Rachel Cartland hopes for progressive change in the electoral system
Rachel Cartland was a career civil servant, retiring in 2006 after 34 years in public service. She used the fairytale Sleeping Beauty as a metaphor, saying she hoped Hong Kong would wake up from "17 years of bad dreams" since the handover, and that a "saner" political system was the only way forward.
She was assistant director of social welfare until 2006. Cartland said when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, "the good godmother came forward and heaped up gifts", such as rule of law.
Cartland's memoir as a civil servant
"[But] the evil godmother, or perhaps she was merely being foolish, came and laid on top of the pile, the most stupid, ridiculous political system and constitution that any community in the world has tried and been forced to operate under.
"Every single member of the Legislative Council stands always poised, ready to form the disloyal opposition to a chief executive who is specifically not allowed to have a political party of his own.
"That Legislative Council is formed party from functional constituencies, some of which are as bad as the rotten boroughs that tainted 19th-century England, with tiny electorates with their own agenda, [while] the geographical constituencies... are elected by a very odd proportional representation system, which is actually skewed in such a way as to ensure that more radical candidates have a very high chance of being elected.
"My own belief is that [problems] could be sorted out more easily in a saner system. Hong Kong is now teetering on the edge of ungovernability and the reason is the political system."
There was a public consultation on reform that ended this month, but there wasn't much consensus. Even the pan-democrats are split as to how candidates should be nominated and elected.
Cartland urged officials to "come up with an electoral system that will work" and to persuade Beijing and Hong Kong people to "live with it".
We like that Cartland has made tough criticisms of what is going on with Hong Kong. She is correct to say the city has become less and less governable with so many contradictions and the way the system works does not benefit anyone.
However is she not aware that Hong Kong officials aren't even able to think of a good electoral system, and that they instead anxiously wait for Beijing's instructions?
It has been that way since July 1, 1997 and has gotten progressively more pro-Beijing. For example today the Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim warned that students be aware of the consequences of taking part in the Occupy Central movement that he dubbed as "illegal".
The government should not be calling this civil disobedience movement "illegal", and thow can teachers be blamed if their students participate? Maybe their parents want them to join them? The veiled threats seem petty and weak.
If the government wants to avoid Occupy Central happening, then why not have talks with the organizers and see what kind of middle ground can be established? That was the whole point of the movement, to force the government's hand, but it refuses to be drawn into the discussions, perhaps on the orders of Beijing.
So where is Hong Kong headed now? It doesn't seem Cartland's wish of the city waking up from its 17 years of bad dreams will be over anytime soon...