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CY Leung hits hard on SARG's epidemic prevention measures

This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. (一周政情:疫情如再有失誤 成梁振英逼林鄭退位大好機會

In the past week, the political news that caught the limelight was the frequent appearances and statements of former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who did not give a negative answer to the question of whether he would run for the office of Chief Executive again. Leung also “corrected” the SAR Government's epidemic prevention measures, and prevented the Department of Health from raising the risk level of the entire Guangdong province due to a confirmed case in Guangzhou - indeed a backseat driver’s audacity. Sources in the political arena point out that there are many discussions among members of the Chief Executive Election Committee, and it is very likely that Leung Chun-ying will challenge Carrie Lam in the Chief Executive election at the end of this year.

Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Vice-Chairman of CPPCC, has recently been speaking out frequently on issues such as education, housing and land, and culture. The first episode of RTHK's new programme "Planning and Elections" was broadcast on 22 May, and the guest was no one but Leung. He was asked again whether he would consider running for the post of Chief Executive, and he laughed and said, "I have answered this question many times. I am very happy to serve my country and Hong Kong in any position I can." Leung mentioned that he had had exchanges with many Mainland cities in the past, and that Hong Kong had been cut off from the Mainland because of riot violence and the epidemic. As things in Hong Kong have been "set right", Leung believed the community should choose a Chief Executive who can help Hong Kong avoid bad luck and have more good luck in the international and national fronts, and leveraging Hong Kong's strengths and national opportunities to develop the economy and improve people's livelihoods.

He added that it was "only natural" for patriots to administer Hong Kong, but not all patriots were capable of doing so. He said there would still be an "active and full" election process to allow voters to choose the ideal candidate. He believes that even if one is a "patriot", there are still different views on secondary distribution and land issues.

Leung Chun-ying is the guest of the first episode of RTHK's new programme "Planning and Elections". 

On the question of whether the Central Government's "improved" electoral system in Hong Kong would turn the legislature into a chamber with only one voice, Leung said that it was indeed a “chamber with only one voice” when it came to safeguarding state sovereignty. He also described the "improved" electoral system as a precautionary measure, not wanting to have a situation like the Catalan parliament in Spain, “We don't want to drag them (the democrats) into court, we don't want any legislators to be sentenced to jail.” He expects that under the new electoral system, there will be reluctant voters, but he believes that the government should not estimate the turnout rate and that it should deliver results as soon as possible. “Reform starts with the government,” he said. On China's 14th Five-Year Plan, Leung said it might be Hong Kong's "last chance". He pointed out that Mainland cities such as Shanghai and Guangdong were already developing rapidly, and that Shanghai in particular could “embark on big projects with concerted and concentrated efforts,” asking “Where is Hong Kong's value to the country?”

From the above excerpts of Leung's interview, it can be seen that not only does Carrie Lam have the right to use the free-to-air TV resources of RTHK for exposure, but Leung also has the privilege to use the explanation of the Central Government's change of election planning as an excuse to promote his candidacy for the office of Chief Executive. This shows that Leung tries to show his strong political connection in China.

Secondly, Leung is trying to highlight that he is more familiar with the Mainland and more capable of promoting economic and trade co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland, thereby improving the Hong Kong economy.

Thirdly, he believes that he is more capable than Carrie Lam in redistributing wealth and making good use of land to build housing, which are major livelihood issues. As long as the people's livelihood is well taken care of, there is no need to worry about whether the political system is open enough. It is better to drive the opposition out of the legislature than to send the police into the legislature to arrest people.

Fourthly, he is eager to make a comeback because Hong Kong is already lagging behind Shanghai and Shenzhen, and needs to catch up quickly. He tries to give an impression that he would be the best helmsman to outperform these cities. In other words, this interview with RTHK is already a mini election manifesto, from showing off his political strength to promoting his political beliefs, plus the phrase "I am happy to serve our country and Hong Kong in any position". That is equal to a declaration of 5 more years on the CE seat.

From the perspective of Leung's intention to make a comeback as CE, his high-profile criticism of the SAR Government's handling of Guangdong's epidemic risk is a deliberate show of political muscle that will make the Chief Executive election committee look at him in a different light.

On Saturday afternoon(22 May), the Department of Health (DH) announced that it intended to classify Guangdong Province as a "medium risk area" due to a confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Liwan District, Guangzhou, and that the Return2hk Scheme would not be applicable for the time being. However, in a Facebook public post, Leung asked that the quarantine scale had rendered “reopening borders” between China and Hong Kong "impossible". About 2 hours after Leung's post, the SAR Government overturned the Department of Health's decision and only adjusted a residence on Longjin Street, Liwan District, Guangzhou to a "medium risk area", while Return2hk Scheme via Guangdong remained unchanged.

In fact, there are many precedents of adjusting the risk rating of the whole province due to confirmed cases in one city. For example, when there were sporadic local cases in Liaoning and Anhui provinces earlier, the Hong Kong government classified the whole province as a "medium risk area". Hongkongers returning will need to undergo 14 days of mandatory home quarantine and they cannot apply under the Return2hk scheme. The title of the Schedule to the Rules for Compulsory Quarantine for Certain Arrivals (Cap. 599C), which the Secretary for Food and Health is relying on, states that it is targeted at "provinces, municipalities or autonomous regions in Mainland China that are medium or high risk areas". Leung’s criticism made the government deviate from its regulation and sub-divided the mandatory quarantine area to just a small community in Guangzhou.

However, the reality of politics is that it is not about who is reasonable and who is in charge, but about who has the strongest background and who is louder. This time, Leung Chun-ying succeeded in forcing the SAR Government to change its orders in less than a day, which greatly undermined the prestige of Lam's team. If the SAR Government makes any more mistakes in the prevention and control of the epidemic, it will be a great opportunity for Leung to force Carrie Lam to step down. It is no wonder that a member of the Chief Executive Election Committee privately lamented that if the Election Committee is faced with the choice between CY and Lam at the end of the year, they “really don't know what to choose”.