Appearance, Appearance, Appearance

After much attention on the 2012 Chief Executive Elections, Leung Chun-ying ultimately emerged the new Chief-Executive elect. Although not seen as the ideal candidate, he certainly held the lead in terms of opinion polls, and probably has some genuine support, more so than many of his rivals. A major part of his victory was down to his ability to project a sense that he was the public’s choice and Henry Tang merely China’s choice. This appearance was certainly helped by his visits to public housing estates etc.

What is surprising is his failure to recognize the importance of public perception in the aftermath of the vote. His first order of business, visit the Chinese Liason office. Certainly there are good reasons to do so, though I am doubtful of his explanation. However, for argument’s sake, let’s put aside the suggestion that he went to thank the Chinese Liason Office for their unofficial official support at the end of the campaign. Even if he had a legitimate reason for visiting, he should be well aware of the perception that it would give. I think it is safe to assume that he doesn’t live in a vacuum of his own, which means that he would be fully aware of media reports on the heavy show of hand by the Chinese Liason office as well as the fear that the Chinese government was unnecessarily meddling in Hong Kong affairs. Then it should be clear, even if there is a good reason to visit the Liason Office, such as visit would best be done at another time, in another place, in a more sensitive way. What baffles me is how a candidate can be so conscious of public sentiment during the campaign, and almost instantly ignore or fail to even consider public perception.

The subsequent visit by a Chinese official to Leung’s office is even more sketch. I’m not even going to assume the explanation about foreign relations was a likely one. By definition, Hong Kong doesn’t have any role in foreign policy, and thus Leung doesn’t have any foreign policy roles to fulfill, making such a meeting unnecessary. If we were to take the hypothetical situation where Leung is being consulted on foreign affairs… then surely such a meeting is not as urgent as to warrant an immediate visit, nor is it something that couldnt’ be dealt with over the phone.

Quite frankly, Leung’s failure to at least be aware of the public perception is a worrying sign. Politicians sadly do not operate in a vacuum, and someone who used this fat to get elected should know this well. Either Leung’s campaign/transition team has a serious lasp which bodes badly for the new administration, or Leung is aware and simply chosing to ignore the appearance his actions give… equally worrying as it points to a two=-sided ness… or an etch-a-sketch style moment. Either way, it would be advisable for Leung to keep a closer eye on the appearance of what he is doing, especially since he’s been thrust under the political spotlight.