Published: 10:27, June 12, 2023 | Updated: 10:38, June 12, 2023
SAR’s leaders must assume responsibility for running HK
By Lau Siu-kai

Undoubtedly, to govern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region effectively, the high degree of autonomy of the city must be harnessed fully and competently. Only a governance structure based on “patriots administering Hong Kong” and executive-led governance can make good use of the HKSAR’s high degree of autonomy and organically integrate the central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction over the HKSAR with the city’s high degree of autonomy. Regrettably, for most of the time since Hong Kong’s return to China, this governance structure did not exist. Anti-China agitators and external forces have continuously interfered with and obstructed the governance of Hong Kong inside and outside its governance structure. Not only was there no way to achieve political stability and effective governance, but the HKSAR government also lacked the fighting spirit, determination and capability to assume the main responsibility for governing Hong Kong.

In the past few years, the central government took decisive actions and major measures such as enacting the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the installation of a new electoral system. Together, they have completely remodeled Hong Kong’s governance structure and realized the principles of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and “executive-led governance”. The HKSAR government and its governance team are now more equipped to shoulder the main responsibility for governing Hong Kong.

To fulfill the main responsibility for governing Hong Kong, the government and its governance team needs to vigorously promote good governance in Hong Kong, ensure the city’s long-term prosperity and stability, and steadfastly safeguard national security.

In the first place, the HKSAR government and its governance team must establish robust mindfulness of its role as the main actor in governing Hong Kong. They must keep close to their heart President Xi Jinping’s admonition that “the chief executive and the government of the HKSAR are the head of the Hong Kong family and the first person responsible for governing Hong Kong”. This means that they should consider this admonition as the lodestar for performing their duties, and always bear in mind that they have the inescapable responsibility for the good governance of Hong Kong. In that regard, they must accept the supervision of the central government. Recently, the government and its governance team have manifestly demonstrated this sense of consciousness and responsibility and have been acclaimed accordingly by the central government.

Second, the government and its governance team must have a high degree of national awareness and international vision. In his speech on July 1 last year, President Xi Jinping emphasized that the chief executive and the HKSAR government must strive to “enhance national awareness and international vision, and actively chart Hong Kong’s development path from the perspectives of the overall situation and long-term needs”. On March 13 this year, at the first meeting of the 14th National People’s Congress, Xi emphasized that “we must firmly promote the practice of ‘one country, two systems’ and the great cause of the reunification of the motherland. Promoting the construction of a strong country is inseparable from the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao”. For the development and well-being of the country, the HKSAR government and its governance team must earnestly embrace a macroscopic view of the country and shoulder the responsibilities of national rejuvenation and the well-being of the Chinese people. They also must ensure the comprehensive and accurate implementation of “one country, two systems”. Today, the new government’s national consciousness and international vision have markedly increased.

Third, the HKSAR government and its governance team must have a strong sense of urgency and crisis awareness. Now and in the future, Hong Kong and the country will face many complex and severe challenges. Promoting Chinese-style modernization is an unprecedented pioneering undertaking, and it will inevitably encounter many predictable and unpredictable risks and challenges. As a part of China, Hong Kong cannot avoid the attacks and slanders from the United States and the West. The US and the West will not refrain from striving unscrupulously to turn Hong Kong into a base for subversion, while the anti-China agitators in the city wait for an opportune moment to wreak havoc again. The government and its governance team must not take these hostile forces lightly. Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, has warned: “Hong Kong society seems to be calm now, but there are strong undercurrents. The roots of chaos have not been eradicated, and the foundation of governance still needs to be consolidated.” In response to the urgings of the central government, the HKSAR government has decided to complete local legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law within a reasonable time and has promised to continuously strengthen the city’s legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security.

Fourth, the government and its governance team must have a high degree of institutional confidence and a steely political will to strive for success. The chief executive and the government must rid themselves of the mentality of self-doubt, a weak sense of responsibility, and passive thinking that were prevalent for a long time. This mentality weakened the will to govern and fueled the arrogance of hostile forces. Today, the HKSAR government and its governance team firmly uphold the authority of the central government, boldly exercise power, and have the courage to fight back against the accusations of the hostile forces, evincing a decent ability to put the political situation under control.

Fifth, the HKSAR government and its governance team must improve their governance capabilities through institutional reforms. President Xi exhorted: “There is an urgent need to improve the governance system, upgrade governance capabilities, and enhance governance efficiency to build and develop the HKSAR well.” For a long time, the doctrines of “positive noninterventionism” and “small government, big market” have mentally tethered the behavior of the HKSAR government. At the same time, the notion of “serving the people” was not strongly held, leading the government to be oblivious to the deep-seated problems in the city. This hurt the government’s prestige and provided opportunities for hostile forces to stir up trouble. Today, the government is willing to take the lead in promoting Hong Kong’s economic development and improving people’s livelihoods. It has officially announced the obsoleteness of “small government” thinking. The government has taken steps to strengthen overall planning and coordination, reinforce the accountability of departments and personnel, and improve the efficiency of decision-making, administration and management.

Sixth, the government and its governance team must demonstrate a high sense of responsibility and commitment to Hong Kong and its residents, adhere to the principle of “people-oriented governance”, promote economic development, and improve people’s livelihoods. All these are critical to boosting confidence and trust in the central government, the HKSAR government, and the practice of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. President Xi noted: “Currently, the most popular feeling in Hong Kong is to hope for a better life, to live in more-spacious houses, to have more opportunities to start a business, to have better education for children, and to get better care when they get older. The people have called, and I must respond. The new HKSAR government must be practical, active, and not let people down. It should take the expectations of the whole society, especially the ordinary people, as the greatest pursuit of governance. It should be courageous in putting forward more effective measures to overcome difficulties and make the fruits of development more available to and more equitably shared by all the people.” The new government is now starting to seriously tackle outstanding issues such as housing, labor, medical care, and the wealth disparity between rich and poor. Appropriate policies and measures are being adopted one after another, and some initial results have been achieved.

Seventh, the government and its governance team must strengthen their ability to connect with the masses, mobilize societal resources, and increase the amount of societal resources and political support that can be deployed. This move will not only help improve the governance capacity of the government, but also help mobilize more political forces to overcome resistance and obstruction to institutional, legal and policy reforms, and make the government more capable of promoting economic development and improving people’s livelihoods. For a long time, the HKSAR governance has mainly relied on administrative institutions and means, and the relationship between the bureaucracy and the masses is relatively meager and weak. This situation is not auspicious for an enterprising, reforming, and innovative government. Today, under “patriots administering Hong Kong”, it is well-nigh impossible for anti-China forces to cause chaos in Hong Kong, with patriotic groups and people dominating the political domain. The government adopts “people-oriented governance” as its political doctrine, and its ties with all sectors of society have strengthened to a certain extent, enabling it to roll out various measures to organize and mobilize society. Recently, the government launched reform of the local administration and the revamping of the powers of and electoral arrangements for district councils, further fortifying links between the government and the grassroots and its ability at societal mobilization.

Finally, the HKSAR government and its governance team must actively support and cooperate with the central government’s strategies and measures for Hong Kong and accelerate the pace of the city’s comprehensive and in-depth integration into the overall development of the country, and, by doing so, serve the motherland better with its unique advantages. For a long time after reunification, some officials and politicians in the city have hesitated or had qualms about strengthening economic and trade cooperation and social exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland. In the context of increasing hostility toward Hong Kong from the US and the West, Hong Kong’s economic plight and narrow industrial base, worldwide protectionism, the rupturing of global supply chains and a global economic recession, Hong Kong urgently needs to ride the country’s economic “express train” to enhance its economic vitality. Recently, the central government has introduced many preferential policies to promote Hong Kong’s economic development, upgrade and diversify its industrial structure, improve people’s livelihoods, provide upward mobility opportunities to young people, strengthen Hong Kong’s economic and trade ties with the mainland, and help Hong Kong join various regional economic, trade and financial cooperation platforms. However, for the central government’s efforts to benefit Hong Kong to play its due role, the HKSAR government and its governance team must also come up with appropriate supportive measures and implement them vigorously. They should actively propose viable strategies and policy feedback to the central government through careful research, meticulous planning, and extensive solicitation of opinions and suggestions from all sides. Today, all these activities are deemed to be important by the government. 

Under the leadership and guidance of the central government, coupled with the efforts of the HKSAR government and patriotic forces, the governance capabilities and performance of the HKSAR government and its governance team have improved palpably, and so too is their ability to bear the main responsibility for Hong Kong’s governance.

The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant for the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.