Editorial : Chung Sze-yuen's endeavour

【明報專訊】VETERAN Hong Kong politician Chung Sze-yuen has passed away at the age of 101. Chung, who had been politically active for a few decades, was representative of the way of thinking of many political and business elites. During the 1980s when China and Britain were negotiating over the future of Hong Kong, Chung was at first resistant to Hong Kong's handover to China. However, he later supported the Sino-British Joint Declaration. From being compared to "an alienated minister and a child born to a concubine" to becoming the first convener of the Executive Council of the HKSAR, Chung experienced many twists and turns in his political career. To some extent Chung's political life reflected what Hong Kong people went through in their minds with regard to Hong Kong's handover to China. In 1984, Deng Xiaoping met Chung in Beijing and talked about "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and the issue of confidence. Today, in spite of the changes in circumstances, the "return of the people's hearts" and political trust are still the crux of the Hong Kong question. In those days the aspiration of society at large was to maintain the status quo. It is still Hong Kong people's aspiration.

Chung Sze-yuen became Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries half a century ago. He was appointed an unofficial member of the Legislative Council in 1965. Later he became the senior unofficial member of the Executive Council. The peak of Chung's political career coincided with the roughest time in the negotiations over Hong Kong's future.

During the Sino-British negotiations, the British attempted to set up a "three-legged stool" by proposing to allow Hong Kong to play a role in the negotiations. The British wanted to gain more bargaining chips at a "two-versus-one" negotiating table so as to extend their governance of Hong Kong. Should Britain fail to maintain its sovereignty over Hong Kong after 1997, the British could at least continue their governance of Hong Kong by "exchanging sovereignty for administration". What Chung promoted initially was no different from "exchanging sovereignty for administration". However, the Chinese government was resolutely against the "three-legged stool" and emphasised that China would resume full sovereignty over Hong Kong after 1997. At one point, Chung Sze-yuen was even called "an alienated minister and a child born to a concubine".

To a large extent, Chung was representative of the way of thinking of the political and business elites in the colonial era. However, as Hong Kong's handover to China became a foregone conclusion, the consensus of Hong Kong society at large was "to maintain the status quo". Chung continued to do his best to speak out on behalf of Hong Kong people whose wish was to preserve the unique institutions and lifestyle of Hong Kong, and for Hong Kong to remain "unchanged for 50 years" after the handover.

Chung retired from his position as a senior unofficial member of the Executive Council in 1988, but he did not give up serving Hong Kong. At the invitation of Tung Chee-hwa, he became the first convener of the HKSAR's Executive Council after Hong Kong's handover to China and assisted in Hong Kong's smooth transition.

In his meeting with Deng Xiaoping, Chung expressed his doubts about mainland China's commitment to "one country, two systems" and China's guarantee that Hong Kong would "remain unchanged for 50 years". The two parties parted with ill feelings. What was reflected in this meeting was the deep distrust between Hong Kong and mainland China. It is 21 years since Hong Kong's handover, but there is still a lack of trust and understanding between mainland China and Hong Kong. An example is how some people have focused on Chung's early doubts about the central government and "one country, two systems". To strengthen mutual trust, both sides have to adopt a practical attitude and approach each other. Unless the distrust between Hong Kong and mainland China is significantly narrowed, "the return of the people's heart" will still be a long way off.

明報社評2018.11.15:鍾士元求50年不變 維持現狀港人心願








twists and turns : delicate changes

a foregone conclusion : if you say that sth is a foregone conclusion, you mean that it is a result that is certain to happen

part : if a person parts from another person, or two people part, they leave each other

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