Return Of The Jedi

For a long time I’ve been in two minds about our last governor, Chris Patten. On the one hand, at the personal level he was very human, attending the school play along with other parents to support his youngest daughter Alice, and wiping away a tear at her moving performance in The Crucible. On the other hand, at the political level, I wondered if he didn’t put a bit too much emphasis on ending British rule with dignity, sometimes at the expense of Hong Kong’s long term interests. He bulldozed through political reform, for example, to try to remedy decades of neglect, but at a speed which made Beijing nervous. The result was that some in our nation’s capital saw democracy as something of a Trojan Horse, left behind at the last minute to preserve British influence, which led them to adopt an overly cautious approach to political reform. Well at least he got visa-free access to the EU for HK passport holders.

But I must say in the last week he has served our community proud. His outright and forceful rejection of independence as a viable option for Hong Kong’s future in front of a student audience many of whose members were swaying in the opposite direction showed exactly the kind of courage which has been so conspicuous by its absence among the leaders of our pan democratic camp. Focus on universal suffrage, he told them. That is the best safeguard of Two Systems and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. Beijing will never allow independence and the mere mention of it will make your true long term goal even more elusive.

In public and private conversation with pan democrats, some confessed that they totally agreed with Patten’s analysis of the situation. But they were apparently too shy to come out and say so loudly for fear of alienating the sentiments of our young people, and suffering short term political pain. So it was left to an outsider to show that he still cared enough about us nearly 20 years after leaving office to correct the misguided among the student body.

All the kerfuffle of recent weeks has caused me to pause and think about the coming election of chief executive. So far I think we have paid too much attention to individuals. Who is in favour with Beijing, how long did someone shake someone’s hand, will he have the mandate to run, will the 60 representatives of agriculture on the election committee still support CY, will the appointment of Tommy Cheung to Exco persuade the cooks and bottle washers of the catering sector to re-elect the incumbent, and so on. We need to focus more on major policy ideas and on the qualities of character the chief executive needs to possess.

There are two major policy imperatives for the next chief executive. He (or she) must convince Beijing that Hong Kong is safe in his hands and that he will never allow our city to be a base for subversion against the central government – "One country". Equally important, he must restore Hong Kong people’s faith that the "Two Systems" approach will be respected and our core values will be preserved.

He will need to be brave. Did anyone in the administration have the courage to tell Beijing the political reform package of 2014 was woefully inadequate and was bound to be rejected? Did anyone in the opposition ranks have the courage to tell the localist youngsters – firmly and publically -- that they were barking up the wrong tree?

He must eschew personal wealth and glory. He must persuade both the central government and local people that he is taking up the role as a public service. Not just say the words, convince people by his deeds and manner that this is genuinely the case.

He must be conciliatory in manner, reaching out with the hand of friendship to political opponents, not always seeking to hammer them with an iron fist. Look for opportunities to work together, listen more and talk less.

"No fear, no greed, no hate" – where have I heard that political mantra before? Why of course – Hong Kong Disneyland at the Jedi training centre. Cast members are teaching our youngsters to fight Darth Vader with their light sabres. If you fear him, you will fail. If you are greedy you will lose support. If you hate, your twisted psyche will not stay strong.

The solution is clear: we need a Jedi Knight to lead us, not a Lord (or Lady) of the Sith. Are any of our youngsters ready to take up the mantle, or do we need to bring an old hand out of retirement?

While shaving the other morning I thought I caught a glimpse in the mirror of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I await my country’s call.