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New HK leadership pledges to unite society

Publication Date : 29-06-2012


With stiff smiles and erect backs, Hong Kong's new government leaders had their first public outing yesterday. Incoming Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying promised wary Hong Kongers that his team will listen to and consult them in efforts to unite a fragmented society.

"For the government and the community to be united, we must narrow the distance between people from different districts, strata and sectors - spatially, psychologically and politically," said Leung, standing against a banner emblazoned with the slogan One Heart, One Vision for Hong Kong.

Officials will constantly track the people's sentiments while making themselves known to the public, he promised.

And the top echelon will lose no time in doing so. Next Tuesday, the day after the team is sworn in, he and Mrs Carrie Lam, in the No.2 spot as Chief Secretary, will visit six of Hong Kong's 18 districts "to know their needs and collect their views".

It was clearly meant to be a reset of the button, in a relationship with the public and the legislature that has gone downhill since Leung won narrowly in the March election.

He had striven to move quickly on a government revamp plan, but instead earned a reputation for high-handedness and the suspicions of those who saw Beijing's hand in the move.

Meanwhile, illegal structures found in his home compound have further dented his standing.

Yesterday, the media was given an unprecedented three hours in a live press conference to quiz his new team. There were few surprises in the line-up. Of the 20, six were new faces.

Lam, 55, viewed as a tough talker during her five years as Development Secretary, and John Tsang, 61, the incumbent Financial Secretary, are expected to keep the ship on an even keel. The only newbie in the first tier is former Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok Keung, 48, appointed Justice Secretary.

However, questions were raised about some members' links to Beijing. For instance, Yuen acknowledged that his membership in Guangdong's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had raised public concern over his neutrality. He has resigned from the position, he said.

But that did not douse worries. Political scientist Dixon Sing of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told The Straits Times: "Ideologically speaking, many appear to be pro-Beijing and politically conservative."

Others worry about the team's ability to mend the fragmented ties between the administration, legislature and civil society.

Said professor Ng Kai Hon of the Chinese University of Hong Kong: "Given that most come from professional backgrounds, (with) no particular connection to organised political forces in Hong Kong society, it is hard to see how the new governing team can help to bridge the gaps."

Yesterday, Leung and his team said they will try. "It is our common wish to devote ourselves to changing the prolonged sluggishness of our economic and social development," he said.

But there was also some levity during the press conference.

The inevitable topic of illegal structures was raised, when a reporter asked the team to state unequivocally that they do not have them on their property.

To laughter, Tsang said: "I live in the government official residence, so I assume there are no illegal structures there."

Added Yuen: "I live in a serviced apartment. I need permission from the owner to move my furniture, let alone build illegal structures."


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