RTHK "Letter to Hong Kong"

by Martin Lee

Broadcasted on Radio 3, RTHK, on September 5, 1999

As Mr. Tung is finalising his third policy speech, I think he would be well advised to think back and remind himself as to the reasons behind Mr. Deng Xiaoping's policy of "One Country, Two Systems".

Mr. Deng was then looking at Hong Kong because he certainly wanted to bring Hong Kong back to the flock, but he also had an eye on China which was extremely corrupt. Mr. Deng already decided to open up China's economy, and he was certainly hoping that China would one day be like Hong Kong, and be as successful and as stable.

What he didn't want to see happen was that Hong Kong would lose its prosperity or stability after her reunification with the rest of China. He was hoping that China would soon catch up with Hong Kong. But he knew that it would take many years, say 50 years. Hence the policy of "One Country, Two Systems," meaning that Hong Kong would remain the same as before after the handover. The people would continue to be as free as before; all institutions should remain; our legal system shall continue; our way of life shall continue; the level playing field shall continue. Hopefully China will be able to catch up with us in 50 years' time. What I am sure Mr. Deng didn't want to see was that corruption would come back to Hong Kong.

Now back to the policy speech. I am sure a lot of people in Hong Kong will be asking Mr. Tung this question: where are we going? Or more precisely, where are you leading us to? And before that question is answered, Mr. Tung should look at what has been happening in the last 2 years.

People have often said and, indeed, every government servant has been saying, that nothing has changed. I don't agree. The whole ethos of governance is changing fast. Instead of the rule of law, we are beginning to have the rule of man. Instead of the level playing field in business, we have seen many signs of cronyism, the Cyberport to name but one.

And I am sure Mr. Tung would be delighted that he found support from Mr. Li Ka-shing, a property tycoon, who said on Thursday, "I think he has done his level best." And of course Mr. Lee is an honourable man. Well I suppose one advantage of cronyism to a ruler who practises it is that it guarantees him at least one supporter.

But what about those 10 other property tycoons who came up recently in public to complain about that? But of course our tycoons are very practical men because their complaint was short-lived. And instead of complaining about it, they now seem to be joining in. So there was another tycoon asking Mr. Tung's approval to let him build an herbal port, Chinese medicine of course. So there will be many more of these ports and each tycoon would be happy. But is that the way we would like to see Hong Kong going? Is that the way Mr. Deng Xiaoping would like to see Hong Kong going?

Of course, implementing successfully the "One Country, Two Systems" policy is not going to be easy. It is difficult because before the handover, Hong Kong was a British colony, and the British government and the British parliament were both democratically elected, and so the Hong Kong government was following some democratic conventions and traditions in the governance of Hong Kong. Our motherland, the PRC, of course has no convention of a democratic country. That makes it therefore difficult to uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong after the handover.

But one point is clear and it is this: if we cannot keep what we have in Hong Kong, then we are going to be attracted to the other much mightier system across the border. If we cannot keep the rule of law in Hong Kong, then we are going to see corruption or cronyism coming in from the Mainland. And that is why we have been seeing, during these two and a half years, what I will call the mainlandization of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is becoming less and less distinctive as a separate system from the rest of China and Hong Kong is fast becoming just another Chinese city south of Guangzhou.

How can we stop all these? The only way is to establish democracy in Hong Kong. Without democracy, you cannot hope that our rulers would govern Hong Kong according to the wishes of the people. I mean all the people, and not just one or two of the people who happen to be friends of the leader.

Show me a country without democracy, and I will show you cronyism.

People have said that Mr. Tung is at least elected by the people of Hong Kong, better than the governors under British rule. There is, of course, some truth in that. But let us not forget the other points.

First, those governors of Hong Kong were appointed by democratically constituted British government.

Secondly, the way our Chief Executive was elected, namely, by an Election Committee, constituted by the Preparatory Committee, is in my view, worse than a simple appointment system. If Mr. Tung had been appointed by Beijing and if we don't like the way he rules Hong Kong, we can at least complain about it and Beijing would have to take the blame. But now Beijing would say to the whole world, "but he was elected by you people!" meaning the 400 people whom we did not elect.

Another disadvantage of having this so-called election system is that, if Mr. Tung wishes to have another term, and rumours have it that he does, then he would have to find support of members of this Election Committee, now grown to 800. He would have to curry favour with them, in some way, to make sure that he would be elected by them. If he had been appointed by Beijing, he needed only to have the support of the President.

Let me come back to this third policy speech therefore. The only way Mr. Tung can lead Hong Kong successfully into the 21st Century, or the new millennium, is to introduce democracy in Hong Kong. There is no other way.

But is Mr. Tung trying to do that? NO! He has re-introduced the appointment system to the district boards as well as the municipal councils. He has proposed to scrap the municipal councils and take back power from them. He is leading Hong Kong backwards. Instead of leading us to the next millennium, Mr. Tung is leading us back to the 19th Century. And if Hong Kong goes back to the 19th Century, how can China be modernized? So, Mr. Tung, please revise your draft speech and bring in democracy.


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