Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying lives to fight another day. Pic: AP.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Lew Mon-hung falls after corruption allegations backfire

In 1973, the year Kissinger secretly met with Chairman Mao in Beijing, a 28-year-old former red guard swam from post-Cultural Revolution China to the British colony Hong Kong. Twenty years later, the illegal immigrant was rich and toured China as the ‘the Godfather of futures contracts’. Forty years after his adventurous entry to Hong Kong, last week, he tried to bring down the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Lew Mon-hung, a long-time staunch Leung supporter, turned against the head of the semi-autonomous city last week in an explosive interview with the anti-establishment weekly iSun Affairs. In its front-page story, the magazine revealed his allegations that the Chief Executive had promised Lew a position in government and that Leung had lied about illegal structures at his home residence, which had brought down Leung’s main contender for the office Henry Tang last year.

The allegations put forward by Lew, who is a delegate to China’s highest advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), have triggered an investigation by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and prompted opposition lawmakers to ask Leung to testify before the city’s legislature.

Lew, who because of his Chinese first name carries the nickname Dream Bear, has vowed to jump off Hong Kong’s second highest skyscraper if his allegations proved to be wrong. Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post revealed that Lew, when he made his allegations against Leung, had been on bail after being arrested by ICAC in a separate investigation. He is understood to not retain his CPPCC seat, the Post reported today.

Lew’s downfall has come fast. When some 30,000 protestors called for the chief executive to step down in a rally on January 1, Lew was an invitee of the pro-Leung group Voice of Loving Hong Kong, which staged a much smaller rally on the same day.

“We can criticise Leung over his handling of the illegal structures and he should apologise for that. But it is irrelevant to what he has done [for the city] after he became chief executive,” he then told the Post, two weeks before and in sharp contrast with his iSun Affairs interview.

The outspoken supporter of pro-Beijing issues became involved in politics in 1996, when the country’s territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands first became an issue, he said in an interview with China Central Television last year. He went on to serve as “chief consultant” to the Hong Kong-based Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands.

In 2009, days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tian’anmen massacre in Beijing, he argued against the inclusion of China’s greatest upheaval since reform and opening in Hong Kong history textbooks.

When the popularity of Henry Tang, Leung’s contender for Hong Kong’s top job, plummeted over misleading statements on illegal building structures in one of his homes, Vice President Xi Jinping’s handshake with Lew in March last year was a sign to many that the Beijing has picked Leung as a favourite to run the special administrative region as the city’s last non-democratically elected leader ahead of the introduction of universal suffrage in 2017.

The scene was reminiscent of former President Jiang Zemin making an exaggerated effort to find Tung Chee-hwa at a 1996 meeting and shake his hand first to signal that Tung was Beijing’s pick for chief executive.

Dream Bear’s attack might not have caused Leung’s downfall, but it certainly hasn’t helped the unpopular leader, who just survived an unprecedented impeachment bid. Now in his seventh month in office, his approval rating of 49.7 is 10 points lower than Tung Chee-hwa and 15 points lower than his predecessor Donald Tsang after the same time in office, according to the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme.