Hong Kong: CY Leung forced out!

Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

Socialist Action statement

CY has quit! Millions of Hong Kongers are celebrating the news. As Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying has been an absolute disaster. It is a supreme irony that his bosses in the Chinese dictatorship have ‘disqualified’ CY just as he was pushing to disqualify a large segment of Hong Kong’s elected legislators. His rule has been marked by attacks on democratic rights and social polarisation. In real terms, poverty has got worse and the housing crisis even more unbearable. CY’s agenda was all about increased mainland political control over Hong Kong: national education, the undemocratic LegCo purge, aggressive police tactics against protests, and a fresh push to bring in Article 23 (anti-subversion law).

The man is gone (he will not seek ‘re-election’ in March), but the system he represented still remains! The struggle for democratic rights must be stepped up. Whatever official ‘spin’ is put on CY’s departure, the real reason is his rule was made untenable by mass pressure and protests. The September LegCo election results were a humiliating setback for the establishment camp, with their vote cut from 44.1 percent in the 2012 elections to 40.2 percent. This in turn was part of the legacy from the mass Umbrella Movement of 2014. CY survived that unprecedented 79-day struggle – but as a damaged ruler.

Socialist magazine’s cover September 2016 predicted CY Leung was about to be “sent off” by his boss Xi Jinping.

Power struggle

Beijing has now pulled the plug on his disastrous rule. This is a scenario socialists raised in the aftermath of the September elections (see cover image) with the Chinese regime hoping to avert further political upheavals in Hong Kong. As has been widely speculated, Beijing have been deliberating on replacing CY with a less confrontational, less ‘factional’ leader, in an attempt to reduce political tensions. In March’s small-circle election they may now opt for a figure like Finance Secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, who commands support among Hong Kong’s traditional tycoon families. These groups chafed at CY’s policies, especially his ties to mainland ‘red capitalist’ business interests.

It now seems clear that the LegCo purge and political crisis in Hong Kong of recent weeks was a desperate bid by CY to save his own job. In this he seems to have received support from his CCP factional allies such as Zhang Dejiang of the NPC. This has failed and leaves a big question mark over the purge and the fate of four lawmakers, including ‘Long Hair’ of the LSD, who CY dragged before the courts on a bogus charge of making “improper” oaths.

Politicians who have reached the end of the line often cite “family reasons” or “health reasons” rather than admit their situation is the result of mass pressure and unpopularity. A recent poll published in Hong Kong Free Press showed only 19 percent of Hong Kongers supported CY’s re-election. CY is so distrusted, and has been caught lying so many times, that some people don’t believe his announcement and suspect some kind of trick.

The decision to remove him was almost certainly taken by Xi Jinping and the central leadership, and reflects the power struggle in Beijing. But the reason they acted in this way shows the power of mass struggle. It is the politically charged atmosphere and stubborn resistance of the masses that ended CY’s despicable political career. It is a victory for mass pressure including September’s LegCo election result.

This is a victory, delayed of course, but a victory no less, for the Umbrella Movement – a lesson that needs to be spelt out in the debates about what happens next. It is the second time (out of three) that a Hong Kong Chief Executive has had their rule cut short as a result of mass struggle – remember how Tung Chee-hwa was forced to quit “on health grounds” after the mass protests of 2003 against Article 23.

The lessons of this are crucial for rebuilding the democracy struggle in Hong Kong – and in China. There may be renewed attempts to propose ‘compromise’ and ‘political reconciliation’ under whoever replaces CY. But the corrupt and undemocratic system remains unchanged. CY was a particularly odious representative of the authoritarian establishment, but we must overthrow the whole establishment – the system of capitalist dictatorship – if democratic rights and an end to economic hardships are to become a reality.