Executive Council members to do things, and for hours at a time

Frank Ching writes that Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s Executive Council “…is the first since 1997 with no representatives of big business interests. Leung has announced that the council will no longer break for the summer, but only recess for two weeks. He is a workaholic and expects members of his team to be the same.”

A Wen Wei Po editorial approvingly adds that ExCo meeting hours will be longer and states that the body was ‘passive’ in the last few years and “…members were informed only after principal officials finished drafting the bills and policies [so] non-official ExCo members were not able to fulfill their roles [and] put forward amendments and suggestions [and so] a number of policies introduced were not quite people-oriented…” (The following column, reproduced here at the bottom for fun, features an exquisite Communist rant about 7-1 marchers’ use of the British colonial flag and opposition to ‘national education’.)

One way of putting it: “…not quite people-oriented…”  Under Donald Tsang, non-official membership of ExCo was a symbolic pat on the head. Academics, NGOs and think-tanks all reported a near-contemptuous rejection of any idea or proposal from outside his smug little ‘elite’ circle of zombie-bureaucrats. It is hard to believe that ExCo members’ views, if and when they had any, were of any greater interest to him. We do know that agendas and papers were sent out not long before meetings, and that the gatherings didn’t take too great a chunk out of non-officials’ Tuesday mornings. CY is threatening to extend them into day-long affairs.

Frank Ching’s comment raises the question of how you define ‘big business interests’. Bank of East Asia’s David Li – not known for enjoying lengthy meetings in which he is not the centre of attention – is undoubtedly a tycoon and was in Sir Bow-Tie’s ExCo until US regulators accused him of insider trading. If we go by size of real-estate portfolio, Li’s co-member then-stock exchange boss Charles Lee was as well, with “20 properties … including a 200-room hotel in Vancouver…” (Fans of such stats should watch this space for an update on how many apartments and parking spaces Arthur Li owns. Has he overtaken his brother’s last known tally of 82?)

Donald’s ExCo certainly had business people on it, but few were from the major league of tycoons (who nonetheless had their own malevolent influence on the leadership). CY’s business-linked non-officials are on average perhaps a bit younger and with a bit more Beijing exposure, but there’s not much in it. The key is that they are willing to be identified with CY’s housing and welfare policies, and they might have to put some time in.

CY apparently wants to assign non-officials to particular policy areas. CH Tung did this before, but nothing much ever came of it. Are they supposed to provide specific policymaking input? Or are they supposed to be wheeled out to support ‘their’ bureau’s plans, like the undersecretaries and political assistants? Like CY’s planned restructuring of bureaus, with secretaries and undersecretaries handling separate sub-portfolios, this might at least be of passing interest to students of organizational psychology.

Literally the day after assuming office in the late 1990s, Tony Blair’s new Labour administration in the UK gave the Bank of England independent control over monetary policy. Something similarly sweeping would be a good idea for CY’s team now. One example would be to declare that, starting from next week, the government will adopt the 2006 World Health Organization air quality objectives in favour of the less stringent 1987 standards currently used. Yesterday’s performance by new Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing in the Legislative Council was, instead, a big flop. Lawmakers complain that all he did was stick to the waffle provided by his civil servants – the people who have resisted meaningful action on this issue ever since Sarah Liao’s time in the Tung era.

Click to hear ‘Waving Flags’ by British Sea Power!

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8 Responses to Executive Council members to do things, and for hours at a time

  1. Real Tax Payer says:

    I think this 400,000 demo thing has already become an urban myth.

    Does anyone know what the official march counter guy ( some professor ) estimated ?

    And by and large it was not even anti- CY per se ( anti- establishment and all that’s wrong in HK , yes, but not anti CY personally)

    Even though I stood in a prominent position by the side of the demo in full view of all the marchers almost the whole day with a huge sign saying : ” I love CY and HK” in Chinese, I would say that at least half the marchers gave me a big thumbs up ( yeah ! 🙂 type reaction ) , another 40% were ambivalent and the remaining 10% who stopped to heckle with me were mostly just vehement youngsters

    But urban myths do proliferate very fast

    Let’s get down to business and do something to clear up the mess

    PS: did you notice how quickly the skies turned clean and blue as soon as the wind changed to from the South ?

  2. Headache says:

    How exactly does yelling “end one-party governance” breach the Basic Law? Just one of the many statements in the excerpted polemic that made me want to retch.

    Clearly, the propaganda machine will remain cranked to 11 until we have One System to go with One Country. I don’t know about the rest of you but I plan to get the f*** out long before then.

    Good return to form today Hemmers. Robust and informative.

  3. Walter De Havilland says:

    I think Prof. Robert CHUNG of HKU put the figure at 100,000 or thereabout. Certainly the 400,000 claimed by the organiser is pure fiction, although its now gone round the world as a legitimate figure. None of this stopped Michael Chugani in yesterdays SCMP making irrational statements and in the process do further damage to his flimsy creditability.

  4. maugrim says:

    Those waving the colonial flag are twits though the We Wei Po’s editorial reminded me of this; “Napoleon enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs, who will run the farm. Using a young pig named Squealer as a “mouthpiece”, Napoleon announces that Snowball stole the idea for the windmill from him. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. After a violent storm, the animals find the windmill annihilated. Napoleon and Squealer convince the animals that Snowball destroyed the windmill, although the scorn of the neighbouring farmers suggests that the windmill’s walls were too thin.”


  5. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    For efficient and reliable counting, they should put Octopus card readers on the march route that everyone can swipe on their way past, perhaps like the discount credit machine on the escalator.

    Hard to tell if the 7.1 article is tongue-in-cheek subversion or sincerely frothing at the mouth.

  6. Magnus Pym says:

    Emigration not obfuscation!

  7. Stephen says:

    The numbers that marched were sizable enough (they were obviously nowhere near 1989 or 2003 levels) for the Government to notice. However there is little room or expectation for them to do anything.

    Any seismic shift in the political climate will involve a move towards one man one vote and that is not going to happen.

    A pro-dem landslide in September with this its main platform being against Beijing perceived interference in running HK would help but the chances of Albert, Long Hair, Triad or Audrey having the political skills to achieve this i would put at about nil.

    BTW Anyone know when / if the ICAC are going to take action against the Brothers Kwok and the ex-Chief Secretary Hui ?

  8. isomoliu says:

    I can never get past the first paragraph of Frank Ching. His wife is no representative of big business interests, just a former (?) small potato adviser to Li Ka Shing’s Shantou University. Frank is probably not happy about Exco meetings eating into his summer hols.

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