- Carrie Lam’s successor must be a person Hongkongers can trust to protect their core values and rights. Former chief justice Andrew Li has shown that he would not be swayed by popular sentiment or yield to political pressure
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor dropped a hint in the Legislative Council on January 16 that Hong Kong could hope for its governing principle of "one country, two systems" to continue beyond the 2047 deadline and for the city to remain free of direct communist rule.
It is not something to be pooh-poohed as an attempt of an embattled administrator to hoodwink the public. There seems to be more to her statements than meet the eye. Consider the timing, and how an opportunity to drop a hint was found.
It came less than a fortnight after Beijing replaced director of the liaison office Wang Zhimin with Luo Huining. Interestingly, pro-Beijing legislator Ann Chiang Lai-wan, who is also a former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, drew Lam into making the prognosticating statement. The entire episode seemed choreographed, as it is unlikely that Lam would say anything with such far-reaching significance without the knowledge of her superiors.
Beijing had earlier thought it could sit out Hong Kong's agony. Now, though, it seems to have recognised that its approach to Hong Kong since it gained control of the city over two decades ago has resulted in calamitous consequences; therefore, the voices of reason should be given a chance to prevail over ideologues, and there is a need to put across to the public, in as subtle a manner as possible, its willingness to let Hong Kong remain as it is.
If so, the leaders in Beijing should also take a few more bold steps. First, they could recognise that most people in Hong Kong would be content if the promises made in the Basic Law were implemented unconditionally. Then, they should find a person acceptable to all, to head the process of bringing about peace and order in a city that was seen as the trailblazer of Chinese President Xi Jinping's dream, the reunification of the motherland.
None of the people so far chosen to lead Hong Kong could provide the credibility the position warranted. That mistake should not be repeated. Also, letting Lam sit out her five-year term would not help heal the crisis. She must be allowed, or persuaded, to step down.
Coronavirus calls for decisive Carrie Lam, not passive leadership of protests
Lam's successor must be someone Hongkongers can trust to protect their core values and rights, someone who can implement the one country two systems in its true spirit. The person who meets these requirements eminently is former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang.
Li had stayed away from public debates since his retirement in 2009. But in July, he published an opinion column saying the changed circumstances compelled him to speak out. He urged the government to listen more to the people " who, he noted candidly, feared the mainlandisation of their city " rather than just speaking for Beijing.
He called for an independent inquiry into the protests but rejected a blanket amnesty for those arrested, and said those responsible for storming and vandalising the Legco building "must be brought to justice" and, if convicted after a fair trial, "the courts should consider deterrent sentences". He has also shown that he would not be swayed by popular sentiment or yield to political pressure, but stand by what he thinks.
Hong Kong lawyers group offers Lam protest inquiry road map
Of course, there is the possibility that Beijing could see Li's high degree of probity and that he will not lower his standard and become a "yes man" to please his superiors as undesirable attributes. Beijing needs to recognise that Li being a proud son of Hong Kong is a positive factor, and his cherished principles are the true measure of the leader Hong Kong needs in its time of crisis.
The situation calls for a pragmatic path. Li must be given a free hand to run things " without, of course, damaging Beijing's sovereignty over the city as described in the Basic Law.
The retired judge might seriously consider such an offer. In his July opinion piece, he showed that he cares deeply for our society. Besides, he has not sullied his stature by aligning with any vested interest.
Given these factors and his post-retirement activities, such as his involvement in the academic sector, it is unlikely that Li would refuse a call to save Hong Kong. This is not just politics any more; it has become an endeavour to prevent Hong Kong from disintegrating.
Beijing only stands to gain by this as it would show that communist leaders can also be pragmatic and reduce the animosity that has been building up in Hong Kong against them. They would also be able to keep intact Hong Kong's status as a global financial centre and let it continue playing a key role in the future of the country.
The alternative is gruesome for the Communist Party " go down in history as the entity that destroyed what Britain handed over to China, as the last British governor said, something larger than "Cleopatra's dowry".
Viswa Nathan is author of the recently published book, Hong Kong " The Turbulent Times. He was the editor-in-chief (1974-80) of the now-defunct broadsheet morning daily, Hongkong Standard
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.查看原始文章