What's Up Doc?

A recent health scare has reminded me of just how well served we in Hong Kong are by our professionals in most sectors, particularly medical care. Unfortunately it has also reminded me how badly served we are by our professional politicians on both sides of the reform divide.

Let’s start with the positive. One morning I woke up early, worked out in the gym and went on to work at the office. Everything was fine. But by mid-afternoon I was sweating, had a fierce headache and felt nauseous. Having been carried off home I went to bed thinking I may have caught a bout of the flu and slept for 24 hours. Unfortunately when I woke up the following evening it was clear something more serious was wrong. One of my legs was seriously infected.

To cut a long story short, soon afterwards I walked into the Accident and Emergency Department of one of our major hospitals and watched while Hong Kong’s medical professionals swung into action. I was registered and seen by the triage nurse within five minutes. Less than half an hour later I was in front of an experienced doctor who recommended immediate admission. Two hours later I was in a public ward, blood had been taken for testing and I was receiving powerful antibiotics by intravenous injection.

Luckily for me the results of the blood tests proved negative for the really nasty options, and after five days of treatment I was ready for discharge. Follow up treatment was arranged before departure, and off home I went.

The key points here are this standard of treatment is available to all Hong Kong citizens at very modest cost, and if something even more serious had been wrong it would have been detected in time to do something about it.

Focus thus far has been on health care because of this unnerving personal experience. But there are other sectors where Hong Kong people enjoy world class standards, and take them for granted. Our underground railway system is the envy of cities everywhere for its efficiency and cleanliness, all credit to our engineers. Our crime rates are extremely low, and our detection rates very high, in comparison to those of most other major cities. Full credit to our police force.

The list goes on. Unfortunately we are not well served to anything like the same extent by our political elite. Take the government’s conduct in the recent exercise to gauge the need and appetite for political reform. A very one-sided issues paper was backed up by a refusal to meet many of the groups advocating reform during the consultation phase, and the final product was a conclusion paper which claimed to set out what the public wanted while its authors must have known while the pen was still in their hands that what they were writing was hopelessly biased and less than frank. Even today, the government is still pretending that corporate voting is fine, the functional constituencies are wonderful and democratic, and the election committee is magnificently representative and a fine model for the nominating committee to be.

The pan democrats are no better. They continue to ask for what they know cannot and will not be granted, while resolutely turning their backs on meaningful reform options which are achievable. They express a willingness to sit down and discuss matters with representatives of the central government, while simultaneously making clear they are not going to accept anything they might say.

Is it asking too much for our democrats to sit down calmly, think rationally and contribute some ideas for modest practicable reforms? Is it really expecting too much for the official side to search their hearts and see what changes in the electoral arrangements for LegCo in 2016 and the Chief executive in 2017 might be made that could attract moderate support?

I am sure our academics and relevant professionals could conduct a balanced public opinion gauging exercise (not a referendum!)on the government’s final package as published. If a majority of the public reject it then the democrats would be entitled to stand their ground and veto it. While if a majority of the public say "Look we don’t like it, it’s a long way short of what we want, but we’ll take it" then the democrats have to stand aside and let it be voted through.

Our system of governance is sick. Is there a (political) doctor in the house?