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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

香港政壇元老鍾士元逝世,享年101歲。鍾士元活躍政壇數十載,代表了不少政商精英想法。1980年代中英就香港前途問題談判,鍾士元由最初抗拒回歸到後來支持《中英聯合聲明》,由「孤臣孽子」到後來成為特區政府行政會議首任召集人,歷經不少轉折,某程度亦反映了港人對回歸的心路歷程。1984年鄧小平在北京會見鍾士元,談論港人治港和信心問題,時至今日,人心回歸和政治信任仍是香港問題癥結,未因時勢改變,當年社會上下對維持現狀的訴求,至今仍然是港人心願。

鍾士元半世紀前已是工業總會主席,早於1965年已是立法局非官守議員,後來更擔任行政局首席非官守議員。鍾士元仕途最高峰的歲月,亦是香港前途問題最波濤洶湧的一段日子。

當年中英談判,英方想搞「三腳櫈」,讓香港在談判桌上也有角色,謀求以「二對一」爭取更多談判籌碼,就算無法在1997年後維持對香港的主權,至少亦可做到「主權換治權」,延續對港管治。最初鍾士元所推銷的,也是主權換治權的一套,然而中方態度堅決,拒絕「三腳櫈」,強調1997年後全面恢復對香港的主權,鍾士元更被形容為「孤臣孽子」。

鍾士元所代表的,很大程度是港英時代政商精英的想法,然而隨着香港回歸成為定局,「維持現狀」成為香港社會上下共識,鍾士元亦盡力反映港人聲音,希望香港獨特制度和生活方式,回歸後能夠切實做到「50年不變」。

1988年鍾士元卸任行政局首席非官守議員,然而他並沒有放棄服務香港,回歸後還應董建華邀請,擔任特區政府行政會議首任召集人,協助香港平穩過渡。

當年鍾士元與鄧小平會面,對內地會否堅持「一國兩制」、永守「50年不變」承諾表達了疑慮,最後雙方不歡而散,背後反映的是香港與內地之間的信任鴻溝。轉眼間,香港回歸已有21年,可惜內地和香港之間的信任和了解仍然嚴重不足,鍾士元逝世後,部分人將焦點放在當年他對中央和一國兩制的懷疑,正是一個寫照。加強互信,需要以務實態度相向而行,兩地信任鴻溝一日無法顯著收窄,人心回歸仍將是漫漫長路。

■Glossary

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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