Date
15 December 2019
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration in Hong Kong on June 16. Following the extradition bill fiasco, the Carrie Lam administration faces a crisis of credibility, observers say. Photo: Reuters
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration in Hong Kong on June 16. Following the extradition bill fiasco, the Carrie Lam administration faces a crisis of credibility, observers say. Photo: Reuters

Govt should focus on winning the public’s trust

Following the announcement by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last Saturday that she was suspending her bid to amend the extradition law, members of the Executive Council quickly rallied to her defense.

Among them, Dr. Lam Ching-choi suggested that Carrie Lam had been remorseful even before citizens staged a massive protest march on June 9.

The Executive Councilor then went on to say that the chief executive would definitely not have pressed ahead with the law changes if she had a “time machine” and foresaw the public uproar.

Leaving aside the fancy time machine reference, let’s assume now that if we just had a crystal ball, can we say the administration would have enjoyed better credibility if the chief executive had been elected through “one person, one vote”?

In relation to this question, former transport and housing secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung has raised some important points in a recent article published in the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

In his article, Cheung noted that the new generation doesn’t buy into the government’s explanations and that the young people are unwilling to ease off on their skepticism about the mainland.

That is because they simply have no trust in the existing political system, and have no high regard for people who come to power under such a system.

Besides, the new generation of Hongkongers also don’t have much faith in the city’s political parties and establishment groups, Cheung said in the article.

According to Cheung, after what happened in recent weeks, the government’s legitimacy may have worn off completely in the eyes of many people, thereby rendering it more difficult for Carrie Lam and her cabinet to govern effectively in the days ahead.

The vicious circle that was seen in the past 20 years or so would simply repeat itself and worsen if the government continues to bury its head in the sand and naively believes that it can find a way out of its woes by staying focused on economic development and livelihood while leaving the fundamental issue of constitutional reform untouched, he concluded.

In our opinion, what Cheung has pinpointed in his article hits the nail on the head: it won’t make any difference even if Carrie Lam is replaced if there is no universal suffrage that comes with constitutional reform.

That said, political reform at this point of time can prove an enormous undertaking which might become just as controversial as the extradition law amendments.

Still, while it might not be good timing for the administration to launch political reform initiatives at this point, authorities should at least heal social wounds in the short run.

Setting up an independent inquiry to look into the June 12 clashes will be a good thing to do right now, before any decision is taken on who should be held accountable for the bloodshed on that day.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal