Public wants fine print of social contract with election hopefuls

Of the four people who aspire to be Hong Kong’s next leader, only Carrie Lam remains to offer details of her platform; the sooner she unveils her manifesto, the better

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 4:03am

An election platform is essentially a social contract between those seeking high office and the public. Earlier, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, two of the four declared aspirants for the post of chief executive, offered their views on how Hong Kong should be governed. Now that former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has weighed in with his 73-page blueprint, we urge Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the former chief secretary who is widely perceived as the front runner in the election race, to roll out hers so that the public can have an informed debate on the competing platforms.

John Tsang pledges to reboot city’s political reform debate

With the city still bogged down by political bickering, the four aspirants have rightly made unity and reconciliation the common goal. But this cannot be accomplished by simply having a new face at the helm. Different factions in society also need to be ready for a change and put aside their differences.

While members of the Election Committee and the public are weighing carefully who can better bridge the political divide, they also look forward to seeing bright and feasible ideas in tackling the many long-standing social and economic problems facing Hong Kong. Tsang appears to be more aggressive than Ip when it comes to taking on these challenges. Apart from a major revamp of the government structure, the former finance minister also proposed a progressive profits tax and a so-called negative income tax, under which low-income earners will get government handouts instead of paying salaries tax. He also did not shy away from the controversial national security legislation that Hong Kong is required to enact under Article 23 of the Basic Law – the city’s mini-constitution – and restarting the shelved process of political reform. He also set a target for 60 per cent of the population to be accommodated in public housing.

Tsang’s concept of “proactive enablement” comes as a contrast to his image as a laid-back finance chief over the past nine years.

So far, Lam has only rolled out a threadbare plan dubbed the “eight visions”; she has said a more detailed platform will be unveiled soon. In what is seen as a veiled attack against Tsang’s previous approach to fiscal matters, she spoke out against hoarding wealth and called for informed debate on policies rather than populist platitudes.

John Tsang walking a fine line in trying to please all

Like it or not, the Election Committee and the people will want to see more concrete promises before entering into a social contract with their preferred leader. It is incumbent upon the contestants to respond to these aspirations.