Sir Ti Liang promises a quiet time after 1997
CHRIS YEUNG and MAY SIN-MI HON
Chief executive hopeful Sir Ti Liang Yang has promised a period of 'consolidation and quiet' in the early years after the handover.
In an 80-minute interview with the South China Morning Post yesterday, the Chief Justice said he doubted the wisdom of making drastic changes early in the Special Administrative Region.
'I don't want to see more great challenges or great reforms over the initial couple of years after 1997,' he said at his official home on The Peak.
'There have been a lot of changes and debate over the last few years. I think people want a period to consolidate what we've gained, time to think about the future and a period of quiet to reassess ourselves.
'If I were to become chief executive, I'm at the head of a moderate, relatively conservative government.' Explaining his philosophy, Sir Ti Liang said he wanted to consolidate and fine-tune Hong Kong's existing policies and systems such as welfare for the elderly and handicapped people, housing and the Bill of Rights.
This, he said, should be done without making 'daring reformative measures so that people shall have a period to settle down'.
'The change of sovereignty is a big enough change. We need to psychologically adjust ourselves. There are still a lot of worries people need time to think about,' he said.
Sir Ti Liang, who remains Chief Justice until November 4, is comfortably ahead of his four rivals in the race for the handover leadership in some popularity polls.
But if appointed, he hinted yesterday he would not seek another five-year term, saying: 'I will be 73 by then. Hong Kong deserves a younger person.
'We hope that at that time we will have established a relatively friendly relationship with mainland China.
'There's a gap between the people of Hong Kong and China. It's important for the chief executive to bridge that gap. The first chief executive will set a certain style and mode of ruling Hong Kong. Hopefully, it will be a good style so that future chief executives will say this is good and we'll follow it.
'It will then become convention and traditions for future chief executives.' Sir Ti Liang dismissed suggestion that the territory would fall further behind its competitors if it was not aggressive enough.
'We will be falling further behind if we don't go into a lot more research.' He cited development of the service sector, hi-tech industry and unemployment as issues that needed dealing with. Trying to predict Hong Kong five years after the handover, Sir Ti Liang said: 'I envisage a Hong Kong which is very much the same as the Hong Kong we used to know.' It should remain prosperous, competitive in the region and with contacts with great commercial cities, he said.
Transition from a manufacturing to service centre with hi-tech development should go on smoothly.
Sir Ti Liang said he would disappoint the Democrats over their calls for faster democracy, stressing the need to follow the gradual and orderly manner of democratisation in the Basic Law.
'Universal suffrage must be the ultimate aim. I don't think any chief executive can say when . . . One's got to see how the situation develops.'