• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:10am
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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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 !
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.
Hong Kong was clearly built in the image of the UK and was built for use by the UK, not for China nd not for the Chinese Communist Party.However, under the British adminsitration of Hong Kong, it became something that never existed in China and attracted many Mainland Chinense, if not for the opportunities, then in search of refuge or safety. Ultimately that system provided opportunities to those who had settled in HK to increase their wealth and standing and to eventually engage in inevstment and busines on the Mainland, which greatly benefited China. HK also developed, while China stood stagnant, which gave the Mainland early access to ports to export their factory goods.The British also integrated local Chinese into the government, the LEGCO, the civil service and the military, but it did retain its adminsitrative position. Under these cionditions Hong Kong thrived.




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