Former HK Chief Exec Meets His Match

Like Donald Trump, former Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung does not exude the dignity which normally accompanies holders of high office. Leung is not fully retired, now holding the prestigious if powerless position of vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Instead of Twitter, Leung’s chosen outlet for efforts to rouse the patriotic faithful through social media is Facebook. There his latest campaign against the perceived enemies and critics of Beijing and its surrogates in Hong Kong has been directed at the city’s best-selling Apple Daily newspaper, a consistent thorn in the government’s side.

In a series of messages, Leung not only attacked the paper but posted lists of its advertisers, suggesting that their products should be boycotted by the patriotic in retaliation.

These then prompted a statement by the Hong Kong Journalists Association expressing “deep concern” about the implied threats and their use to try to silence media critics. But Leung then more than met his match in political activist Avery Ng Man-yuen, an activist recently acquitted of throwing a sandwich at Leung.

Ng launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for a full-page advertisement in Apple Daily costing HK$120,000. It quickly raised HK$167,000, giving it cash to spare for on-line advertising. The ad suitably mocked the former Chief Executive suggesting he “go north” and take over from Xi Jinping.

Personal popularity has never been Leung’s strength either with the business community, let alone the media. Last year he led an attack on the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, suggesting the government remove it from the government-owned building it leases for hosting a talk by an advocate of Hong Kong independence.

More broadly, two years after he stepped down after a single term as Chief Executive, Leung has continued to be shadowed by a 4 million pound sterling (approx. HK$50 million) payment he received, partly when already chief executive, as a payoff from the Australian company UGL which bought the by-then worthless London-listed DTZ real estate agency business of which he was a shareholder and director.

The payment was agreed after he had become a candidate for chief executive and received after he was in office. It only became known in the city from a report in an Australian newspaper. It was also not declared for tax on the grounds that it was received not for working but for non-competing. It also transpired that the DTZ board had rejected a better offer, though presumably one to which personal payments were attached.

The whole deal was subject to an investigation by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption but that was not helped by the sacking of its investigation unit. (The ICAC reports to the Chief Executive). In December 2018 the ICAC said it was ceasing its investigation. However, the smell remains. Perhaps Ng will take out another ad.