23 October 2016
Hong Kong's leaders have allowed problems to build up in the city since the 1997 handover to China, critics say. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong's leaders have allowed problems to build up in the city since the 1997 handover to China, critics say. Photo: Bloomberg

Why the new political normal makes us weary

A series of mis-steps by local officials have led to a loss of confidence among the public in the Hong Kong government. The public trust has eroded to such an extent that some people perceive an evil intent behind every policy the administration rolls out.

There is a Chinese saying that a man who lacks credibility is worthless. It is also the case with the government, when the estrangement and distrust toward it are almost ubiquitous.

The sad truth is that the city’s three post-handover chief executives have all allowed problems to build up in the territory.

Tung Chee-hwa dismantled a time-honored public service system after taking the top post following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Under his regime, top officials were not truly held accountable for misconduct.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who succeeded Tung as CE, made a distinction between people on the basis of political affinity. That has led to the divisions in society getting more deep.

As for Leung Chun-ying, the city’s incumbent leader, he was never seen as fair and impartial in his governance. Instead, he has gained the reputation of being a Beijing puppet who rushes to fulfill the orders of mainland bosses and ignores the concerns of Hongkongers.

The government is committing one policy blunder after another, pushing Hong Kong to the edge of an abyss.

For instance, a proposal on an electronic road pricing pilot scheme in Central means extra burden on transport operators and car owners as there is no other bypass in the district, but the government is hardly bothered. The policy principle for fees and charges is still “User Pays”.

In another case, after ten months of bureaucratic exercises, deliberations and wastage of huge amount of taxpayers’ money — officials had traveled to 11 overseas cities to “learn from established experience” — the government has cooked up a scheme for introduction of food trucks in Hong Kong.

However, the plan looks more like a tourism promotion stunt and fails to address the core issue, namely providing some relief for the catering industry which is suffering from high rental costs.

Coming to the new copyright amendment bill, it is an improvement as it now incorporates additional exemptions, but there are still many concerns in people’s minds. 

Many are worried that ambiguities in the law may expose netizens to legal pitfalls, especially given the government’s track record of being selective in enforcing laws.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim’s response in dealing with an outcry from pupils and parents over the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) tests for school students is also a telling example of what officials should not do.

One of my readers asked me recently as to why I haven’t commented on Hong Kong affairs for a while.

Well, what can I say, except that the situation is pretty worrisome.

As our top officials are unable to lead and social disharmony has become the norm, sometimes it is just too depressing to put thoughts into words.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 23.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


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

EJI Weekly Newsletter