A dark hand
The two front runners to be the next chief executive have geared up their campaigns by doing the rounds with organisations that are members of the Election Committee. Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and former Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying made a number of pledges while trying to garner support from the Heung Yee Kuk, the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and various community organisations.
Leung has been more progressive in this regard; his pledges go against the policy direction of the current administration.
Yet, most Hongkongers wouldn't pin much hope on campaign pledges no matter how convincing they sound. After all, all proposed policies have to be screened by administrative officers; they are the real power-holders in government. As long as the bureaucracy continues to reign supreme, we will see no breakthrough in governance, no matter who is at the top. I have personal experience to back that claim.
I am a member of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), an autonomous body set up in 2009 to provide a fair, effective and transparent system for the public. Complaints have been rising steadily in recent years as people become more aware of their rights. A total of 4,368 reportable complaint cases were endorsed, out of 7,953 allegations last year. Those figures represent increases of 44 per cent and 57 per cent respectively from the previous year.
The IPCC is seriously understaffed and urgently needs a manpower boost. One of its main duties is also to raise awareness of police work and human rights issues, to minimise misunderstanding and conflicts. It recently applied for an additional annual budget of HK$7 million - HK$4 million of which would be for publicity and education purposes and the remainder for hiring more staff and expanding its office. But the request was rejected.
As chair of its publicity and survey committee, I know how important it is to process complaints efficiently. We filed an appeal with the 'star chamber' which comprises the chief secretary and financial secretary in a bid to overturn the budget decision. On the day of the appeal, I was barred from attending the hearing because I was not a controlling officer of the issue in dispute. The secretary general of the IPCC ended up being the sole representative at the hearing and our application was unreasonably rejected.
This is the dark hand of bureaucracy inherited from the colonial era, which emphasises internal supervision with regard to financial matters.
Such a strict budget management style is outdated and dictatorial. We must move with the times and respond to rapidly changing public needs. The controlling power with regards to the allocation of resources should not rest with administrative officers.
In his policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said that to ensure our administrative system is compatible with future democratic development, we must review the allocation of financial, manpower and land resources within the government, and the relevant procedures. These are core issues, but they cannot be resolved if we refuse to move with the times.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org