Opinion Politics & Protest

In praise of Hong Kong’s bungling, reluctant hero: Holden Chow

While it’s a little premature to name this publication’s choice for Person of the Month—a newsmaker usually selected by HKFP editors for his or her commendatory contribution to the city and its people—surely lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding must be considered as an early favourite.

Yes, I know this is the same boot-licking Beijing toady who lost the New Territories East Legislative Council by-election in February of 2016 to the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu after shedding what many saw as artificially manufactured tears during a televised debate with rival candidates.

holden chow ho-ding

Holden Chow Ho-ding. Photo: TVB screenshot.

It’s also true that Chow, the 37-year-old vice chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), deserves no special accolades for subsequently winning (with an underwhelming 13.84 per cent of the vote) one of the so-called “super seats” in the District Council (Second) functional constituency last September or for his singularly lacklustre performance in Legco since he assumed office on October 1.

Chow has told us (many times) that he is a Christian and that he opposes same-sex marriage. We also know by his words and actions that he will do anything the central government’s liaison office in the city tells him to do. Again, nothing special about any of this or about his run-of-the-mill three-year career as a district councillor in the Islands District before, thanks in good part to the superior resources possessed by the DAB, he landed a super seat in Legco.

Thus, many Hongkongers may have been unprepared for Chow’s heroics last week in revealing that outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying—who is under investigation for failing to report a HK$50 million payout he received from Australian engineering firm UGL Limited in a deal struck shortly before he assumed office in 2012—made a clandestine effort to rewrite the parameters of a Legco probe into that payment. Admittedly, Chow is an entirely inadvertent and reluctant hero who actually aided Leung in his furtive endeavour to ghostwrite his own investigation but whose careless incompetence served to bring the scandal to light. Nevertheless, he deserves our thanks for exposing just how sleazy and duplicitous Leung can be even as his term of office comes to an end and he begins a new life of reward for his dogged loyalty to the central government as a vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

leung chun-ying cy

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Unfortunately, however, now Chow really has something to cry about. Because he so obviously aided and abetted Leung in his deception, Chow has been forced to resign from his position as vice chairman of the Legco select committee investigating the undisclosed UGL payment. Moreover, his reputation for honesty and integrity, already paper-thin, has been completely shredded.

It appears that Chow allowed Leung’s office to make no fewer than 47 amendments to a committee document establishing the scope of the Leung investigation. We know this because, remarkably, Chow did not even bother to create a new document before submitting the proposal to the committee; the Microsoft Word document that he submitted clearly showed 47 edits traceable to a computer whose user name, “CEO-CE,” belongs to Leung’s office.

What is more risible—Chow’s loyalty to Leung’s unique combination of chutzpa and sleaze or his rank incompetence in acting on that loyalty? Take your pick, but Chow’s continued insistence that he has done nothing wrong in this affair rings rather hollow in the wake of his resignation, which was not only demanded by Legco pan-democrats but also reportedly encouraged by pro-Beijing lawmakers, including members of his own party.

For his part, the chief executive has responded to the scandal by escalating his attacks on a longtime nemesis, Kenneth Leung of the Accountancy constituency, demanding that Leung, whom the CE is currently suing for defamation, also step down from the investigating committee due the “prejudice” the lawmaker has previously demonstrated against him. At the same time, Hong Kong’s unpopular leader has made no attempt to deny his behind-the-scenes meddling in a probe of which he is the subject, conceding that he “made suggestions” to Chow about the range of the investigation but refusing to admit to any transgression.

LegCo select committee

Some of CY Leung’s edits in the UGL document. Photo: HKFP.

“I am a subject of investigation,” Leung stated, “and I have the complete right to express my views to Legco of the investigation’s scope.”

Granted, but that right certainly does not include recruiting the vice chairman of the investigating committee to assist you in secretly hijacking and rewriting the proposal setting the parameters for its investigation.

Has Leung committed an impeachable offence? Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun believes so. Indeed, he plans to finalise the wording of a motion to impeach Leung before Legco’s scheduled June 7 meeting, less than a month before Leung’s term of office ends. Another pan-dem lawmaker, Claudia Mo Man-ching, aims to propose a motion to censure Chow at that same meeting.

Support of at least a quarter of Legco’s 70 members is required for these motions to be tabled for what would undoubtedly be one of Legco’s most raucous debates to date, but if the pan-dems, who occupy 26 seats, band together they have more than enough votes to pull it off.

Of course, pro-government lawmakers would make sure that neither motion, if tabled, goes any further, but the opposition would still have succeeded in their never-ending quest to further humiliate Leung and his minions.

Did anyone imagine the Leung administration could end in any other way?

In praise of Hong Kong's bungling, reluctant hero: Holden Chow