Dear Subscribers & Friends,
How is the Hong Kong Chief Executive (CE) Tung
Chee-hwa perceived in Beijing?
Beijing misses the point if
it thinks Hong Kong's discontent is mainly due to economics. The real reason for
1 July had to do with people feeling that the CE is shaping Hong Kong in a way
they don't support.
A. Hong Kong Sequel - Best Soap in
1. "Perfect Storm"
Opening: Week before 1 July - The fine summer
belies a simmering discontent that is about to flow over. The Secretary for
Security (SoS) looks forward to a rest and hands in her resignation to the CE on
25 June thinking that there will be no problem passing the Article 23 national
security legislation on 9 July. The government has the votes in LegCo to ram it
2. "We Love
Wen": 29 -30 June - Premier
Wen Jiaboa's visit to Hong Kong was designed to help prop up the CE's
popularity. Wen comes bringing a gift - to sign CEPA [preferential trade
agreement]. Wen's visit reflects poorly on the CE - it makes people see the
CE's inadequacies as a political leader even more starkly but Wen is highly
popular with Hong Kong people.
July 2003 - Wen watches the protest on TV in Shenzhen.
Everyone is shocked by the 500,000 protesters against the Article 23
legislation. Worse, they call for the CE to step down.
4. "Feeling the Heat":
1-4 July - Legislators supporting the
Article 23 legislation feel uncomfortable. Leader of the Liberal Party, James
Tien [member of the CE's cabinet] requests to go to Beijing. His
party prefers the passage of the legislation to be delayed. Upon his
return on 3 July, he gives the impression that there may be flexibility in
Beijing's position on timing.
5. "Tung's Flip
Flop": 5-7 July - The CE
announces on 5 July concessions on the content of the legislation but not
on timing. Tien resigns late evening 6 July. Tung announces early morning 7 July
that he decided to delay passsage as he could not be assured
of passing the legislation.
6. "Homework for
Beijing": 6-13 July -
Beijing switches its attention to understanding what happened in Hong
Kong. Why is our intelligence so poor? Mainland officials from many units
come to "find out" via all channels they have and report to Beijing. On 9 July,
50,000 people gathered at LegCo to ask for a faster pace of democratic reform.
On 13 July, 15,000-20,000 people did the same.
Happiness": 16-17 July -
The ICAC [corruption investigation agency] hands in a report to the Secretary
for Justice (SoJ) on the Financial Secretary (FS) over "Lexus-gate". Was there
criminal culpability? The SoS resigns on 16 July followed by the FS two hours
later. The CE announces an hour later that he will go to Beijing on 19
8. "Good Show in
Beijing": 19 July - Top Chinese leaders give
the CE "face" in Beijing and declare their support for him.
1. Hu and
Wen: Together they represent the head of the CCP and the Chinese
Government. The CE also met other top leaders. Beijing decided that it was
necessary to show support to the CE because he is in deep trouble having lost
all credibility in Hong Kong and overseas.
2. Out of
Expectation: Beijing never anticipated it may need to replace
the CE because of sheer incompetence. It also did not truly
understand the depth and breadth of discontent in Hong Kong although it
already got win over the years that people in the left, right and centre had
gotten fed up with the CE.
Reasons: It has been easier for Beijing to understand Hong
Kong's problems through reasons other than the CE's own personality. Reasons
such as (a) uncooperative civil servants; (b) a bad economy; (c) the democrats;
(d) foreign governments meddling; (e) unsympathetic media; and (f) all of the
above, appeared more persuasive than the possibility that Beijing had chosen the
wrong person for the job.
4. Just not
ready: Beijing is not ready to replace Tung:
(a) Impact on
Mainland: Replacing Tung because of public pressure sets a bad
precedent because it shows Beijing made a mistake in choosing him.
(b) No immediate
replacement: Beijing thought it had time to sound out
CE-candidates for 2007. It didn't anticipate that it would need someone else in
mid-2003, only a year after Beijing had reconfirmed him for a 2nd term.
(c) Do what we
know: Hence, Beijing is doing what it knows best, which is to
show the strongest symbolic support when it knows the cookie is crumbling, while
thinking about what it can do without outright controlling Hong Kong, which
would destroy "one country, two systems".
(d) Things under
(i) What to do with
Article 23? - The preference is still to pass something but
unlikely Beijing has concluded how/when it must be done because it would
require friends in LegCo [pro-government parties, and in particular the DAB] to
sacrifice their electoral opportunities in the LegCo 2004 election.
(ii) Play economic
card - The constant reference to CEPA and for the CE to work
hard on improving the economy show the underlying belief that if the economy
improves, everything else will improve.
(iii) Advice to
CE - Beijing supports the CE casting his net wider to bring
people into the cabinet and consultative committees to show that the CE has
support from people of credibility in the community. The problem here is that
the CE has such a poor reputation in how he works that people may be unwilling
to work with him. Beijing may need to urge people directly: "Your country needs
(iv) Leopard changing
spots?: The CE announced on 18 July before going to Beijing that
he will consult more widely and learn from his mistakes. The question is whether
he can really do so or whether he lacks fundamental capacity in this area.
Currently, the option seems unavailable that the CE hands power over to someone
else in the cabinet and leaves himself as the ceremonial head as the
constitutional framework is not designed for this to happen.
The reason so much seems to
hinge on the CE's personality is that Hong Kong people believe the CE has over
the last 6 years been turning Hong Kong into something they don't recognize.
His decisions indicate
a low level of professionalism, impulsive decision-making, favouristim,
elitist arrogance based on wealth and not ability, poor use of talent, and
Civic Exchange - HK's Independent think