'State leaders have stated clearly that stability is the key. How can the government remain stable if both the chief secretary and the financial secretary are fighting each other for the job? And who would run the government in the time being if they both quit to stand for election?' Source close to Beijing, SCMP, March 22 SOMEONE IS MISSING the point here about how free societies operate. This is one of those times that Beijing should think more about the two systems than about one country. The two systems differ in more than purely economic matters. Let us say it were true that the Communist Party represents the will of the people and that there is thus no need to hold general elections to determine what the people want. If this were so, it would indeed also be true that there is no point in having two people contend against each other for the post of chief executive of Hong Kong. Their differences could only be ones of personal ambition. Their policies would have to be the same. If those policies differed from the clear will of the people as expressed by the party, they could only be deviant. Why bother then to obstruct progress with personal ambition? Something along these lines is obviously the thinking in Beijing and may have been instrumental in our financial secretary's announcement that he will not stand in the next election for chief executive. Who knows? But then let us say that we do not really know what the will of the people is and that the people are in any case unlikely to speak with one unified voice. The best we can hope for is a majority voice and even this will be a slim majority most times. You could say that Beijing has discovered this about Hong Kong. It thought pre-1997 that the will of the people was to have a businessman as chief executive and therefore anointed Tung Chee-hwa only to discover that this was by no means the will of the people and that businessmen do not necessarily make good politicians. In an open system like ours, and all the world's truly successful political systems are open ones, the best way of achieving stability is to let the contention that Beijing so fears have free rein. If you want to stop people from expressing their opinion en masse on the street, then give them their voice in government. I grant you that the authorities in Beijing have some other legitimate considerations in mind. They worry that to grant Hong Kong people this voice is to create a voice that demands much greater independence than the Basic Law allows or one that espouses Taiwanese secession or otherwise subverts central authority. They do not entirely trust us yet in Beijing and they may have reasons for it. But this is a conundrum inherent in one country, two systems. If you tell people that they may have all their previous rights to contend against each other in the marketplace and to argue against each other in public forums, they will naturally ask why stability requires that they must speak with one voice when it comes to appointing political leaders. Contention and controversy in a political system does not mean that there is instability in it, quite the reverse. Just look at how the Democrats and Republicans claw at each other in the United States or how the Conservative and Labour parties do it in Britain. Yet the political systems of both are perhaps the most stable in the world. Take out the contention and you can indeed get stability but then you can only get it North Korean style. Thus if you ask, Mr Source, how government can remain stable if the chief secretary and the financial secretary are fighting each other for the top job, your answer is that the only good way of maintaining stability is to allow them to do so. It is what a society needs to adapt to changing conditions. It gives you gradual change, stability in other words. The alternative is recurring crisis. And if you ask who would run the government while they both stand for election, your answer is that good government has never needed micro-control from the top in all its doings at all times. If neither of these two men have run their departments well enough to give them the time to step back from their desks for a few weeks, then we should have neither of them for chief executive. It would be a good test of their suitability for the job. And that introduces another thought. Why only two? Why not also have others run for chief executive? It may seem the chaotic approach but this is the sort of chaos that creates stability.