Challenge the ruling elite, Mr Tsang
SCMP June 27, 2005
Can the new chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, think outside the
box? He may be able to do little about progress towards democracy
but, being a student of colonial governance, he must have noticed
that two governors during his time made a particular impact: Lord
Murray MacLehose and Chris Patten. Why? Because both rejected establishment
Lord MacLehose rejected the colonial office mentality by insisting
that Hong Kong could be a modern society, that institutionalised police
corruption could be fought and that a degree of social justice was
compatible with economic growth.
Mr Patten rejected the Foreign Office view that there was no alternative
to following a through train driven by China, and tried to bring some
elements of self-government and government accountability to Hong Kong.
As a consummate insider, Mr Tsang may find it difficult to look at
Hong Kong with a fresh eye. But, as a politician, he must see that
leadership requires taking risks. If he cannot take risks with Beijing,
he can at least do so with local power holders.
But the prospects seem discouraging. Like most senior civil servants,
he seems to have an inflated view of the role of this class.
He talks a lot about entrepreneurship, but comes from a family of
government officials. His father was a station sergeant, a formidable
position at a time when the senior ranks of the police were mostly
filled by expatriates.
His brother made it to the top of the force. But at least Mr Tsang
has a better claim than most to grass-roots origins.
So, where better to start being a grass-roots leader than with his
privileged civil service "family"? The post-retirement rules
outlined for the 2007 chief executive should be applied now to all
top civil servants. They have fat enough pensions not to need high-paying
jobs in the private sector or statutory bodies. Let them do public
service or charity work instead.
Overpayment of quasi-bureaucrats is everywhere. The latest example,
uncovered by financial analyst David Webb, directly affects all private-sector
employees: a monstrous 2 per cent of the Mandatory Provident Fund assets
are siphoned off annually on costs, to support its bureaucracy and
a few providers.
At least that is not criminal, unlike the kickbacks being paid - according
to this newspaper - by specialist doctors and hospitals, which the
Department of Justice has declined to prosecute. This appears to be
the kind of institutionalised graft that used to exist in the police
Mr Tsang could also ask his former police chief brother, Tsang Yam-pui,
to set a better example. Was it appropriate to move from a position
requiring the highest level of public trust to executive director of
NWS Holdings? This is a New World subsidiary, whose profits are in
part dependent on government regulation. Which brings me back to the
Competition Policy Review Committee, on which I have written previously.
The secretary of the committee claimed in a letter to this paper that
the members are "appointed on an ad personam basis rather than
representing a trade or organisation". So, is Andrew Brandler,
head of CLP Holdings, going to argue for ending power monopolies?
The chairman of this committee is Christopher Cheng Wai-chee, chairman
of the USI group and a director of New World China Land. And USI chief
executive Edward Cheng Wai-sun is chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority.
And so forth.
Why are such bodies drawn from a tiny group of families and interests
when so many educated professional and business people are ignored?
Take courage, Mr Tsang. If you cannot deliver democracy, grasp an
opportunity to take some power out of the dead hand of cliques. There
are many ways to broaden the base of government.
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