How Beijing and the Hong Kong government can end the political blame game

Tik Chi-Yuen says the coming election of a new chief executive should inspire a more open approach from all sides to working together for society’s good, rising above selfish concerns

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 4:19pm

Over the past several years, disputes and confrontations have intensified in Hong Kong. Legislators claim they serve the people, but what have they achieved for them? Politicians try to show off, disregarding community betterment. The city has paid a high price for the wasted hours in the Legislative Council on seemingly endless disputes. Meanwhile, there has been interference by the central government. Data shows that Hong Kong now trails Singapore in competitiveness. We will lose out if we cannot improve.

The city’s problems have seriously damaged people’s confidence in governance and angered the younger generations. Both the pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps just blame each other. In fact, both sides are responsible. But the core issue is still poor mainland-Hong Kong relations.

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Cross-border tensions are complex. Beijing has repeatedly said that it is natural for difficulties to emerge in the process of implementing the “one country, two systems” policy. But neither the government nor society has taken effective measures to solve the problems. Both the mainland and Hong Kong blame each other when conflicts emerge. This only worsens relations – just look at the debate surrounding the political package, for instance. It is a vicious circle.

New ideas are needed. We must put individual and political party interests aside and be realistic about working for the benefit of Hong Kong. Compromises must be reached between the central government, the local government and all stakeholders in politics.

Both Beijing and the Hong Kong government should address the following issues.

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First, restoring relations, via thorough communication, must be the priority. The central government must accept that the pan-democratic parties have popular support. They represent numerous Hongkongers who demand democracy for the city and are dissatisfied with Beijing’s interference in local affairs. There is a big gap, but not unreachable, between the central government and the pan-democrats. Beijing must simply listen to the voices of the pan-democrats because they represent many Hong Kong people.

Beijing must listen to the voices of the pan-democrats because they represent many people

It would be encouraging if the central government could take the first step. There has been constructive dialogue between the two sides in the past, albeit sporadic. Both the central government’s liaison office here and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office should take responsibility to turn cross-border communication into a regular feature.

Second, the Hong Kong government must be inclusive and ensure different groups take part in making and implementing policies. That the process is biased is unmistakable: over the past 20 years, advisory, statutory and consultative bodies have been dominated by members of the pro-establishment camp. The pan-democrats’ minimal involvement does not reflect the public support they command. The government should welcome the participation of people with different political opinions. Many pan-democrats are able and their advice is insightful. By drawing on different opinions, the solutions reached will benefit all sides.

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Third, the government must strive to gain public confidence. Critics have long pointed out that government policies are often irrelevant to people’s lives and do not meet their needs. The government machine for collecting opinions is broken. In the colonial period, the then Home Affairs Department did a better job of collecting and facilitating people’s opinions, and it made the then government more acceptable to the public. By contrast, the SAR government is relatively passive. Today, the power to create, facilitate and consolidate opinions resides with the pan-democrats. On this issue, the government and its Civil Affairs Department should do more.

It has been almost 20 years since the handover, and a new government will take over soon with the election of a new chief executive. We have a golden opportunity to hit the reset button on Hong Kong-mainland relations. Let’s not waste it.

Tik Chi Yuen is chairperson of the Third Side political party