Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Where Hong Kong went wrong

By Paul Lin 林保華

Six years after its handover to China, Hong Kong has seen an economic slump and political decline, causing public anger that led to a mass demonstration on July 1, in which between 500,000 and 1 million people participated. Why is the territory's government so at a loss over the economy? Why did it want to pass the Article 23 legislation in such a short period, knowing fully and yet refusing to accept the fact that the public have many objections to it? There is only one answer: Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's (董建華) regime is an alien regime. China, not Hong Kong, is its top priority.

In 1996, before taking over Hong Kong, China screened some hot candidates for the chief executive's post. Only two were left after the screening.

Tung, who was then a member of Hong Kong's Executive Council, was favored by Lu Ping (魯平), director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China's State Council.

But Zhou Nan (周南), then director of the Xinhua News Agency's Hong Kong office, favored chief justice Yang Ti-liang (楊鐵樑).

Because former Xinhua chief Xu Jiatun (許家屯) helped Tung rescue his company, which was on the brink of bankruptcy, Tung repaid Xu's kindness by giving his girlfriend a highly paid sinecure in his company, which included housing.

In the end, however, former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) appointed Tung to the job. Why? There were many reasons, but an important one was that Tung was of Zhejiang ancestry and born in Shanghai. Only when he was 10 did he move to Hong Kong. He could be listed as a member of the "Shanghai gang." After finishing high school in Hong Kong, Tung went to college in the UK, and then lived in the US for almost 10 years. He did not return to Hong Kong until 1969. He therefore is not deeply rooted in Hong Kong and does not belong to a local faction. The name of his family business, Orient Overseas (International) Ltd, has an overtone of roving overseas and not viewing Hong Kong as its roots.

Yang was also born in Shanghai, but he is Cantonese. Besides, he returned to Hong Kong much earlier. Having served as a judge in Hong Kong over a long period, Yang understands the concept of judicial independence. On top of this, the Chinese leadership has always believed that the Cantonese have a serious problem of "regionalism" and may be difficult to control.

When building his leadership team, Tung appointed the Chinese Communist Party's underground members in Hong Kong to important posts. For example, Elsie Leung (梁愛詩), who has a leftist background, was appointed to the important position of secretary for justice, so as to protect pro-communist allies. That was why Sally Aw Sian (胡仙), a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chairwoman of the Singtao group, was spared punishment in a fraud scandal.

In Tung's first term, Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) was appointed convener of the Executive Council. He is still a council member in Tung's second term. Quite a few bad ideas came from him.

Chan Kin-ping (陳建平), the chief executive's assistant, was formerly a Wen Wei Po (文匯報) reporter stationed in Beijing. He graduated from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. Through him, Beijing can give orders to Tung without leaving a trace.

Only two Hong Kong political party heads have been invited to sit on the Executive Council. One of them is Jasper Tsang (曾鈺成), chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. After the July 1 demonstration, Tsang publicly stated that those who had participated in the protest had been misled.

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