Housing the battlefield for CE election

Editorial | Mary Ma 17 May 2021

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying's Facebook post pledging to build public housing on the fringes of a protected country park was a curtain raiser to an expected formal bid for the SAR's leadership.

If successful, he will be the first person in the SAR to be again selected as CE after having to step down at the end of his first term.

Leung first won the SAR's highest office after mounting a fierce lobby campaign to get Beijing's nod for his candidacy against frontrunner Henry Tang Ying-yen, whose subsequent defeat in the 2012 CE election was stunning as it made history in post-1997 politics.

If Leung manages a comeback this time and ousts his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, from the highest office, this again will be unprecedented.

Has the top leadership in Beijing given him another nod? It's clear enough that they are keeping an open mind to the possibility at this stage.

If Leung managed to pull off what many thought impossible in 2012, it's entirely possible he could do it again - or at least win an entry ticket to the 2022 CE election.

Beijing may be silent on the matter for now, but rival factions in the SAR are already taking off their padded gloves to land direct punches on each other.

Leung's latest Facebook post reiterating his policy plan to tap country park land for public housing was a direct attack on the Lam administration.

This is because Lam ditched her predecessor's controversial plan after he stepped down.

Housing remains as acute a problem as ever, with Beijing watching developments closely.

The race is already on before the summer election of a new Election Committee that will return the next CE in March.

At the weekend, a regular columnist in Leung's camp, Wat Wing-yin, delivered a further stab at Lam, sarcastically congratulating her for having finally achieved "zero." This did not refer to the fight against Covid, but to an RTHK program in which Lam, as the host, interviewed representatives of the Election Committee. To date, viewership ratings of the program averaged a low of 0.09 point.

Normally, an incumbent has an edge over challengers. But the clumsy way in which the Lam administration has handled the pandemic - and recent vaccination rollouts in particular - deserves a demerit more than a merit point on her report card.

Leung will turn 67 in August. Curiously, when his successor turned 64 on Thursday last week, Leung posted a photo of freshly picked peaches on his Facebook page to congratulate all his friends whose birthdays fell on that day.

He held Lam so "dearly" to his heart that he failed to say happy birthday to her by name.

It appeared to be more a reminder to Lam and her loyalists that, if Leung is older, Lam is not so young herself and that it would be unwise to make an issue of his age.

The drum beats are getting louder all over the place.

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