Message from the Chairman
From Colonialism to Self-imposed Colonialism
I have always been fascinated by recent Asian history as it gives bearings on current events. As a secondary school student, I learnt that it was idealism that drove the first generation leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to succeed. I also learnt that it was personal and intellectual deficiencies that drove China into despair for 30 years after 1949. I tried to imagine the excitement and romanticism Gandhi and Lee Kuan-yiu lived through in the de-colonisation of India and Singapore. I saw both sides of the argument behind the "fight" between China and Britain in the five year period leading to Hong Kong's reunification with China. I witnessed Hong Kong's return to China on July 1st, 1997 and I felt that I understood the subdued attitude of many Hong Kong people toward such an historical event.
"One Country, Two Systems" is only skin deep
Although we should be pleased with the way Mr Xu Simin and Mr Su Xu were handled by Central Government officials after their respective attacks on RTHK and on the TVB reporter during Zhu Rongji's visit to France, we also know that outside the Central Government, few people in China understand the social and institutional fabric that makes Hong Kong work. Few took Mr Liao Hui's view that Hong Kong is a difficult book to read. Many in the business and political elite in China think of those who supported Chris Patten's political reform as British Running Dogs. Some feel morally superior to us as we are mere remnants of a colonial regime. Some even feel that mainland business and political interests should rightly inherit many privileges once enjoyed by the departed sovereign. The risks of China imposing its systems upon us is real.
Being a cautious man and correctly reading some of the risk elements coming from China, Mr Tung Chee-hua took it upon himself to do what he felt best for Hong Kong people. Hong Kong should focus on economic development. Unpredictable elements such as democratic aspirations should be contained. Discussion on political reforms should be delayed. The safest way to have a more "Open" government would be to establish a few more Advisory Committees. Instead of taking on the role of a statesman and continuing to build upon Hong Kong's unique strengths and pluralism, Mr Tung seems to be more comfortable with the roles of an business manager and a father figure who's there to take care of us.
This is a sad thing because I believe that most people in China, including those within the Central Government who know Hong Kong and wish us well, want Hong Kong to be a step ahead and set an example to China in the nation-building process. Fear of what the Central Government might do to us is, sometimes, self-imposed and not real!
An intellectual deficit
The HKDF believes that such a paternalistic approach towards problem solving is a mistake primarily because it takes away our ability to think for ourselves. If such mentality were to continue, Hong Kong's future will be determined by those whose primary qualifications are blind obedience or conservatism. The policy formulation process will not longer be determined by the merit of the argument but by an endless striving for consensus, conflict avoidance and second-guessing of what might China do to us. Hong Kong will no longer hear the voice of loyal opposition. Sensing that such a deterioration will ultimately harm business interests, foreign investors will hesitate or stay away. Mr Tung will be leading us towards political and economic paralysis.
The way out
If we want a political and administrative machine capable of leading us, and eventually our compatriots in China into the next century, then we must have a system that allows pluralism. The Civil Service should stop thinking of itself as the only well-spring of ideas and workable solutions. Policy formulation power must be linked to political responsibility. Political parties, once supported for their courage to oppose insensitive government policy and the Chinese Communist Party, will have to develop their intellectual capacity and become competitive sources of ideas for better government. "Brains", as well as "courage" will be required.