HK in need of administrators, legislators with moral integrity and ability

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will hold the Seventh-Term Legislative Council election on Sunday. So far, 153 hopefuls have passed preliminary screening. They show considerable diversity, as members of patriotic pro-establishment groups are joined by those representing various social sectors and a few former members of moderate “pan-democrat” parties. The diverse candidate mix promises healthy competition.

This is the first time there will be no automatic winner in any constituency in LegCo elections. With all of the 153 candidates having passed the vetting process, we can rest assured members of the next-term LegCo will all be patriots, but not all of them are staunch patriots, and not all of them command moral integrity and matching talent.

The main requirement for staunch patriots is wholehearted support for the leadership of the Communist Party of China for the whole nation, including the HKSAR and the Macao Special Administrative Region. What Hong Kong needs the most now are stanch patriots with moral integrity and matching talents, who not only support the leadership of the CPC over the whole nation but also meet the five requirements spelled out by Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, at a symposium on July 16. These requirements are 1) excel in fully and accurately implementing “one country, two systems” in administering Hong Kong, as a firm patriot does; 2) excel in resolving deep-rooted contradictions and problems in the way of Hong Kong’s development, as a responsible and accountable patriot does; 3) excel in serving the public with tangible result, as a caring and compassionate patriot does; 4) excel in uniting people from all walks of life, as an inspiring patriot does; and 5) excel in fulfilling one’s duty and responsibilities, as a dedicated patriot does.

The five requirements, raised by Xia Baolong on behalf of the central authorities, apply to the Seventh-Term LegCo as well as the next-term HKSAR government. However, Hong Kong’s governance suffers a structural handicap — a serious shortage of administrative talents who meet the five requirements listed above. Not all members of the Seventh-Term LegCo and principal officials of the next-term HKSAR government will meet all of the five requirements, even if they are all staunch patriots.

What Hong Kong needs the most now are stanch patriots with moral integrity and matching talents, who not only support the leadership of the CPC over the whole nation but also meet the five requirements spelled out by Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, at a symposium on July 16

Causes of the handicap include 1) patriotic groups being suppressed and marginalized by the British Hong Kong administration and unable to play a significant role in Hong Kong governance, or gain administrative experience; 2) patriotic groups’ socio-political status has risen significantly since the establishment of the HKSAR, but few of their members have been promoted to key offices of the HKSAR government, including the Executive Council; 3) some patriotic groups maintain close contact with the West and are influenced by the West in many ways; and 4) not all social elites who joined the HKSAR government in the past two decades proved they fully and accurately grasped the concept of “one country, two systems”. And this sorry situation is very hard to fix.

Then there is the important issue of old-school civil servants, who constitute the main body of the administrative institutions of the HKSAR. In terms of administrative mentality or practice, all the chief executives so far willingly or begrudgingly depended on the army of old-school civil servants and particularly senior government officials in charge of daily operations of crucial departments. So much so, special terms have been coined to highlight the importance of the old guards, such as “Administrative Officer Party” and “Administrative Officers administer Hong Kong”. The thing is, the political philosophy and behavior of old-school civil servants are becoming less and less adept at keeping the exercise of “one country, two systems” up to date.

Therefore, people should not expect that all members of the Seventh-Term LegCo are staunch patriots complete with both moral integrity and ability, or that the top administrative team and the army of civil servants, especially senior Administrator Officers, can work together seamlessly. That said, the voting public must do their best to ensure the majority of LegCo members are staunch patriots of high caliber and moral integrity. By the same logic, Hong Kong must return a sixth-term chief executive with moral integrity and matching talents as well as unshakable patriotism. Thus we can proceed with building a top administrative team whose members complement one another to satisfy the five requirements as a whole.

Whether the new LegCo and the new administration can meet the above-mentioned five requirements hinges on whether they can stay in lockstep with the central authorities in handling both the internal and external challenges.

Internationally, while strained Sino-US relations may ease intermittently, Washington’s strategy to contain China is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is imperative that the new administration and LegCo unite the people of Hong Kong to stand firmly with the State in fending off the US-led anti-China movements in the West.

Domestically, the new administration and LegCo must make every effort to advance Hong Kong’s integration into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as well as the overall development of the country in the next five years.

The principal guidelines and policies for national development laid down by the central authorities apply to the HKSAR in principle; the implementation of those guidelines shall be tailored to suit the actual conditions of Hong Kong, though. Take the national goal of common prosperity as an example: While Hong Kong can have its own income distribution model, it shares the same goal with the mainland in ensuring a better life for all of its residents. The capitalist system of Hong Kong is simply not an excuse for not pursing a common goal with the mainland.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.