• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 1:57pm
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 !
i wonder how can an illerate as you wrongly and maliciously described is/was able to post his articles from time to time here in this Comment column. Can you this non-illerate explains clearly to the public ? Shame on you and your words ---so-called a short-time teacher and a 'scientist' !
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.
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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