‘Patriots administering Hong Kong’ an inclusive governance framework

On July 18, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, delivered a speech at a forum hosted by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies to elaborate on President Xi Jinping’s July 1 keynote speech. 

Quoting Xi’s assertion that “putting the governing power in the right hands is to safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability as well as the immediate interests of more than 7 million people in the region”, Xia urged Hong Kong residents to appreciate the essence and the well-intended purpose of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, and that “every Hong Kong resident is a participant, a practitioner and a beneficiary” of this principle. As far as I understand, Xia’s interpretation has three implications.

First, all Hong Kong residents are a beneficiary of the “patriots administering Hong Kong” precept.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s political establishment must always be people-centric and dedicated to serving the general public. Members of the Legislative Council should enact laws based on the overall long-term interests of all Hong Kong residents. While endeavoring to uphold judicial independence, members of the judiciary must ensure a legal environment that does not part with the overall long-term interests of the populace.

Some argue that Hong Kong’s capitalist system is incompatible with the people-centric governing philosophy, which, according to them, would turn the city into a socialist system. Such a contention not only ignores the fact that the global capitalist system has undergone sea changes, but also fails to meet the needs of Hong Kong’s socioeconomic and political development.

Its effective implementation entails a new political landscape in which close communication and concerted collaboration between the governing body, members of the political establishment and all Hong Kong residents should be put in place 

Second, all Hong Kong residents are essentially practitioners of the “patriots administering Hong Kong” precept.

In Hong Kong, elitism carried over with the traditional capitalist system still has a strong foothold; they see governance and policymaking as a prerogative of a small number of individuals. During British rule, the British Hong Kong government pretended to consult the public before presenting important bills to the legislature for deliberation, but it was the governor and a few others who dictated the whole process. Today, as the political saboteurs have been kept at bay, the traditional elitism could pose the biggest obstruction to “patriots administering Hong Kong”.

To counteract the influence of elitism, the policymaking process should involve as many Hong Kong residents as possible. Public consultations are not lip service but a channel to let the public genuinely take part in the policymaking process. Reforming the staffing and operations of consultative bodies will be one of the first steps.

Third, all Hong Kong residents should be participants in the “patriots administering Hong Kong” political framework.

The governing team, legislators and judicial officers, along with some 170,000 civil servants, account for only a tiny percentage of Hong Kong’s population. But this does not mean only a designated number of individuals are allowed to join the political establishment. As Hong Kong has restored stability and is gathering steam for renewed development, there are more and more aspiring patriots choosing to join the political establishment, indicating that the overall governance quality is on the rise.

Since the promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the revamp of the city’s electoral system, there is a mistaken belief that “patriots administering Hong Kong” is a matter of a few individuals. Xia set the record straight by pointing out that not a single person in Hong Kong is a “bystander”.

In his keynote speech on July 1, President Xi said that his first proposal for Hong Kong is to further improve its governance, noting that “to promote the development of the HKSAR, it is of urgency to improve Hong Kong’s governance system, governance capacity and governance efficacy”. Noting that the chief executive and the HKSAR government are the first to be held accountable for the governance of Hong Kong, Xi urged the administrators of Hong Kong to fulfill their commitments, faithfully enforce the “one country, two systems” principle with concrete actions, uphold the authority of the Basic Law, and devote themselves to the development of the region. In advising the new chief executive, Xi made it clear that personnel for public offices should be assessed on both ability and political integrity before they are recruited, and professionals who love both the motherland and Hong Kong with strong governance capabilities and passion for serving the public should be recruited as government staff.

In short, “patriots administering Hong Kong” is largely incompatible with the antiquated elitism. Its effective implementation entails a new political landscape in which close communication and concerted collaboration between the governing body, members of the political establishment and all Hong Kong residents should be put in place. This healthy political ecosystem will ensure Hong Kong’s progress from stability to prosperity.

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

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.