Thursday, 15 January 2015

Speeches by Numbers

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gets ready to make his policy address
A guest columnist of a local paper made it his task to go through all the previous policy addresses by all three Hong Kong chief executives, Tung Chee-hwa, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Leung Chun-ying.

David Dodwell, executive director of the Hong Kong-Apec Trade Policy Group was looking for how many times they used these four words: democracy, consensus, inequality and youth.

Tsang mentioned "democracy" nine times in each policy address, while Tung mainly ignored it except in 2004 when he made 27 references to it when he talked about "enlightened and people-based governance".

Then CE Tung Chee-hwa takes questions from the media
Dodwell is particularly frustrated when it comes to the word "consensus". "The word has been continuously on the lips of every one of our leaders -- Tsang took it to a crescendo in his first two policy addresses in 2006 and 2007 with more than 10 references in each address -- and their failure to achieve consensus has again and again been used as an excuse for inertia following consultation after consultation."

Consensus, says Dodwell, is not possible in politics. He says it is about trying to build coalitions of support through compromises in order to get things done.

"In obsessing about 'consensus', our leaders have demonstrated their failure to acknowledge that differences of opinion are reasonable, natural and normal. They have also hobbled all effective policymaking power," he writes.

When it comes to the word "inequality", especially in light of the recent protests, Dodwell finds Tung only mentioned it twice in his nine years in office, while Tsang showed a bit more interest in it in 2011 and said it nine times when introducing the "My House Purchase" scheme to help people afford housing.

Most telling is that in all three of his policy addresses so far totaling more than 50,000 words, not once has Leung uttered the word "inequality". Has he not learned anything from the Umbrella Movement that went on for 79 days last year?

Then CE Donald Tsang explains his initiatives to reporters
Youth was also a word not used much by our previous leaders, with Tung only saying it 18 times in his 1998 policy address, while Tsang largely ignored it until the last two years of office.

Meanwhile Leung has mentioned this demographic 17 times in 2013, 25 last year and 31 yesterday. But were they for the right reasons?

In his policy address, he basically declared war on the students, blaming them for "putting forward fallacies" regarding nationalism and self-determination. Leung also hit out at Undergrad, a University of Hong Kong Student Union magazine for "advocating independence" which he deemed unconstitutional, but students rebutted by saying they had a right to freedom of speech, and that the article examined Hong Kong's history and identity...

Dodwell notes that after re-reading what each of the administrations promised to do in their policy addresses, he finds a decade later not much has come to fruition. What does this say about our government and why people are so frustrated?

Should it not be surprising the Umbrella Movement happened and people will be out on the streets again on February 1?

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