Anyone following the byzantine (s)election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive would already have a sense of how much Chief Executive-Elect Leung Chun-ying had promised a more populist awareness of tides of resentment/tides of desire amongst Hong Kong’s population in his decision making.
So maybe it should have come as no surprise that yesterday Leung made a sweeping announcement, dealing with one of the big policy moans that has dominated popular discourse in Hong Kong, much as it has in every city around the world.
For just as almost everywhere, immigration (and specifically the rising numbers of mainlanders who come to Hong Kong to give birth and so secure Hong Kong citizenship for their offspring) has been a pretty big issue of recent years.
So perhaps it is a sign of Leung Chun-ying’s future way of working, and desire to show his populism was not just campaign-only deep, that the new Chief Executive has announced zero tolerance on new babies. Or more specifically, that no more mainland women whose husbands are non residents, will be allowed to give birth on the island. And if, with guile, skill and cunning they do slip across the border and give birth, then their children won’t be eligible for residency anyway.
Some have interpreted this as an act of rebellion by Leung against political masters in Beijing. I however detect much more cunning in the powers that be. Realising that the current Hong Kong administration is a busted flush, Beijing has given Leung Chun-ying licence to trash the legacy that he will inherit. And try and restore a little trust in the Hong Kong Executive en route.
So anyone relying on a cosy, but unpopular, status quo in Hong Kong had better watch out. Today’s announcement marks just the start of the sacred cows that Leung Chun-ying will be slaying, in his quest to bring a measure of populism (if not actual popularity) to the government of Hong Kong.