Constitutional reform. The current system is unsustainable for all stakeholders. The Chief Executive cannot claim a popular mandate, relying instead on the support of a narrow group of electors with vested commercial interestsa system that leads to backroom horse-trading. The Legislative Council also suffers from a democratic deficit. It does not truly represent the people because half its members hail from the same types of vested interests, yet possess the same voting power as those directly elected. The system is unfair because it favors a few over the whole. Hong Kong needs full democracy.
Civic activism. It's on the rise, and it's becoming better organized. ngos are working together, sharing information, holding joint events. They are drawing not just politicians but professionals and even some civic-minded businesspeople. These are smart folk who know what buttons to press and levers to pull. Already, by going to court, they have stopped the government from reclaiming even more land from what little harbor we have left. Now they are fighting for a host of causes, from fewer skyscrapers and roads to a minimum wage for low-skilled workers to patients' rights to better education for underprivileged children. With the rich getting richer, these ngos are needed more than ever to speak and act for the disadvantaged.
Competitiveness. Hong Kong wants desperately to be a global financial center, but it is hampered by outdated policies. The Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, and the vested interests that support him believe economic growth requires the constant pouring of concrete. That's so last century. A great city consists of not just bricks and mortar but green lungs and vibrant culture. The expatriates who staff the investment banks and hedge funds in Hong Kong are tempted not just by money but by quality of life. That's why clean, green Singapore is such a constant threat to Hong Kong.
Clean air. Hong Kong has a serious air-pollution problem. The Chief Executive is in denial about it. The bureaucrats talk about striking a "balance" between development and environment without realizing their challenge is to reverse the damage. They also identify the problem with the Pearl River Delta, saying 80% of emissions come from across the border with China. Yet new research shows that about half the time, most of Hong Kong's air pollution comes from local sources. Cleaning up our road transport, shipping and power generation will make an enormous difference. Otherwise, there will be a toll on public health, and taxpayers will end up paying for rising medical costs. The government's first step, long overdue, is to adopt the World Health Organization's global air-quality guidelines and make them the bar for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong can have a bright future as a free, fair and safe society. It just needs its leaders to believe in it.
A former legislator, Christine Loh heads the independent Hong Kong think tank Civic Exchange.