Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam will still have to rely on some old hands to fill her governing team

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion

Bernard Chan says despite the appeal of having new people with fresh ideas in the cabinet, the chief executive-elect can’t overlook experience and will seek to groom more talent from within

In barely six weeks’ time, a new government will take office in Hong Kong with Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as chief executive. She has had only a few weeks since the election in March to prepare for this new administration. Her No 1 priority must be to assemble a team of principal officials.

The core are the “3+13” secretaries – the chief secretary, justice secretary and financial secretary, plus the ministers for such policy bureau areas as education, development and so on. Naturally, she will want the best people she can find. She is gathering names of possible candidates, and initially approaching people individually to see if they would be interested in serving in the new government.

Although this sounds straightforward, I think we can safely say the selection process is a challenge. Remember that this has had to happen in a short space of time. And bear in mind that we are not talking only about the search for the 16 secretaries – there are undersecretaries and other positions to be filled.

In my view, in order to be a candidate a potential principle official must meet five conditions.

First, they must be widely respected for all-round ability. They need to have media and people skills. Ideally, they should have some public-service experience, and recognised knowledge in the policy area concerned.

Second, they must be willing and able to work with the chief executive-elect and other future colleagues. They have to be personally compatible.

Third, they must be willing to work in the government, and ideally enthusiastic about the idea. If you know anything about the challenges of our political system and the internal divisions in our society, you will not be surprised to learn that this is a real barrier. A lot of people are happy to help from outside – but they do not want to get in the firing line.

Fourth, they must be acceptable to the central government in Beijing.

Fifth, they must be acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.

Even if a candidate can tick all these boxes, there are practical considerations that can still get in the way. For example, a candidate might have a passport from a foreign country. In some cases, renouncing foreign citizenship would be too time-consuming, or involve personal sacrifice. And of course there are other personal considerations, such as an individual’s other ambitions, or a need to put their family first.

The pool of possible candidates is also limited by the fact that politics is not a career in Hong Kong. There are not many routes from local to higher-level political office, or through political parties into government.

Given all these hurdles, we should not be surprised if we learn that Carrie’s transition team is looking for candidates among people who are already in government. I expect some people will groan at the idea of more civil servants and serving officials being moved into ministers’ positions. The idea of lots of “fresh faces” is superficially appealing.

Then again, some citizens might prefer the next administration to draw on in-house experience and talent. Given the challenges facing Hong Kong, this may not be a good time to parachute in a large number of outsiders, even if there were plenty to choose from. As I say, the new administration will need to recruit people for other positions like undersecretaries and political assistants. Given the difficulties in finding qualified senior officials, these positions are likely to produce some of our future political talent. Selecting people for these jobs will be of vital importance.

So the work of finding and finalising the new team is bound to be hard. We can expect some familiar faces, some less familiar ones and some brand new ones – from a mix of backgrounds. But don’t be surprised if a fair proportion come from inside government.

This should not mean that the next administration will lack fresh ideas. In her manifesto, Carrie has pledged to reach out and listen to different parts of the community. That willingness to consider views from beyond the normal corridors of power could be the biggest and best “fresh idea” of all. The truth is that we cannot rely on just 16 people, wherever they come from, for all the answers.

Bernard Chan is a member of the Executive Council


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當時不少泛民都抱有wishful thinking,認為這是中央放棄鬥爭思維、重拾溫和路線、尋求和解所致。這種想法不無事實根據,因為大家看到,去年2月雖然發生旺角騷亂,但3月兩會期間,北京卻吹出「和風」,之後更有連串大動作向泛民示好:先是5月,作為國家領導人的張德江來港歷史性會見泛民立法會議員;接着6月,王光亞接受雜誌專訪時肯定大多數泛民都是愛國且屬建制人士;到了年底,泛民在遭封殺20多年後,更重新獲發出回鄉證;最後,甚至連梁振英也不能連任。




其實,起初,我已在本欄〈後梁振英特首選舉形勢剖析〉(2016年12月14日)一文中,提出過3個可能,除了(1)真的要調整對港政策、「換人換路線」以外,還可能因為(2)因「數不夠票」而要換馬,即所謂「601」考慮, 以及(3)不是要換路線,只是想找個比梁振英更佳人選,來更好地落實既定政策。


事實證明,林鄭月娥並沒有梁振英那麼「乞人憎」,很多原本因為不能接受梁而轉為支持曾俊華的建制派,尤其是工商界,他們都能接受林鄭,於是陣前換馬,已足以讓他們妥協,脫離曾營,重新歸隊,轉投林營。原本來勢洶洶、極有可能撮合了泛民和工商界的「ABC」(Anyone But CY)聯合陣線,遂告瓦解。於是大家看到,本來屬於曾營競選班底的,例如陳智思和李律仁等,都轉投林營;以及,林鄭以777票高票當選,高於梁的689票近百票,即使在投暗票的第二階段,曾營所一直期望的「走票」現象並沒有出現,唐營和工商界終究是重新歸隊。












中央是否在要求mission impossible呢?



又希望社會和諧,又希望特首受港人擁護、施政得到支持,但又不容許他在政治上走中間溫和路線,修補與泛民和反對派關係,試問,這又是否在要求mission impossible呢?




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777: A lesson in numerology for those who hate Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam

CommentInsight & Opinion
Yonden Lhatoo breaks it down for those who are fixated on their unflattering nickname for the chief executive-elect and will not give her a chance

So, Hong Kong has a nickname for its newly elected leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. It’s “777” – stemming from the number of ballots she secured from a small circle of 1,194 voters.

Never ones to miss the slightest opportunity to play with phonetics and sexual innuendo, the sparkling wits about town have pounced on the number with absolute glee. The pronunciation of the word “seven” in Cantonese matches the slang for male genitalia.

Forget the fact that, at the end of the day, we’re still talking about a highly accomplished person of integrity, sincerity and dedication to public service, a top administrator in one of the most efficient and corruption-free governments in the world. Forget about taking pride in the prospect of a woman leading Hong Kong for the first time in history. Let’s just wallow in the gutter of negativity and resort to vulgar name-calling.

The irony of it all is that, out in the wider world, beyond the limited scope of Cantonese semantics, the number seven is and has always been considered auspicious, lucky, mystical or magical.

A devout Catholic like Lam could welcome the nickname, given its religious connotations.

In the Judeo-Christian world, seven is a number that denotes perfection and completion. The Bible is loaded with references to it.

The Book of Genesis, for example, postulates that God rested on the seventh day after creating the universe – hence the Jewish tradition of observing the Sabbath on the last day of the week.

In Christianity, 777 is projected as the numerical representation of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost – and the antithesis of 666, the devil’s number.

Other religions, too. The Koran has repeated references to seven heavens, and Muslim pilgrims in Mecca walk around the Kaaba seven times. When the Buddha was born, the story goes, he walked seven steps portending his achievement of the seven stages of enlightenment.

If religion is not your thing, the everyday occurrence of the number seven in a positive context should help you elevate your opinion of it. We all follow seven-day weeks. We marvel at the Seven Wonders of the World. There are seven colours in a rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale. And humans need an optimum seven hours of sleep a day. Still think it’s a dirty number to be sniggered at?

Back to Lam, Hong Kong’s reluctant “saviour”. Let’s not forget that she never wanted the chief executive’s job, but was simply not allowed to go gently into the night. The powers that be in Beijing decided she was the one they trusted the most and it had to be her in the hot seat, a torture trap that no one in their right mind would otherwise want.

When I spoke to her recently in a one-on-one interview, I found her to be very different from the aloof, elitist technocrat we had imagined her to be over the years. She was friendly, chatty, lucid and sincere. She came across as a person of conviction, but still willing to listen.

Maybe she’s been arrogant in the past and upset a bunch of administrative officers, the pillars of the civil service, but she’s clearly learning lessons in humility during her transformation from career bureaucrat to politician. Out of touch with the person on the street? Again, she’s learning, and we’re all teaching her the hard way, aren’t we, vulgar nicknames and all.

Hong Kong should seriously give her a chance. Let her prove what she can do for us, and let’s be realistic in our expectations. Until then, he that is without sin among us, let him cast the first stone at her.

For the rest of us, here’s a lovely thought: “If women ruled the world there would be no wars, just a bunch of angry countries not talking to each other.”

Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post


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If Carrie Lam wants to heal the rifts in Hong Kong, it starts with political reform

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion


Sonny Lo says the chief executive-elect faces many challenges in uniting the city’s politics and society, but a focus on cross-aisle dialogue, reducing the wealth gap and affordable housing could be key first steps

The victory of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was widely expected, but the Hong Kong chief executive election demonstrated the lasting effect of political wounds left by the 2014 Occupy movement and the failure of the political reform package in 2015. How to heal these wounds remains a challenge for Lam.

Although the election outcome has not been welcomed by the pan-democrats, it is actually the result of their rejection of the 2015 political reform packageinitiated by the Hong Kong government and supported by Beijing. If pan-democrat legislators had accepted the political reform model within the parameters of the August 31, 2014, decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, this election could have seen a more competitive campaign among the three candidates, especially between John Tsang Chun-wah and Lam.Sadly, the pan-democrats refused to accept the proposal and insisted on a “genuinely” democratic model. Arguably, if any “genuine” democratic model of election exists, it must stimulate the participation of more citizens to elect their chief executive. The 2015 proposal provided a golden opportunity for mass participation in the 2017 election, but the pan-democrats rejected the need for any Election Committee to screen candidates.

The political controversies over the best model for electing future chief executives, especially approaching 2022, will continue to haunt Lam.

So, how can she best go about healing the wounds and rebuilding political trust between the government and pan-democrats?

First, though Lam said in her election campaign that political reform would not be a policy priority, her think tank has to consider a middle-of-the-road alternative. If the pan-democrats insist on a model of citizen participation and nomination, and if Beijing insists on the need to observe the 2014 Standing Committee decision, a number of compromises can still be considered. One option is to allow chief executive candidates to obtain a certain number of citizens’ signatures, to be nominated by Election Committee members in 2022. In other words, civic nomination could be considered in a revised reform package, but such nomination would fall under the parameters of the 2014 NPC decision.

The second option to heal the wounds, as Lam mentioned during her campaign, would be to repair the damaged executive-legislative relations via regular communication. This could be done in at least three ways: one, by creating an office similar to the Office of the Members of the Executive and Legislative Council of the British era; two, by assigning political appointees, especially deputy secretaries and political assistants, the crucial task of regularly communicating with legislators across political spectrums. A third and bolder option is for the new chief executive to appoint a few moderate pan-democrats to the Executive Council, so as to ensure more inclusive policymaking.

Another important task is be to speed up the appointment of committee on tax reform, to study ways towards a progressive tax system – long overdue given our widening income gap. Lam mentioned such a reform initiative in her manifesto. Progressive tax can help redistribute wealth in a moderate way. But the challenge of introducing such a system is convincing the business sector that it will not undermine Hong Kong’s economic prosperity and the investment climate, and that it will address social inequity.

Finally, housing and land policy will have to be revised to address the concerns of ordinary citizens who cannot afford to rent, let alone own, a home. A more ambitious plan of rebuilding public housing estates, a revived policy of expanding the Home Ownership Scheme, and a more proactive policy of dialogue with land developers must be the focus so that livelihood issues are tackled effectively.

In this way, class harmony between the rich and the poor, rather than class tensions among them, will hopefully be accomplished.

Thus, Hong Kong’s political wounds can be healed with optimistic but realistic solutions in the coming years.

Sonny Lo is a political commentator


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Now for the hard part: governing Hong Kong wisely

CommentInsight & Opinion
Mike Rowse has a four-point plan for the incoming chief executive, starting with dropping the bid to bar four lawmakers from office and standing up to rural vested interests


Congratulations on your victory in the chief executive election. Now comes the hard part: governing Hong Kong wisely and helping to heal the rifts that have developed in our community.

You have two periods of 100 days ahead. The first is the gap between now and when you actually take up office, the second is when you need to come out swinging and set the tone for your five-year term.

The healing can’t start until the wounding stops

Advice for the next three months is easy: stay out of the way and try to keep a low profile. Give yourself a break, get some rest, you’ll need all the reserves of sleep you can store up for the trials that lie ahead. Whatever the temptation, do not be drawn into commenting on current political affairs. The media will be pressing you on a daily basis to see if they can detect some slight difference between your and Leung Chun-ying’s position on an issue. Whether or not they succeed, the effect will be to undercut the present administration.

Now the plan for the first 100 days in office. Step one, if the court case seeking to disbar four more Legislative Council members is still going on, drop it. The healing can’t start until the wounding stops.

Nobody has any sympathy for the first two who got thrown out, as they used foul language and showed contempt for our country and city. But these four were legitimately elected and Legco accepted their oaths. By challenging the president’s decision in court, the government in effect undermines him, even though he is regarded as pro-administration. It is a matter of public record that the government soundly lost the last Legco election: the opposition increased its majority in geographical constituencies, maintained its 3-2 majority in the super seats, and boosted its take from the traditional functional constituencies.

You need to reflect on why the government lost so badly and address the causes, not seek to overturn the verdict at the ballot box by questionable legal manoeuvres. And do not use the case as a bargaining chip, just instruct the justice secretary not to pursue it. If the case has progressed to a verdict before July 1 and you lose at the lower court, do not appeal. The worst-case scenario for you is if the government wins – the bitterness in the community at large will linger for your whole term. Press on with by-elections for the two vacant seats and be prepared to lose gracefully.

Step two, you must show that you are prepared to confront vested interests and give priority to the public interest when it matters. Given the vagaries of our political system, and powerful forces entrenched in the election committee and legislature, there will naturally be allegations that the people who elected you have you under their thumb. This will be particularly the case with property developers and rural interests such as the Heung Yee Kuk. Fortunately, fate has presented you with a wonderful opportunity to shrug off these allegations and prove your independence.

Remember Wang Chau, where the government is pressing ahead with housing development on green belt land occupied by villagers rather than the adjacent brownfield sites where a local leader operates a profitable car park? This is seen as a classic example of bowing to private interests – almost nobody believes that the intention is to have a phased development. You can immediately grab some credibility: simply instruct the officials concerned to give you a firm timetable for phases two and three of the Wang Chau development within your term of office, and make a public announcement about that timetable. Stick to it.

Thirdly, get some decent ministers and make plain that you will hold them accountable. There were a few good ones in the outgoing administration, try to keep them if you can. There will be a lot of pressure from various sources to appoint certain individuals. You must resist unless completely convinced of their ability and loyalty to you. You are at your most powerful in this process in the week you submit the final list to Beijing for approval. If you succumb to the pressure prematurely, you will never recover your authority.

Lastly, you might want to ask people of all faiths to pray on July 1 for a successful administration. Even agnostics and atheists should be prepared to wish you well.

Mike Rowse is the CEO of Treloar Enterprises.