RTHK "Letter to Hong Kong"

by Martin Lee

Broadcasted on Radio 3, RTHK on March 5, 2000

In recent weeks, both Mr. Peter Woo and Sir Gordon Wu have been effectively pushing for one taxpayer, one vote, and non-taxpayers, no vote, for the Functional Constituency seats in the Legislative Council, rejecting popular demands that these seats be replaced by democratically elected ones.

Well, money talks. And in Hong Kong, money talks louder than in most other parts of the world. And indeed, in the light of recent events, many people here believe that we are already having moneytocracy. And moneytocracy leads to favouritism or cronyism.

I remember one bright summer day back in 1987 when I was in Kunming - that was the day before the start of another round of Drafting Committee meetings of the Basic Law. Mr. Lu Ping and I were literally walking up the garden path, admiring the beautiful flowers. Now, that was the time when the public in Hong Kong were debating what sort of electoral system we should have in Hong Kong after 1997, and the pro-business groups were advocating to have a businessman to rule Hong Kong.

Mr. Lu Ping said to me, "Don't worry, Mr. Lee, about that, because we are not going to adopt that proposal. For if we were to appoint Sir Y K Pao to be the Chief Executive, then Mr. Li Ka Shing and others would pull out of Hong Kong. And if we were to appoint Mr. Li Ka Shing to be the Chief Executive, then Sir Y K Pao and others would pull out of Hong Kong."

Well, at that time at least, the leaders in Beijing saw the danger of having a businessman to rule Hong Kong.

In the last six months, we have seen a huge extension to what was already a large empire in our city, which now accounts for a quarter to a third of the market capitalisation of the Hong Kong stock market - a much larger percentage than Microsoft commands in the USA or Sony in Japan. That empire has now great influence over many aspects of our daily lives - telephones, mobile phones, electricity, supermarkets, and real estate. Can there be any doubt that government policies are being influenced by that empire?

This is particularly so when one calls to mind the huge piece of prime residential site next to the Cyberport being simply granted to one member of that family without there being any bidding procedure so as to allow the other developers to bid for it, and the many exemptions granted by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange when tom.com was being floated in the Growth Enterprise Market.

What then can we do apart from praying that the number one family in Hong Kong will be kind to the Hong Kong consumers whose daily lives are now so very much affected by its decisions?

In the colonial days, people used to say that Hong Kong was run by the Jockey Club, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and the government - in that order. Now it's just one family.

Indeed a number of very wealthy tycoons have already expressed their concern in public because they saw the danger of what was once a level playing field beginning to tilt and tilt and tilt towards just one empire.

The Democratic Party has been pushing, for years now, for a Fair Competition Bill because we believe that monopolies or monopolistic tendencies are bad for business and bad for consumers. I certainly hope that in the light of recent events, our cause will have wider support, particularly, from the business sector. For if Hong Kong is to continue to be a vibrant international city, then we must not let the rest of the world have the perception that favouritism or cronyism exists in Hong Kong, or that the level playing field is not that level any more, but must ensure that all investors, whether local or foreign, have equal opportunities in Hong Kong.

To achieve that, we must woo democracy, and not moneytocracy.


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