Clinton visit welcome, but too brief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2011, 12:00am

For anyone concerned about Hong Kong's international role and stature, the visit yesterday of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not lift the spirits as it should have.

The most eagerly awaited element of Clinton's whistle-stop visit did not even relate to Hong Kong, but was instead her drive across the border to meet Beijing's top diplomat, State Councillor Dai Bingguo, in Shenzhen. It tells us that as the Sino-US relationship broadens and deepens, Hong Kong is a mere sideshow.

Naturally, we expect many in the top level of the Hong Kong government to be perfectly happy with such a scenario, eyes fixed as ever on Beijing's reaction.

It is proof that the great political experiment of the handover has been a relative success and that the once-active monitoring role of Washington and London has faded in prominence over the years.

Yet, taking a broader view, high-profile visitors - political, business and cultural - are the SAR's lifeblood. Frankly, there simply aren't enough.

Hong Kong's 'Asia world city' aspirations remain, at best, a troubled work in progress in an ever more competitive and integrated region. Clinton came to deliver a key speech on US economic leadership - exceptionally timely, given the angst gripping international markets. The address to the American Chamber of Commerce undoubtedly served to underscore Hong Kong's global financial importance.

But a few more public events involving Clinton would have been welcome, even if Washington is wary of Beijing's sensitivities.

We wish Hillary had heeded an old Hong Kong Tourism Association slogan: Stay an extra day.