Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Six ways a coalition would be a winning combination for Hong Kong

CommentInsight & Opinion
Keith Hui explains how an inclusive administration would give both opposition parties and voters a real voice and stake in making the government work


A coalition government would increase the space for political compromise, in the sense that the chief executive would have plenty of bargaining chips (policy bureau posts) to negotiate with sensible political parties to engage in policymaking for long-term stability and prosperity. Illustration: Craig StephensHong Kong’s chief executive should consider upgrading the “principal officials accountability system” – introduced by Tung Chee-hwa in 2002 to appoint illustrious worthies alongside administrative officers to take up policy secretary posts – to an inclusive “coalition government”.

Recruiting more lawmakers ­affiliated with the major political parties, including the Democratic Party, to join such a coalition cabinet would offer a chance to solve the present political conundrum.

Coalition governments are common in Europe; many countries there have had a proportional representation mechanism for decades. For example, the current German government, named as the third “grand coalition” since the second world war, is composed of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the Social Democrat SPD, thus securing a dominating majority (504 of 598 seats) in the 18th Bundestag.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a regional conference of her Christian Democratic Union party in Heidelberg on November 28. She leads the third “grand coalition” government in Germany since the second world war. Photo: EPA

There would be at least six advantages from having Hong Kong lawmakers, from both functional and geographical constituencies, and district councillors appointed to the position of chief secretary and more than half the ministerial posts (including deputy and assistant ranks) inside the 13 policy bureaus.

It would mean more politicians like Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai, Transport and Housing Secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung; and Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Undersecretary Ronald Chan Ngok-pang inside the government.

The first advantage is that the chief executive would have more flexibility to negotiate with all those who faithfully support the “one country two systems” principle and recognise China’s unquestionable sovereignty over Hong Kong, so as to command a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council.

The recent oath-taking saga has revealed the Democratic Party’s consistent position in staying firmly away from the independence movement advocated by localists. The Democrats, in fact, had an excellent track record under the leadership of the late Szeto Wah for their patriotism as well as willingness to compromise with the government on many fronts. Moderates such as Fred Li Wah-ming and Sin Chung-kai would be ideal candidates to join a coalition government (after nominally resigning from the party) to represent the Democrats.

Fred Li would be ideal for a coalition government. Photo: Edmund SoThe more radical section of the party may disagree with such a move. However, unless they want to remain an opposition party forever, being assimilated into the coalition government is the only way to realise their goals regarding, say, social welfare and labour protection. In other words, only if the Democratic Party is willing to join a coalition government can it turn itself into a genuine political party.

This also applies to parties such as Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee’s New People’s Party, the Liberal Party and the various groups within the functional constituencies. This is actually the second advantage of a coalition government, in that it provides a formal channel for parties to attain governing power under certain conditions, thus fulfilling their ambition to become policymakers.

Also, as these politicians have the chance to analyse issues from both sides, they would tend to be practical rather than radical, realistic rather than idealistic and pragmatic rather than hypocritical.

The third advantage would be evoking the general public’s sense of belonging, security, achievement and closeness to the government, given that a certain number of politicians elected by the public would now be working as policymakers to initiate concrete action to improve their livelihoods.

Furthermore, if this happened generation after generation, voters would tend to distance themselves from radicals who could paralyse the legislature. Any sensible voter would always prefer those who can actually take care of their interests over those who merely provide lip service.

The fourth merit is that there would be no need to amend the Basic Law. The chief executive would continue to have all the necessary discretion, subject to Beijing’s approval, to appoint people to fill various posts, at certain ranks, while deciding how long they should serve. Professionals and civil servants could still be appointed to take up posts as, say, secretary for justice, security, financial services and the civil service. These non-politicians would counterbalance the influence of their political peers, when necessary, through budgeting or voicing realistic concerns.

Moreover, in a case where a secretary committed a serious mistake, immediate resignation would still be an option to help relieve pressure on the government.

The fifth advantage, and the most important one, will be increasing the space for political compromise, in the sense that the chief executive would have plenty of bargaining chips (policy bureau posts) to negotiate with sensible political parties to engage in policy implementation for long-term stability and prosperity. This could alleviate confrontations between the establishment and opposition parties. This is also how coalition governments work in many countries.

In the wake of the independence movement, the chief executive needs to spend more time improving mainland-Hong Kong relations. The chief secretary should therefore shoulder more responsibility to oversee internal affairs, from housing policy to legislation on Article 23. Appointing a popularly elected person to take up this position and lead the coalition government could open more gateways for cooperation among reasonable political groups for a consensus. This is the sixth advantage, so that political pressure is not overly concentrated on the chief executive.

Without a breakthrough, Hong Kong might have to rely on selling souvenirs to make a living soon.

Keith K C Hui is a Hong Kong-based commentator

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Hong Kong’s rebel lawmakers need to watch what they say for a return to calm

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Bernard Chan

Bernard Chan says that, as the uproar over the oaths fiasco grows louder and nastier, a moderate tone from younger, more radical members would be a mark of maturity and inspire opponents to do the same

In mid-September in this column, I discussed the younger generation of lawmakers who had just won seats in the Legislative Council. I saw them as a sign of a new era, as older politicians from both the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps stand down.

Having once been the youngest member of Legco, I wondered how the newcomers would perform. While they lack experience as legislators, they have idealism and new ideas. The challenge for them is to adapt to their new surroundings and the new range of political policy issues they will have to deal with.

This especially applies, perhaps, to the radical “localists” who have brought a new provocative and outspoken style into politics both in and out of Legco.

As I wrote after the Legco election, two of these newcomers are products of Lingnan University, of which I was council chairman for the last few years. I remember one of them – Nathan Law Kwun-chung, of Hong Kong Island – quite well, as he was also on the council. I did not know the other, Yau Wai-ching of Kowloon West.

Now, of course, everyone knows her. She and her Youngspiration colleague Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang changed the wording when taking their oaths of office for Legco two weeks ago. Among other things, they replaced the word for China with “Cheena”.

In Singapore, it is a tongue-in-cheek anti-mainland slur. But it is also associated with Japanese anti-Chinese militarism. Either way, it is potentially hurtful.

Lingnan puts special stress on developing good judgment, respect for others and effective communication. I would have thought that anyone with experience at a liberal arts college would think carefully about the use of language that potentially angers and upsets other people. Many students and faculty at Lingnan and other campuses will have heard about the controversies in US universities over free speech. What are the limits – where does offensive language become hate speech?

It might seem absurd to advise people (as a university in Colorado has done) to avoid words like “ghetto”, “illegal immigrant”, “crazy” or even “guys”. But promoters of such policies have a point when they say these words can hurt because they are inaccurate. They say the idea is to encourage people to be aware of how caring about the real meaning of words can improve civility.

So this is partly about being thoughtful and considerate to others. In Hong Kong’s badly divided political scene, this is asking for a lot.

Many in both pan-democrat and pro-establishment camps saw the two Youngspiration members’ remarks as at least childish, if not seriously offensive. There is now a major split over whether they can retake the oaths. Some observers call the situation a constitutional crisis.

The conflict is intensifying. The uproar over the oath-taking has led members of both sides to use deliberately insulting and provocative language. It is far worse than anything that happened when I was in Legco. There is a real possibility that Legco’s division will become deeper and harder to mend. The last two council meetings were suspended. Will that happen again next week? The week after?

Even when the court hears the government’s application, it might put the proceedings off to a later date. Or, if the court hands down a judgment, there could be an appeal. Even if we get a quick and certain outcome to the judicial review, one camp in Legco will still be unhappy. Will they continue with walkouts or other action to disrupt the council’s work? How will Legco play its part in solving issues like housing and poverty if it is divided by this sort of bitterness?

And of course this division will be reflected in the wider community, between voters who sincerely supported – and maybe still support – candidates from one side or the other.

I was hoping for a better start to the new Legco. If younger, more radical new members continue to use offensive language, I can see no way out. However, they could indicate that they will moderate their language. That would be a mark of maturity and respect for others, and it would put pressure on their opponents to calm down. Everyone would benefit.

Bernard Chan is a member of the Executive Council

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Did localist lawmakers in oaths row make false statements of loyalty in election pledges?

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Grenville Cross

Grenville Cross says the city’s justice chief must examine whether the duo’s actions in the chamber indicate they made false declarations in their nomination forms, which is a punishable offence

The making of false statements by people ­involved in official ­proceedings is always a serious matter, particularly if oaths are violated.

To stand in Legislative Council elections, candidates are required, under the Legislative Council Ordinance (section 40), to provide the returning officer with a “nomination form”, in which they declare that they will “uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.

Moreover, having made that declaration, a candidate is then supposed, under the Electoral Affairs Commission (Electoral Procedure) (Legislative Council) Regulation, to sign a “confirmation form”, which, having reminded the candidate of the original declaration, spells out exactly what is meant by upholding the Basic Law, by reference to specific articles thereof.

This, presumably, is for the purposes of ensuring that, before the candidate signs, he or she fully appreciates what is being signed up to.

The confirmation form reminds the candidate that Article 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong “is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China”.

It then, for good measure, alerts the candidate to Article 12, which states that Hong Kong “shall be a local administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the People’s Republic of China”.

At the end, the confirmation form notifies the candidate that, if he or she knowingly makes a statement which is false in a material particular, an offence will have been committed, and the candidate, armed with this knowledge, may, if he or she accept the conditions, then sign it.

The offence in question lies in the Electoral Affairs Commission (Electoral Procedure) (Legislative Council) Regulation (section 103). This makes it an offence for a person, in an election-related document, to make a statement which he or she “knows to be false in a material particular or recklessly makes a statement which is incorrect in a material particular or knowingly omits a material particular from an election related document”.

Upon conviction, an offender is liable to a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$5,000.

Every candidate, therefore, who was successfully elected in the Legco election on September 4, would have made a declaration in the nomination form to uphold the Basic Law, together with a pledge of loyalty to the Hong Kong SAR. They should also have signed the confirmation form, although it has been reported that not all did, and only signed the nomination form, but nonetheless still stood for election.

Of course, some prospective candidates were blocked, by returning officers who doubted their bona fides, from standing for election, and this itself is now the subject of judicial review.

However, every ­candidate subsequently elected must, by their declarations, either in the nomination form, or in the confirmation form, or both, have satisfied the officers that they were genuine, in terms of the qualifying criteria.

However, fast-forward to October 13, and two of those candidates, by now legislators-elect, when called upon in Legco to take their oaths of office, indulged instead in various bizarre antics, designed to make a mockery of a solemn occasion.

Obscenities apart, they pledged allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation”, displayed banners proclaiming “Hong Kong is not China”, and deliberately mispronounced the word “China”. Although the Legislative Council president has vacillated over whether to grant the duo a second chance to swear their oaths, wider considerations are now at play.

If the returning officers who processed the nomination forms of the two candidates had had any inkling of what was in store if they were elected, would they still have permitted them to stand? If not, has the wool been pulled over their eyes? If so, have false declarations been made?

Although the government has ­obtained leave to seek a judicial ­review [5], apparently on the basis that, under the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance (section 21) [6], a lawmaker who declines or neglects to take an oath duly requested forfeits his or her place, with no question of a second chance, other issues are outstanding. The secretary for justice, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, as chief prosecutor, must also consider any possible criminality by the two individuals.

In light of their conduct at the attempted swearing-in [7], how genuine were their original declarations in their nomination forms to the returning officers? What inferences about their real thinking at that time may reasonably be drawn from their subsequent behaviour? Were they simply paying lip-service to the formalities in order to get their names on the ballot paper?

These are necessary questions, and, at the very least, an investigation is required, to determine what declarations were made and in which forms.

Of course, it is possible, if unlikely, that, in the few short weeks between making their declarations and being required to swear their oaths, the two individuals underwent a Damascene conversion, morphing from Basic Law upholders into rabid independence fanatics, and Yuen will need to factor this in.

If, however, he concludes that the evidence, when looked at through a common-sense prism, reveals an offence of making a false declaration to the returning officer, he must then decide if a prosecution is in the public interest.

Grenville Cross SC is a criminal justice analyst

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Distrbution of Votes among residential areas

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These four factors explain why Hong Kong is trapped in politics of fear and anger

South China Morning Post

Richard Wong

Political fragmentation and radicalization are accelerating under our flawed electoral system

Across Western democracies, from the America of Donald Trump to the France of Marine Le Pen, large numbers of people are enraged. They believe globalisation, migration, and free market economics are not working in their interest.

Globalisation since 1980 has brought prosperity to the majority of the world’s population, but also left many behind. A single diagram tells it all. Dubbed “the kneeling elephant,” the horizontal axis measures the percentiles of the global income distribution, while the vertical axis shows the cumulative growth in income from 1988 to 2008.

Populations in the 35th to 70th percentiles (mostly in emerging countries like China) and the 99th percentile (the world’s highly-skilled elites, many in the US) have achieved cumulative growth rates in excess of 60 per cent. But those in the 80th to 90th percentiles (mainly lower middle classes in rich nations like the US) have lost out.

Supporters of globalisation, including myself, have often failed to appreciate that while the economic consequences of globalisation have been swift, the responses of governments and civil societies to alleviate the economic and social dislocations have been incredibly slow.

Globalisation has also left a particularly big mark on Hong Kong, with many winners and plenty of losers. Hong Kong was the first place to experience the tidal waves of globalisation due to China’s opening in late 1979, but median household income has largely stagnated over the past two decades.

In the midst of this massive economic change was the political transition triggered by the restoration of sovereignty in 1997. The Basic Law states that “the previous capitalist system” shall remain unchanged for 50 years.

The majority establishment block that still exists in the legislature today was surely a deliberate political design to ensure this. There was an understanding that democratic elections would expand and provide a path to avoid a freeze in the political system, but only modest progress has been made for several reasons.

[An official walks past ballot counting stations for the Legislative Council election at the central counting station in Hong Kong on Monday, September 5, 2016. Photo: Bloomberg] Firstly, the democratic opposition has exploited fear of Beijing that began with the Tiananmen Incident.

Secondly, the democratic opposition has strengthened in the wake of the rising economic divide. Left-leaning social and labour policies have gained ascendancy as the real incomes of the middle and lower middle classes have stagnated.

Thirdly, the entry of Beijing into the domestic conflict has led to total political gridlock. While the establishment was slow to appreciate the deepening plight of the economically disadvantaged, Beijing’s displeasure at the constant attacks by the democratic opposition drove it to join forces with the establishment as a single force locking horns with the democratic opposition. Domestic conflict over social and economic policies escalated into political animosity between Hong Kong and the Mainland, and many problems remain unresolved.

Fourthly, public dissatisfaction is escalating into radicalism and utopianism. Under the Basic Law, the democratic opposition has the right to veto bills, but without any need to act responsibly to deliver on campaign promises. This has led to voter dissatisfaction and splintering in the opposition camp, which has then led to further political fragmentation and radicalization. Many voters still elect opposition politicians to office because they fear Beijing will take away their liberties.

Hong Kong is in the grip of two emotive forces: the politics of anger over the rising economic divide, and the politics of fear over whether Beijing will end the previous way of life. The fear gets in the way of finding a solution for the anger. Political paralysis results!

The failure to assuage the growing economic divide has driven more people towards a leftist solution which, if implemented, would obviate any need for preserving “one country two systems”. A socialist democracy would be a disaster and liberty will not survive.

The recent Legislative Council elections have maintained political gridlock, despite the new faces. Many of them have courage, conviction, and commitment, but are they prepared to lead Hong Kong out of its dark hour? Or will they copy their predecessors in dishing out vetoes, with their eyes glued to the rearview mirror? Another unknown is whether the government will also exercise leadership in this situation.

Richard Wong Yue-chim is the Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy at the University of Hong Kong