My Take

System works - everyone gets to suffer

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 2:57am

So, "one country, two systems" is working after all. Why? Because it makes everyone unhappy: the government, Beijing and its political allies in Hong Kong, and the pan-democrats and their supporters.

At least that is the inadvertent admission of Professor Lau Siu-kai, the long-serving former head of the Central Policy Unit, the government's think tank.

Mind you, the professor is actually making a complaint in his new book, Governance and New Regime Building in the Hong Kong SAR since the Handover. Basically, Beijing from the outset set down certain expectations about cultivating patriotism in the city, but the administrations of Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen never fully responded to these demands, knowing full well they needed some autonomy to maintain legitimacy and credibility with the Hong Kong public.

So Tung and Tsang stalled, and the projects they delayed presumably included the introduction of national education. But guess what? Leung Chun-ying did take the bait. We all know how that worked out!

"The government did not fully govern in accordance with Beijing's policy towards Hong Kong," Lau wrote. "At times, the central government complained in private about the work of the Hong Kong government."

Lau also wrote that the two governments held different views on the key question of who were friends and who were foes. "Given the discrepancy in analysing the political situation and political strategy, it was unavoidable that the central and Hong Kong governments faced difficulties co-operating on the political front."

Despite its profound dissatisfaction, Beijing mostly kept its hands off, knowing the success of "one country, two systems" was more important than any short-term tactical advantage. But you only get that by reading between the lines in Lau's book.

Pan-democrats, expatriate commentators and foreign writers are forever rounding on Beijing's interference, whether real or imagined. They were the same people who warned from day one that "one country, two systems" would never work because Beijing would never respect it.

Inadvertently, Lau's new book has presented the other side to a complicated story.