Chris Patten connected, Chinese successors dismal failures

Local | 5 Jul 2019 2:18 pm

Although Hong Kong never enjoyed democracy under 155 years of British rule, Britain was — and still is — widely seen in Hong Kong as a beacon of Western-style civil liberties and the rule of law, leaving a legacy of independent courts, a well-oiled civil service and institutions like an anti-corruption watchdog.

In the colonial years, there was steady economic growth, and its free market policies meant the city flourished as one of the world’s leading business hubs.

“I miss the British-Hong Kong government before 1997. The British helped us build a lot of things: separation of powers, our rule of law, our entire social system,” said Alexandra Wong, 63, a protester who is often seen raising the Union Jack at demonstrations and carried one into the legislative building on Monday night. “What I can do is to hopefully encourage young people to continue to persist” in fighting for their rights, she said.

It helped that the last Governor Chris Patten, and his administration showed a gift for connecting with the populace and are remembered fondly by many to this day.

“He projected complete commitment to the people. People could feel he wanted to be on their side,” said Leo Goodstadt, a British economics professor and chief policy adviser to the colonial government from 1989 to 1997.

By contrast, Patten’s Chinese successors all suffered dismal popularity ratings — none more so than current Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Recent polls show that under her leadership, trust in Beijing and feelings of identification with China have plunged. Lam’s administration is widely seen as inept and arrogantly out of touch with public sentiment, bulldozing through unpopular policies with no regard for widespread opposition.

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