Wang Guangya, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, recently put our governance issue in the spotlight at a meeting with a group of Hong Kong university students. He criticised the civil service for being good at carrying out orders, but bad at mapping out long-term policy plans. In other words, he said our public servants were incapable of showing initiative and lacked the ability to lead.
His comments drew a strong response from various quarters and became media fodder. Some local politicians and commentators also clamoured to heap criticism on Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who is a former civil servant.
It's not difficult to understand why Tsang was the common target: with only one year to go, critics know full well he is on his way out so they feel they no longer need to respect him.
What his detractors didn't realise is that, while trying so hard to be on the right side of public opinion, they failed to detect a shift in public sentiment. They also let us all down by failing to defend the core principle of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and safeguarding our high degree of autonomy.
From the start, the majority of media organisations, anti-establishment politicians and commentators echoed Wang's remarks by criticising the chief executive. They targeted Tsang because they didn't want to offend the civil service but, in the end, they inadvertently inflicted damage on the morale of the 160,000-strong service.
The attack brigade included Michael Tien Puk-sun, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Bernard Chan, plus commentators Joseph Wong Wing-ping and Allen Lee Peng-fei. Needless to say, potential challengers for the post of chief executive, such as former Legislative Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, were also quick to dig a knife into Tsang. Hong Kong people are not idiots; they could see through their ugly intentions.
To facilitate a smooth transition in 1997 and pay respect to the colonial past of Hong Kong, the central government implemented the policy of 'one country, two systems', under which Hong Kong people are allowed to rule Hong Kong.
When Liao Hui was in charge of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, he dealt with local matters even-handedly and earned the respect of Hong Kong people. The central government also kept its promise to allow a high degree of autonomy and avoided commenting on the city's internal matters.
The attack by Wang seemed to have blinded the judgment of the media, our politicians and some of the public. They failed to read between the lines of Wang's criticism because they were obsessed with hounding and pounding the chief executive. Whatever his intention was, Wang has crossed the line and breached the principle of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong'.
Sadly, our media and politicians were all too happy to contribute to this political farce instead of banding together to safeguard the core values of 'one country, two systems' - the political legacy of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org