The dust finally settled when John Lee Ka-chiu was successfully elected as the sixth-term chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, securing 1,416 — or a record 99.2 percent — of the valid votes cast by Election Committee members on Sunday.
It marks a significant democratic milestone for Hong Kong, demonstrating the merits of the revamped electoral system. With a more-collaborative legislature and the threat of COVID-19 receding, the time is now ripe for Lee and his incoming governing team to put their heads together to put Lee’s manifesto — solving the SAR’s deep-rooted issues based on a results-oriented process; increasing the city’s overall competitiveness; and creating a firm foundation for the city’s development — into practice.
In addressing the well-entrenched socioeconomic problems besetting Hong Kong, Lee’s manifesto, which is broken down into four tenets — strengthening governance capability and tackling pressing livelihood issues; streamlining procedures and providing more housing and better living; enhancing overall competitiveness and pursuing sustainable development; and building a caring and inclusive society as well as enhancing upward mobility for young people — rightly captures chronic housing problems, governance and city competitiveness issues as key areas to improve. Setting himself apart from government officials with administrative-officer backgrounds who are notorious for their indulgence in cumbersome bureaucracy, Lee’s policeman-turned-top-bureaucrat background and his declared philosophy of a results-oriented approach may well mean he is not only adept at talking the talk but also walking the walk as a problem-solver that Hong Kong badly needs when ushering in a new chapter of effective and efficient governance.
President Xi Jinping famously said, “When it comes to the well-being of the public, there is no such thing as a trivial matter.” In light of the more than 152,000 applicants on the public rental housing waiting list with an average waiting time of six years, the longest in the past 23 years, Lee must live up to his housing-policy slogan, “Speed up, efficiency up, mass up”, by taking concrete action to relieve the predicament of the roofless underprivileged. Among a slew of other policy measures in the manifesto, Lee’s proposal to establish a task force on public housing projects that will provide, within the first 100 days of the new administration, ways to shorten the design and construction time of public housing by one year, and the option for public housing applicants to move into their flats earlier, before completion of supporting infrastructure, reflects Lee’s willingness to unshackle the prolonged administrative red tape in way of speedy execution in the interests of the public.
While some critics may question the dearth of bold new ideas in the manifesto, calling it “old wine in a new bottle”, one must rationally acknowledge that the crux of effective governance does not really lie in the number of ideas but how such ideas, taking in account the greatest public interests, are timely executed. Moreover, most socioeconomic problems in Hong Kong, not least of which are the housing crunch and intergenerational poverty, have persisted for ages, and hardly are there any magic bullets available that can cure such social ills once and for all in a fortnight. Nevertheless, Lee’s emphasis on learning from the past and taking decisive action with a results-driven mentality as set out in his manifesto warrants our accolades. In a similar vein, Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor, noted, “Let us not ask first what is wrong or what has always been, let us first ask what is possible and look for something that has never been done before.”
In fact, there is certain “new wine” in Lee’s manifesto that deserves our attention. For example, Lee proposed setting up a new “mobilization protocol” requiring government departments to coordinate and deploy personnel to an “interdepartmental emergency response unit” in the event of any emergency. This novel proposal draws lessons from the outgoing administration’s failure to establish a command center to mobilize resources effectively to combat the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed the city’s healthcare system. In addition, Lee’s suggestion to create local services and care groups in all 18 districts will strengthen community networking ensuring sufficient manpower to be mobilized in short handling of unforeseen emergencies. Toward a post COVID-19 new normality — “the only constant in life is change” — Lee’s manpower mobilization plan at both the government and community levels reveals his strategic foresight in safeguarding Hong Kong’s well-being.
Instead of nitpicking a lack of details in Lee’s election manifesto, one must be fair to Lee, who entered the fray of the chief executive race only a few weeks ago. The more haste, the less speed, the election manifesto should be perceived as a platform showcasing Lee’s main policy focus and style of leadership. It goes without saying that policy measures in specific terms will be in the pipeline once Lee and his cabinet members assume office in July. At this critical juncture, nothing is more crucial than maintaining the prosperity and harmony of Hong Kong. In writing a new chapter altogether for Hong Kong, the stand-alone role of our administration is inadequate. Our collective efforts in throwing our weight behind Lee’s commitment to creating a new chapter of stability and prosperity for Hong Kong together are essential.
Although it remains unknown how Hong Kong will transform in the coming five years under Lee’s leadership, one thing is however certain: United we stand, divided we fall. As Hong Kong has experienced months of social unrest in 2019 and five waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing all walks of lives and business to their knees, Hong Kong can no longer afford any more internal strife and attack among us. With Lee set to take the helm from July 1, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, a new era of stability, prosperity and opportunities dawns for the city. May we discover a ray of hope from Lee’s election manifesto! It is for sure that with the unswerving implementation of “one country, two systems”, the vessel of Hong Kong must rise to the occasion and sail toward a better and brighter tomorrow.
The author is a practicing solicitor and chairman of Y Legalites. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect those of the law firm for which he works.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.