Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing has said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying owes the people of Hong Kong an apology for failing to meet his election promises and unite society during his office.
“When running for chief executive, Leung promised he would overcome challenges and resolve conflicts, but what he did was the exact opposite: society and political parties have become very divided,” Woo said in a live video on social media on Wednesday, shortly after Leung delivered his final Policy Address as the city’s leader.
Woo, who announced his candidacy for the city’s leadership position last October citing the need to end Hong Kong’s political stalemate, said that the biggest reason for the social divisions is the government’s failure to introduce a political reform package in 2014.
“Leung owes Hongkongers an apology for the political reform failure,” he said.
In 2014, Beijing ruled that a 1,200-member nomination committee would vet chief executive candidates before a popular vote. The decision sparked the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests, and the reform package incorporating the decision was eventually voted down in the legislature in 2015. Leung’s administration said that it would not consider restarting the reform process.
Woo also criticised Leung for drawing up a comprehensive list of policies in his final address. “He should have left it to the next administration to decide what policies to pursue,” he said.
The retired judge gave the example of developing country parks. On Wednesday, Leung restated his desire to develop land in country parks – despite previous opposition from the public – and described Hong Kong’s housing problem as a “conceptual issue.”
“Developing country parks is a very controversial issue, and yet Leung went ahead and included it in his address. This will limit what the next administration can do, inconveniencing its work,” Woo said, adding that he will not develop country parks if he becomes chief executive.
“There are many other types of land suitable for development, such as brownfield sites,” he said.
During the live interview, Woo was also asked about his position on the legislation of the controversial Article 23 security law. The government’s attempt to legislate Article 23 of the Basic Law in 2003 sparked mass demonstrations, leading to the resignation of then-security chief Regina Ip, who is also a contender in the upcoming chief executive election.
Woo restated his position in support of the controversial issue, but added that it should only be done after Hong Kong has passed a political reform package guaranteeing universal suffrage with a broader democratic base.
“Only then would people perceive our political system to be relatively fair. Then the legislation of Article 23 would be less controversial,” he said.
Another condition for legislating Article 23, Woo suggested, is to have the government clearly state in the law that rights guaranteed by Article 27 – including the freedoms of speech, assembly and the press – will not be restricted by the new security law.
“It is better for Hong Kong to write up the law. Otherwise, Beijing might import its national security law by adding it to Annex 3 of the Basic Law,” he said.
Woo was a vocal critic of the Hong Kong government even before he announced his candidacy. He has also criticised the Chinese government on several occasions since he joined the race for Hong Kong’s top job. This week, he suggested legislating Article 22 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that no Chinese governmental bodies may interfere in the city’s internal affairs.
Besides Woo and Ip, former chief secretary Carrie Lam has also publicly declared her candidacy. Former finance secretary John Tsang announced his bid on Thursday.