POP Site From the Editor - Reflections on July 7Back

Note: This article represents the view of the author and not the University of Hong Kong.

July 7 is a date which will never be forgotten by the Chinese people. The animosities between Chinese and Japanese peoples are yet to be resolved.

July 7 is also a date which I will never forget. Exactly three years ago, I was forced into the front stage of Hong Kong history.

Stopped writing for two years, and kept my lips tight for another year, I was waiting for our society to heal itself. To me, I couldn't care less whether the Chief Executive would be re-elected or replaced. I just hoped that we all learn a precious lesson.

Sadly, sadly, very sadly, this was not the case. Three years have passed, but practically all indicators have plunged. CE's popularity has gone bankrupt, and people are absolutely in despair.

After thinking long and hard, I somewhat got a clue: There must be structural reasons for Hong Kong's downturn.

One structural factor is the lack of trust between the Central Government and the Hong Kong people. Second on the list is the structural defect of CH Tung's personality, while last but not least is the barrier to the development of people's power in Hong Kong.

There are many historical reasons why Hong Kong people and the Central Government distrust each other. Before the handover, the Communist Party was a monster to the Hong Kong people, while democracy was a nightmare for the Central leaders. As the time-line approached, Beijing got nervous, and President Jiang handpicked an old man whom he knew for sure would return his favour.

Being the Chairman of the shipping firm Orient Overseas, Tung knew exactly how the Central Government had rescued his company from the brink of bankruptcy. Now that he was crowned by Jiang, how could he not have thrown his heart to the motherland? National interest is family interest. No wonder that although the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law is "entirely a Hong Kong business", Tung is adamant that the deadline must be set at July 9, simply because he wanted to guess the wishes of the Central Government, which is "very important to our own future," he said. It became clear that he was at first subservient to his boss in Beijing, and then unwilling to change in order not to lose face. The Central Government's request is his order, its unspoken wish his diehard command. This is the structural problem of Tung's character.

As head of the SAR administration, Tung is more concerned with face-saving than adhering to the rules. More often than not, personal wishes override established practices, personal grudges take priority over public interest, and the rule of man is being camouflaged under the rule of law. This is an extension of Tung's personality.

Under the political birdcage, legislators await orders from the government, which in turn awaits orders from the CE, who in turn guesses what the Central Government wants. This is the absurdity of our SARG's operation. At the end of the day, the legislators, the government, the CE, the Central Government, and the people, all become losers. Incentives are lost, people simply hibernate.

Turning crisis into opportunity, the only solution now is to change the structures. While the gap between the Central Government and Hong Kong people is narrowing, our Beijing leaders had better keep up the momentum by scolding the subservient few, and giving a free hand to Hong Kong people to handle our own affairs. If so, they can easily win the support of many Hong Kong people.

As for CE Tung Chee-hwa, should he be prepared to repent of his past blunders, and be responsive to public wishes, just like making a religious vow, he may still have a chance to resurrect himself.

Hong Kong people, on the other hand, can continue to cultivate "people's power" so proudly demonstrated on July 1. We should remain united, to collectively exercise the power of the market, of the professionals, of the community, of public opinion, and of the mass. The demonstration on July 1 has clearly told us, that people make history, and that government needs people's mandate. Without people's support, any policy, legislation and profession cannot stand. They would become meaningless, and there is no longer any need for conducting opinion surveys.

Robert Ting-Yiu Chung
July 7, 2003