Unformatted text preview: Spring 2004 L12 Lecture 12
Governance of Post-97 SAR (II)
The SAR Governance Crisis (A) Some Special Features of the Governing Crisis
(1) When Tung was elected in December 1996, he had very high approval ratings. He
was well received as a kind, old-styled, fatherly-like figure, though conservative.
But his popularity dropped continuously afterwards.
(2) The whole SAR govt has a better approval rating than Tung, while some other
officials (e.g., Anson Chan, Donald Tsang) could have quite good approval ratings.
(3) The govt or the CE controls a lot of power: appointment powers, majority support
in the Legco, and exercises more and more control over the society. Yet the govt
still suffers from a lack of public support. (B) Institutional Roots
(1) The undemocratic nature of the CE election means that the CE has an inherent
legitimacy problem. He has to rely on good government and economic
performance to maintain his legitimacy.
(2) With the Selection Committee and Election Committee weighted in favor of the
business sector, the public has the perception that the SAR govt’s policy favored
the large businesses too much. The high-profile support of the Beijing leaders
during Tung’s second term made people think that he can have a second term only
because of the support from Beijing.
(3) The SAR political system copied the basic logic of the colonial system and tried to
rely on civil servants and non-party politicians to handle political matters. It
neglected the fact that the urge for political participation has increased, and the
society has become more pluralized. The executive-dominant system proved illequipped to adapt to rising demands from the citizens, the media and the
politicians. The system does not have enough channels to absorb public opinion
into the decision-making process.
(4) Tung does not have a political party—or the political system abhors a ruling party
in Hong Kong. This makes it difficult to form a coherent ruling team, and
1 Spring 2004 L12 difficult to recruit political talents into the govt. On the whole the system is not
good at producing political talents due to its non-open nature. (C) Constraints and Difficult Environments
(1) The choice of the CE, whoever it is, cannot have too close a relationship with the
colonial govt because of Chinese suspicion of the British govt., especially after the
Sino-British fallout over the Patten reform. It pre-determines that the CE will be a
newcomer who did not have a lot of experience with the govt. before 1997.
(2) The acceptability of China poses constraints on CE’s policy. On issues like
democratization, press freedom, human rights or Falun Gong, the CE has to play a
tone that placates China, which may hurt his image at times. Other senior officials
may have more liberty to play more liberal tones.
(3) The Asian economic crisis, and the subsequent economic recession in Hong Kong,
disabled the govt in gaining legitimacy by economic performance. This spoiled
the original plan by 1997.
(4) Business opposition to increased welfare and taxes, and the constraints from the
Basic Law, means that it is unlikely for the govt to spend much money to improve
the welfare of the lower class. After 1998, the budget deficit made it even more
unlikely that the govt will spend much on social welfare. Inability to raise new
taxes sometimes drove the govt to cut back on welfare expenses, push civil service
and other money-saving reforms which entail criticisms from interest groups.
Problems with Strategy Put too many things onto the agenda. Tung tried to solve too many problems at
one time after the economic crisis sets in. Yet putting too many things on the
agenda disables the govt to achieve something concrete. It also creates the
impression that the govt just talks and does not have real achievements. The govt provided very few short-term solutions to solve the immediate difficulty
of those affected by the recession. Instead, Tung suggested a series of long-term
plans in his policy speeches of 1998 and 1999. This did not earn a lot of
sympathy from the public and gave public the impression that the govt was not
sensitive to people’s problems and needs.
2 Spring 2004 L12 In some controversial events, the govt waged public opinion campaigns that
succeeded in earning public support to govt policy on that issue, but at the same
time alienated some major groups in society. For example, by manipulating
figures and arousing the hostility towards new immigrants, the govt gained
majority public opinion support over the reinterpretation of Basic Law. But the
new immigrants, social workers, legal profession were all angry. The cutting of
CSSA won majority public opinion support, but it led to dissatisfaction among
those who were in need, and the social service sector. It also added to the
hostility and division among various social groups in society. In face of controversial events or public opposition, the govt would mobilize the
support of sympathetic groups (e.g., pro-China community groups) to counter
opposition opinion and justify their own policy. This led to increased division
and hostility within society (e.g., the (first) reinterpretation of the Basic Law, the
Article 23 debate).. It sometimes made people think that the govt was not willing
to listen to opposition opinion, which drove away friendly criticisms. To justify reforms, the SAR govt sometimes started by criticizing the existing
practitioners (e.g., education and civil service reforms). This offended the
practitioners and made it even harder for the reforms to succeed.
Problems with Specific Policies
(1) The housing policy of 85,000 flats per year in 1997 was seen as the chief reason
for the collapse of the property market, leading to complaints from many middleclass household owners. Inconsistent housing policy, with the public perceiving
that the real estate sector dominated decision-making, also did not help the govt.
(2) The policy of the SAR govt. is seen as pro-business and politically conservative,
which failed to earn support from certain sectors of the population (e.g., prodemocracy supporters and lower class people).
(3) Drastic reforms in many social service sectors, including the Civil Service
Reform, education reform (e.g., language proficiency test (語文基準試), and
other reforms touched on the interests of many professional sectors.
(4) Numerous administrative mistakes since 1997 destroyed the myth that HK’s civil
service is efficient and effective. Bird flu, the opening of airport, medical
blunders, problems with public housing, the handling of SARS, Harbor Fest, etc.. 3 Spring 2004 L12 Problems with Tung’s Style
(1) Tung was a political novice who had very little public administration or political
experience before 1997. This means he does not have very good political skills,
media skills, and experience in dealing with political parties, interest groups, and
even civil servants. Sometimes he does not understand the ethos of public service
(e.g., SY Chung’s birthday party, his own driver, etc.) and may make mistakes that
hurt his image.
(2) Ideologically and culturally, Tung seems to have a big gap with the mainstream
culture of HK, especially out-of-touch with the younger generation. Some of his
nationalist sentiments and slogans were not well echoed within the local
(3) Tung and some SAR officials did not show that they have an open attitude
towards public opinion. There are fewer consultations with public after 1997.
Cases of tough control against demonstrators give people the image that the SAR
govt will curb the opposition. This alienates friendly critics and led to increased
polarization within society.
(4) Various events (e.g., Robert Chung incident (鍾庭耀事件), “Lexusgate”, SARS)
gave people the impression that Tung would protect his subordinates/friends at the
expense of public interest. Events such as the Cyberport (數碼港) also smell of
favoritism, which tarnished the moral image of Tung. 4 ...
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