Harbour Times spoke to Accountancy FC legislator Kenneth Leung, after he announced on Wednesday (10th June) that more than half of his constituency are against the Government’s 2017 Chief Executive election method package. Mr Leung, who identifies with the pan-democrat camp, promises to veto the package even if the poll said otherwise. He also says if he’s assassinated for it, then so be it.
The poll, conducted by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, found that 52.2% of 3,967 accountants who responded, were against the reform package, while 45.6% voted for it. The response rate was 11% out of approximately 36,000 questionnaires sent out. Kenneth Leung, who commissioned the poll, says this was the highest ever in the sector for similar surveys.
For Mr Leung, the results came to no surprise, “If you look at the entire context of Hong Kong, for those with tertiary education, and those under 35 years old, around 50-60% agree that the current package is not genuine universal suffrage.” The data he refers to was found in a recent study done by CUHK, where it was found that the younger and more educated respondents, the more likely they were for vetoing the current reform package. “Accountants happen to have a large under-35 group, and more than 70% have a tertiary background. So the fact that more respondents are against the proposal does not come as a surprise,” explains Mr Leung.
Having emphasised on several occasions that he is adamant to veto the package, we asked Mr Leung why he conducted the survey at all. He answers, “the survey still provides some very useful information. I would still like to know what my constituents think.”
Mr Leung also insists his predetermined stance has not deterred surveyees from participating. “I’ve received a lot of mail criticising me, first to castigate me for having a stance, and secondly to respond to my questions,” explains Mr Leung. According to Mr Leung, some responses also indicated they don’t support the fact that he already has a stance, but would like to participate in the survey to change his mind. “In general, our constituency is very aloof from politics,” says Mr Leung. “This response rate, was the highest ever, including those done by my predecessor.”
The accountancy sector commissioned two more surveys on political reform at earlier stages. The first one, done in March last year, asked accountants on election methods, and the formation of the nomination committee. “The respondents were leaning towards more open nomination methods, and it was quite encouraging,” says Mr Leung. The second one was done after the August 31st decision, where more than 60% respondents indicated they were against the framework. On both occasions, Mr Leung had presented his stance beforehand. “As an opinion leader I should provide my views to my constituents, rather than follow their lead. I believe this is a more responsible approach.”
Less than half, just
While just more than half said they are against the package, a substantial 45% indicated otherwise. Mr Leung says there is no pressure, whatsoever, “In the end, you only have two options, Yes or No, and no option to improve the package.” Mr Leung believes that, under the strict August 31st Framework, there just isn’t much reason to feel any pressure. “When there’s no room for change, it’s not our fault. The blame falls with the Central Government and the HK government for causing this situation.”
“Practically, what the 45% are probably concerned about is, if you don’t pocket it this time, you won’t get anything within the next decade,” suggests Mr Leung. In the past few months, media reports have cited mysterious sources that suggest Hong Kong could be deprived of another reform opportunity for the foreseeable future. “Of course this is likely just the Hong Kong Government or Beijing’s scare tactics.”
In his meeting with Carrie Lam, the Chief Secretary categorically ruled out any chance of restarting the reform process before this current government steps down. “The message is clear. But two years later in 2017, when there’s a new CE, he’ll face the challenge of whether or not to restart the process,” suggests Mr Leung. “So I think this message of ‘if you don’t pass it this time you wont have it for another decade’, is simply false.”
While the results of the survey were inconsequential to Mr Leung’s decision, the notion of having one likely alerted some. “I received calls from the Chinese Liaison office asking for a chat just two weeks ago when I started my survey,” he reveals. “There’s no point seeing them before the vote since the package remains the same.”
When asked if he feared retaliation for vetoing the government package, Mr Leung reckons politically, the worst that could happen is he could lose his seat next term, but he refuses to succumb to such threats. “Most people would mind losing the seat, which is a more immediate retaliation that the pro-establishment camp or pro-beijing sector could inflict on us,” says Mr Leung. “But to me, if I run next term and people kick me out because they don’t like my [political] position, that’s fine.”
“I’m not worrying about my seat. I’m a professional [accountant]. I would do much better without a political career, but I wanted to serve the people, which was the urge that drove me to run the campaign in 2012. I’m not a professional politician. I’m not being a politician to earn a living. That message is very clear.”
How about retaliation beyond just his seat? He replies, “What can they do? At worst, they’ll assassinate me. So be it.”
Come Judgment Day
All reports currently point to the proposal being voted down come June 17th, when LegCo will decide the fate of this package. Mr Leung expects as much, “I don’t expect anything exciting from the Central Government.”
“Maybe, on Monday evening, CY Leung will call every pan-democrat up to see him at his residence,” jests Mr Leung. “Probably not.”