The former PR consultant for ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang said CY Leung’s publicised beach clean-up presented a poor image to the public and would not instil confidence in the government.

On Sunday, CY Leung and other government officials participated in a trash clean-up lasting for around an hour in response to a public outcry over the unusual amount of trash appearing on beaches and harbours in Hong Kong. Many local groups also hosted volunteer clean-ups over the weekend.

“I don’t think the effect was very good…. When a social problem arises and high officials take action very publicly on them, they are hoping for two results in the end: first, they want the public to think that the government cares a lot about the issue… Secondly and more importantly, they want citizens to feel like they are in command, and that they can and will take care of it,” Ho On-tat said on an RTHK radio show.

cy leung cleanup
The Chief Executive, Mr. CY Leung, and government officials. Photo: GovHK.

It did not achieve the desired effect partly because Leung was using tongs to pick up the trash, according to Ho. “Picking up trash in such an elegant manner will naturally produce a negative effect,” he said.

But more importantly, Leung’s media interview on Sunday was not able to give residents confidence, said Ho. When reporters asked Leung how the government planned to deal with Guangdong authorities not admitting that the trash came from the mainland, Leung did not answer directly, giving the impression that the government cannot do anything about it, said Ho.

discovery bay beach clean up
Photo: DB Green via Facebook.

District Councillor and environmental activist Paul Zimmerman also poured scorn upon Leung’s efforts, telling his Facebook followers that he had failed to separate the rubbish correctly.

At Sunday’s clean-up Ho Loy, the president of the Lantau Buffalo Association, criticised the officials for not considering the buffalo before planning the event, saying the large group would frighten the two old water buffalo in the area.

cy leung trash
Photo: GovHK.

However, Yeung Chong-wing, representing the World Wildlife Foundation on the show, said that holding one or two clean-ups may not make a big difference to the marine trash problem, but it can help citizens think about where the rubbish comes from.

It’s a long-term problem that should be tackled from the source, Yeung said. He added that the trash came from both Hong Kong and the mainland.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.