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Anson Chan

TIME - June 14, 2004

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Hong Kong wants good Governance, not INDEPENDENCE

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        Hong Kong will soon be celebrating its seventh anniversary of its establishment as a highly autonomous Special Administrative Region of China under the concept of "one country", two systems." Is there much to celebrate?

        For the greater part of the past seven years, China's central government has largely left Hong Kong to govern itself. If we have not done a very good job of it, the blame cannot be laid at Beijing's door.

        Indeed, until recently, the standing and popularity of mainland leaders in the local community had steadily risen. But since the unexpectedly large turnout of demonstrators for democracy last July 1, Beijing's stance toward Hong Kong appears to have harden. The central government has moved swiftly to lay down the law as far as the elections of the territory's Chief Executive and members of the Legislative Council are concerned. While Beijing has a constitutional right to do so, the manner in which the central government has handled this whole issue, coupled with its public rhetoric and posturing reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, have left most Hong Kong people puzzled, hurt and frustrated.

        I do not doubt that Beijing wants what is best for Hong Kong. In its eyes, stability is key. But the tactics being employed are likely to have the opposite effect. Hong Kong society is now polarized to an extent not seen in recent history. There is growing intolerance of different viewpoints. The recent departure of three popular Hong Kong talk-show hosts in quick succession has raised fears about freedom of expression. In this game of shadow boxing, it is increasingly difficult to pinpoint who are the instigators and who are the innocent by-standers or victims.

        There's a wide gap in mind-set and values, which only genuine communication and trust can bridge. And bridge it we must if we are to secure our future, with our rights and freedoms intact.

        Hong Kong has yet to find an identity that it is comfortable with. Some would have us disown our past. Others seem oblivious to the fact that, while embracing "one country", it is the "two system" that sets Hong Kong apart from the mainland.

        The vast majority of Hong Kongers are proud to be Chinese and part of an increasingly strong country seeking to play a bigger role in the international community. At the same time Hong Kong people treasure the freedoms and rights enshrined in the territory's constitution. And they will fight to protect those rights. This does not mean they love their country less than self-professed patriots do. We yearn mainly for good, strong and transparent governance.

        Despite the political gloom, let us not forget that Hong Kong remains a city that works. Our streets are safe; our transport is efficient and runs on time; there is the rule of law, free flow of information, and a level playing field where business can be conducted without hassle. Our people are a sophisticated and pragmatic lot with a good deal of common sense. We wish to continue to make a contribution toward the modernization and prosperity of our country.

        We have no wish to push for independence nor to destabilize the mainland. We ask our leaders in Beijing to put a little more trust in us. That trust will not be misplaced.