Pro-establishment lawmakers took aim at Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration on Thursday, passing a motion urging it to improve its governance and describing the performance of some officials as unacceptable.
Tabling the motion, legislator Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, an adviser in Lam’s de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, said the government had to be both effective in executing policies and receptive to people’s opinions.
“To be a strong executive-led administration does not mean that it can ignore the public’s views as reflected by the legislature,” he said.
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“Even if you secure enough votes [to pass bills and proposals], it does not mean social problems can be solved easily.”
Cheung, a vice-chairman of the city’s largest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also revealed his colleagues had complained to him that some ministers refused to listen to lawmakers’ concerns after securing enough votes to pass proposals.
“You must face the public with a serious and respectful manner if you want the public to respect you,” Cheung said.
“The government must reshape the relationship between the executive and legislative branch … so that it can genuinely take the pulse of society.”
The lawmaker noted that since 2019 Hong Kong had been hit by social unrest followed by the coronavirus pandemic. But public order had been restored after Beijing imposed a national security law last June and it was high time for the government to seize opportunities and up its game, he said.
While Cheung did not name any official, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, vice-chairwoman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), took aim at Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee and Undersecretary for Development Liu Chun-san, saying they had underperformed.
Leung said many patients, including pro-government activist Leticia Lee See-yin, had suffered last year as health authorities were inefficient in their coronavirus control and testing.
Lee died in December, with postmortem testing revealing she had been preliminary-positive for Covid-19.
Leung also said Liu failed to give her a satisfactory answer on Wednesday when she asked him if the government has learned a lesson from the Bishop Hill saga. A century-old underground reservoir discovered there was initially destined for demolition, with parts already torn down. But public discovery of its historical significance forced authorities to halt the work, and heritage advisers gave it the highest historic status, grade one, in March.
Another BPA vice-chairman, Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, who represents the financial services sector in the Legislative Council, said people’s grievances could not be vented as no official had stepped down over the mishandling of the pandemic and various public works projects, such as the Sha Tin-Central Link, the city’s most expensive rail project which has suffered years of delays and cost overruns.
Cheung also reiterated his disappointment that Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po had ignored opposition and proposed in his budget an increase in stamp duty for stock transactions.
“Officials were polite in greeting lawmakers. But these could be superficial, aimed at winning their support, and does not necessarily mean they genuinely respect lawmakers’ opinion,” he said.
In response, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the administration respected Legco and treasured the executive-legislative relationship.
Cheung noted that after the mass resignation of opposition lawmakers last November, Legco had regained calmness. “There is no more violence, malicious criticisms and filibustering,” he said.
The city’s No 2 official believed governance could be improved as Legco was expected to approve a bill by the end of this month to implement Beijing-decreed changes to the electoral system.
The overhaul slashes the number of directly elected seats in geographical constituencies from 35 to 20 in an expanded 90-member legislature.
Horace Cheung’s motion was approved with a show of hands.