25 February 2020
Shiu Lik-king is a former civil servant and political commentator. In his latest book, he discusses leadership with insights from Sir Winston Churchill. Photo: HKEJ
Shiu Lik-king is a former civil servant and political commentator. In his latest book, he discusses leadership with insights from Sir Winston Churchill. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong needs a Churchill-like leader, says ex-civil servant

Shiu Lik-king, a former civil servant and political commentator, is a keen student of history and politics.

But after devoting more than a decade to government service, he feels he doesn’t want to have anything more to do with politics.

Born in Shanghai, Shiu grew up in Hong Kong and studied at the prestigious Diocesan Boys’ School.

He obtained straight As in the Hong Kong A-level public examination and secured a scholarship to study philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford.

As a university student, he became deeply interested in international politics and was fascinated by the history of the two world wars.

He joined the government service in 1997. For 11 years, he served in various agencies, as an administrative officer and also in the private office of former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

But he found himself “unsuitable for government job” and decided to quit in 2008.

“I have too many thoughts, and that’s unbearable in the bureaucratic system,” he said.

“I love viewing an issue from different angles. However, most of the government policies take a top-down approach, meaning the authorities leave little room for discussion once something has been decided. I felt like I couldn’t improvise.”

Speaking from his experience in the civil service, Shiu believes that Hong Kong is just waiting for a truly charismatic and far-sighted leader, someone like wartime British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

Having left the bureaucracy, Shiu became a political commentator to voice out his thoughts about politics and society.

Many of his articles are imbued with his experience in the civil service and fascination with history.

“I used to be puzzled why people don’t learn from history. But it didn’t take long for me to understand that Hong Kong is a place with little sense of history, with a brief history of its own and public apathy towards histories of the world,” he said.

Shiu said political leaders often had to fight against all odds. He again cited Churchill who advocated armament when the world couldn’t foresee the dangers of Nazi Germany, earning him the notorious label of being a warmonger, but not for long.

Shiu wondered whether Hong Kong would produce its own charismatic leaders.

“Christopher Patten took up his appointment as the last governor of Hong Kong only because he lost the Bath parliamentary seat in the 1992 election. Nevertheless, Hongkongers were already so impressed. But one shouldn’t forget that Patten is far behind Churchill.”

In Shiu’s opinion, local politicians are unlikely to attain the quality and level of leadership that Churchill displayed because the city has never attempted to nurture political leaders.

What Hong Kong is abundant of are young generations of the super rich, not of politicians, he added.

Though Shiu enjoys dishing out his views on Hong Kong politics, he said he is no longer interested in getting involved in it.

Right now Shiu is pursuing a Juris Doctor degree at the Faculty of Law of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, hoping he could contribute to the city in a new capacity.

“Nomocracy [a government ruled by law] is Hong Kong’s foundation,” he said. “It is our most valuable asset as well as our last line of defense.”

Shiu remains optimistic about Hong Kong, and he thinks mainland China is unlikely to catch up in instituting the rule of law because of its mentality and set of values.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 14.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal