Building Democracy

Building Democracy: Creating Good Government for Hong Kong

Christine Loh
Civic Exchange
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Building Democracy
    Book Description:

    Building Democracy offers an analysis of Hong Kong's current political situation within the larger context of its political history and its relationship to Beijing. The 12 chapters explore all the topics that are essential to building a healthy and vigorous democracy, such as: the role of political parties, democratic reform and business, accountability and open government, the media, the basic law, legislative-executive relations, the role of the civil service; development of constitutional conventions; and women in politics. Specific subjects covered include the Principal Officials Accountability System (POAS), Article 23 legislation and the Government response to the 2003 outbreak of Severe Atypical Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A postscript discusses the July 1st March and the meetings outside the Legislative Council.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-047-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VII)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. VIII-XXII)
    Yash Ghai

    I received the flattering invitation from Christine Loh to write a foreword to this excellent and timely volume as I was presiding over the National Constitutional Conference of Kenya (June 2003).¹ This invitation stimulated reflections on the importance of good governance and the general process of constitution review, and lessons that the Kenya experience might hold for Hong Kong.

    Kenya became independent of Britain in 1963. The independence constitution was negotiated between Britain and leaders of Kenyan political parties, in which the people played no direct role. The constitution sought to establish a parliamentary democratic system with a high degree...

  4. Introduction: Enhancing Democratic Participation in Hong Kong
    (pp. 1-11)
    Christine Loh

    This volume provides a collection of short essays about democracy and democratic participation written by a group of local experts as part of Civic Exchange’s Enhancing Democratic Participation Project and aimed at a general audience. The Project was put together in 2002 at a moment when Hong Kong people appeared to have regained their interest in democratic development. Since 1997, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has shown little interest in discussing constitutional reform and the public seemed to have lost heart for pursuing the subject vigorously. However, due to the inexperience of the current administration...

  5. Chapter 1 The Basic Law, Human Rights and Democracy: Theory and Practice
    (pp. 12-26)
    Michael C. Davis

    This essay focuses on the issues of constitutionalism and the rule of law and their relationship to the democratisation process in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Reflections on constitutional theory offer occasions to ask how well things are working and what reform would be helpful. For Hong Kong the basic question of whether to have or not have democracy is not really an issue. These institutional commitments are provided in both the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law.¹ The latter specifies that full democracy could be embraced soon after 2007. Beyond these formal commitments, Hong...

  6. Chapter 2 Legislative-Executive Interface in Hong Kong
    (pp. 27-34)
    SING Ming

    Since 1974, a wave of democratisation has swept over different parts of the world, increasing the number of electoral democracies from 39 in 1974 to 121 in 2001.¹ This wave started with the toppling of Western Europe’s last three dictatorships in Greece, Portugal and Spain and continued in such South American countries as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay, before spreading to Asia, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and Africa. This trend reflects the multiple and diverse benefits of democracy in enhancing freedoms, political equality, economic growth and quality of life, as well as reducing domestic instability and...

  7. Chapter 3 Accountability and Open Government
    (pp. 35-43)
    Cheung Chor-yung

    In a democratic society, the use of political power is a profound responsibility. Holders of public office exercise authority legitimately only if they do so in accordance with the principles, rules and procedures endorsed by and acceptable to society at large, and it is incumbent upon public officials to justify decisions with good reasons if challenged.

    In other words, political power must be subject to public scrutiny in order to be legitimate. Office holders must be prepared to face the public and will be expected to step down from office if their failures are regarded as being sufficiently serious. In...

  8. Chapter 4 Election and Voting Systems: Perspectives on Democratic Governance in Hong Kong
    (pp. 44-60)
    C. Raj Kumar

    This paper addresses the issue of elections and voting systems as a key component of the debate on general political reform in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The central theme of the paper is the importance of democratic governance for the development of a viable and effective voting system in Hong Kong, bearing in mind its particular constitutional and political realities.

    The paper attempts to do the following: first, introduce the topic of elections and voting systems in Hong Kong by providing some background information; second, analyse various electoral systems and consider their advantages, disadvantages and suitability for...

  9. Chapter 5 Political Reform and Political Parties
    (pp. 61-70)
    Ray Yep

    In modern democracies, political parties are defined by their explicit intention to capture political power via elections. They distinguish themselves from pressure groups or other social movements by their declared aim to transcend particular interests and provide solutions for the general concerns of society by occupying public office. While there is a general bias against political parties as conglomerates of self-serving politicians, political parties do contribute to effective democratic governance in four key ways.

    A political party’s most important role is the mobilisation of voters. The legitimacy of a democratic government is renewed through competitive elections. As such, the active...

  10. Chapter 6 The Civil Service and Political Reform
    (pp. 71-83)
    Anthony B. L. Cheung

    During British rule, Hong Kong was run as an “administrative state,” with the senior civil servants doubling as both policy-makers and policy-executors and in effect constituting the executive under the command of the colonial Governor. The political transformation following the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration triggered a process of constitutional change and the development of a more representative form of government, as manifested in the opening up of the Legislative Council (LegCo) to some elected representatives.

    In incorporating a framework for future political democratisation into the Basic Law for the new Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), much attention was focussed...

  11. Chapter 7 Constitutional Conventions and Political Reform
    (pp. 84-94)
    Sonny Lo

    The term “constitutional convention” has two meanings in political science. First, it refers to the constitutional meetings in Western democracies such as the United States and Australia where politicians discuss, deliberate and debate amendments to the existing constitution.¹ Second, it refers to the traditions or habits of politicians, which are not legally binding. Such traditions include, for example, the resignation of ministers who make blunders or have been involved in serious scandals. These kinds of constitutional conventions exist in many democracies, especially in British parliamentary systems,² where democratic norms and practices are in place and become political traditions.

    This paper...

  12. Chapter 8 Democratic Development and Business Interests
    (pp. 95-103)
    MA Ngok

    Since the start of very gradual democratisation in Hong Kong in the 1980s, the local business sector has adopted a conservative attitude towards the pace of democratic development. A number of high profile businessmen appear to be afraid that democratisation may threaten stability. They are worried that business interests will be adversely affected, taxes will increase and Hong Kong will become a welfare state, thereby jeopardising economic development. For these reasons, business leaders such as Gordon Wu and Peter Woo¹ have repeatedly voiced their opposition to full-fledged democracy for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and advocate the retention...

  13. Chapter 9 The Media and Society in Hong Kong
    (pp. 104-116)
    Richard Cullen

    This chapter looks at the role of the media in society – and, in particular, its role within a well developed society such as Hong Kong. It does this by examining:

    The role of the media in society generally;

    The rather special position of the media in Hong Kong;

    The ways in which the media ordinarily interacts with society in Hong Kong; and

    The way in which the media interacts with society at a more specific, political level in Hong Kong.

    Political change is underway in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) – and more change is due to...

  14. Chapter 10 Women and Politics
    (pp. 117-126)
    Irene Tong

    Politics and policies affect women as well as men, but in political decision-making worldwide, women are under-represented. While classical political philosophers equate politics with the public realm, and hence the male sphere, modern conceptions of politics and citizenship would not be complete without including all members of humanity.¹ Prevailing arguments for including women in decision-making processes can be categorised as follows:²

    Natural rights/God-given rights – By virtue of their humanity women should enjoy equal rights with men, including full citizenship.³

    Difference – Whether due to nature or nurture, the lived experience and cognitive framework of women is quite different from...

  15. Chapter 11 Civil Society and Democratic Development in Hong Kong
    (pp. 127-135)
    Christine Loh

    “Civil society” refers to that part of society that is non-governmental. The concept of civil society arose as a response to the 20th century experience of fascism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, where the state sought to monopolise all social institutions. In other words, civil society is a counterweight to the influence of the state on community life. The chief elements of civil society include a market economy, an independent media and a network of voluntary associations through which people can work together in managing community issues. These non-governmental organisations (NGOs) may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    Culture and...

  16. Chapter 12 Experiencing Democracy – Inclusive Participatory Forums
    (pp. 136-146)
    Ivy Ning

    City Forum was a popular programme hosted by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) in the 1980s. The programme allowed ordinary people to express their views on key issues and address their questions to government officials and various stakeholders.

    That was twenty years ago. In the intervening two decades, Hong Kong has experienced tremendous changes – socially, economically and politically. Now more than ever, there is an increased desire on the part of Hong Kong people not only to express their views but for these views to be considered by the Government and by various business and community groups as part...

  17. Postscript
    (pp. 147-149)
    Christine Loh

    On 1 July 2003, a public holiday and the sixth anniversary of the HKSAR, half a million Hong Kong residents joined a protest march against the hasty passage of the HKSAR Government’s proposed national security legislation required under Article 23 of the Basic Law that was scheduled for passage in the legislature on 9 July. The number of people who turned out was very much bigger than anyone had anticipated. The organisers never expected such an enormous showing. On the eve of the protest, the Alliance Against Article 23 and the Civil Human Rights Front, which were made up of...

  18. Authors
    (pp. 150-154)