-of-interest, the pro-dems added somewhat to the tarnishing of CY’s image, already plummeting nicely. The Holden Chow sub-plot, highlighting a pro-Beijing dimwit’s haplessness, was arguably worth some of the effort.
Of course, for two decades the pro-dems have channeled much of their determination into a fruitless fight for political reform and democracy. The ‘wolf hunt’ was a relatively minor campaign. But could they have made life harder for the government – and Beijing – by instead stirring up popular discontent on more down-to-earth issues like housing, schools and hospitals?
This is all in the past tense because the days of constitutional opposition are coming to an end. As Beijing tightens control, the Legislative Council’s powers to delay and question the government are being weakened, and loyalty tests will increasingly hinder even moderate pan-dems’ access to the forum. The irony is that, outside that formal structure, future opposition will not have the luxury of devoting time and energy to distractions like a CE’s non-compete agreements.