Hong Kong’s major political parties must be more accountable

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 10:06pm

Although Hong Kong calls itself an international city, its politics resembles that of a village. Our politicians, their family histories, education, virtues, faults and foibles are daily gossip. Actually, this is good, since it makes them accountable to taxpayers. Even non-elected officials get this popular scrutiny.

By contrast, mainland officials are chosen for their party affiliations, family ties, financial links and personal loyalties. They care little for “the masses” as long as there’s no trouble. However, astute party observers realise this set-up is an Achilles’ heel as it breeds corruption, cynicism and apathy – threats to long-term stability.

History teaches us that power breeds corruption. Almost all of China’s dynastic collapses and civil wars were caused by misuse of power, waste of resources, nepotism, over-centralisation and contempt for and neglect of the lower classes.

History also teaches us that long-lasting dynasties and nations, whether kingdoms or democracies, were those that encouraged upward mobility, education, religious and commercial freedoms, and minimum military extravagance.

Their success was due to the vision and competence of officials who made the welfare of citizens a high priority, rather than their own wealth, military glory or subservience to ­

higher-ups.

Thus, the choice of Hong Kong’s appointed officials needs attention. We know that money is virtually synonymous with politics. Campaigning is expensive, so elected officials must win popular support. What about those appointed? They are usually self-sufficient, sometimes wealthy. Now here is our problem. Such people feel little concern for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and ethnic minorities.

Their loyalty is to their backers, their party. Their focus is on creating wealth and obeying orders from above, not listening to those below.

For this reason, our system needs more openness from political parties supplying appointees.

For example, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) is viewed as pro-Beijing. How much of its income comes from there? Are its members also Communist Party members and subject to its discipline? If there is a conflict between Hong Kong’s core values and the mainland’s, which will they support?

Other parties should also receive this kind of scrutiny.

If we wish to enjoy the title of “international city”, we have to maintain international standards of fairness, equality, openness and accountability. Can our government and our politicians do it? Or do we remain in our little ancestral village?

J. Geitner, Sham Shui Po