• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 2:17am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:46am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 6:47am

When the Hong Kong government becomes the problem

People like to talk about "core values" as those which make a society like Hong Kong succeed or different from the mainland. I prefer an uglier phrase: pillar institutions.

During the heyday of the Asian Tigers, people liked to talk smugly about "Asian values" and why they helped create superior productivity and returns for their economies. But critics have long dismissed such talk as vacuous or meaningless. I wonder if a similar argument could be made for "core values", a phrase which makes for good sound bites but is just about as substantial as our polluted air.

Our real problem is not so much the need to preserve and protect our "core values", whatever they are; they mean different things to different people anyway. The real challenge of this generation is to make sure the core institutions that underpin our society adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Democratic reform is not an end in itself but is only meaningful in those institutional contexts. This is what young activists usually don't understand.

People, especially the ruling elite, like to paint successful institutions as products of incredible foresight. In reality, most of our enduring institutions came about as desperate responses to crises. The US dollar peg, surely one of our most successful economic anchors, was created in response to the Hong Kong currency crisis of 1983. We inherited our public housing, education and health care systems and our anti-graft law enforcement from the colonial Brits. I follow the idea of economist and author Leo Goodstadt that they came about not out of enlightened colonialism but as reactions to social and political crises and pressures that had built up since the 1950s and 1960s.

The success of "one country, two systems" and its promise of 50 years without change have become dependent on those pillar institutions. But those same institutions, devised in another century, are proving to be inadequate, and we are doing a very poor job of rebuilding them. A functioning government is one that is capable of running those key institutions, identifying their deficiencies and fixing them.

But with a perfect political storm looming over democratic reform, our government itself has become the problem.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Funny thing is the CCP starved 50 to 100 million of their own countrymen to death because of sheer stupidity and stubborn egomania between 1958 & 1961. So why don't you stand by your heroes and go chase the sparrows into the vastness of your ignorance and plant the seeds a little deeper in the dark soil of your free (because ain't worth anything) verse.
pslk - A monkey who couldn't find his poopshute with 2 hands would have had the same result with China's economy given the enormous pool of cheap labour in China and the enormously well developed world market for it's cheaply produced goods. No credit goes to the Communist Party for that!
And quite frankly I'm so sick of your doggerel that i don't read your posts anymore.
If anyone is simplistic in their thinking it will most certainly be a person raised within a communist milieu. Such an individual would be less capable of integrating diverse perspectives to come to more complex and accurate conclusions. That's the very nature of communism, little buddy. You are the one whose thinking has been whittled down to a one track perspective. So before you go around accusing others of being simple minded you better spend a little time having open dialogue with yourself.
Hong Kong’s core institutions are much synonymous to government official departments. They not only can’t uphold themselves for the intended purposes but become even more burdens to our society in quicken the degeneration of the rule of law.
There are many reasons that day by day we witness the breakdown of these core institutions. Their existing existence is to stay dormant just hiding behind various commission and authority that filled with self-interest individuals who most of the times are fronts of business interests.
Hong Kong basically is a company town that is a cartel in structure. It’s aggregate power exceeds that of government’s. Hardly people can support the government because most people’s income security invariably is in the hands of the cartel.
The past colonial Brits must also feel regretful their design and creation of these institutions for Hong Kong have past its usefulness for the society except unexpectedly mostly only serving officials personally as good income employment and pension.
In the illusion of core values connecting to the core institutions we are constantly reminded that they are still connected and even tell the world it is so.
If Hong Kong can’t get someone to lead as its Chief Executive to serve Hong Kong as a society, the company town culture will prevail. And LKS remains in control.
No, please spare us your pretentious dribblings...oh, too late.
Looks to me like you've been reading Foreign Affairs!
But, I would like to suggest that the democracy movement in HK has everything to do with reforming our institutions - most obviously the institution of executive leadership, but more systemically, it involves an ongoing transformation of all the institutions of HK govt. towards greater transparency and increased stakeholder input into planning and decision making. Democracy is not merely about selecting leadership - it is very much about the way government on all levels operates on a day-to-day basis.
You have been brainwashed
to think in over-simplistic and misleading labels
The CCP has in the shortest time raised the living standards
by a historically most impressive extent
of historically the greatest number of people
not just in China but all over the world
thru means that are entirely peaceful
The only totalitarianism that concerns you and is real
is the one that has been planted in your coconut
That’s why you try to advertise your foolishness
without knowing that you’re mouthing rubbish
and why you have picked up f arting Foolsyama
a squeezed lemon from the sewer and put it in your tea

tx for the reference.
close but no cigar. scanning through the article, it looks like fukuyama just did a cut-&-paste for the FA article from the 1st chapter, "the necessity of politics", of his Origins of Political Order, which I did read.
the "Institutions matters" thesis seems to be (back) in fashion these days. But i learned mostly from my brilliant friend Leo goodstadt.
Re: your comment below. consider this: in a previous summit meeting between presidents xi & obama, there were meetings between US & Chinese officials from more than 150 govt departments.
that was, in a fascinating way, an exchange at a wide institutional level between the 2 govts, each of which, say treasury or the environment, has its own counterpart; and all of which are respectively functioning & structured under a democratic & an authoritarian regime.
The CCP has built deep institutions to run 1.3 billion people, despite the corruption & what not. that is an interesting fact that needs exploring.
alex lo
Yes, I do understand that there are lessons to be learned from counterparts on either side. I am currently reading "The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers" by Richard McGregor.
And from this I'm learning how successful the CCP is in internal management and control and how it has a highly developed merit promotion system. Totalitarian management is fast moving, and speed is often required in a crisis. But failing to integrate a greater diversity of perspectives when occasions permit renders this speed often inefficient because lower quality decisions / courses of action result in higher costs down the road.
But I am a firm believer is listening with a truly open mind (I don't always succeed) to all sides of an issue. It is a mistake to believe that one's own 'party' is right about everything and the 'opponent' is wrong about everything. I shall continue to try to learn what is helpful from the CCP.
You fail to understand that democratization is an ongoing process - it does have a long way to go in the so-called western democracies. The development of democracy has stalled because elites have found effective ways to hijack the process. But in time their stategies will be brough more into the light in a way that the masses can understand - these shortcomings will be overcome and democracy will evolve into a deeper level of consciousness and institutional / societal expression.
Where/how do you see totalitarianism evolving toward greater benefit for humanity and the Earth as a whole?
Good morning paradox
The real monkey is the one who taught the occupiers
that “international” can do without India, Indonesia,
the Philippines, Brazil, … all those densely populated
“developing” and “under-developed” countries
many of which being Sammy’s buddies
blessed with ultra cheap labor
and “real democracy”,
Paradoxical “international” parochialism
has blinded you from seeing 1950/60 China
in the real historical context
A self-styled paradox
without contradicting yourself
you may keep reading my comments
More fun to read your seemingly intellectual babbles
than the real scholarism stuff of Ali
and his legalistic cronies




SCMP.com Account