RTHK "Letter to Hong Kong"

by Martin Lee

Broadcasted on 01 October 2000 on Radio 3, Radio Television Hong Kong

Well, the elections of the Legislative Council are now over. And the Chief Executive, Mr. Tung, will be presenting his policy speech to the Legislative Council on the 11th of October. Now, we believe that Mr. Tung is going to say something about what the government has called the "improvement" of the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

I can understand why they ask the question in that way - namely, how to improve the relationship between government servants and Legislators, because at the end of the day, they would like the Legislative Council, as a collective body, to support the government more than has been the case. But from the point of view of the elected legislators who represent the people of Hong Kong, surely we should ask a totally different question.

And it is this: How do we make the Executive more accountable to the Legislature? Perhaps you say, well, this is the two different sides of the same coin. I am inclined to agree. But it is important to look at it from our point of view because, after all, we have been elected by the people of Hong Kong to hold the Executive accountable to the elected representatives of the people. And that has also been enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration as well as our Basic Law. For what good would it do to the people of Hong Kong if we, the elected Legislators, were to be on such friendly terms with the civil servants that we played mah jong with them once every week? And indeed let them win?

The people of Hong Kong want us to do our job properly, mainly to support the government when it is right and oppose it when it is wrong. A case in point is Mrs. Anson Chan's hastily arranged meeting early last week with the Vice Premier, Mr. Qian Qichen, and the even more hasty meeting between the Financial Secretary and the Director of the Hong Kong-Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr. Liao Hui, later last week.

Mrs. Anson Chan's meeting was shrouded in mystery. What actually happened is, of course, entirely a matter between them. But of course we know of this very terse statement issued by Xian Hua thirty minutes after the meeting expressing the wishes of Mr. Qian that Mrs. Chan, together with the whole civil service, should better support the work of the Chief Executive.

"Better support" clearly suggests that in Mr. Qian Qichen's view, so far the support was not good enough. The question which arises is this: Does that constitute "interference" of Hong Kong's internal affairs by Beijing or does it merely constitute "concern" on the part of Beijing? That meeting between Mrs. Chan and Mr. Qian Qichen was given great prominence by the local press, both English and Chinese. Mrs. Chan described these reports as "colorful" and "imaginative."

But I think the public wants to know whether these "colorful" and "imaginative" reports are true or totally false. I fully appreciate Mrs. Chan's dislike for speculative reports of this kind. But surely she can expel all such speculation by coming to the Legislative Council to brief us as to what actually transpired in Beijing.

Likewise, Mr. Donald Teng, the Financial Secretary, should give us an account of what happened when he attended the meeting in Beijing with Mr. Liao Hui. All the things discussed in Beijing between our top officials and Beijing's top officials clearly relate to Hong Kong Affairs and thus the Legislative Council should be briefed fully by the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary. The same should go for the Chief Executive when he reports for duty in Beijing. That was certainly the practice when Chris Patten was the Governor of Hong Kong.

I remember that every time he reported for duty in London, he would come back to the Legislative Council within a few days and brief us pretty fully as to the things that were discussed between the Prime Minister and himself. For this is what accountability is all about. The Chief Executive, just like the Governor before him, must not keep things from the people of Hong Kong or the elected Legislators. Surely a very good step forward is to show the Legislators that they are trusted by the Chief Executive and his senior civil servants.

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