I cannot possibly emphasise enough how important
it is to have sound knowledge and a heart in the right
place when it comes to politics and public affairs.
The ongoing drama of the U.S. Presidential elections
is a tell-tale lesson for any budding politician to
learn from. This is the election for one of the most
advanced and important democracies on earth. The US
election procedure represents the 'best-tried' system,
i.e. a combination of political party nominations and
'one man, one vote' to reflect a well-balanced proportional
representation of the different US states. Yet, there
was great confusion and endless political and legal
debate before the true 'leader' was decided upon. So
what went wrong?
A historical event like this will always provide political
commentators with the opportunity to propound different
theories and analogies. Personally, I have quite a different
theory: there is nothing wrong with the system.
In the challenging game of golf, there is a well-known
idiom. 'There is nothing wrong with the game, but only
the faults of the golfers'. The U.S. electorate system
has already stood the test of time. The recent ongoing
saga is more a result of the self-interest of political
factions, than the direct consequence of the system's
Let our judgement not be clouded by romantic ideology.
The constitutional design of many of our modern democracies
is based on elements such as social class, and the beliefs
of differing local governments and functional constituencies.
It is clearly not based on any universally accepted
benevolent ideology. This principle is fine in itself,
but how these models work largely depends on us, the
politicians, rather than on the systems.
In short, there cannot be, and there will not be a perfect
model for any country in absolute terms. A 'best-fit'
solution may emerge depending on how the interest groups
resolve their differences. It is the latter that I wish
to emphasize here. This is the grey area where knowledge
and ideology play a lesser part, making politics an
art, rather than a science; a pragmatic profession rather
than simply a noble cause. Ignoring these principles
will only create a world of adversaries and confrontations.
The U.S. Presidential election has yielded a positive
lesson from which we can learn. The US democracy is
mature, and I am sure that all of the political factions
will support the elected president. His legitimacy and
authority are unlikely to be seriously challenged until
the next legally held election or only if he makes an
extremely serious blunder. A mature electorate and a
tolerant culture founded on mutual respect and acceptance
will provide much-needed stability. The same cannot
be said for many of the more newly formed democracies
in Asia, Hong Kong being no exception.
Hong Kong's previous British administration spent years
building an elaborate consultation system to resolve
and mediate conflict. This system has generally worked
well. However, in the past decade or so, the advent
of elected politics has fundamentally destablised these
Today's inquisitive and combative politicians are jostling
for their own niche political positions in the never-ending
election game. In their present mode, Hong Kong's politicians
are only too ready to defy the Government, blatantly
ignoring the community's overriding need to resolve
conflicts collectively. A new solution needs to be found
and I am confident that one will be found. Any apparent
instability will be short term and the people of Hong
Kong are likely to become wiser for it during the search
A case in point is the recent debate on the Public
Order Ordinance. On the one hand, the government
and the police have stood, firm in defending the need
for seven days' advance notice for holding a public
demonstration. On the other, students and human rights
groups are demanding absolute, unfettered freedom of
procession as a matter of constitutional right. Neither
is willing to yield, and a stalemate has resulted. If
this emotive matter is not rationally resolved soon,
it may be just a matter of time before a confrontation
occurs. And an inconsequential vote taken by LegCo will
do little to resolve the underlying conflict.
In my view, having spoken to many young people and
based on a quick survey amongst my accountancy functional
constituents, it is obvious that the majority of people
recognise the need for the police to maintain public
order. The same group of people also accept that some
form of advance notice is needed, but hesitate to call
it a 'pre-approval' process. They would object strongly
if the right to hold a public procession is denied on
On the whole, most of the people I have contacted find
the present legislation acceptable, especially in view
of the slightly edgy political and social sentiment
we are experiencing following the Asian financial crises.
However, this does not mean a public discussion would
be unproductive and that there is no room for improvement.
I have cited this well-debated case as an example to
demonstrate that our imperfect political structure requires
patience, good-will, tolerance and mutual respect from
all sides. As I have said before, most problems occur
in 'the mind' and not just in the system.
I recently flew to Sydney to support our paralympians.
I think they truly deserve our greatest respect and
admiration. As athletes, they suffer from varying degrees
of disability. But together, through sheer determination,
mutual support and a focused mind, they have overcome
huge obstacles, placing Hong Kong high up in the global
We need freedom for knowledge and humanity to flourish
and progress. But in this less-than-perfect world we
share where the powerful, the rich, the scholars, the
meek, the poor and the ignorant all have equally important
views, it is our ability to tolerate each other and
show mutual respect for different views that will create
our political culture.