Opinion | Hong Kong gets a second bite at the cherry
By Philip Yeung, a university teacher
After 1997, Hong Kong has lost two decades to poor governance and the rest to toxic politics.
How far this city has fallen from its fabled heights! Even little Macau now walks taller and talks louder.
But with electoral reform, the deck has been reshuffled. Hong Kong is dealt a better hand. A new era beckons.
We now have a slate of patriots-only candidates. The Western press, predictably, heaps scorn on this new political landscape.
But this is criticism we can simply shrug off. Will the US Congress tolerate unpatriotic members in its chamber? Besides, who needs the return of a political circus dominated by characters who were more interested in acting up for the camera than getting things done. To the likes of Long Hair, I say, good riddance. Hong Kong can't afford another four years of legislators who play to the press gallery. Make no mistake. This is a city in crisis.
The US Congress itself is not exactly smelling like roses. It is about as dysfunctional as our frequently-filibustered Legislative Assembly, paralyzed by partisanship, and busy playing politics with truth or people's livelihood. One is the pot and the other is the kettle.
What worries me is not Western displeasure, but the caliber and commitment of the candidates. As the conduit between the people and the government, LegCo is where the healing can begin. And the best way to heal this broken and divided society is by tackling long-neglected misery-making bread-and-butter issues.
Of the three key issues, housing, education and public welfare, the government has performed like a third-world city with first-world resources. The poor are suffocating in coffin homes, our kids are bored to tears by meaningless learning, and the low-income are being nickeled and dimed to death by a Grinch-like government that has shamelessly increased the pathetic fruit money by a niggardly HK$45 per month or educational subsidy by a mere HK$100. The needy are shooed away by demeaning bureaucratic rules designed by officials grown callous on six-figure monthly salaries. With government coffers bulging, why are government handouts always penny-pinching "supplements", and never for meeting basic needs? The term "fruit money" is a loaded insult.
Don't give us lip service about fighting poverty. On the mainland, our officials wouldn't have lasted a month desk-bound in their air-conditioned offices.
For effective governance, look to the mainland, not to the West. When was the last time you saw sweeping bold moves that eliminate monopolistic economic behavior, or amputate expensive tutorial centers? How come we hear a slogan like "housing is for living, not for speculating" only on the mainland, and never here? That's because those in power are busy playing the property market themselves.
This election is a watershed moment. Legislators are duty-bound to push for programs that meet the people's chronic needs. For a change, put people at the center of your legislative thinking.
Sadly, Hong Kong has yet to produce a single outstanding legislator. Many are too busy playing politics. They think like amateurs and act like amateurs, doing little to earn their paycheck. Which is why it's good to see that, this time, there are several candidates with expertise in the science and technology sector. In under 30 years, Hong Kong has been overtaken by its neighbor Shenzhen in technology and the economy. While the city is disabled by political turbulence, Shenzhen has leapfrogged to the front.
I recommend that our new crop of legislators first pay a visit to China's Silicon Valley after being sworn in and see what innovation and bold vision can achieve. It will shock them out of their complacency.
Legislators have two key functions: collect the concerns of their constituents and convey them to the government to generate sensible policies and programs. You are there because your people put you there. Without them, you don't have a political future. Be the conduit that matters.
Legislators' second duty is to keep an eye on the government. For the first time, LegCo is free of procedural abuse and frivolous filibuster. Keep officials on their toes and focus on solution-seeking to shape Hong Kong's destiny.
Our local failure has huge regional repercussions—discrediting "one-country-two-systems", and giving comfort to Taiwan separatists and their Western cheerleaders. Our officials are certified masters of disaster, forcing the Central Government to come and clean up their mess. For that, Beijing has been crucified by the West for curtailing the city's promised autonomy. With officials despised by the people, and legislators treated as clowns, the West wants us to wallow in our mess so that it can continue to reap its geopolitical benefits.
It's time to turn the tide.
The spirit of public service needs a sea change. Public servants must "see" their people and their needs. There is too much parsimony and not enough empathy in the corridors of power. Instead of posing for photo-ops in high-profile visits to subdivided flats, go talk to the homeless shivering under the bridges. Or better still, spend a night with them.
If you don't get out of your bubble and engage your people, you shouldn't be in government or in LegCo.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.
Read more articles by Philip Yeung:
Opinion | China in a Kangaroo Court
Opinion | The world owes China an apology
Opinion | "No jokes please, we are Chinese"