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."