It’s time to tear down the borders with mainland China

The way out of Hong Kong’s malaise does not lie in Western-style democracy or independence. Realistically, it’s to speed up the 50-year grace period of high autonomy to integrate fully with the rest of the country

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 9:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 10:31pm

Christine Loh Kung-wai is right. Two decades after the handover, some Hong Kong people and foreigners seem shocked that we didn’t become a Western-style liberal democracy.

Promoting a new book, No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story, she said in a Post interview: “Hong Kong must release itself from the unspoken aspect of the old British Hong Kong story, tied to a sense that it should have become a liberal democracy along Western lines by now”.

Loh and co-author Richard Cullen pointed to a different source of legitimacy besides the ballot box: performance.

Oh dear! If our government had been delivering “prosperity and stability”, we could all tolerate a bit of corruption and incompetence. But that’s the problem, it hasn’t delivered. In many areas, it has either failed or at least failed to improve.

Take the slogan: “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.” What we end up with is a cooperative and at times obsequious Hong Kong government that has done more to delegitimise Chinese rule.

A good deal of local antagonism towards the mainland and the central government has less to do with alleged Chinese interference than official incompetence in Hong Kong. They stem from misplaced anger and frustration.

Frustrated Hongkongers must stop using colonial nostalgia as a political weapon

Remember, local contempt for mainlanders began with an influx of Chinese tourists under a revamped visitor scheme that Hong Kong urged Beijing to set up to help its tourism recover after the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

All things considered, it would have been better if Beijing had followed the Brits and just sent over professional “governors” to run Hong Kong. Despite superficial “decolonisation”, our top officials, mostly career civil servants, are still relying on long-standing policies set by the Brits, only making them worse.

Just a few examples: land grants to privileged groups such as private clubs and hospitals; the exclusive reserve of land sales revenue for infrastructure development; taxes and subsidies that favour those with assets over those without; the detrimental small-house policy in the New Territories; deteriorating public education, health care and social welfare.

Hong Kong “leaders” wouldn’t even commit to the most obvious “pork barrel” politics, which is to spend generously with our reserves of trillions of dollars.

They sit idly on them and claim fiscal virtue!

The way out does not lie in Western-style democracy or independence. Realistically, it’s to speed up the 50-year grace period of high autonomy to integrate fully with the rest of China.

Let’s cancel the borders.