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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:09pm
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 4:10am

Anson Chan's misleading view of Britain's colonial influence on policy

Michael Chugani says Anson Chan shouldn't let nostalgia for the British era cloud her view of doing what is best for Hong Kong

How true is it that, during colonial rule, our policymakers always placed the interests of Hong Kong above British interests? Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang insists Hong Kong policymakers were not required to consider British reaction. That, of course, is misleading at best and nonsense at worst.

Let's remind her of the tens of thousands of Vietnamese boatpeople who swamped Hong Kong, starting in the late 1970s. The city simply couldn't cope. Taxpayers fumed at having to house and feed them. Local politicians wanted to shut the door to more. But Britain cared only about projecting a compassionate image. It ordered Hong Kong to be a port of first asylum. Then it washed its hands of the mess. Countries such as the US, Australia and Canada eventually resettled many of the refugees.

Chan has mocked Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's new directive that future policymaking should factor in mainland reaction as a departure from the norm during British rule. She is right. Our British rulers had no similar black-and-white directive. A directive to consider British reaction would have been superfluous. All the top policymakers were British civil servants. The bosses of Jardines, HSBC, and the commander of British forces had seats in the Executive Council - Hong Kong's top policymaking body. The British hongs virtually ran Hong Kong, reaping great profits. What was the need for a directive when British interests were already built-in?

Let's also remind Chan that Britain slapped an annual HK$1 billion-plus bill on Hong Kong to station an oversized garrison here. Tamar was a totally restricted military zone off-limits to locals. Yet here we are protesting that the PLA, which, incidentally, we do not have to pay for, wants to make Tamar a restricted area just part of the time.

Britons could freely enter, live and work in Hong Kong indefinitely but Hongkongers had no reciprocal rights in Britain. British civil servants had far better housing and other perks than locals of similar rank, which Chan should know well because she too was on the receiving end of this unfairness.

Leung's directive to consider mainland sentiments in policymaking came after he made several controversial decisions: a zero quota for mainlanders having babies here, a hefty stamp duty on flats to discourage mainland buyers, a crackdown on parallel goods traders, and a two-can limit on baby milk powder for outbound travellers. He did all this due to public pressure. All four policy decisions placed local interests above mainland interests. Yet, instead of applause, he's getting boos.

Yes, as Chan says, Leung needs to explain more clearly his directive. Hongkongers rightly worry that it suggests he'll let mainland sentiments sway future policymaking. But his track record so far shows otherwise. He is sticking to all those measures despite howls from mainlanders and certain legislators.

It's fine for Chan to be nostalgic about colonial rule. That's her right. I am not a Leung lackey or defender. But what's so wrong with gauging the widest possible reaction in policymaking? Must we always beat up on the man whatever he does?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com

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johnyuan
In about the 60s, British stopped textile import from Hong Kong disregarding that textile industry was one of a viable means of livelihood in Hong Kong. But Chugani’s point shouldn’t be lost that Hong Kong was a British colony and advantages taken by Britian just as a colonial master would. CY Leung has a more difficult job than any governor and CE before him. The locals are as vocal now as muted once was. Leung has to do a balancing act.
whymak
Amen! Someone telling it like it is (was). Did she become "Chris Patten's girl" through a system of meritocracy or colonial sycophancy? I wish I knew.
I have yet to hear her strategic vision in getting Hong Kong's fair share from the world's fastest growing economy. Instead, there is nothing from this "conscience of Hong Kong" but endless, vacuous proselytization of the Democracy religion and its universal values. How about some ideas pertaining to solutions of inadequate and/or irrelevant education system, rising wealth gap and declining competitiveness of our skilled workforce? I have been waiting for over a decade for some answers from this former Chief Secretary.
On second thought, she could be a yellow Princess Di or Kate Middleton and take up charity work like most useless British royals.
Carioca no Coracao
another A+ piece from Mr. Chugani. also, don't forget the race hierarchy of british hongkong, even Samuel 許 sang about it. in Sam's usual comedic way, he lamented racism in british hkg. you heard the song everywhere from Temple Street to Sheung Wan, part of the lyrics says, "as your face is yellow, you are surely damn powerless..."-:). this culture of colonial racism culminated to thatcher's british nationality act. as to Chris Patten, all he did was talking about democracy... it was surreal when millions of hkg ppl needed a passport for insurance and the guy talked about "democracy"...-:) the "why don't they eat cake" thing...
Carioca no Coracao
dude. you are really confused. "...administered in a certain way that required certain things"..... what kind of mumble jumble is that??!!!
#1. British civil servants must be allowed similar quality of living relative to their home countries... but wait! why we needed these british civil servants in the first place? i can understand if most are physicians, engineers, Nobel scholars, high networth individuals investing in hkg. but NO!!!! overwhelming majority of these "british civil servants" were low grade civil servants who could not get similar positions in UK. they took senior govt positions in hkg because their white skin pigments...-:). wake up!!
#2. you recalled hongkong funded the british garrison because hongkong paid no taxes to UK. of course!!! no colony pays taxes to fund for another country's colonization!!! and btw, what is the connection between british garrison put a lot of lands off limit to hkg ppl with hongkong not paying taxes to fund british colonialism.

man alive! go drink some Kool Aid.... -:)
mymak
It just doesn't work Chugani. Any reasonably educated person knows that the British were in it for themselves. If they were benevelont it was only because they had no choice. But that's in the past. A new political and social reality took over in 1997. In order for Hong Kong people to be truely free of their colonial mentality they need to work to erase it as a part of political arguments.
You can find some very elderly people in Bangalore in India who to this day are saying that things were better under the British. BUT they are not listened to in India. They do not now hold any political power. It is the likes of Chugani and others in the HK media who are giving political voice and a degree of political power to the likes of Anson Chan.
We are here now, it is 2013. The British are irrelevant to the argument about whether or not we should pay attention to the needs of the Mainland or not.
My own personal feelings are that as a part of China and considering that the rest of China pays attention to the needs of Hong Kong then we should reciprocate. Those who argue against such a policy do so on the grounds that they feel the Central Gov't. will restrict the freedoms of Hong Kong people. So shouldn't the argument be about that - will Hong Kong people have less freedoms or not? Will HK people's living standards improve or not? Not whether the British were good or bad. Anson Chan and the British Gov't should be irrelevant to Hong Kong policy.
hard times !
who is misleading our readers ? This columnist Michael Chugani or Mrs Anson Chan who has recently said that in her days as the chief secretary, the policies of the colonial administration under Mr.Chris Patten never had to seek the approvals of the British interest groups here or worried about the reactions of the Britions thousands of miles away from Hong Kong.Hong Kong government should place the interests of her people as the priorty and always the priorty just like this Michael always bears in mind his lack of a decent lodge in the territory !
blue
Michael stated some hard facts about colonial Hong Kong before the 90s. Of course you have no idea about it since it was before you were born.

Are you seriously naive enough to believe that the UK never "forced" Hong Kong to do anything? Hong Kong was its colony. HK had autonomy as a colony, but it didn't mean that the UK couldn't override that autonomy on certain matters when it was convenient for them to do so. Like China, the UK is a unitary state.
dynamco
www.chinadaily.com.cn/hkedition/2013-05/03/content_16470754.htm
Anson Chan is past tense
(hits the nail on the head!)
www.scmp.com/article/627451/anson-chan-retains-links-tobacco-industry
Anson Chan retains links to tobacco industry
Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am Mary Ann Benitez
Anson Chan Fang On-sang has maintained ties to a luxury goods group despite quitting as a director before she was elected as a legislator last year because of its links to the tobacco industry.
The former chief secretary remains on the advisory council of a fund management company whose investors include Compagnie Financiere Richemont, from which she resigned in September after the South China Morning Post inquired about her links to the tobacco industry.
www.scmp.com/article/401337/anson-chan-takes-consulting-role
Anson Chan takes on consulting role
Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:00am SCMP
Gary Cheung
Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang has become an adviser to an investment fund set up by former Hutchison Whampoa taipan Simon Murray.
Mrs Chan, whose 16-month pre-retirement leave finished in August, also recently took up the post of a director of the Asia Investment Corporation.
She accepted the offer of being a consultative committee member of the Gems Oriental & General Fund.
mcheung
It's about time someone points out the unfairness we Hong Kongers had to endure under the colonial rule! Young HK generations now have never experienced this unfair treatment, and are brainwashed to protest and oppose everything in sight, like a juvenile delinquent. Good work Michael!
clc2
"Let's remind her of the tens of thousands of Vietnamese boatpeople who swamped Hong Kong, starting in the late 1970s."
What a Reptilian characterization of hospitality to the destitute in transit to somewhere else. Chugani speaks with forked tongue.

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