Thursday, November 26, 2015   

Passport to political maturity

Mary Ma

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The government is moving fast to defuse the political bomb lit by the issue of foreign passports being held by the designated undersecretaries.

Ever since the names of undersecretaries were made public a week ago, the opposition has not stopped attacking it for appointing Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong member Gregory So Kam-leung and other professionals over their foreign passports.

So, a solicitor, is accused of holding a Canadian passport and, because of this, his critics have criticized both him for accepting the government appointment and the government for trying to bring him in.


It was only a storm in the teacup in the beginning. However, as the community turns its attention away from the Sichuan earthquake and the Kwok brothers feud, what had appeared to be minor matter has quickly boiled over with the full potential of becoming a perfect political storm in an election year.

Perhaps because of his political affiliation, So has largely been alone at the centre of the storm even though other appointees such as Kenneth Chen Wei-on and Gabriel Matthew Leung are also said to have foreign passports.

As part of the governments damage- control moves, the appointees have been told not to make individual comments.

But So is set to break his silence today. The turning point came yesterday after the row went up a notch both inside and outside the Legislative Council.

It is understood that after today, when So tells us he will give up his Canadian passport, other appointees will give the community an account in due course too.

The governments position has always been that it has breached no part of the Basic Law throughout the exercise. The best that can be expected is for the designated undersecretaries to come to a decision on their own, bearing in mind that there is nothing in the law books that bar them from filling the posts.

While the government may appear to be cornered to some extent, the opposition put up by the pan-democratic camp has also called into question how big its members can think as they wielded the stick.

The pan-democrats who are themselves not short of professional members should know that about 70 percent of the metropolis elite professionals are also holders of foreign passports. Imagine a situation in which none of them can be appointed to public office unless they give up their passports.

People with talent who have returned to Hong Kong should be welcomed back, not turned away. It would not be in Hong Kongs long-term interest to shut them out of the objective of a real-life political training school that lies beneath these appointments.

By the time these future political leaders are ready to fill more senior positions, it will not be too late then to ask them to give up their passports in compliance with the Basic Laws requirements. Shutting them out at such an early stage will greatly limit our choices.

Our parties are still far from being well developed and it will be unrealistic to expect them to produce enough political talent to fill leading positions.

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