Speech of the Hon K P Chan, JP at the Legislative Council on 28 April 2010 Motion Debate On Eradicating Plutocratic Monopoly, Promoting Social Harmony
MR PRESIDENT: I would like to consider today’s Motion from two different angles. On the one hand, I agree that there are social problems in Hong Kong to be resolved, including rich/poor disparity and less opportunities in social mobility. On the other hand, I do not agree that abolishing functional constituencies in the Legislature would help resolve these conflicts. In the contrary, if these seats are abolished untimely, our society would become more skewed and lose its inherent balance, giving rise to even more social conflicts.
According to the latest research conducted by Asia Pacific Research Institute of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, people are increasingly supportive of hostile means of pressing for government responses to their demands. It is reflective of rising discontent in society and the consequence is a cause for concern. Hostile mindset would lead the community to a dead end and hostile behavior would not help solve any problem. In fact, the question of populace discontent has been the subject of debate in the Council on several occasions. I am convinced that rich/poor disparity, less social mobility, inadequate retirement protection and imbalanced population policy are core issues behind the discontent. Surging property prices in the past year have been aggravating the problem.
I fully agree that these social conflicts should not be allowed to persist. Instead, the Government should mobilize more resources to help the poor as a top priority. Moreover, I support measures to redress inadequate social mobility and retirement protection as well as other social problems. Yet, these are only symptoms. The root cause of social conflicts lies in serious imbalance of the economy.
The significant development of the financial sector is achieved at the expense of other sectors. The rich/poor disparity is further widening and social discontent is further intensifying. The therapy is diversification of economic sectors to provide different jobs to different segments of the community, thereby allowing the lower segment to earn a more decent income. As long as people have jobs and shelters, social discontent would vanish.
However, stagnation in our competitiveness is a cause for concern. In the Blue Paper on Competitiveness of Chinese Cities in 2010 released by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences no long ago, Hong Kong continues to stay on top of the list in consolidated competitiveness but its gap against Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are narrowing. This means that we are losing out in our leadership. If the trend persisted, our economic development would suffer further. The rich/poor parity would further widen and social conflicts would further deepen. Therefore, our priority is revitalizing our competitiveness to bring better living to our seven million people, not dog fights.
The original Motion is mistaken in attributing the question to functional constituencies in the Legislature. In fact, functional constituencies provide the badly needed balance against any skew towards antagonistic thoughts in this Council. In Hong Kong, directly-elected legislators have their merits, including understanding grievances of the people, familiarized with district affairs, defending the rule of law and dedicated in monitoring the Government. I must say I take off my hat to them in this regard.
Yet, they also have limitations in their perspectives arising from the ecology of local politics. Not many of them are experienced in economic affairs, and perhaps only a few are experienced in doing business or managing large enterprise. They do not necessarily know the Hong Kong economy well enough. May I draw the attention of the Hon Lee Cheuk-yan that I am not meant to be “indiscriminative”? I am merely stating the obvious that they are “not necessarily” conversant and thus “not all of them” are. In contrast, political parties of other countries, be they ruling or opposition, have comprehensive economic policies and platforms, and they are capable of and experienced in managing economic affairs. Therefore, directly-elected legislators are readily available to take up financial positions in the Government. It would take some time and efforts in Hong Kong before our major political parties might catch up with their counterparts in foreign countries.
Therefore, if Hong Kong abolishes functional constituencies untimely, our Legislature would lose a large group of Members who are conversant with economic affairs. In turn, our Legislature would lose also benefits of their valuable professional experience and knowledge in economics and finance. Our Legislature would be skewed towards public sentiments and lose its inherent balance.
As mentioned earlier, the imminent crisis of Hong Kong is declining competitiveness. We could not allow the economy to lose its dynamics. Apart from urging the Government to resolve problems in livelihood in particular rich/poor disparity, we should also work together to develop our six industries of significance and to foster the convergence of economies of the Mainland and Hong Kong. We should resolve our conflicts through offering a better tomorrow to Hong Kong people rather than putting the blame on political issues.
The earlier Motion on “Strengthening regulation of sale of residential properties” is a case in point. It is the duty of our colleague representing the Real Estate Functional Constituency to present views of his sector. When casting votes, other legislators representing functional constituencies are exercising their independent judgment based on evidence. Actually, this Council has witnessed their overwhelming support to the Motion because we all know the culprit of the problem. They have not voted as a bloc merely in support of the different position of one fellow colleague.
Another good example is the infamous “Twenty-dollar” incident. Many legislators representing functional constituencies are categorically denouncing the proposition and declining support. As such, one should not be indiscriminative in criticizing legislators representing functional constituencies as well. Most of us are dedicated and hard-working. Many of us are sacrificing our income, time and even family gathering hours to serve in the Legislature.
As for directly-elected legislators representing geographical constituencies, we are not trying to exaggerate your inadequacies and disadvantages. Meanwhile, I sincerely wish that you would also acknowledge that most of us who are representing functional constituencies are devoted to the work of this Council, though a few might have fallen short of public expectations. However, I wish you all realize that most us who are representing functional constituencies are committed to serve our community. In fact, apart from some political issues, we are largely indifferent in views. We care about rich/poor disparity. We also care about retirement funds. We even care more about the economy. For instance, I have moved a debate on Hong Kong as a financial centre. I was really frustrated when it was negated by the opposition of a political party.
Why? It is because I have founded out that they know so little about the economy. It has also brought out the reality that legislators representing functional constituencies should no longer be demonized. We should work together for the well being of Hong Kong.
Mr. President I conclude with these remarks.