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taipan's SCMP column (Nov 9, 2012)  
Nov 9, 2012
Albert Cheng
SCMP - Government must act now on people’s concerns, not just pay lip service



Since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying assumed office four months ago, he has found himself embroiled in a series of controversies that were either stirred by him or his governing team of senior officials.


First, it was development minister Mak Chai-kwong charged with cheating on government housing allowances, followed by secretary for education Eddie Ng Hak-kim’s insistence to push ahead with the controversial moral and national education, causing widespread public discontent and eventually forcing the government to back down on the plan.


Then it was Paul Chan Mo-po accused of owning flats that were illegally subdivided and was later caught drink driving, which plunged him into a serious credibility crisis like his boss. Now we have executive councilor Franklin Lam Fun-keung getting entangled in another serious case of credibility crisis for selling two Mid-Levels flats just weeks before government measures were announced to cool the property market. The beleaguered councilor was then forced to take leave of absence from Exco for an indefinite period.


Now Leung and his administration have found themselves with not an ounce of credibility left. They probably have one of the lowest approval ratings in the history of the Special Administrative Region. If they were a strong and unified governing team, every member of the team would have helped each other and watched each other’s back.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor seems to have delusions of grandeur and an inflated sense of self-esteem. During a talk at the Chinese University last week, she insisted she has been serving the public in line with her conscience. If she had to rate her own performance on a scale of one to ten, she said she deserved full marks.


On the contrary, we have a chief executive engulfed by personal scandals and a string of controversies involving his senior officials – Chan and Lam. All three tried to shirk their responsibilities and distanced themselves from their own mistakes by laying the blame on their spouses, and thus they earned themselves an infamous reputation of being a so-called BMW gang. The acronym stands for “blame my wife”. How fitting! So in the eyes of the public and Carrie Lam, have the chief executive and his two senior officials not acted in line with their conscience?


She didn’t comment directly on her boss and colleagues, but she did admit that the administration is stuck in a rather sticky situation where it couldn’t forge ahead to implement policies without being confronted by strong public resistance. It’s all because people have lost their trust in government. Trust has to be earned and not taken for granted. There is a serious lack of trust in this government mainly because we have officials who have betrayed the people and abused their power. When people feel lied to and betrayed by the government, it will take a long time for them to trust again, if ever.


Carrie Lam certainly knows how to boost her popularity. She took the opportunity to point an accusatory finger at Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, saying his decision to offer HK$6,000 handouts to more than 6 million permanent residents last year was merely a strategic move to smooth relations with the Legislative Council. She said by giving in to populism and bending over backwards to accommodate their needs will set a bad precedent. She said what Tsang did had disrupted the government’s well-established monetary policy.


What she is trying to say is she is the best, the cleanest and the best loved and most admired senior official during this turbulent time.


But, is she really? Has she really got the people’s interests at heart? Is she guided by her conscience? Facts speak louder than words. When she was the development secretary in the last administration, she handled the illegal structure controversy rather underhandedly, applying different rules for different people. She gave more leeway to the rich and powerful rural residents than the ordinary citizens in the urban areas. So where were her principles and conscience at that time?


Furthermore, when her boss’s election rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen was found to have illegal building structures at his Kowloon Tong mansion, she went after him her boss was exposed to have illegal structures at his Peak mansion, she went after him mercilessly. Then when boss was found to have illegal structures at his Peak home, she turned the other way. If this is not double standards, what is? How dare she claim she is fair and serves the public in line with her conscience!


When Mak was first accused of cheating the government of housing allowances, she, without obtaining a full picture, came all out to defend him. And when charges were laid against Mak, she questioned the competence of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and criticized it for disrupting the effective governance of the administration. How ridiculous!


That was a total disregard of Hong Kong people’s core values and our well-established system. It also had a damaging effect on efforts to promote anti-corruption and a clean government culture.


She acknowledges that the public does not trust the government because it often goes against the wishes of the people. She knows it’s important to consult and work with the people, but she often does the opposite. Even when she consults the public on important issues and policies, she will still ignore the results and their demands at the end of the day. No matter how important it is to reach a consensus in order to implement certain policies, she refuses to listen, negotiate or compromise.


Her combatant style is not an effective way to run a government especially when it doesn’t have the mandate of the people. She obviously doesn’t have the interests of the people at heart. All she wants is to build a strong and trustworthy reputation to win support from the central government. Her ultimate goal is to take over the top job and replace her boss. The people of Hong Kong are not blind or irrational. They know Lam and her boss are two of a kind and that both are responsible for the mess we are in at the moment. Lam can’t fool anyone but herself.