The Chief Executive’s top media official has taken the unprecedented step of issuing three separate defences of his boss in one week, leading critics to claim that the strategy is actually creating greater controversy.
On Friday, information coordinator Andrew Fung Wai-kwong responded to claims that Leung’s hardline governing style had caused rifts in society. Fung responded that it was not Leung’s fault the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests occurred.
“The government’s response was to move away from Admiralty to work at Government House and the Central Government Offices, as not to directly confront the occupiers – was that hardline governing style?” Fung wrote in his column in the AM730 newspaper. “The government waited for 79 days to clear the protests, without mobilising the People’s Liberation Army, was that hardline?” he asked.
On Monday, Fung wrote a column in Headline Daily claiming that Leung had been a victim of “character assassination” over the past five years as people opposing him were unable to find big problems in his policies.
Fung also defended Leung’s governing style last Friday in another AM730 column, saying that the reason Leung was described as “combative” was a result of his willingness to confront vested interest groups in the city.
In his three published commentaries, Fung mentioned several “negative reports” regarding Leung, including reports of the chief executive’s alleged ex-marital affair, his alleged relationship with gangsters, the HK$50 million he received from Australian corporation UGL and the recent incident surrounding his daughter’s forgotten baggage.
“Have there been any clarifications for the key factual errors in previous reports? Have there been retractions? Have there been apologies? Of course not. Does that fit the definition of character assassination?” Fung asked.
He also said that since Leung took office, Leung had introduced policies to stop mainland pregnant women from giving birth in Hong Kong, had successfully campaigned for the Chinese government to change its multi-entry permit policy for Shenzhen residents to one trip per week, and had persisted in solving housing issues.
“Imagine you are a young couple planning to buy a flat after your marriage – your intended flat went for under HK$1 million. Who made that happen? That was the persistence of Leung Chun-ying – breaking through the resistance, fighting for the wellbeing of people wholeheartedly,” he wrote.
“It is easy to be a good man, just sweep all the big problems under the carpet, just talk and do nothing, do not confront the vested interest groups – then no one would say ‘you pick fights’ and you are ‘combative’. But then Hong Kong people’s interests and long-term welfare will be hindered. Is this the leadership Hong Kong people want?”
Fung, a former Democratic Party district councillor, was appointed by Leung at the end of 2013. He was also one of the administrators of Leung’s Facebook account.
Fung is set to receive HK$3.4 million this fiscal year, and has received several pay rises over the years. His pay packet raised eyebrows as he has often been caught making embarrassing gaffes. On one occasion, he compared his current job to that of a White House press secretary.
Fung’s multiple defences of Leung prompted a storm of criticism from pundits and online commentators, who accused him of going overboard in his efforts to protect his boss.
“If 689 [Leung] loses its job, this animal also loses its job. This is why it is so eager to whitewash 689. Actually it’s making things worse,” one commenter said on Facebook.
“Everybody should have public relations skills, but you should not hire the wrong public relations guy,” said another.