Friday, 20 April 2012

Caught Flat-Footed

Donald Tsang says he's no lame duck...
Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is anxious to show he's not a lame duck.

This comes days after Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying spoke out saying there would "zero" quota for pregnant mainland women who do not have Hong Kong husbands, and those mainlanders who give birth in the city would "very likely" not get permanent residency for their children.

Leung's comments seemed to have caught the Tsang administration off guard, calling into question whether the current government had been informed in advance of this bold announcement.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok was supposed to announce next year's quota, which would be a reduction of 31,000, but Leung preempted him by saying it would be "zero".

Tsang denied his government was a "lame duck" and said it was helping to shape his successor's "zero" quota.

"I have the same target with Leung in ensuring a smooth transition of the two administrations," said Tsang. "It is of the utmost priority for my government. We maintain constant communication."

Right. Unfortunately we don't quite believe you.

There are going to be other issues that will have to be dealt with by the incoming Leung administration, such as the waste incinerator planned for Shek Kwu Chau in which residents in the area have vehemently protested, the rent-to-buy housing scheme for the middle class, and an adjustment of MTR fares.

Public governance professor Lam Wai-fung at the University of Hong Kong, said these issues illustrate the need for a better government transition.

"It isn't just about communications between two officials. Other policy participants like private hospitals and political parties need to be engaged and informed of the proposed changes," he said.

Lam added Leung's early intervention could trigger huge public criticism if the public was not supportive of the ban [pregnant mainland women].

Meanwhile Ma Ngok, associate professor of politics at Chinese University, criticized Leung for using public preference to exert pressure on the current government over the mainland mothers issue.

Lingnan University political scientist Li Pang-kwong said, "No matter what Donald Tsang says, the perception is formed -- he lacks communication with Leung over policies, and it jeopardizes the public's confidence in the government."

Tsang has to make more of an effort to figure out what is on Leung's agenda because the latter seems to have already decided he's going to make a clean break from the current administration and establish a new direction for Hong Kong.

Whether it's right or wrong is another issue, but for now, the optics make Tsang look really bad.

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