Opinion Politics & Protest

‘Anyone But CY’? Hong Kong’s reviled leader and media tycoon Ricky Wong are virtual soulmates

Yes, Leung Chun-ying is the most divisive, hard-headed and reviled chief executive Hong Kong has suffered in the nearly 20 years since the handover from British to Chinese rule.

But don’t believe maverick media tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay, who this week entered the political fray to win a seat in September’s Legislative Council elections, or other pandering pols who jump on his ABC (Anyone But CY) bandwagon: Evicting Leung from Government House will not make things much better and could, God forbid, make them worse.

ricky wong

Ricky Wong. Photo: HKFP remix.

ABC may turn out to be an effective populist election slogan that wins a Legco seat representing Hong Kong Island for Wong, but it is also cheap, grossly oversimplified politics and bad for Hong Kong.

Moreover, it smacks of revenge as Wong is still clearly smarting from losing his bid to make HKTV one of the city’s free-to-air television stations after his application for a license was denied by the Leung administration.

Indeed, HKTV may very well have deserved that license, and Wong—not to mention millions of ordinary people fed up with the tired, formulaic dramas and entertainment shows offered by TVB, the city’s dominant free-to-air broadcaster—was understandably miffed by the wholly inadequate explanation offered by the Executive Council (Exco) for its denial.

Ricky Wong and Leung Chun-ying

Ricky Wong and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo: Apple Daily and GovHK.

But that was then, and this is now. The dubious rejection of a free-to-air television license in 2013 should not translate into a Legco seat for the HKTV chairman in 2016—especially on a dishonest, misleading ABC platform.

Dishonest because, if you check the record, Wong actually agrees with Leung on just about every major issue except who should be the next chief executive. The personalities of the two men may clash spectacularly, but on paper they are virtual soul mates.

Like Leung, for example, Wong is no environmentalist. He and Leung are both keen to transform parts of our country park system into housing developments and rush into building a costly third runway at Hong Kong International Airport that critics say is unnecessary and could spell the end of the Chinese white dolphin in Hong Kong waters.

A concept drawing of expanded Terminal 2 and the third runway.

A concept drawing of expanded Terminal 2 and the third runway. Photo: Airport Authority.

Also, like Leung, Wong is no friend of democracy—at least not the kind of democracy recognised in most of the rest of the world. He fully supports the political reform package for Hong Kong proposed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that would see candidates for chief executive chosen by a Beijing-controlled nominating committee, thus assuring that only those pre-approved by the central government could win in a subsequent sham city-wide election.

And remember, Wong may be maverick in comparison to Hong Kong’s older generation of tycoons such as Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee, but he is still a businessman and on livelihood issues will vote like one. So it’s no surprise that he opposes legislation that would standardise working hours in a city where low pay and long hours are the norm.

Wong’s idea to set up an electronic, referendum-style voting system on key issues within the next decade or so has merit, but who knows if it will ever really happen or is just a gimmick to garner votes now.

july 1 democracy rally protest march

Photo: HKFP.

In the end, how can a candidate who is so much like CY in his thinking wage a campaign for Legco headlined ABC? The patent contradictions in Wong’s rhetoric and record underscore the  fundamental disingenuousness of a candidacy that is attempting to exploit Leung’s record-breaking low popularity ratings so as to enhance, undeservedly, his own.

Plus, the ABC campaign is just plain wrong. Alarmingly, there are worse choices out there than the currently serving CE—among them former finance chief Antony Leung Kam-chung.

Sensing CY’s vulnerability, Leung is showing his face a lot more around town these days, hoping people have forgotten about “Lexusgate,” the scandal that forced his resignation as finance minister 13 years ago after he purchased a HK$790,000  Lexus LS 430 just prior to imposing a tax on new vehicles in his budget.

chief executive elections cy regina john tsang jasper carrie

2017 election candidates? Photo: HKFP.

Or how do you like the sound of this—Chief Executive Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee? Ip is another failed official in the administration of Hong Kong’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned in disgrace after Article 23, the unpopular anti-subversion legislation she so enthusiastically pushed as Tung’s security czar, prompted a 500,000-strong protest that forced Tung to shelve the bill and Ip to disappear into self-imposed exile in the United States for three years.

Ever since her return to the city in 2006, Ip, now a legislative councillor and an Exco member, has been hard at work reinventing herself as a champion of the Hong Kong people. Don’t buy it: Nobody wants to be CE more, and no one deserves it less.

Sad to say, this city could do a lot worse than CY. And even if one of the marginally more promising possible candidates—such as current finance secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor or Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing—were to win the job, it wouldn’t make a great deal of difference as the bosses in Beijing would still be pulling all the levers. Besides, although John Tsang has been making positive albeit non-committal noises since his budget speech in February, Jasper Tsang and Lam have stated they are not interested in the job.

Maybe they are simply being coy, but at this point in Hong Kong’s post-handover history, it seems fair to ask: Why would any sensible person want this no-win position?

As for CY—who clearly does want another term—he should counter Wong’s campaign with one of his own.

How about CBW? It doesn’t boast the perfect alphabetical succession of ABC, but its message is more accurate: Could Be Worse.

'Anyone But CY'? Hong Kong's reviled leader and media tycoon Ricky Wong are virtual soulmates