Hong Kong’s Boss Looks Forward And Back – Tom Plate

From AsiaMedia:

It may be that your ultimate working nightmare would be to have two tough bosses. I mean, one tough boss alone you can handle — just keep that one account squared away and don’t mess up.

Having even a string of bosses is not so big a deal — just juggle one against the other against the third and so on, then keep your head down.

But serving two masters, and two masters alone, who are watching you like hawks, and who often disagree — that’s got to go down as one of life’s major headaches. It’s certainly not the kind of job I would want.

But that’s the kind of job Chief Executive Donald Tsang has. I don’t envy him. He’s soon to commence his second term in the service of a pair of competing masters. One is Hong Kong — meaning the territory’s people, evolving legislature and punchy news media. The other is Master Beijing. [Full Text]

Tom Plate is a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and founder of the Asia Pacific Media Network. Read also the edited transcript of Financial Times’ interview with Donald Tsang:

… FT: With regards to politics, how can you possibly bridge this divide between what the pro-democracy camp wants and what Beijing is prepared to give?

Donald Tsang: That’s where the challenge is. It’s not an easy job. Any constitutional change is difficult for any nationality and any territory for that matter – and particularly difficult for Hong Kong because we are not a sovereign state. We must achieve universal suffrage as a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. That is important. So we have to work within the framework of the Basic Law. Mr Wu Bangguo merely repeated what is in the Basic Law. There’s nothing more to it. Don’t read too much into it.

But if the Democrats are wishing to go beyond what is in the Basic Law then we’ve got a problem. So we need to knuckle down with what we have and achieve universal suffrage at the same time. I’ve got a plan as you know. In the summer this year I will put out a green paper and set out the various mainstream thinkings on this subject and start a public consultation. I’m not talking about interim steps going towards universal suffrage. I’m talking about the ultimate arrangements. I hope that after the consultation I will be able to put up a package that will achieve that and see how the population reacts.

I’ve been working on it for two years now since this debacle of the last debate on this subject in 2005. I gained experience and the opposition also gained the bitter experience of spurning not a bad interim package. So everyone needs to be careful. You need to accommodate. You cannot just be strident and obstructive. You have to compromise in any political negotiation – within Hong Kong first… It’s not too difficult to gain the public support for a package. There are nearly half a dozen packages in town each of which can gain about 60, 65 per cent support from the population. What is tricky is how are you able to get two-thirds majority in the legislature. Now I nearly got there in 2005. I was two to three votes less. But what the Democrats need to think about is not that they have got a proposal but they need to come up with a proposal that will get 40 votes in Legco. There’s no point telling me they have got a package and 22 votes. I got one and we had 37 [votes] last time and we could still not get through. That’s the challenge…

At the end of the consultation I have to stick my neck out and suggest to Hong Kong people having the consultation, having heard you, I believe this is what we want from the central government… Legco will debate on it and I hope this package will get me the 40 votes. [Full Text]

See also Is Beijing in Donald Tsang’s Future? by Philip Bowring.

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