In wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, one thing is clear: the more freedom of speech and expression is clamped down on, the more willing people will be to rise up and defend this human right. Thousands marched on the streets declaring “Je Suis Charlie”, while sales of the magazine surged to five million.
Leung Chun-ying should have known better before he issued a stern warning towards editors of the Undergrad, a previously little-known university magazine. His comments were nowhere close to being “an infringement on academic freedom”. In fact, the student-run publication is reportedly doubling its monthly print run after being at the centre of controversy.
Perhaps it was another clever tactic Leung had employed to deliberately shift attention away from the actual substance in his policy address. The abrupt decision to halt the investor immigration programme reminded of the chaos that erupted across Shenzhen when authorities announced a quota on new car licenses.
Some may say this is latest measure in the recent anti-graft campaign in China, a way of preventing bribes or dirty money from flowing into Hong Kong. But the way Leung packaged the policy, claiming that our city should prioritise “attracting talent over money”, shows how little he understands local feeling.
Our universities produce plenty of qualified, well-educated graduates each year. What the city is lacking is workers for the typically low-skilled, undesirable jobs such as restaurant cleaners or construction workers.
Leung could start fulfilling the promises he made in his 2012 campaign. He needs to engage with communities with only a notebook and a pen in hand. President Obama famously reads ten letters a day from the public to stay in tune with America.
Pan-democrats had compared Leung’s speech on Undergrad to the Cultural Revolution by stirring up fears of self-censorship. Some even said public servants do not enjoy the right to criticise opponents as this could lead to political persecution.
The real problem lies not with what Leung has said; both Carrie Lam and John Tsang have been able to distance themselves from the comments by saying they were “his own personal views”. It lies with what Leung has not done, namely building enough affordable housing and scrapping the hugely unpopular offsetting of the Mandatory Provident Fund.