Sing Tao Daily News 2019-12-12 A14

I was an invited guest at RTHK Radio 3 BackChat programme on 10th of December. Fellow guests were Legislative Council members Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Dr Kwok Ka-ki. English language news affair programme has a relatively small audience, but I managed to put some points across: “Five Demands, Not One Less” is not a good start for negotiation that leads to peaceful resolution of the current political crisis. Path of Democracy’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, if accepted, would have answered four of the Five Demands. And even if the HKSAR Government was able to offer political reform based on the “831 Framework” (2014 NPC Standing Commission Decision on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Election), the Government’s proposal would be trashed as a “… backwards spiral to a never ending hell” and would not be accepted by the Pan-Democrats. The political reality is that the Central Government in Beijing would not allow any political reform in a midst of a political crisis. It would be an optimistic prediction to say that the Central Government may offer Hong Kong the “831 Framework” again five years after a peaceful resolution happens in Hong Kong.

“2047” and the end of “50 Years No Change” will edge much closer after five years. The uncertainties faced by Hong Kong in 1985 over the legal status of land leases and housing mortgages will surface again in 2025. Hong Kong does not have time nor could afford the time to stand still in the next five years. Other than political reform, all political parties and think tanks should make proposals to develop the economic and social infrastructures and to propose practical means for Hong Kong to change and improve itself. Path of Democracy did make a proposal to the Financial Secretary in a budget consultation meeting for the next financial year:

  1. Establish an Economic Development Commission modelled after Singapore’s EDB (Economic Development Board). Various chambers of commerce and political parties have been lobbying the Government to start a “Hong Kong EDB” for 20 more or nearly 30 years and this proposal should be reconsidered now.
  2. Treat the vocational training capacity seriously. Graduates of vocational training colleges should become more competitive in the job market and IVE (Institute of Vocational Education) students’ school fee subsidy should increase substantially.
  3. Government should cooperate with youth groups that are keen to conserve Hong Kong’s cultural and tourism resources. The objective is to offer alternative tourism services and to increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an attractive tourist destination.
  4. Follow the German example of directly fund think tank affiliated to political parties based on the number of votes the parties get. The purpose of such a policy measure is to encourage political parties to come up with better policy alternatives to compete the Government’s proposals and to help the Government to build consensus with the political parties in the policy formulation process.
  5. Hong Kong is a high cost economy. Experience of other high cost economies tells us that the only way out for Hong Kong is to develop Innovation and Technology. For example, fund universities and other NGOs to offer train technology entrepreneurs and to host offices or branches of world class “Accelerators”. Government should offer to co-fund technology start ups at the “Seed”, “Angels” and “Pre-Series A” stages. The purpose of such funding is not to try to take over the role of private sector investors, but to strengthen Hong Kong’s InnoTech Ecosystem and to lower the risk of private investors.

The above are practical policy measures which may or may not be accepted the HKSAR Government. The Government controls all public resources. Whether Government can absorb good ideas from the society and apply them in social and economic development is part of the administrative reform process and the the remit of the Chief Secretary. However, Hong Kong is facing a political crisis now and only politics can solve political problems. The questions we need to asked include:

  1. What qualities or personality traits the next Chief Executive should have?
  2. What are the deep-seated political problems he must solve in his or her five-year term?
  3. How would a universal suffrage proposal acceptable to Hong Kong People and the Beijing Government be implemented?

Some say the Chief Executive must be intelligent and must take orders from Beijing well. Some say bring back someone like MacLehose and the problems would be solved. Some say “2047” is almost like a second reunification of Hong Kong to China. Hong Kong’s political future does not seem like a simple subject. Let’s hope we will have an opportunity to discuss this complicated subject in the next article.

Lung Ka Lun

Governor & Co-convenor (International)