PART 2: Article 23 Series
Hong Kong indomitable secretary for security, Regina Ip, had something more to say about Hitler and democracy yesterday when she spoke at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (see our 29/10 Newsletter). Combining her comments on the 29 and 30 October, we learn more about leadership in Hong Kong. We learnt that:
1. The secretary for security remains unrepentant - she is unwilling to withdraw her comments. Ip attempted to shield herself from the Hitler and democracy controversy she generated by saying she was expressing her personal views.
2. The government has not seen it necessary to distance itself from her comments.
3. Ip does not think it dishonest for the government to selectively use international law reform reports to buttress the government's Article 23 proposals even though she was aware that the conclusions of those reports did not support her case.
A. Regina: "These are my personal views only"
1. On the 28/10, Ip said: "Don't believe democracy will be a panacea. Adolf Hitler was returned by universal suffrage and he killed seven million Jews".
2. On the 30/10, Ip sought to explain what she meant when challenged. Ip stressed that Hitler was returned in a general election but the system did not prevent him from taking anti-democratic moves. She was unwilling to admit how she framed her original comment was at least unfortunate and that she did not mean to cause offence.
3. Ip's comments on democracy: "I did say ... that I don't think democracy is the panacea for all problems, and I stand by that view. It is of course true if you look at the countries around the world, particularly in Asia ... There are many democratically elected governments which fail even to protect human lives, let alone human rights ... I didn't suggest democracy led to Adolf Hitler and I have never said that he was elected by a majority ... As a Hong Kong belonger, I thought hard about a lot of the views put forward - the advocacy for 'one man, one vote' and I wonder whether that's the best form of government for Hong Kong - but these are entirely my personal views".
B. When is it the government's view?
Ip's gaff highlights how careful government officials need to be. How can the public make out when an official is expressing a personal view and when a government view?
C. Having been caught out ... "We quote whatever we think is helpful"
Ip was caught out in another area. The government selectively chose bits from international law reform reports to buttress its case for its Article 23 proposals. Ip's response after having been caught out shows her attitude on how she runs the Security Bureau.
"I don't agree that we have been deliberately misleading. Of course it is free for us, as authors of the [government consultation paper] to quote whatever we think is helpful to our argument".
1. Ip said a lot of things on both the 28/10 and the 30/10, and no doubt she will have a lot more to say as the government's primary advocate for Article 23. How she frames issues affect the credibility of herself and the HKSAR Government.
2. Advocating unpopular laws is hard enough. By making unfortunate references to Hitler and telling the public that universal suffrage is not the best form of government, Ip has only made her job more difficult. Ip has not expressed a view as to what form of government she thinks is good.
3. By not distancing itself from Ip's Hitler-democracy remarks, the government is giving tacit approval to Ip's views.
4. Ip's acknowledged that the government was economic with the truth to the extent that the truth was distorted by it's selective using of international experience to buttress its case is serious. The public sees a dishonest government.
5. What will the government do about Ip's admission of its distortion of the truth in such an important matter as Art 23?