September 2022

The most important event of July/August 2022 was the visit by President Xi Jinping to swear in the new administration of chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu. At long last the calamitous reign of “Empress” Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was over.

Xi’s speech at the 1 July ceremony was a significant policy statement, not merely a formal welcome to the new team. He stressed that the “one country, two systems” formula was a vital part of the nation’s future economic development and served the country’s interest well. There was no reason to change it and the policy would continue beyond 2047. This is precisely the point I have been making with various academics for some time and debating (with among others) former final court of appeal judge Henry Litton and old friend Danny Gittings. There is no expiry date to the Basic Law.

Lee takes office with the best wishes of every Hong Kong citizen behind him. There are long running social issues to address – most prominently housing – but the most immediate issue is the devastating effect on public morale and the economy of the enduring Covid-19 restrictions. Lee simply has to find a way to open up our city to international arrivals and dispense with the social controls. The tourism industry has basically disappeared and I for one hate wearing a mask, still – incredibly – required outdoors. Some important sporting events were cancelled while others went ahead only on a closed loop basis for the participants.

One day Lam’s tour of duty deserves a thorough examination. Suffice to say at this point that the best part of the last two months has been not seeing her on every news cast and in every newspaper. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, I know, but I think she could have achieved much more if only she had been ready to listen.