Lesson for SL youth; Selecting a new Prime Minister – By Prof. Samitha Hettige

May, 11, 2022

In 1919, the May 4th Movement spurred the spread of Marxism throughout China. Hence, in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), 4th May is dedicated as Youth Day. When academics and intellectuals formed the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 23rd July 1921 they placed youth of the time on centre stage and took back benches to energize the nation building plan. In 1949 it was the youth which created the Peoples Republic. They fought to defeat hunger in China and three years later helped Sri Lankans to defeat hunger through the Rubber Rice pact signed in 1952. Youth of China ultimately created a super power by raising all citizens above the poverty line by 2021 (Ref. China stats) helping China to reach its first centenary goal of alleviating poverty in the PRC. Western and Eastern powers that see rising China as a threat tried to use the youth flaming political rows in 1989 (in main land) and have been using the youth of Hong Kong since 1997 (after HK was given back to PRC after the 99 year lease) to block China’s path. Opponents of China may have expected the using of youth as the most effective tool as in the case of SL but so far China has managed HK as a free safe place to start a new business for any person from any part of the globe. That is a good lesson for SL youth. They should read the views of Carrie Lam, CEO of HK especially at a moment when SL is burning. She believes that “Establishing national identity among the youth, enhancing patriotism and helping youngsters understand Chinese history and culture, as well as cementing national security, will be the future direction of "national education”.

Effective continuous civic education to prevent conflicts is the key to Peace and Stability in SL. SL elects its Executive President (CEO) and representatives including the Prime Minister once every six years. When the Presidential system was introduced, some believed that it will protect the rights of the minorities as the election depends on the minority vote. In 2019 the trend changed when the incumbent was elected with the vote of the majority at a time the USA’s MCC was a hot topic. With the current developments and the planned constitutional reforms, it may pave way for a more federal nature. Then the majority may strike back resulting in never ending violence. SL youth should be very cautious in selecting their CEOs and representatives. Sri Lankans should be educated about the value of economic recovery more than being personality cults. China so far managed HK with four CEOs who contributed to overall development through economic development. Below is a brief about the CEOs of HK. If SL youth learn more from the world before selecting their next Prime Minister, they can be certain that they are not being misused by someone. It will ensure peace and development for SL youth.

Tung Chee-hwa (1997-2005)

Born into a wealthy shipping family in Shanghai in 1937 he graduate from the University of Liverpool and worked as an engineer in the USA for years before returning to HK in 1969 to manage his family business. By the 1980s, he was an established business tycoon and entered politics in 1992 when he was appointed to the Executive Council of Hong Kong by Chris Patten (last British governor of Hong Kong).  In 1996 he won the election to become the first CEO of HK. During his tenure, the 1998, the Asian financial crisis swept East and Southeast Asia when HK economy experienced a recession. With the support from the central government in Beijing, he implemented a series of measures to stabilize the economy.  Hong Kong survived the crisis, reinforced its position and continued to be a global financial center. During his second term, he led the fight against the SARS epidemic (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which wreaked havoc in China (2002 to 2003).

Donald Tsang (2005-2012)

Donald served as HK finance Secretary during Tung and became CEO when latter resigned in 2005 and was re-elected in 2007. He grew up in HK and joined the civil service in 1967 where he held positions in various capacities in the government. In 1995 he became the first Chinese financial secretary of HK in its 150 years of British colonial rule. He remained in the position during Tung's administration. During his seven years in office, he proposed two constitutional reforms to modify the election process for the CEO and the Legislative Council (2005 and 2010). The first proposal was rejected but the second was implemented in 2012. It was the first political reform proposal to be passed since the establishment of the HK Special Administrative Region. In 2008 when the most severe financial crisis (since the Great Depression) hit the global economy HK wasn’t ready to face it. He launched a series of policies to stabilize the financial system, supporting enterprises and preserve employment. His loans guarantee scheme helped turn around more than 10,000 businesses and saved 240,000 jobs. HK economy staged a visible recovery in 2010.

Leung Chun-ying (2012-2017)

Leung's parents came to HK from east China's Shandong. His father was a police officer stationed at Government House when he was young. He was a star during his school career where he earned a scholarship to study at King's College in London. Later he graduated from Bristol Polytechnic as first in class of 1977. He entered real estate and became the vice chairman of Jones Lang Wootton at the age of 30. His political career began in 1985 at the Hong Kong Basic Law Consultative Committee which was responsible to consult the HK people regarding drafts of the HK Basic Law. In 1998 when Tung was CEO of HK, he became the convenor of the Executive Council.  As CEO he encouraged reforms in education and real estate to improve the livelihood of HK residents. They include efforts to make kindergartens part of the free-education program and prioritizing the needs of HK residents in purchasing houses.

Carrie Lam (2017-2022)

Carrie Lam became CEO in July, 2017. Born to a working-class family in 1957 she changed her life through education and became a top student at St. Francis' Canossian College ( run by strict Catholic nuns). She enrolled in the HK University and majored in sociology. She joined the Administrative Service gathering experience in budgetary, health care, housing, finance etc. In 2019 when HK sought to introduce amendments to its fugitive law, protests and violence broke out. It was a covert operation of USA and other Western countries mentioned above to incite violence, which challenged China's bottom line of "One Country, Two Systems" which undermined the prosperity and social stability in HK (Ref Chinese sources). In July 2020, a national security law (passed by the 13th Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of PRC was signed by Lam. The law targets terrorist activities and crimes that endanger national security, especially those involving foreign countries. Her administration pushed for policies including subsidized housing more affordable and resuming privately-owned land for public housing etc. In 2021 during her policy address, she laid out plans to solve HK’s long-standing housing shortage by building a million housing units in the next 15 to 20 years. (SL should remember that China granted 2000 housing units to Colombo district residents in 2022 while they are also addressing such issues. In the modern world very rarely would a country with housing issues would donate so many housing units to another country).  During the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic HK reached a peak averaging over 60,000 cases per week. With support from medical teams from the mainland, she controlled the outbreak and kept HK running (ref China stats).

(The writer is an Academic and a Broadcaster. Views expressed are personal and may not necessarily be the views of his affiliations.)