RTHK Radio 3 Program “Letter to Hong Kong” – The Letter

16 Jun 2017

Dear Carrie

The First Hundred Days

The first hundred days of a first-term presidency of the President of the United States are sometimes used to measure the successes and accomplishments of a president during the time that the president’s power and influence are at their greatest. This term was coined in a 24 July, 1933, radio address by U.S. President, Roosevelt.

As the Chief Executive-elect, you will be facing the same daunting task of convincing the citizens of Hong Kong within this first hundred days that you possess the capability, integrity and vision to lead Hong Kong in the next five years. Time is indeed of the essence and you will need to focus on policies and measures which will raise the transparency, accountability and creditability of the government. In short, this is all about the quality of governance.

As a matter of priority you may want to move back the Chief Executive’s policy address to October of each year. For dubious and unconvincing reasons, under the current regime, the policy address has been pushed back to January of each year so that the Financial Secretary’s budget speech could tally with the policy address, there seems to be no rhyme and reason for you to follow suit.

An early announcement of your policy blueprint will not only show your commitment and vision to your new job, it will also provide more time for the citizens and the members of the Legislative Council to digest and discuss your policy manifesto.

The relationship between the administration and the legislature for the past five years was unproductive, strenuous and quite often, plainly hostile. While re-building a normal working relationship needs time and effort on every stakeholder, improving the frequency and quality of dialogues between the administration and the legislature will certainly help. In this regard, you may want to think about more frequent attendance at the meetings of the Legislative Council to answer questions from our colleagues; it will also be a good idea for your ministers to be more responsive and provide quick, sharp and direct answers to the oral questions raised to them by our colleagues. I understand that the Committee on Rules of Procedures is looking at various options to improve the cabinet’s accountability to the legislature and I hope that something will work out soon.

The integrity of our Chief Executive has always been and will still be our primary concern. The Report of the Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interest published in May 2012 contained many useful recommendations.

The incumbent Chief Executive has promised to consider implementing many of these recommendation, unfortunately, I am extremely disappointed to learn that there is hardly any progress after 5 years. In particular, I am concerned that there is currently no checks and balance to prevent the Chief Executive from accepting inappropriate advantages under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. The review of the relevant sections, especially section 3 and section 8 of the Ordinance to extend their coverage to the Chief Executive is long overdue.

The statutory bodies and advisory committees set up by the government serve multiple purposes. Apart from discharging certain decision making and/ or administrative functions, they are venues for gathering views from important sectors in society and are training grounds for members of society who aspire to be policy makers and shapers. Appointments to these positions should be based on the qualifications, experience and merits of individuals rather than political affiliation. Sadly, such appointments in recent years may have become rewards for loyalty at the expense of the integrity and functions of these bodies. You will be able to make a change with a new style of government.

The Central Policy Unit (“CPU”) for many years has been providing research support and advice to the Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary. In recent years, the CPU has been tasked with making recommendations to the appointment of members to statutory bodies and advisory committees and the approval of certain research grants to tertiary institutions. These functions lack transparency and accountability. The traditional functions of CPU should be restored, alternatively, you should think hard whether the economics will still justify the existence of the CPU under the new regime.

Last but not the least, the Government should start consultation on the enactment of an archive law – a piece of legislation which will regulate the preservation and release of relevant records of the Government departments to the public – three of my colleagues, I believe, have written to the incumbent administration on the topic.

This letter only deals with a number of governance issues. I do have a vision on many other policy areas including our economy and our environment. I am sure I will have ample opportunities to write to you – until next time then.

Kenneth Leung