Chief Executive mock election platform (Discussion draft) (Executive summary)
Given the fact that the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (hereafter the HKSAR) is not elected by universal suffrage, his or her policy agenda is not supposedly going through popular scrutiny, therefore unable to claim any popular mandate at all. Hence, it would be difficult for government policies to conform to the expectation of the community. Any misinterpretation on public opinion might result in serious backlash not only to the credibility of the Administration but also to the prestigious status of the Chief Executive (hereafter CE). Even worse, the Administration would then be trapped in a situation of perpetual weakness. Recently, the performance of the HKSAR Government (hereafter the Government) has suggested a continuous derailment from public expectations. Failure to gain public support in hosting the Asian Games is undoubtedly an outstanding example. It was also astonishing that severe criticism was received even substantial amount of handouts were given to most citizens when there was substantial amount of fiscal surplus. Derailment was also indicative of the fact that the Government did not budge to conduct public consultation on the replacement mechanism of Legco members until many citizens took their anger to the street. In sum, the serious setbacks facing the Government stem from the fact that the Administration has failed to accommodate public opinion at large, not to mention its vigilance to what Hong Kong people are desperate about.
However, the present election mechanism does not require the CE candidates to engage the public in any meaningful way. In most occasions, the so-called meet-the-public sessions are nothing but series of road-shows aimed to catch public eyeballs. From a practical point of view, policy platform and its explication is supposed to be the core of the electioneering process by any CE candidates. Public opinions and their recognition is the step of utmost importance to fine-tune the platforms. Without essential interaction with the public in the course of electioneering, it would result in interment of a time bomb, as government policies might be out of touch of the public sentiment at the end of the day. In the light of this, those who are interested in running for CE should have their policy agenda publicized as early as possible, so that members of the public would have a chance to fully express their views. To enhance the credibility of future policy direction, it is of critical importance to embody the diverse views from a wide spectrum of the community. By doing so, it would be helpful in cultivating public endorsement of the policy agenda in the next five years as well as consolidating mandate of the Chief Executive.
Visions First, Supplemented by Concrete Policy Measures
On the other hand, The Professional Commons (hereafter The ProCommons) believes that the upcoming CE election will serve as an invaluable opportunity for territory-wide discussions amongst people from all walks of life concerning their future, then to set up policy priorities for future development of Hong Kong. For this reason, we have established a task force that has prepared a discussion draft of Chief Executive Mock Election Platform (hereafter the discussion draft) based upon the results of our policy research in the past few years.
An important message to be conveyed by the discussion draft is that any CE candidates, to be accountable, should be committed to presenting to the public a well-prepared election platform. It should be highlighted that the draft is not specifically designed for any individual candidates of their running of the CE post but a prototype for all candidates in a hope that they would be able to submit a platform of similar rigorousness, therefore directly addressing the calls of the public. Such a platform is not expected to be teeming with empty slogans. Instead, it should consist of basic principles and detailed policy proposals that map out how Hong Kong can be effectively governed.
In the light of the fact that the incumbent Administration primarily focuses on the immediate interest but ignores deep-seated social conflicts as well as long-term visions, we are of the view that the platform of the next CE must be vision-led with necessary way forward in tackling existing predicament of Hong Kong. To this end, the discussion draft has initially suggested several visions that cover three major policy areas, namely “reconfiguring our core values”, “extending our economic horizon”, and “achieving a decent lifestyle”.
Reconfiguring Our Core Values
Since the handover, severe social frictions have exacerbated in the form of conflicts between local citizens and new immigrants, disparity between the rich and the poor, tit-for-tat between development and conservation, etc on one hand. Many areas where members of the public have been struggling for years remain stagnated, including realization of dual universal suffrage, aspiration of decent home ownership, opportunities for upward social mobility, etc on the other hand. Against this background, the accumulated discontent has bogged the society into a state of simmer. Given the fact that there has been growing number of citizens favoring the approach of direct confrontation with the Government in recent years, it would indeed be a fortune if social order happened to remain in peace.
To avoid further degeneration of our society, the next CE is bound to “mend the wounds.” To this end, it would be advisable to reconfigure our social core value by encouraging full-range community participation in a bid to collaborate with different stratum of the community as well as individual citizens to strive for a cohesive goal. The CE-to-be should then launch a territory-wide envisioning exercise that encourages expression and exchange of views amongst different stakeholders. Such a move can also facilitate genuine deliberation with members of the public on different issues, therefore enhancing the fairness and equity of public policies.
Hong Kong citizens are always proud of what we have achieved under rule of law. But there is still plenty of room for improvement over discouraging performance on law enactment, lack of protection over rights of both consumers and investors, as well as constraints over legal justice due to destitute resources. Meanwhile, our level of internationalization has seen a declining trend, indicating that we have to prepare for any undesirable scenarios to come during the “good times” at present. In fact, no single effort could be spared in maintaining and exploring as much international connections as possible if Hong Kong wants to uphold our position as the “Asia’s World City.”
The incumbent CE has demonstrated an extremely bad example regarding how to put “People’s First” as a governing principle. Having no strong intention to significantly improve the quality of life of the underprivileged, the Government decided to give away HK$6,000 rather than to put extra public resources on social services and social welfare that the underprivileged desperately needs. The new Administration should attach greater importance to the caring of people’s wellbeing through realigning the priorities on its fiscal arrangement.
Extending Our Economic Horizon
Although hailed as one of the world’s three global financial centers, Hong Kong has no room for complacence. Our leading position would be under threat if we remain in our comfort zone of business and lose our spirit of adventure. For instance, to secure Hong Kong’s role is the most compelling offshore RMB centre, the Administration should not be complacent over the existing RMB deposit and clearance business. Rather, Hong Kong should develop more RMB-related business as lending and trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives. Moreover, the multitude of financial services should not be confined to listing, trading of securities should be explored including markets that serve the circulation of bonds, commodities, hedge funds and derivatives.
A strategic measure that could further strengthen Hong Kong’s role as an international financial centre is to establish an Asian-based rating agency, which as an option has not been thoroughly considered. As business scandals and financial crises have occasionally ensued in recent years, the credibility of major global rating agencies was put in jeopardy. By virtue of its merit on rule of law, freedom of speech, professionalism, market scope and its edge as an internationalized city, Hong Kong is the only city in China where a rating agency can be well-developed. Such a move is also in line with the strategy for development of the knowledge-based economy in the territory.
As a rule of thumb, a sustainable economic growth hinges on continued enhancement of knowledge content and human capital. Hence, the following policy alternatives should be taken into consideration, including a further increase in subsidized undergraduate degree places, development of material extraction as a main direction of R&D development, further collaboration between universities and industries concerned, as well as creation of a favourable environment for creative industries.
Achieving a Decent Lifestyle
Hong Kong is in an absurd situation where flourishing economic growth has been actualized at the cost of extensive social retrogression, in which a significant portion of the community finds difficult to live a decent life. Home ownership has become an issue that triggered severe conflicts across the territory. In the light of this, greater importance should be attached to the following remedial measures: ensuring a stable supply of land, refraining property developers from manipulating property prices, resuming construction of HOS flats to address the need of sandwich classes, providing more public housing in a bid to tackle the problem of caged homes and “sub-divided units”. Continued erosion of consumer and investor’s rights is another factor that constitutes the simmering public discontent. To get to bottom of this issue, the new Administration should put in place forceful measures to safeguard the rights of consumers and investors, including strengthening the role of public regulatory bodies, as well as providing more channels against unfair trade practices such as class actions.
To achieve an overall improvement of people’s livelihood, ensuring a fair sharing of economic prosperity should be the high on the policy agenda in the future. A bundle of policy measures should be put in place, including ensuring that the level of minimum wage can genuinely reflect the cost of living, empowering the employees with collective bargaining power, introducing a universal old age pension scheme that can secure a decent post-retirement life, as well as conducting CSSA review more frequently.
In view of the worsening income disparity, it would be indispensable of the next CE to facilitate upward social mobility as his task of paramount importance. Specific measures include providing teenagers with “One Person, One Sports, One Fine Arts” Scheme, extending free basic education to 15 years, providing new arrivals from the Mainland and ethnic minorities with tailor-made language training, relaxing hawkers policy, as well as facilitating the diversity of shopping centers in public housing estates.
“Livable city” should not be built on tissue of empty talks. As way forward aligning with new social values, town planning mechanism should be reformed, countryside conservation as a policy initiative should be materialized, urban renewal strategy should be reconfigured to avoid bias toward business interests, family-friendly working environment should be realized, and a cultural policy that favors the grassroots should be cultivated at the community level.
Voice out as the Master of Our Society
Given that the pursuit of democracy has never been smooth, it is more likely that an active participation of the whole community can help ensure a brighter future of Hong Kong. On the contrary, a mere sitting-on-fence attitude would only worsen the existing governance crisis if the next CE kept distancing oneself from the public, not to say helping Hong Kong get out of its misery. Instead, we should uphold a more proactive attitude as the Master by voicing out what we actually hope and desire to all CE candidates, demanding them to come up with a solid and sound campaign platform, if a real improvement on future governance then a prosperity and betterment for Hong Kong is to be anticipated.
As mentioned, this discussion draft is not a formal document tailor-made to any particular candidates but an exemplar for them. It is also hoped that this draft as a starting point could stimulate some bright ideas for further policy options. To this end, The ProCommons appeals that members of the public and the community at large can discuss and contribute their valuable views to the discussion draft. Finally, we hope that the candidates can follow suit and develop a wide range of public engagement exercises while formulating their election platforms.
The Professional Commons (公共專業聯盟)