21 October 2019
A dysfunctional legislature is among the key issues that Hong Kong needs to fix, the author says. Photo: AFP
A dysfunctional legislature is among the key issues that Hong Kong needs to fix, the author says. Photo: AFP

Time to address two key issues

The last among the five demands put forward by the protesters in Hong Kong is full implementation of universal suffrage, a deep-seated issue that the vast majority of locals want to see addressed, but which the government is unwilling to touch.

I agree that reactivating constitutional reform with a view to achieving universal suffrage would be good, but must admit that it won’t be easy now to start discussions on the matter anew.

That said, while the government is inclined to set aside this massive undertaking for the time being, I believe it should at least prioritize the resolution of some other issues that are proving bothersome for local citizens.

The first urgent issue which the administration needs to address promptly is the city’s dysfunctional legislature, which has become a rubber stamp for the executive branch in recent years.

The continued political deterioration of Legco has led to mounting discontent and resentment among the public, thereby further fuelling political conflicts in the city.

The second worrisome issue which the government needs to tackle head-on is the increasingly blatant and heavy-handed political interference by Beijing’s Liaison Office.

As we all know, the Liaison Office has been aggressively pulling the strings behind the scenes in Hong Kong in recent years .

One indirect consequence is that the entire pro-establishment camp has become nothing more than a pawn for the Liaison Office to serve its political agenda.

The Liaison Office has become so big and powerful that it has taken on a life of its own, so much so that it is not uncommon for the office to act unilaterally without even waiting for prompting from Beijing.

As a result, the central government sometimes has to bypass the Liaison Office and send special envoys directly to the Hong Kong government.

To conclude, I would say that the dysfunctional legislature and the unchecked growth of political power of the Liaison Office have created a kind of “constitutional black hole”.

Tackling the black hole should be a primary task if we are to resolve the deep-rooted conflicts in the city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 16

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of the Shadow Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, a non-governmental organization