Message from the Chairman
Three generations of lawyer-politicians and "The Hong Kong Dilemma"
Miss Elsie Leung's speech at the HKDF (see article The First Three Years of the HKSAR) highlighted many positive aspects regarding the rule of law in Hong Kong. But it also came across as an attempt to vindicate herself for not bringing prosecutions against Xinhua News Agency and Ms Sally Aw.
More about what we think of Miss Elsie Leung's speech later. Let us look at the first of the three HKDF speakers, who would best represent the traditional politicians of Hong Kong.
The Gentleman Politician
Mr. Ronald Arculli walked out of the Legco chamber in March 1999 during a vote of no-confidence motion over Miss Leung's decision not to prosecute Ms Sally Aw. "It is not that I hate Leung Oi-sie, I absolute don't hate her. It's only that, as a lawyer looking at the issue from a professional point of view, I found her wrong. I dare not say I would be flawless", said Ronald Arculli in the South China Morning Post.
Known as the "King of Bills" to his colleagues in Legco, Mr Ronald Arculli was one of Hong Kong's most experienced legislators. His incisive analyses of many issues drew admiration from members of the HKDF. Mr Arculli does have an inkling of liberalism and he sees the need to reform our current political system. However, his less than definitive response to our question of "Business and Democracy - Contradictory or Complementary?" also irritated at least one of our members.
At the HKDF luncheon, Mr Arculli put emphasis on his roots in "Colonial Hong Kong". As a successful and wealthy lawyer and a Jockey Club Stewart, Mr Arculli is part of the "Establishment". He is also one of the first generation "Gentleman Politicians" who believes that reform of Hong Kong's constitutional arrangements is necessary and overdue.
The Hong Kong Observer
When Christine Loh returned as a qualified solicitor to Hong Kong from the UK in the 1980s, Hong Kong must have looked like the political third world to her. This was the time when the rest of us were toiling nights and days at our work in Mr. Arculli's "Apolitical Hong Kong". Christine had a stunningly perfect command of English. But she was struggling with her Cantonese. She started the "Hong Kong Observers", an organisation not unlike the HKDF of today.
In 1994, she accepted her first political appointment by Chris Patten as a Legislative Councilor. She went on to win two direct elections by impressive margins in 1995 and in 1998. Jimmy McGregor had predicted it would be extremely difficult for a young politician to quit. But, frustrated by the little she could achieve within Legco and surprised by what could do outside of it, Christine decided not to run for the 2000 election.
Members of the HKDF have said that Christine has done more for Hong Kong than the rest of the legislators combined. Her Alternative Policy Address written from the point-of-view of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong ought to put the other political parties to shame. Unfortunately for Hong Kong, Christine seems a little bit too advanced to be appreciated. Her lack of a family relationship or other channel to pro-Beijing forces would also make her a highly unlikely candidate for the post of CEO of Hong Kong in the foreseeable future.
"Sons of the Soil"
Miss Elsie Leung made an impressive entrance to the HKDF luncheon in the style of an "American Politician", going around shaking the hands of all those who were present. During her speech at the HKDF (see article The First Three Years of the HKSAR), she highlighted many new features that are affecting Hong Kong since 1997. Her support for the rule of law in Hong Kong seemed genuine. And even though it is difficult to believe that justice was done in not bringing prosecution in the Sally Aw Case, one must bear in mind that this would not be the first-ever blunder made by a Hong Kong attorney general. One might not agree with all her reasons, but she should be given credit for being the first who bothered to defend her decisions in specific cases to the public.
Miss Elsie Leung is the first-ever lawyer appointed to her position from private practice and only the second person from the private sector to be appointed as a policy secretary in the history of Hong Kong (the first was Sir John Brembridge who joined from Swire as Financial Secretary). Some members of the legal communities blasted her appointment as it was felt that there were many more deserving candidates in Hong Kong. The press painted her as someone who had destroyed the rule of law in Hong Kong. Her appointment was also equated to a symbol of the HKSAR Government crumbling to the wishes of Beijing.
The HKDF tend to disagree as we felt her appointment is no different from political appointments in any "presidential system". We accept that political appointees must have the trust of the CEO. And Hong Kong should move towards more, not fewer political appointments from the private sector to senior positions in Government.
"The Hong Kong Dilemma"
Miss Elsie Leung came across as a dedicated person in her own right. But it is no secret she was appointed partly because her family has close links with the mainland.
We believe that it is the right direction for more people to be appointed to Government from the private sector. But there is a distinct risk if we were to continue to pick political appointees only from a narrow base of people who have family or business connections with the mainland. If Hong Kong were to have such a restrictive political appointments system, then many Hong Kong born and bred talents will be excluded. And the current administration would be doing a disservice to the cause of working towards a more progressive Hong Kong and more progressive China.