|HONG KONG: THE HANDOVER|
July 3, 1997
in this forum:
Should Christians in Hong Kong be concerned for their personal security? Did the sheer numbers of reports alter the atmosphere? What did you see that was beautiful, human and funny? What's it like with Chinese Liberation Army troops in Hong Kong?
Online NewsHour Links
Read our last forum with Professor DeGolyer in Hong Kong.
June 23, 1997: How the British will retreat from Hong Kong.
June 16, 1997: Will China's communism bring drastic change, or business as usual?
June 10, 1997: Just who is Tung Chee-hwa--the man who will take over Hong Kong when it is returned to Chinese control?
December 17, 1996: Human rights abuses in China.
November 21, 1996: Asia's dynamic and fast-growing economy. .
The NewsHour Asia Index.
A question from Kris Taroff of Phoenix, AZ:
What is your opinion of Tung Chiwah? Will he be independent enough to make critical executive decisions?
Michael Browning of the Miami Herald responds:
Tung has a very broad, open, honest Chinese face that strikes a chord with ordinary people. His short spiky haircut is deliberately unstylish, as if he were a shipyard worker, a man who has worked with his hands. This is the way he comes across in the media, as a no-nonsense fellow who will roll up his sleeves and get the job done.
Unfortunately I have also heard that he was on the verge of economic ruin -- he is a shipping tycoon, Shanghai-born -- when Beijing bailed him out with a massive loan. Since then he has more or less been beholden to the authorities there, and there is no question that he was picked for this job by people who expect him to carry out orders. Hong Kong's government has always been executive-based, with a very weak or nonexistent legislature. It is not a "checks and balances" government. Before it was the British governor. Now it is Tung Chee Wah. The British governor took orders from London and Tung Chee Wah is going to take orders from Beijing.
Professor DeGolyer of the Hong Kong Transition Project responds:
It isn't his independence that is the problem, it is whether he works with the Hong Kong people, and whether they support him and his actions in critical areas that will make the difference on whether Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy really comes to exist or not. He may in fact be a bit too independent of the good advice of civil servants and others in the community, and in this case, he needs to act less like a business executive and more like a good politician. We shall see if he is able to make the transition from the one role to the other. If he listens to Anson Chan, the highest civil servant, he will more than likely make good decisions.
If you mean will he be independent from Beijing, it looks like they have left it up to him to succeed or fail. They certainly don't want to leave any sort of evidence that their interevention caused any problems in Hong Kong. And, given the way they usually govern the provinces, it isnt' the normal practice of the central government to intervene too much in local affairs unless the locals lose control of the situation. This is one reason they have problems with corruption in the local levels of government, because the central government has less ability to monitor and control local behaviors..
Freelance reporter Samy-Leigh Webster-Woog responds:
I've only seen him in person once, at a press conference on Wednesday....I wasn't impressed.
He spoke very good English, to go along with his Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghiese. He smiled a lot, made a few jokes and seemed very much in control.
However, he avoided almost all the difficult questions lobbed at him (usually preceeded by asking the questioner to re-identify themselves and to clearly identify the news organization they were with-I can't remember this happening at all with the easier questions).
Speaking strickly subjectively, I don't trust him. He seems far too indebted to his Beijing based sponsors to offer any real independence. His smiling face can be seen on posters all around Hong Kong (not official propoganda, or anything like that, advertisements for a photo exhibit I think-the posters are in Chinese), but he seems to have done much more to win over Chinese officials (who were already backing him, after all they handpicked him) than the people of Hong Kong who didn't elect him and for the most part don't know him (he's a Shanghi-based businessman). The one exception to this is a endevour he's launched to build more affordable housing (former Gov. Chris Patton had a similar plan). He says that rather miraculously his plans won't cost the government any money-the financing will all come from the sale of reclaimed land.
We'll see, excuse me for sounding skeptical.