Just shut up and let history be the judge

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying and the city’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, have both been commenting on current issues. But they have had their chance and the latest battles are for the new generation to fight

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 10:12pm

People who have left high office should have the good grace to shut up. They have had their chance and should let history judge. The next battle is for the new generation to fight. Getting involved and re-engaging in controversies just muddies the water and adds to the confusion and rancour. They can also make things worse.

It’s understandable, though, that when you have been at the top, you are used to being listened to, and think something is amiss if you don’t share your pearls of wisdom. That’s the case with the last colonial governor Chris Patten, and so it is with our previous chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

I have no doubt that both men want the best for Hong Kong in their own way, though their convictions are fundamentally incompatible. For Patten, the future can only be full democracy and autonomy; for Leung, it has to be full integration with the mainland.

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But there is no right answer. It’s something that Hong Kong and the mainland have to work out – or fight it out.

With his criticisms of Hong Kong, Patten is helping to convince the rest of the world that our judiciary is becoming kangaroo courts, and our judges and prosecutors little better than commissars. He may never have said it outright, but that’s the impression he is conveying.

He thinks it’s shameful the British government wouldn’t stand up for Hong Kong, at least not in the way that he does. But at least his government is elected; who elected Patten? In what way could the British government intervene in Hong Kong and what good would that do? Publish more high-sounding press releases and thick reports that no one reads?

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Meanwhile, Leung, arguably the most controversial and divisive chief executive we have ever had, has taken to commenting on current affairs. Writing about the trials and sentencing of some of the Mong Kok rioters in June, he claimed police in Western countries would have likely shot and killed some rioters in similar situations. True or not, how was that helpful to anyone?

His recent egregious intervention at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club not only complicated efforts by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration in handling the local independence movement, it elevated an anti-China speech by fringe secessionist Andy Chan Ho-tin into an international news story.

A dignified silence from both men may save us from so much deafening noises.