• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:55am
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


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

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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"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.
hard times !
Just one question: shiould there ever be the new directive issued by the Leung administration to consider the reactions of Mainland cadres,the organisations there and Mainlanders as well while our bureau heads formulating their local policies such as the infant milk powder formula export limit ? If so, the restriction would never be put into pracitce since the Mainlanders strongly opposed it ! How about our Hong Kong mothers and their new-born babies,Mr.Michael Chugani ?
Honesty, such a lonely word. It appears that one of distinct features of Leung's fan is to deny to be his lackey or defender!
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.
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...
Nice try and being objective.
However, there were certain conditons that had to exist to rule Hong Kong as a colony. After the UK allowed millions of refugees from the Mainland to enter and settle in Hong Kong, they eventually far outnumbered the British. In order for the system to be maintained, Hong Kong was administered in a certain way that required certain things, but the govewrnment certainly was benevolent. But Cina is not and China wants the people in HK to believe they were rescued by the Mainland who put an end to their suffering and unfair treatment, but we don't see this coming from their actions. Most view the Mainland presence in all forms as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life.
Futhermore, just like low grade embassy workers live in apartments with rents of $100,000 n/month, British civil servants enjoyed the similar benefits...the government must offer similar conditions to what one could have at home otherwise employees will be unwilling to come and work in Hong Kong. This is hwo it workes everywhere.
The British Garison was funded by Hong Kong because Hong Kong paid no taxes to the UK to pay for it. Comparisons with Hong Kong's colonial period and China's colonial period are an attempt to compare Apples and Oranges. I don't think you brought any pro Beijing groups or mainlanders on board with you with this **** for tat arguments, picking out choice events in history to make your point.
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.... -:)
Mr. Dude. Let's be clear, if the UK was to implement a system of common law, amongst a society of Chinese immigrants and refugees who come from some place where rule of law is unknown, somebody had to be here to administer it, to see that it functioned, as did all the supporting institutions. The civil servants from the UK were also here to oversee the systems that were being administered. In case you do not know, 95% of all Chinese in Hong Kong, are themselves or are descendants of people who fled China to the safety and prosperity of the British system in Hong Kong. Allowing HK to change into the mess that was China makes no sense. It is also totally incorrect to say they were low grade civil servants who could not get jobs in the UK. Most were asked to come as part of their official duty, especially when there were needs that had to be fulfilled. I may add that they worked alongside their Hong Kong Chinese colleagues.
Your failure to make point # 2 does not take into the fact that there are turrets above many older police stations and public buildings and military bases. They are there because of the riots that the Chinese Communist Party instigated and supported in the 1960's, which included regular bombings, etc. There is good reason not allow the public near or on military installations. It is a common practice. The real question is why the PLA needs so many bases or even has to be here at all, when the border is 30 minutes away, not 13 days? They watch over us.
This dude is SCMP's most loyal british lapdog. Don't even bother.
Proof: "Hong Kong was administered in a certain way that required certain things, but the govewrnment certainly was benevolent"
For real? The Brits were benevolent? I just tried googling this garbage, and it seems Hong Kong is really one of the rare success of a British benevolence. Pretty much 90% of former British gov't were non benvolent butchers, thiefs and rapists. Wooo I guess we are really are the lucky ones.
BTW the only reason why those mainland regfugees were allow to HK its cause HK needed those cheap hardworking labor. You might as well sent a thank you card to Mao and say thank you for **** up China so bad, resulting in your best have no choice but to run to HK and made it a success in this island, and so we can claim credit on it. What makes you think there will be a Hong kong jewel if there wan't a Communist Mao China in the first place?
BTW the property and gov't relationship have always been close under the Colonial Gov't. What was one of the first places Chris Patten visited when he drop by HK? You got it a nice meal with his old pal LI Ka Shing, perhaps wining and dining on how lucky he left right before the asian financial crisis and Tung have to pick up the mess and get blame for it while he the one that is responsible got away scratch free.
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.




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