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Sunday, November 29, 2020, 22:34
Chief Executive in damage control mode for next year
By Mark Pinkstone
Sunday, November 29, 2020, 22:34 By Mark Pinkstone

The mass resignation of the “pan-democrats” in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council over the disqualification of four of its members who failed to uphold the terms of the Basic Law is indicative of how immature these elected members of the legislature are.

With the catastrophes of 2020 — anti-government street riots, COVID-19, severe economic downturn, unprecedented unemployment and US sanctions behind her — Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will be in damage-control mode for 2021.

Of course, COVID-19 will be top of her agenda and for Hong Kong to get back to a new norm, she will aim for zero tolerance as soon as possible. And she has a good start with the impending eradication of the Trump/Pompeo duo from the US political theater, whose toxic language spewed from their mouths did nothing to instil trust and encourage cooperation. Instead, she will see the same Sino-US relations with greater conciliatory diplomacy under the Biden administration with a new Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a former Deputy Secretary of State under President Obama.

Her 2-1/4-hour policy address was very predictable given the turmoil experienced in 2020. It was not a happy year world-wide particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic. But by taking sound science advice, Hong Kong has fairly well weathered the storm. However, it is not over yet and on Wednesday she released preparations for the fourth wave of the pandemic. As Hong Kong is at the center of the world stage, her address was greatly influenced by external forces, especially the abuse levelled by the US and echoed by other nations. This was totally uncalled for and without foundation and the US call to strip Hong Kong of its “made in Hong Kong” label was the last straw. One of her urgent priorities will be to restore the HKSAR’s constitutional order and political system from chaos.

“Foreign governments and legislatures have intensified their interference in Hong Kong’s affairs, which are squarely China’s internal affairs, severely jeopardizing our nation’s security,” she noted.

She will also dedicate a great deal of time to our youth who were targeted by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to actively instigate the riots of 2019/20. Among the more than 10,000 arrestees suspected of violating the law in connection with the opposition to the proposed Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, 40 percent were students, of which nearly 2,000 were primary and secondary students. She will reexamine the liberal studies program introduced to our education system in 2009 by Executive Councillor Professor Arthur Li when he was Secretary for Education and Manpower. The plan was good, until it was hijacked by the NED, which admitted in its 2012 annual report that it was allocating $460,000 “To foster awareness regarding Hong Kong’s political institutions and constitutional reform process and to develop the capacity of citizens — particularly university students — to more effectively participate in the public debate on political reform…” The US State Department found the liberal studies program an opportunity to penetrate Hong Kong’s education system and through NED undermine Hong Kong youth’s patriotism.

“We cannot bear to see that with the infiltration of politics into school campuses, students are drawn into political turbulence or even misled to engage in illegal and violent acts, for which they have to take legal responsibilities that will impact on their lives,” she said on Wednesday.

Since its introduction four months ago, the National Security Law has been remarkably effective in restoring stability in Hong Kong and Hong Kong people can now again enjoy their basic rights and freedoms according to the law.

To counter this foreign intervention in our education system, great effort will be devoted to strengthening young people’s sense of national identity and patriotism. This is not new and is widely practiced by most nations, including the US, UK, EU, Australia and New Zealand, which are critical of our National Security Laws even though they have such laws themselves.

With political issues aside, the economy, severely battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is of serious concern. With a HK$310 billion ($40 billion) deficit predicted for the current fiscal year, a far cry from our traditional surplus, the economy is expected to contract 6.1 percent this year. However, Hongkongers are a resilient lot and with new initiatives opening in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and the Shenzhen informational technology hub, we should recover faster than most economies. The GBA offers many opportunities, especially for postgraduates, but economic commentators believe many will prefer to stay in Hong Kong when the pandemic subsides and job opportunities re-emerge to their normal state.

Overall, her speech was fairly upbeat despite the chaos of 2020 and the fence mending needed in 2021.

The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong government, a public relations and media consultant and veteran journalist.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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