Govt needs self-evaluation to improve itself

December 31, 2019 10:38
Hong Kong authorities are facing calls for self-improvement to put things right and enforce accountability as they confront a governance crisis. Photo: CNSA

Just as the highly turbulent 2019 is about to draw to a close, lawmaker and Executive Councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee dropped a major bombshell in relation to the extradition bill saga.

In an interview to i-Cable News, Ip, who is chairperson of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party, revealed that back in early June she rang up the government to find out if it was going to make concessions on the matters relating to the revision on the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, only to be reassured by the administration that it would stay the course.

However, within less than 72 hours after protesters stormed the Legislative Council building on June 12, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suddenly did a U-turn on the bill and announced that the legislative initiative would be suspended.

Ip told i-Cable News bluntly during the interview that she felt she was “tricked” by the government on the issue.

Ip’s remarks were shocking because if she was telling the truth, it means that the Executive Council (Exco), which is supposed to be the de facto “cabinet” advising the chief executive, was kept in the dark about the extradition bill-related decision.

And it inevitably calls into question the viability of the current Chief Executive-in-Council system.

Even more shocking is that, according to Ip, an Exco member suggested a collective resignation if it helped the situation, in order to enforce collective accountability.

That suggestion was said to have been dismissed by Lam, who was quoted by Ip as saying that the Exco is only “on the periphery”, and is no more than an entity giving advice.

Again, if Ip was telling the truth, then we really can’t help asking: if the Exco, which is supposed to be the highest executive body of the HKSAR that assists the chief executive in making policy decisions, has been degraded into a “peripheral” role, then who are persons now actually assisting the chief executive when it comes to making critical policy decisions?

Moreover, is the traditional collective accountability system of the Exco that has been in place ever since the 1997 handover still functioning properly?

Besides, as the chief executive is said to have rejected the idea of collective resignation proposed by an Exco member, it indicates that the government has no intention whatsoever of overhauling the Exco in order to demonstrate a commitment to self-improvement.

If that is the case, then how possibly can the administration respond to public demands in a reasonable fashion when the “cabinet” is still intact despite the ongoing severe political crisis?

Given the situation, if the government really wants to seek a breakthrough to the current deadlock as soon as possible, the first and foremost thing it should do is to think of how to make self-improvement and self-restoration, put things right and truly enforce accountability.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 30

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal