Tsang hides his seat

Tsang hides his seat

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Leung Chun-ying makes veiled attack on administration, but denies he is electioneering

By Gary Cheung

In what's seen as a veiled attack on the Tsang administration and positioning for the next chief executive election, Leung Chun-ying - convenor of the Executive Council - has called for the government to show vision, plan for the future and engage the people directly.

In an online article published a week after Premier Wen Jiabao urged the administration to resolve "some deep-rooted conflicts" in Hong Kong, Leung also urged the government to address long-standing land and housing policies that made homes expensive and "painfully small".

Allen Lee Peng-fei, a former deputy to the National People's Congress, said Leung's remarks, in the latest issue of the online Hong Kong Journal, a Washington-based quarterly, sounded like a manifesto for the 2012 chief executive race, and showed a lack of respect for Donald Tsang Kam-yuen, the chief executive.

Leung wrote that the government should engage the public more actively. "Our society has unnecessarily allowed legislators to insert themselves between the government and Hong Kong people. The government should engage Hong Kong people directly, relate effectively with the people, and ensure people recognise that their concerns are understood and being acted upon," Leung wrote in the article, titled Needed in Hong Kong: A Policy Vision.

The administration should be seen to build policies in a visionary way and plan for the long term, he wrote. "It should articulate a policy vision that can be evaluated or supported by the Hong Kong population, and serve as the basis on which all policy initiatives can be understood and endorsed."

In societies with party politics, this essential political role is performed by means of party manifestos, he noted. "Hong Kong may lack a party political process to elect and then support its future governments, but this does not mean there is no need for a manifesto - a policy vision."

Leung's comments came a little over a week after Wen told Tsang during a meeting in Beijing on December 28 that Hong Kong should start to plan for the future and resolve some deep-rooted conflicts.

Leung said his remarks did not amount to criticism of the Tsang administration. "I was only talking about my expectation of the government and the areas where there is room for improvement," he said. The Exco convenor, who wrote the article at the request of the Journal, also denied it was a de facto election manifesto.

He said the city needed to step up efforts to cultivate ties with the central government and mainland cities, so as to put its international strengths in full play to contribute to the mainland's economic development. "We need Hong Kong representatives present in critical mass on the mainland who are able to argue for Hong Kong's interests, not only to government officials but ... to the general public. This is going to be even more critical as planning begins in earnest in 2010 on the 12th [national] five-year plan," he said.

Leung said Hong Kong "punches below its weight" in regional decision-making in the Pearl River Delta. "Whatever the laissez-faire economists argue, our administration needs to roll up its sleeves and get engaged in planning the future of our economic region ... We could over time pay a high price for this neglect," he said.

He attributed the existence of a "politically alienated majority" in the city to the long-standing land and housing policies that made homes expensive. "The sooner such land and housing policies are seriously addressed, the better," he wrote.

Lee said Leung's article was another effort to pave the way for his candidacy. "Leung intends to speak for the disadvantaged," Lee said. "He also wants to earn political capital by launching a veiled attack on Donald Tsang."

A Hong Kong official said the government had become more visionary in recent years. "In his 2007 policy address, the chief executive set out his policy goals for the next five years. The administration has been striving to engage the public following the controversy over the demolition of the Star Ferry clock tower in Central in 2006."

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