Editor’s note: In the run-up to the chief executive election on Sunday, China Daily talked to foreign experts based in Hong Kong for their opinions on the upcoming poll and the new electoral system. In the last story in this series, “Foreign Insights: Election”, Chandran Nair, the founder and CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow and author of Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post-Western World, weighed in on the topic. Here is the excerpt of the interview.
This undated file photo shows Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO of Global Institute For Tomorrow. (PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY)
1. Changes to the electoral system were put in place to ensure having “patriots administering Hong Kong”. How do you perceive its necessity and impact on the city’s future development?
The discussion about patriots has been construed in many different ways in democratic countries. I don’t think anyone would say, “I’m leading this party because I don’t like the country and I’m gonna work against the country.” Standing in any democratic system, I don’t know why we have the discussion about patriots.
If you want to stand for CE, you have to express clearly that you are working for Hong Kong and also for the interest of the motherland. You cannot say you’re working for Hong Kong then constantly look to undermine China by cooperating and asking foreigners to sanction China. This is fair enough.
2. Hong Kong’s electoral system has seen changes from time to time since its return to the country in 1997. But one of the constants in these changes is the criticism from the West on the efforts made by the central government and the special administrative region government. In your opinion, what’s their stake in Hong Kong’s electoral revamp?
In most Western countries, a system that does not conform to the Western side and the democratic system will be criticized.
However, China has a different system and has to contend with most of the non-Western world. China’s system doesn’t have to be the same as the United States. China’s system works for China, and China must ensure what the government does, taking care of its people. We have to focus on improving things at home; then, the world will understand because the results will be very clear. Most of the non-Western world looks at the results of China and says there’s something here that’s working very well. I think Hong Kong’s electoral system is the fundamental test for this city.
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3. What traits do you believe the city’s new leader should have? John Lee Ka-chiu has garnered nominations from over half of the Election Committee members to run for the election. Does this mean that he has wide acceptance among Hong Kong’s various sectors? How will such recognition help Lee’s administration if he is elected?
I think the first important thing is to make sure that they send a powerful message to Hong Kong that they work for the people of Hong Kong. I feel the Chinese leaders may be looking for that kind of leader, too.
John Lee must represent the people of Hong Kong, and I think he should be fearless in this because I think this is what the Chinese government wants. They want a chief executive for Hong Kong who says clearly what is the best for Hong Kong people and what Hong Kong people want. If you want chief executives simply to take orders, then there’s no good for the central government and no good for Hong Long people. The leader tells the central government this is what people want and then comes to decisions together with the central government to solve Hong Kong people’s problems with the mean.
4. What do you think of John Lee? Have you come into contact with him during his 40 years in public service?
I’ve never actually had the pleasure of meeting Lee, and I wish him all the best. From the media, I know he is a decision-maker, tough, and committed to Hong Kong. He has to work to ensure he’s not a former police officer and his images are not just about being somewhat to do with security and law enforcement. Hopefully, he has political blood, and he understands not just to be an administrator. This is politics, and you need new optics and to contribute in a positive way.
I think he needs to go and get a diversity of opinions and listen to other people. He should look at who are the best people in Hong Kong to get advice. He has to be radical with the most important thing. I think if he can address the economic conditions, there’s a priority, and of course, it will help him and he will essentially win a lot of friends.
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5. Lee recently unveiled his political platform and three policy directions. What’s your take on them? Do you think your sector can benefit from the proposals?
I think all of Hong Kong can benefit if his policies can be done. The housing problem is the No 1 economic problem in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong people are not against the central government. Of course, there is a political situation that arose with the protests, but there is already “one country two systems,” and the sovereign state has the right that is already given.
If he takes care of the economic situation and the welfare of the people and then gives them better living conditions, things will be OK. I think we need good policies to restore Hong Kong and, importantly, get people to gain the trust of the government. That’s the biggest thing.
Trust requires basically solving the economic problems of the people who have bad housing conditions. In that regard, he needs the support of all of us. He cannot sit in a government office and think about what is happening. He needs to go out to meet people. Go to real, and then build your trust.
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