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  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 1:19am
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong has the most ‘ridiculous political system in the world’, says ex-official

Post-handover Hong Kong is a Sleeping Beauty on verge of being ungovernable: former official

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 6:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 7:56am

Hong Kong is on the brink of becoming ungovernable, and the only solution is to find the right model for electing the city's leader and legislature, a former senior official said yesterday.

Referring to the tale of Sleeping Beauty, Rachel Cartland, who spent 34 years as a civil servant, said she hoped Hong Kong could wake from "17 years of bad dreams" since the handover, and a "saner" political system was the only way to address its problems.

Cartland, an assistant director of social welfare before she retired in 2006, was addressing the Foreign Correspondents' Club on whether the city had become ungovernable, when she weighed into the debate on universal suffrage in the chief executive election in 2017.

Cartland said that when Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, "the good godmother came forward and heaped up gifts", such as the rule of law.

"[But] the evil godmother, or perhaps she was merely being foolish, came and laid on top of the pile, the most stupid, ridiculous political system and constitution that any community in the world has tried and been forced to operate under.

"Every single member of the Legislative Council stands always poised, ready to form the disloyal opposition to a chief executive who is specifically not allowed to have a political party of his own.

"That Legislative Council is formed partly from functional constituencies, some of which are as bad as the rotten boroughs that tainted 19th-century England, with tiny electorates with their own agenda, [while] the geographical constituencies… are elected by a very odd proportional representation system, which is actually skewed in such a way as to ensure that more radical candidates have a very high chance of being elected.

"My own belief is that [problems] could be sorted out more easily in a saner system. Hong Kong is now teetering on the edge of ungovernability and the reason is the political system."

This month, the government concluded a public consultation on reform, but analysts say the city remains far from consensus.

Cartland urged officials to "come up with an electoral system that will work", and to persuade Beijing and Hongkongers that "they can live with it". "I am only hoping our fairy godmother will … wake the sleeping princess of Hong Kong from 17 years of bad dreams, to a better future in which it is not just governable, but supremely well-governed."



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This article is now closed to comments

An interesting topic. Clotaire Rapaille had described in his book "The Culture Code" the US culture is that of an adolescence because the US is a relatively speaking new country with an "on the move" mentality. IMO, Hong Kong's political elites, unmoored from old Chinese culture, is trying to forge a new culture. At present, they are at the stage of a terrible two, culturally speaking.
Totally pointless load of platitudes saying things we already know and making not a single useful or useable proposal. Who needs to be told the place is on the verge of being ungovernable? It is already totally ungovernable. Who needs to be told the government should come up with a workable system acceptable to both Honkongers and Beijing?
'My believe is that [problems] could be sorted out more easily in a saner system?' What saner system, dear sister Cartland? And how will it be 'more easily' sorted out?
Ant Lee
what do you think the kind of government communist China will allow HK to have? A progressive and civilised one with complete respect to the rule of law? You must be kidding.
Ant Lee
HK's political problems are so obvious to those without any vested interests
HK's political system is so "ridiculous" according to Cartland that we have 3% unemployment rate, a budget surplus for the past 10 years and a 15% income tax rate that expatriates love so much. Contrast this with her native homeland, the UK and EU, where there is close to double digit unemployment, budget deficits for years and a youth unemployment of around 50% in the crisis hit countries of Spain and Greece. So yes, Ms. Cartland, democracy in social Europe has created a "paradise". If you love this paradise of yours so much, then I would advise you to quickly return to your homeland and leave this "ridiculous" system to us.
My opinion could be generally broken into three parts. Firstly, her offensive “good and evil godmother” analogy; secondly, her comment about our “ridiculous political system in the world”, and lastly, and most importantly, I want to discuss the correct attitude that we Hong Kong people should bear in mind, that we Hong Kong people should be proud of, always.
As far as I am concerned, there is no political system in this world is perfect. It is true our Chief Executive did not have any political affiliation, but I believe this is the innovation and creativity that enabled a few decades of calmness and prosperity after the handover. Our LegCo is split between GCs and FCs and flaws are observable. But it doesn’t mean British parliament bears no imperfection either. I also observed that British Parliament has no Scottish representation and Scotland was thinking independence. The above is not meant to criticize British political system but just to contend that there is no political system in the world perfect.
The “good and evil godmother” analogy is another let down and is not totally true. In early colonial rule, there was no native representation in Hong Kong, not to mention to Public Order Act that purported to limit freedom of speech in Hong Kong. The fact is Britain never thought of developing Hong Kong until handover is foreseeable and England faced international pressure of not developing Hong Kong as a better place.
Ms. Cartland, who are you to criticize what is good or bad apart for your sole intention to bad-mouth HK/China? There is no such thing as the 'most' ridiculous political system in the world, as 'all' political systems are ridiculous in their own respective ways.
Examples of various ridiculous political systems of democratic nations:
-The U.S., the so-called leader-of-the-world with 300 million population, high-school gun shootings every now and then, has only two major political parties but calls themselves democratic (i.e. humanity is much more complex/diverse in perspectives)?
-Taiwan, who practices multiparty democracy, is known for their corrupted politicians where physical fights were occasionally displayed during legislative sessions?
-Italy, who has elected a corrupted person as their ex-president?
-Spain, who has unemployment rate of over 25%?
-Thailand, with 4-5 different prime ministers in the past 10 years, coming close to civil war?
-India, another federal republic, who has obtained its independence from UK since 1947. How do you comment on the performance of its current government?
The list of problematic democratic systems goes on....
Is 100% universal suffrage really that critical to crave for right away? While it is alright to dream about utopia, at the end of the day, the fix should be on human greed rather than political systems.
Ms Cartland has a point, which she makes well. Unfortunately, she is an easy target for those who seek to rebut her views. I don't recall her or for that matter that other vocal ex-civil servant, Anson Chan, demanding a better system when they were in power. No, they kept their opinions to themselves and acquiesced in a deal that Hong Kong people were given uncontested. Had Ms Cartland and Mrs Chan had the moral courage to speak up whilst in power, I'd be more inclined to listen to their views.
‘Do you agree with an ex-official's view that HK has the 'most ridiculous political system in the world'?’
The SCMP’s poll is mindlessly meaningless -- agree because she was an ex-official or otherwise.
Why making a condition upon the issue if Hong Kong has the ‘most ridiculous political system in the world’ regardless who said it.
Sure unless the poll is more about who and not what.
‘Do you agree with an ex-official's view that HK has the 'most ridiculous political system in the world'?’
The SCMP’s poll is mindlessly meaningless -- agree because she was an ex-official or otherwise.
Why making a condition upon the issue if Hong Kong has the ‘most ridiculous political system in the world’ regardless who said it.
Sure unless the poll is more about who and not what.




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