In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. (Charles Darwin)
The Hong Kong system of “Government” is far from ideal, but the amount of noise it is currently generating locally is out of proportion to Hong Kong’s self-perceived importance on the world stage.
For those that don’t know, and it seems I have readers who are unaware, on 1 July 1997 the Hong Kong Civil service (and an excellent one it was too), was re-branded “Government”. A legislative council (Legco)– part elected by functions and partly by constituency boundaries – was in place but without a mandate to ultimately convince the general public that its Council members were competent to govern. There was therefore no real need for the Legco to consider the best interests of Hong Kong and its people, because they would never be asked to implement their ideas. Legco was thus in effect a permanent opposition to an unelected body of people who were formerly civil servants, and suddenly collectively referred to as “Government”.
In the years that preceded the Handover to China had Britain attempted to introduce a recognisable form of democracy to Hong Kong? Erm – no! So all the posturing about needing to have a democracy established in a territory that was being returned to a Communist-run country was maybe a little fanciful. But that was the agreement reached.
At the Handover date Hong Kong was to be led by an appointed Chief Executive. Appointed by whom? Well, effectively China, seeing as it was territory they owned originally and had leased to Britain, and to which Britain had appointed “Governors” without any election by the people. (And for the pedants amongst the readers – I know that Hong Kong Island and the bits of Kowloon had been owned by Britain, but they could not survive without the land leased for 99 years from China).
Part of the agreement reached between Britain and China prior to the territory’s return, perhaps in a perceived coup for the lessees, included opportunities over time for universal suffrage and for the direct election of the Chief Executive. The time frame by when this was to be achieved is now fast approaching and, guess what, China seems to be getting a little nervous about having agreed to this democratic process. There is some definite back-pedalling going on, which is unfortunate, and I suspect that there will be many discussions yet to be had over the “interpretation” of the pro-democracy clauses.
But do we in Hong Kong have clear leaders who would do a great job for Hong Kong if they were to be elected under universal suffrage? No one seems hugely happy about the three people that have so far been entrusted with the role, but while we do have, without a doubt, suitable leaders I suspect that none of them would stand for election. We would therefore be left to choose from members of Legco, and we are constantly reminded by the media about the sort of people we might have as our elected representative.
For example a Legislator (Leung Kwok-hung) known as “Long Hair” for his – well, long hair and for turning up in Che Guevara T shirts in the Legislative Council. (Not many governments around the world would actually tolerate such behaviour). He idolises Guevara as a hero and rebel with a cause, but seems to conveniently forget that Guevara was a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary thug, an executioner of many and whose attempts at revolution largely all failed. It’s a pity – because Mr Leung actually comes across as an intelligent man. As a leader of Hong Kong representing the city on a global stage what impression would he make?
I looked around to see if whether what we had in Hong Kong were politicians or activists – and the conclusion I have come to is the latter. If our system is to change to one where we effectively have a legislative council led by a credible Chief Executive and where proper sensible debate about the future of the city of the Hong Kong is rationally discussed, and crucially where the people having those discussions are made accountable for their decisions and subsequent actions, we might get somewhere.
Today we have in Legco a body of people who have no accountability, so they can say and, it seems, do what they like. They don’t have to actually perform for the better health of Hong Kong. But they do have to perform for their electorate. And if they haven’t been shouting at the “Government”, they might not get re-elected.
And now the latest follies – “Occupy Central” or “Occupy Something or other”. People who want to express their views that the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong should be properly elected (and I do not disagree with the sentiment), have decided that the most effective way they can get their message across (to Beijing?) is to disrupt the business community in the Central District of Hong Kong. I don’t have an office in Central so it doesn’t affect me, but do the people who are contributing to the taxes and financial wealth and health of Hong Kong, and who do so from their offices in Central care? I just think they might.
Does the rest of the world care? Nah! It seems not really. I have been travelling a lot recently and the general reaction when this topic comes up following the odd article or picture is “why”? Surely, people say, the bigger and better picture is to get involved in China’s Maritime Silk Road or China’s land based “New Silk Road”. China’s description, not mine.
Hong Kong managed to be successful pre 1997 without a democratic process and whilst I, having grown up in a democracy would much prefer that form of government, I can be patient a little longer. And in the process I think we need to do so with accountable politicians, rather than attention seeking activists.