'Troops of the [PLA], which has already formed links with the powerful local criminal gangs known as 'triads', will stroll the streets.' - Fortune cover story February 26, 1995 The PLA is rarely seen in the streets. To get a glimpse of the soldiers, SAR citizens have queued for hours to buy tickets to visit the barracks. 'The PLA has been so well received,' said City University political science professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek. 'They have been so well behaved.' 'As Hong Kong becomes a captive colony of Beijing and increasingly begins to resemble just another mainland city, governed by corruption and political connections rather than the even-handed rule of law, it seems destined to become a global backwater.' Hong Kong remains the second-best-rated Asian country after Singapore on the issue of corruption, according to surveys by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst, Hong Kong was given a 3.33 rating in the consultancy's most recent survey. That compares with a 3.03 score in early 1997. But some feel the local perception is not as confident as some polls indicate. 'It is difficult to prove but I think if you talk to ordinary people there is this perception that there has been more collusion between [Hong Kong's] business elite and Beijing,' Professor Cheng said. He notes the rising number of corruption cases - complaints to the Independent Commission Against Corruption are the highest yet - but blames this on the economic downturn. He does not believe corruption has crept into the rule of law. 'All parties concerned here, including the business community, agreed that we need integrity and rule of law in order to ensure we have an edge . . . if we remove that we're just like any other Chinese city,' he said. 'Beijing will control every branch of Hong Kong's Government - replacing elected legislators with compliant members, selecting co-operative judges, appointing the chief executive.' Hong Kong citizens effectively have no more role in choosing their Chief Executive than they did the governor under the previous system. But is Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa a puppet of Beijing? Two issues have raised eyebrows on the subject. One was public comment by Mr Tung over the Falun Gong spiritual group, which he called an 'evil cult'. At the time, it was widely believed that Beijing was indirectly pressuring the SAR to crack down on local practitioners. Nevertheless, Falun Gong members remain free to practise in the SAR even as they face prosecution in China. 'The Chinese Government has not put its foot down in Hong Kong over the Falun Gong . . . we came very close to that,' China business consultant T. L. Tsim said. The other closely watched drama was the Right of Abode case, which Mr Tung sent to the National People's Congress for a decision after the SAR's highest court delivered an unfavourable ruling. 'If you had co-operative judges you wouldn't have had the problem in the first place. So legally that gives an indication of the independence of the judiciary,' Hong Kong barrister Philip Dykes said. '[Yet the case] also shows the constitutional weakness of Hong Kong with regard . . . to the issue of interpretation.' The Legislative Council is nearly universally elected, with few appointed seats left. Yet some believe the mixture of geographical and functional constituencies keeps a lid on the pro-democracy movement. 'The whole system is designed so that the democrats cannot get much more than one-third of seats. So the Government feels no need to listen to the pro-democracy camp,' Professor Cheng said.