16 January 2019
CY Leung's workaround appointment of Yang as his tech adviser has further intensified public concern over the rule of man under his administration. Photo: RTHK
CY Leung's workaround appointment of Yang as his tech adviser has further intensified public concern over the rule of man under his administration. Photo: RTHK

Rule of man eroding Hong Kong’s well-founded systems

Last week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appointed Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, former executive vice president of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, as his Innovation and Technology Adviser and a non-official Executive Council member with immediate effect.

Also, the existing Steering Committee on Innovation & Technology, set up in 2004, will be restructured and turned into an advisory committee on innovation and technology with Yang as chairman of the new body.

Leung’s actions serve as a workaround after the government’s proposal to set up an Innovation and Technology Bureau was frustrated by filibustering at the Legislative Council. Yang had been tipped to head the proposed bureau.

But the administration fails to explain why – at a time when Leung has reaffirmed that the new bureau matters a great deal to Hong Kong’s competitiveness – the Steering Committee on Innovation & Technology hasn’t convened a single meeting since last July?

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, chairwoman of Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corp. and an Executive Council member, said the steering committee hasn’t held a single meeting since she became a member in July 2014.

Born in Taiwan and educated in the United States, Yang has been a veteran in Hong Kong’s innovation and technology sector and surely qualifies for the multiple official posts.

Yet the problem is that Leung’s appointment is seen as another example of his abuse of power with the profound “rule of man” style of work. Critics say Leung’s move is a grave disregard of existing rules and regulations in governance and official appointments.

I do believe the proposed new bureau will be a boost to the local economy, but Leung’s headstrong approach has further complicated the issue and elicited more opposition from the pan-democratic camp. It’s a classic scenario of good intentions gone awry. Now Yang has to give the public a clear account of his role and responsibilities to ease their doubts.

The stalled process of setting up an Innovation and Technology Bureau is just one episode of the bitter tussle between Leung and pan-democrat lawmakers, mirroring the resentment of Hongkongers who felt aggrieved by government actions and policies.

The reason why locals were generally happy with the colonial authorities was because Britons’ governance went by the book and the government attached equal significance to all citizens under the rule of law. Hongkongers would be equally happy if Beijing can assert its suzerainty in a similar way.

The question is not about who is governing Hong Kong, either Britons or Beijing loyalists, but how the territory is governed.

It won’t be way off the mark to conclude that the current and previous principal officials appointed by Beijing after 1997 and their performance have all lost the heart of people.

But Beijing does not realize what’s wrong with the way Hong Kong is governed, and it refuses to reflect on its Hong Kong policies either.

Beijing lackeys within the SAR government dodge the problem and attribute locals’ grievances to anti-Beijing or anti-communist sentiments, sometimes even contriving “overseas forces” as the scapegoat.

This is exactly how local discontent towards governance, not too hard to resolve in the first place, is being grossly inflated, distorted and elevated to a fallacy that Hongkongers oppose anything associated with China or the Communist Party.

There are no disputes in cross-border relations that cannot be resolved through proper governance. Sadly, Beijing has chosen wrong persons all the years since the handover as they are either too obsequious to their masters or know nothing about the modern way of governance.

The SAR government has to rely on Beijing as the source of authority as it lacks the people’s mandate, but when dealing with Hong Kong affairs, Beijing mandarins just like to cling to supreme powers.

Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, said in an interview that Hong Kong is stuck. Many locals feel the same way. And since blaming the SAR government is no longer enough for them to give vent to their grievances, mainland tourists and parallel traders have become the latest collateral targets.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 4.

Translation by Frank Chen

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A famous Hong Kong writer; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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