100 Days


Congratulations on your victory in the chief executive election. Now comes the hard part: governing Hong Kong wisely and helping to heal the rifts that have developed in our community in recent years.

Broadly speaking, you have two periods of 100 days ahead. The first is the gap between now and when you actually take up office, the second is when you need to come out swinging and set the tone for your five year term.

Advice for the next three months is easy: stay out of the way and try to keep a low profile. Give yourself a break, get some rest, you’ll need all the reserves of sleep you can store up for the trials that lay ahead. Whatever the temptation, do not be drawn into commenting on current political affairs. The media will be pressing you on a daily basis to see if they can detect some slight difference between you and Leung Chun Ying’s position on an issue. Whether or not they succeed, the effect will be to undercut the present administration and anyway you are not chief executive yet. It might be better to get out of town for a few weeks.

Now the plan for the first 100 days in office. Step one, if the court case seeking to disbar four more members of the legislative council is still going on, drop it. Healing can’t start until wounding stops. Nobody has any sympathy for the first two who got thrown out because they used foul language and generally showed contempt for our country and our city. But these four were legitimately elected and the president of legco accepted their oaths. That should have been the end of the matter. By challenging the president’s decision in court, the government in effect undermines him even though he is regarded as pro administration. It is a matter of public record that the government comprehensively lost the last election to the legislative council: the opposition increased its majority in geographic constituencies from 18-17 to 19-16, maintained its 3-2 majority in the super seats, and boosted its take from the 30 conventional functional constituencies from six to eight.

You need to reflect on why the government lost so badly and address the causes, not seek to overturn the verdict at the ballot box by questionable legal manoeuvres. And do not use the case as a bargaining chip to try to get something in return, just instruct the Secretary for Justice not to pursue. If the case has progressed to a verdict before 1 July and you lose at the lower court, do not appeal. The worst case scenario for you is if the government wins the case. The bitterness this will generate in the community at large will linger for your whole term. Press on with by-elections for the two vacant seats and be prepared to lose gracefully.

Step two, you must show that you are prepared to confront vested interests and give priority to the public interest when it matters. Given the vagaries of our political system, with powerful forces entrenched in the election committee and the legislature, there will naturally be allegations that the people who elected you have you under their thumb. This will be particularly the case with property developers and rural interests such as the Heung Yee Kuk. Fortunately, fate has presented you with a wonderful opportunity to shrug off these allegations and prove your independence.

Do you remember the case of Wang Chau where the government is pressing ahead with housing development on green belt land occupied by villagers rather than the adjacent brownfield sites where a local leader operates a profitable carpark? This is perceived as a classic example of the government bowing down to private interests and almost nobody believes the cover story that the intention is to have a phased development. You can immediately grab some credibility for yourself by turning the fairy story into reality: simply instruct the officials concerned to give you a firm timetable for phases two and three of Wang Chau development within your term of office, and make a public announcement about that timetable. Stick to it.

Thirdly, get yourself some decent ministers. Introduce them to the public in the first few weeks, explain what priorities you have given them, and make plain you will hold them accountable. There were a few good ones in the outgoing administration, try to keep them if you can and they are not too worn out. Far too many were worth only a bare pass, and there were some real stinkers. There will be a lot of pressure from various sources to appoint certain individuals. You must resist this pressure unless you are completely confident in the ability of the individuals concerned and satisfied that their loyalty is to you. Remember, you are at your most powerful in this process in the week before you submit the final list to Beijing for approval. If you succumb to the pressure prematurely, you will never recover your authority.

Lastly, you might want to ask people of all faiths to pray on 1 July for a successful administration. Even agnostics and atheists should be prepared to wish you well.


 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk