• Thu
  • Oct 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:40pm
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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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 ?
lucifer
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.
babyhenry
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.
hard times !
of course, Mainland sentiments or feelings should never sway our bureau heads' policy-making ! it intervenes with,'one country,two systems' and our Basic Law as well.Do you know, Michael ?
hard times !
given enough room or information,all facts and other sources related to you 'whymak' and your group members (sent here from the North) can surely be verified not just in a debate but many debates for sure ! Dare you disclose publicly your e-mail address and English name here as the frequent contributor,pflim040 once carelessly posted here ? of course not ! How can you ! Right ? Hidden behind a vague identity and fiercely criticing local pan-democrats is your task and your paid job as well ! Right ? Shame on you and your 'colleagues'-----hired 'writers' here to monitor the comments posted whle attacking those pro-democracy writers ! Shameless enough !
lucifer
OMG, are you citing the China Daily as a news source? Who is truly the brainwashed one? In case you just woke up from a 100 year nap, the China Daily is not a news source, it is the official English language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. Once you quote such sources, nobody with a brain listens to the rest of your argument.
22gt7
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!
hard times !
Conscience of Hong Kong is always the conscience of Hong Kong as time goes by ! Unlike this so-called,'whymak' who is/are used to reject a geniune universal suffrage in our beloved Hong Kong and reluctantly support the investigations into the corrupted scandals of former ICAC head,Timothy Tong Hin-ming , not to say maliciously slandered our beloved frequent contributor of this Comment column,a pflim040 who is a thorn in this nastiest guy(s) eyes for his righteous and outspoken comments posted here from time to time.Right ? Words such as,' illerate, semi-illerate,moron or self-hate Chinese have all been used to attack another writer who holds different views from him/her ! Shame on you,'whymak' and your so-called words utttered here ! You just have no right to attack our Anson Chan here !

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