|It can be an eye-opening, and sometimes alarming, experience
to learn how your country is portrayed by the overseas
media. This point was brought home to me recently in a
speech given by an eminent Harvard Professor at an Asian
Society meeting. He told of his search in US book shops
for titles relating to Hong Kong. He could find only three
books, the titles of which were: The End of Hong Kong,
The Downfall of Hong Kong and Red Flag Over Hong Kong.
These titles may appeal to people's natural appetite for
drama, but, by sensationalising something in order to
make a more interesting story, the actual facts are often
neglected or distorted. The end coverage can then portray
a very misleading picture.
To correct distorted media coverage abroad, Hong Kong
needs informed and influential people to get more involved
and to educate people to get more involved and to educate
people overseas about what is really happening in Hong
Kong. With focus on Hong Kong, and its opinion leaders
will be subjected to intense media coverage from all
corners of the globe. This will be a good opportunity
for the real Hong Kong story to be told.
LegCo's overseas trips have often created opportunities
to generate positive media coverage. For example, in
February 1996, I wrote in this column about my lobbying
efforts for Hong Kong during a visit to Europe as a
member of a LegCo delegation. I of course also have
frequent occasions to meet in Hong Kong with visiting
Senators, Congressmen and fellow Parliamentarians from
all over the world. The fact that I am an accountant
creates even more opportunities: such was the case,
in October 1996, when I joined other senior members
of HKSA to make a presentation to IFAC to support our
bid to host the World Congress of Accountants 2002.
More recently, I also spoke at a dinner hosted by HKSA
in a CICPA/HKSA Joint Conference held in Beijing. There
again I had the opportunity to speak of Hong Kong's
success and potential.
This experience in speaking out for Hong Kong has convinced
me that my fellow accountants, who have so many overseas
contacts and clients, should also work at transforming
these links into valuable opportunities for Hong Kong.
We should join together and share the responsibility
of giving decision makers around the world the real
facts about Hong Kong.
The following points are some of the messages I believe
we should be telling our overseas friends.
Firstly, Hong Kong's remarkable history and political
culture make it unique. For the majority of Hong Kongers
the notion of independence derives more from a state
of mind than from the existence of territorial boundaries.
Our political agenda is filled predominantly with domestic
issues. Steeped in a strong spirit of self-help, Hong
Kong people treasure the principle of finding their
own solutions to domestic problems and of running Hong
Kong themselves. Hong Kong's political agenda reflects
the priorities and the vision Hong Kong people share
of their future. For overseas countries to maintain
a `hands-off' attitude toward Hong Kong's political
affairs, is to respect the wishes of the people.
Secondly, there is much evidence to support Hong Kong's
case for a `hands-off' approach:
- Hong Kong people are the real China experts. We
have been successfully dealing with this strong neighbour
for over 100 years. We share the same language, culture,
heritage, history, and many Hong Kongers have strong
family ties to the mainland.
- Many foreign investors already depend on Hong Kong's
services, knowledge and experience when doing business
- Hong Kong people also understand Chinese politics.
For the last decade or so, we have worked closely
with top political leaders in China to draft the Basic
Law and prepare for the transitional government. At
the end of the day, we all know that Hong Kong must
continue to find practical ways of not only co-existing
but also of working constructively with China.
Thirdly, Hong Kong is, with good reason, confident
and proud of its present state. The population is made
up of more educated and affluent local Chinese than
ever before. Many people from this emerging class are
committed to, and involved in, local public affairs.
They have demonstrated their competence at making decisions
in the best interests of Hong Kong. They are articulate,
independent thinkers, and conscious of the need to use
both domestic and overseas media as a forum for expressing
their messages. Freedom of speech and of the press is
how democracies flourish anywhere in the world. Although
Hong Kong's history of democracy is short, we are starting
with a very strong foundation.
Fourthly, Hong Kong has the fantastic advantage of
having a stable and dependable civil service. This is
a very important point which gets very little recognition.
Media coverage is so often confined to politicians and
high profile personalities, that a country's underlying
support systems can often remain unnoticed. A stable
civil service is the backbone of a country. We have
seen numerous demonstrations of this during the last
decade in countries where, in spite of military, social
or political upheavals, a permanent civil service has
managed to provide the assurance of stability.
Our civil service should be brought to the attention
of the outside world not only for the stability it provides
Hong Kong, but also because of the attitude of Hong
Kong civil servants which reflects the business orientation
of Hong Kong.
The Chief Secretary of the civil service is reported
to be taking every opportunity to remind civil servants
that it is their duty to be `civil' and `service-oriented'.
There is a renewed recognition that the civil service
must be business friendly and consumer oriented. The
Financial Secretary is keen to develop a full `help
business' programme, and there is a clear commitment,
under the Basic Law, the preserve the ingredients essential
to Hong Kong's economic success. It has always been
clear that Hong Kong should maintain an environment
which nurtures an enterprising spirit. This will not
change simply because there are different people sitting
Like the civil service, our culture of consultation
is another source of Hong Kong's stability and strength.
Hong Kong's affairs depend on a very strong consultative
approach to government. Almost every issue is the focus
of very wide consultation. Although people from all
walks of life give their opinions, there are usually
no radically opposing view points. This is because most
of the issues are strictly local and generally produce
a narrow spectrum of opinions. Highly controversial
issues, such as race or religion, are very rarely the
objects of debate and it is thus most unlikely that
the internal political set up of Hong Kong will be undermined.
Consultation not only informs people, it also allows
them to vent their own feelings. It encourages the respect
of others' ideas and fosters the feeling of mutual trust.
It also provides a positive platform for the expression
of ideas and prevents the use of riots or violent protests
as ways of venting frustrations. Another benefit is
that once decisions have been reached, they are usually
well accepted, and people are prepared to put their
My final message would be to remind audiences that
it is also very much in China's interest that the handover
be as smooth as possible.
- China's long history has often seen warring factions,
causing great divisions, brought back together by
wise leaders. By bringing Hong Kong smoothly back,
Chinese leaders will ensure themselves a prestigious
place in Chinese history.
- The smooth reunification of Hong Kong with China
would also be the perfect demonstration to Taiwan,
and could become a blueprint for Taiwanese reunification.
- And of course Hong Kong is worth far too much to
China financially to risk upsetting the economic momentum
by creating a difficult transition.
A major financial centre's change of sovereignty, without
revolution or bloodshed, is a unique case of tremendous
interest to reporters and historians alike.
Hong Kong has earned its reputation as the `Pearl of
the Orient'. Our economic success has been legendary.
I think, as accountants, we should proclaim to the world
our readiness to defend and preserve all of the elements
which have contributed to the Hong Kong legend; we should
convey our eagerness to view the handover with a spirit
of adventure and enterprise. The people of Hong Kong
have a long and successful history of managing risk
in order to maximise return, of turning risk into opportunity.
We must say this, and say it loud enough for the world
to hear, to remind those we can reach that little has
actually changed and that Hong Kong's legend will live
Accountancy Functional Constituency