Changing CE Can Reshape Gov's Credibility as Trust Remains Crux; Declining Check & Balance by Media, LegCo May Lead to Unrestrained Power: ScholarTranslated by HKCT, written by Cheung Tung @ Ming Pao (11 Jun 2021)
The ripple of the anti-ELAB movement in 2019 remains. In an interview with Ming Pao, Professor Ray Yep Kin-man of the Department of Public Policy at the City University of Hong Kong said that the government's credibility is bankrupt and its administration is getting half the result with twice the effort. He pointed the finger at Chief Executive Carrie Lam, saying that she could not gain people's trust and changing the CE would be the way to let Hong Kong start afresh. In view of the current confidence crisis, he hoped the next government would restore the "rule of law tradition" and advocate a sound culture of accountability; take into account the public perception and reduce the "visibility" of the national security system; and officials should exercise self-discipline and avoid arbitrarily warning the public that they might break the law.
In the aftermath of the anti-ELAB controversy, Yep believes that the biggest crisis in the governance of the Hong Kong government is the bankruptcy of its credibility, pointing the finger at Carrie Lam. He said that if the previous election system cannot be restored, "replacing the Chief Executive" is also a way to rebuild the government's credibility, and the new government should seize the "honeymoon period" after taking office to build a smoother relationship between the government and the people.
When asked about his evaluation of Mrs Lam, Yep said, "If she were to leave now, I would give her 1 point". He said the anti-ELAB movement had caused turmoil in Hong Kong, the Central Government had become highly involved and the international community had questioned "one country, two systems", all because of Mrs Lam's misjudgement. "Even according to the Mainland's approach, if you fail to fight the epidemic, you will have to 'lose your seat'. ...... People don't care how (Mrs Lam) can restore confidence, they just ask: why are you still here?"
The trust crisis is hindering the government's administration. Yep believes that the government is getting half the result with twice the effort, as it is causing doubts among the public, regardless of whether the policies are reasonable or not, as evidenced by its work in fighting the epidemic. He said he had received the COVID vaccine, but refused to download the LeaveHomeSafe app, not because he was worried that the app was under government control. "Many people think that if there is a way to express dissatisfaction towards the government and the cost is nearly nothing, I will do it too. It's not very useful, but it's a way to send a message to the government that I'm not happy with you".
It has been almost a year since the National Security Law came into force. Fear is now prevalent in civil society and 'strong measures' have been effective in suppressing resistance. But as the epidemic has prevented the organisation of activities, the 'resilience' of the community's resistance will need to be tested when the epidemic subsides. "The fact that a certain number of people will not forget is an important breeding ground for the next wave of conflict", said Yep. He said research showed that the some frontline protesters in the 2019 anti-ELAB movement were also involved in the 2014 Occupy movement. As the Gordian knot builds up in people's mind, he believes the worst thing to do is to "tell people to 'move on'".
The Chief Executive election will be held in March next year. In terms of expectations for the next government, Yep said that the line between breach of the law under the National Security Law is blurred, and that freedom is becoming narrower and narrower as people set their own limits out of fear. He hopes that Hong Kong will return to its "rule of law tradition" and that officials will exercise self-discipline and not warn people of possible violations of the law, otherwise society will be "ruled of man rather than by law". As for law enforcement and prosecution, he also hoped that the process will be more stringent, otherwise detention will be a punishment for the victim. "It may sound reasonable to leave it to the court to decide, but the process has already detained the victim for a long period of time, and the police or the prosecution are almost replacing the court".
Yep hoped that the next government will minimise the "visibility" of the national security system and balance the practical needs with the public perception. The national security system cannot be part of life, or it would be unfavourable to the healthy development of society, said Yep. In addition, he hopes that the government will establish a sound culture of accountability and respect the monitoring of public power by the media, "I dare not ask for much else."
The Central Government has reshaped Hong Kong's electoral system and repeatedly emphasised the "executive-led" approach. According to political scientist Ray Yep, Beijing has downplayed the "separation of powers" in recent years, and the purpose of revising the electoral system is to make the "executive-led system unbeatable" and to dwarf the role of the Legislative Council, "the (future Legislative Council) has to be cooperative with the Chief Executive's administration, and it can put forward some views, but it should not stir up trouble, and it should not drag the government's feet as it did before. He is concerned that the lack of monitoring by legislators has gradually bred a culture of arrogant officials who are unwilling to accept any criticism.
With direct election seats slashed to 20 seats in the next Legislative Council, Yep said that the chances of people electing their preferred candidate through the ballot box have diminished and the representativeness of the Legislative Council has decreased. He expects that the new system will not allow any "troublemakers" to enter the legislature, and that there will be no real opposition in the legislature, which is already seen by Hong Kong people as a place for "going through the motions". Some members of the pro-Beijing camp said that the government would consult lawmakers in advance before proposing policy proposals, so most bills could be passed by the Legislative Council. He stressed the importance of the deliberation process, which can show public opinion.
The ImmD's rebuttal of the audit report was made public earlier. Yep said the report's almost moralistic criticism still caused a backlash, showing that officials were hostile to the internal monitoring system and could not even criticise "their own people". For example, when the Chief Executive (Carrie Lam) encountered different views, she would use the term 'so-called experts and scholars', and would easily accuse others of having 'ulterior motives'.
With the weakening of the media and the Legislative Council's monitoring function over the government, Yep is worried that when power is not restrained, there may be corruption within the government, which will bring hidden worries to the quality of governance. "In the end, we can only leave it to fate and hope that the officials are good people. ...... Similar to the ancient Chinese people, they hope that a good emperor will appear, and if not, they hope that his son will be good."