Secretary for Education and Manpower


The interview was carried out when Arthur Li was Vice-Chancellor of ChineseUniversity. As he agreed in July 2002 to join the Tung administration, it is interesting to revisit what he thought of the performance of the Chief Executive and his team in 1998.

Serge Berthier.- Hong Kong is now for all intents and purposes a Chinese city after being a British colony for 150 years. What does it mean at the education level?

Arthur Li.- The big issue that has come forward is the so-called “mother tongue education” problem. Should we teach our children in English, in Cantonese, in Mandarin (1)?

S.B.- Hong Kong being a Cantonese city, I assume that the answer is Cantonese but, being also an international city, Hong Kong has to stay bilingual…

A.L.- That sounds a logical way to go, but having implemented Cantonese as the medium of teaching few years back, teaching was in effect not entirely in the mother tongue, nor it was entirely in English (2). The government then found that over the years, the level of English dropped to a worrying level (3).

S.B.- Why?

A.L.- Students were told not to worry about English grammar. Such an approach has proven to be a failure and the standard dropped in both languages. Now the Chief Executive, Mr. Tung, has said that Chinese is going to be particularly important (4) and that teaching will be entirely in the mother tongue, so when the children learn English they really concentrate on English. Unfortunately, the implementation of such policy has been a disaster (5).

S.B.- What went wrong?

A.L.- The government suddenly announced that there were schools that could teach in English. It did so because there was pressure to keep some English schools as most parents want the best education for their children and want them to be bilingual.

S.B.- Why was it wrong to announce it?

A.L.- What was wrong was to add that the selected schools could teach in English because they were good schools. As a result the so-called 100 top schools became immediately “la crème de la crème”". The others became, in the public mind, schools for second class citizens. The whole thing was badly messed up.

S.B.- Surely, that was not what Mr. Tung had in mind?

A.L.- Exactly. But he ended up with exactly what he doesn’t want: he wants to emphasize Chinese as being very important. In the end Hong Kong gets Chinese being considered as inferior because while he emphasizes the role of the Chinese mother tongue, his policy is implemented in such a way that Chinese schools look like second class schools, which undermines the whole exercise. Of course all the schools that cannot teach in English make appeals and all sorts of things. And the result is telling: now you have two systems in the high schools, one is English teaching and the other is mother tongue teaching, and the latter is immediately considered in the society, in the community mind, as inferior. Doing so, you separate the two systems very clearly, one for the brighter children, one for the others. It is in a way a good example of the basic problems that Hong Kong is going to see in the next few years.

S.B.- Why is the mother tongue education a good example of larger issues?

A.L.- The way the whole thing was messed up is typical of the policy problems we have right across the board of governing Hong Kong.

S.B.- Can't the whole thing be just another bureaucratic blunder and no more than that?

A.L.- That is the point. Now we are talking about leadership. Mr. Tung is a very nice man. He is one who goes for consensus. The problem is to have a consensus on education is an impossible task.

S.B.- Education is always a very divisive issue in every country. Do you think that Mr. Tung's policy was intentionally derailed then?

A.L.- We have an Education Department, we have a Board of Education that looks after the advisors, and we have an Education Commission that oversees the whole of education. You have so many advisory boards that everybody has a say in education. As a result you can’t achieve a clear policy.

S.B.- What about the Trade Unions? Aren’t the two largest political parties of Hong Kong, the Democratic party and the DAB, very close to the two main Trade Unions existing in the education sector? Politics must be very much at the center of their actions.

A.L.- Yes, the question of trade unions in education goes further beyond the education system (6). It is actually quite political. This, to a certain extent, is their strength and their weakness, because whatever you say, they will have to take an opposite view. It is not constructive. On the other hand, their strength is that they do represent the majority, so they do have the power. I wish they would use it in a more constructive way. But the problem again has two sides. One mustn’t blame the Trade Unions, because if you ignore whatever good or bad ideas they put forward, you are bound to drive them more and more extreme. In the front lines on both sides, they are very extreme, but they are extreme because you make them into it. This is why I think there is not enough dialogue.

S.B.- Why?

A.L.- Let me put it like this. There is not enough dialogue because there is certainly a creeping cronyism coming at all levels in Hong Kong.

S.B.- Is that really a departure from the colonial past?

A.L.- When Hong Kong was a colony, we had an Executive Council appointed by the Governor. To be in the Executive Council, you had to be someone of stature and you had to be recommended both by the government and the administration. When I say government and administration, I mean two different things: the colonial appointees, and the Civil Service as the tool of the high ranking civil servants. Therefore, all the people sitting in the executive council were “friends” of the administration. They did understand the administration, otherwise they wouldn’t have been recommended.

S.B.- In other words, the Executive Councillors were in the past very much rubber stamp people. And if people had to be recommended, obviously cronyism was part of the game. What is new today?

A.L.- In a way Executive Councillors were rubber stamp people, but in another way they were not. Mostly, they were people of quality (7). They had made their money, or their success in various sectors. There was a sort of mutual understanding between the administration and the Executive Council, so things were going very smoothly. If one of the Department Secretaries brought forward some policy, the Executive Council would criticize or modify it in private, but in the end the whole thing would get supported. Now, with the hand over, Mr. Tung Chee-hwa has appointed the Executive Council without going through the Civil Service. That is the first point. Point two is that the ideas of the Civil Service are no longer the center of the Exco deliberations. Chung Sze Yuen (8) who is the convener of the Executive Council has made clear that he thinks the Executive Council is working along some sort of ministerial system, so that one Executive Councillor is responsible for education, one for housing, and so on. This, of course, puts the Civil Service immediately in a very difficult position. Who dictates the policy? The so-called "minister" or the Civil Service? Before the hand over the Civil Service would produce the policy. Now the question is more or less: “who is going to run the show?"

S.B.- So, if I understand right, the education blunder is not so much the result of a bureaucratic process but the result of a divergence between what the Executive Branch and the Administrative Branch in charge of implementing the policies?

A.L.- Yes. You have the Executive Council on the one hand, which wants to do a lot of things in Hong Kong. And you have the Civil Service which wants to do a lot of things too. The two are not seeing eye to eye. The Executive Council does not have experience of government. They are not civil servants.

S.B.- The Basic Law is quite clear on who leads Hong Kong and it is the Chief Executive. Why would the Civil Service undermine this concept?

A.L.- The Civil Service knows who the boss is but, if the Executive Council decides a policy that the Civil Service doesn’t like, it won’t implement it. The civil servants will say that it will be implemented but somehow the administration then makes many, many problems and knots to cause the thing not to come right. On the other hand, when the Civil Service comes out with a policy, the Executive Council doesn’t like it and doesn’t approve it.

S.B.- Would you say that there a complete paralysis at the top end?

A.L.- Well, when an idea is very good, when it is implemented, the government makes more often than not, a complete mess of the thing. Why? Today I think that the Hong Kong people wonder who is in charge. As the same is happening with the education policies or with the economic policies, we can discern why it is so. The Executive Councillors have very good intentions, they want to do very well, but when it comes to implementation, it sometimes doesn’t quite get there, and has the opposite effect.

S.B.- If the government policies are sound but cannot be delivered by the administrative machinery in place, then one would say that the problem lies squarely with the Civil Service.

A.L.- The problem in the Civil Service is the lack of talent. Before 1997, many of the very able senior civil servants left the administration, either because they didn’t get on with (the last governor) Chris Patten or they worried about immigration or their future. If you look at the present top civil servants, they have all been promoted extremely rapidly through the ranks. They don’t have a great deal of experience in dealing with problems (9). This is why, for example, the handling of the chicken flu was a disaster. Many problems are dealt with by young people who are learning on the job rather than by experienced people. Young people are sensitive to criticism. When you try to be helpful the Civil Service thinks that it is under attack. So it puts up the shutters, it doesn’t want to know. It doesn't listen. This is rather sad.

S.B.- Is inexperience the only problem of the Civil Service?

A.L.- No. There is also a great deal of inefficiency. I give you an example in education. All the presidents and vice chancellors, all the heads of the tertiary institutions have now come forward, and openly at a press conference said “we believe that in higher education, there should be a four-year university system”. It is the norm in Europe, in North America; the only place that keeps a three-year system is England, not even Scotland or Wales. Even in England, the Imperial College and a number of major universities have switched to a four-year system. We think that for the students’ benefit, Hong Kong needs to have a four-year system (10). Now, with all the heads of tertiary institutions saying we need a four-year system, you may think that it is not an issue that needs to be discussed anymore. But what does the government do? Nothing! The administration will examine the whole system from the primary school to tertiary education. We asked how long this would take. The Education Department said it would take at least two or three years. Even if it is decided to switch over to a four-year system, it can’t be done overnight. The high schools have to prepare for it. High school is six years, so a whole generation is gone. We are talking about ten years down the road! Instead of asking “what needs to be done, let’s get on and do it”, the civil servants sit around and wait and wait, because, to a certain extent, as a civil servant, if you don’t do anything, you can’t make a mistake and so no one can blame you!

S.B.- One would think that Hong Kong would have been very keen to shed its colonial cloak but the picture you give is one of a city ensconced in it and shying away from the novelty of being on its own.

A.L.- Indeed. But we can’t afford to do that. We must have certain leadership, we have to take charge, and we have to make a set of policies we believe in. Otherwise we will lose our edge. We are actually losing it. There is no doubt about it.

Take the economy for example: we put so much emphasis on property that manufacturing has really gone from Hong Kong. The moment the property market is hit we are in a big crisis. We have nothing else. This is why we have really got to rethink the position of Hong Kong, what should Hong Kong be to China, to the region and to the world. Unless you have very clear cut ideas where you want to take Hong Kong, and believe in it, and force your policy through, Hong Kong will just become another Chinese city. That is what we are talking about, that is what leadership is about. If you sit around and worry about who is going to say what to whom, and would I get a vote and what is going to happen and so on, then you are brought down with minutia. You lose the momentum; you lose your vision of where Hong Kong should be going. Look at the four-year university system. It is a very simple problem. Why should we take such a long and roundabout route? Eventually, hopefully we will get there because there is no alternative. But nobody is waiting for us and for some it will come too late. That is the sad part of it.

S.B.- The first Hong Kong government to be entirely local has been in power for just a year, and what you outline is not a very positive picture. If the government is paralyzed, why are the criticisms so muted?

A.L.- Those who care about Hong Kong are caught in a very difficult dilemma. On the one hand, we want to support the government of Hong Kong, because this is the first time we have a government led by Hong Kong people. This is something that we feel should do well, so we don’t want to criticize the government, we want to be helpful. On the other hand, we see that it is not doing very much. It is managing from crisis to crisis rather than making very clear cut policies, maybe some of them unpopular, and bring them forward. So on the one hand you want to support the government very much, on the other hand you see that it is really bumbling around.

It is very sad, because if you stand up and criticize its lack of action or its policies, you are considered a bad guy. From that moment on, it won’t listen to whatever you say. If you don’t stand up, it thinks it is doing all right. So what happens is that the government likes to surround itself with people who think it is doing all right, without even listening to those who could come forward with different ideas.

S.B.- To me, it is very much a colonial set-up. Why is it so difficult to change the way the government works?

A.L.- This is indeed a colonial legacy. Before, we had a colonial government from Britain. It had a mandate to govern from the Queen. This is no longer the situation: Hong Kong now has a Chief Executive. You can argue that he was not elected by a popular mandate, and he doesn’t have a mandate like a colonial governor had. Maybe that is the difficulty. Nevertheless, at the same time, one would expect that there should be leadership.

S.B.- Beyond the difficulty of being a Chief Executive without a popular mandate, and an inexperienced top layer in the Civil Service, what other problems do you attribute to the colonial legacy?

A.L.- Our problems don’t all belong to our colonial legacy. One comes very much from our eastern context. In such a context, anyone who disagrees with me is my enemy, he should be kept down and shut up, and preferably locked up. As a result, people don’t come forward with dissenting views. Then you have a lot of hangers-on to tell you how difficult things are, and how wonderfully you are dealing with these problems, instead of somebody coming forward saying you are making a complete mess and that we should learn from those mistakes, and let’s do something about it. Anyone who says that is considered a maverick, someone not to be trusted because he tends to criticize in public.

S.B.- Is then the Civil Service one of the hangers-on?

A.L.- To a certain extent, rightly or wrongly, I think the Civil Service is glad that Mr. Tung is not doing well, that he is taking a lot of the heat, when the heat should really be on the Civil Service. Mr. Tung is a very nice man, and I suppose he is feeling responsible. If you criticize the Civil Service he probably feels he has to defend it, so he is in a difficult position. He is probably the last person to see that the situation can’t carry on, and he thinks that if he changes the people in the government, the overseas investors might lose confidence in Hong Kong. So he thinks the only solution is to keep the people in their position and to soldier on and face crisis after crisis till somehow it will blow away.

S.B.- Anson Chan is the Chief Secretary for Administration. Is there, as you see it, a struggle between two people, namely Madame Chan and Mr. Tung, or just a struggle between a new government and an old bureaucracy?

A.L.- Let me put it like this: Anson Chan when she was in the United States said that if she was called to become Chief Executive after Mr. Tung, she would do it (11). So she obviously has the ambition to be the next Chief Executive. Now, if a nº2 is eyeing the nº1 job, should the nº2 go and help the nº1 or should the nº2 hope the nº1 will stumble? I don’t know the answer. I think that Mr. Tung should really get each one of the top key members of the Civil Service individually and say “do you support me or not?" and draw his own conclusion.

S.B.- Assuming that he comes to the conclusion that some do not support him, or are not up to the mark, can he get rid of them?

A.L.- There are many ways if you decide you would do something like that. You can put them into less important positions, you can reshuffle them around. There were already talks about a reshuffle more than six months ago, but nothing happened.

S.B.- Why?

A.L.- We are told that because of the crisis, the government must not do anything like a reshuffle that would upset the confidence even more. But look elsewhere. People move. In a crisis, there should be action, but the government says it has to keep up the confidence on Hong Kong; if people within the Civil Service are moved around, it will be very bad because outsiders will get the wrong impression.

S.B. - Is it so easy to shift aside high ranking civil servants? After all they cannot be dismissed and it is maybe one of the problems facing Hong Kong?

A.L.- Well, you can easily shift people around because there are lots of posts in the Civil Service. All you need to do is to move them around and make sure they know who is the boss. At the moment, we don’t know who run Hong Kong. On the administration side, there is no doubt that Anson Chan is the boss, and on the executive side, there is no doubt that Mr. Tung is the boss. But who is actually running Hong Kong? Is it the Executive Council? Is it the Civil Service? Is it Mr. Tung? For us, say outside the government, we really don’t know who is actually making the decisions for Hong Kong and this is bad.

S.B.- What surprises me is that, if the Civil Service is as powerful as you describe it, Hong Kong is run more like a socialist country of the past than anything else, whereas the picture the people get outside is that it is a capitalist paradise.

A.L.- You are absolutely right. When you talk about Hong Kong, the way it works or not, basically, the key is in the Civil Service. We should really look at its functioning. It worked very well in the colonial regime because there was very strong authority coming down and the world was different. Now things have changed. Is the present Civil Service really able to help Hong Kong into the next century as it is? The way it is structured, the fact that everyone gets a promotion every year, the fact that they control everything, this is the whole point. The system hasn’t changed for almost 150 years.

S.B.- Not many people are speaking of the need to reform the Civil Service.

A.L.- It is not surprising. If you say it openly, the Civil Service will be against you and it is very powerful. By speaking to you, I might expect my university to have its funding cut. The vice chancellors’ salaries have already been cut.

S.B.- Does the Executive Council want to reform the Civil Service?

A.L.- The Executive Councillors feel that the Civil Service is too powerful for the good of Hong Kong so they want to curb the civil servants. On the other hand the Civil Service thinks that Hong Kong has always been run by the civil servants and that the Executive Councillors, being not civil servants, don’t know anything about government, hence a perpetual guerrilla warfare between the two bodies.

S.B.- What about the power of the Legislative Council (Legco) which was elected in late May? Recently an Alliance between the main political parties was set up to challenge the policies of the government (12). Technically, the Alliance has an absolute majority. What do you think of such a move?

A.L.- If the Alliance can keep the stand, the parties can do something, but the problem with the Legco members is that they have such a different background and different agendas that I doubt if a common platform would be very effective. The Alliance would be able to be more of a watchdog, but it would not be able to initiate anything. The parties would be able to stop or make the government rethink some policies, but the Civil Service is so powerful that it could push through whatever it wants to do.

S.B.- How long can Hong Kong afford to have this ineffective way of governance then?

A.L.- I don't’ know. I think we will be facing more crises to come. We may not have seen the worst yet for Hong Kong. I think the Hong Kong dollar will come in for a lot of stress, particularly if Japan is not doing well.

S.B.- Is the stimulus package the administration is working on going to improve the economic prospects of Hong Kong?

A.L.- The government is doing what it thinks is the best way out, which is to speed up a lot of infrastructure development. But we are talking of something that is few years down the road. The government seems not to be looking into what needs to be done now or in a very short term, which may not be what it wants to do but needs to be done anyhow. Like taxation: we really need to look at taxation. Can tax credit stimulate the economy? It really should be examined. If it is examined and if the government says that it doesn’t work, then I think it has a responsibility to come up and tell us the reasons why it thinks it doesn’t work. Rather, at the moment, the population of Hong Kong is in the dark.

S.B.- As a measure to fight unemployment among the young the government has announced that the tertiary institutions will take an additional one thousand students. Isn’t it a positive measure (13)?

A.L.- It is a complete U-turn. Last year, we put to the government that we needed an additional one thousand students, to train them for specific purposes like becoming teachers, electronic engineers and so on having in mind that we need to develop high-added value industries. Our request was rejected. Now, because of the economic crisis, the government suddenly comes back to us saying; “now you take on an additional one thousand students, but we have no money for you”.

S.B.- Is the cost very high?

A.L.- For the government, it is not much. But it is typical. The government may be working very hard, but there is no communication with us. We don't understand what is going on (14). Why can't it come out and tell us: “this is for the future of Hong Kong, this concerns all of us, we are looking into these possibilities, and we ruled out these possibilities, or we think this one is the best one”. But the government does not share the information. Of course, in the past, the colonial system has been very high handed, but that style of government has to change. The government needs to involve people, the Democrats, the Liberals, everybody rather than just a few key people, otherwise, you get back in the Southeast Asia cronyism.

S.B.- It is the second time you mention cronyism as a fact of life in Hong Kong. Is it an issue?

A.L.- Hong Kong is perhaps better regulated than most places in Asia because we have the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) (15). So I don’t expect cronyism to be as blatant as it is in Indonesia or other places. But nonetheless, perhaps it is an Eastern culture that we like our friends, our relatives, our family. You have people who are president of this, chairman of that, or on such and such committee. If you look at it carefully, you wonder why should such person be put in that particular position? What are his qualifications, other than to be related to powerful civil servants or to political associates? We laugh at Indonesia, we laugh at Malaysia, but if you look at the senior advisory positions in the government, the so-called “advisory boards”, they are all inter-related. Things have to be a lot more transparent (16).

S.B.- Coming back to the U-turn in education policy, how can the government claim that it does not have the money when Hong Kong has billions of dollars in reserve?

A.L.- The Financial Secretary thinks he is being prudent keeping the money. My view is that Hong Kong must invest in the future. My colleagues and I keep telling the government that education must not be looked at as an expenditure. It is an investment. In Hong Kong, we don’t have any natural reserves, no oil, no gold mines, we have only people. If we don’t invest in them, make them better trained, more competitive, more suitable for a global economy, we are not going to survive. Hong Kong will just become another city in China! So keeping the money is one thing, but it is not an end in itself. The government has to use it not only for the rainy days but for our future. Today we have a crisis. The government admits it is a crisis. So it has to use the reserves to protect Hong Kong. But at the moment, it is just holding back saying “you mustn’t use it”. Of course the revenue going to the government is going to be decreased and we are going to see much less money going to the government in the coming year. But then, somehow, we have to break that spiral. You can see it coming without being an economist.

S.B.- Recently, the developers who are an essential part of the Hong Kong economy have openly challenged the wisdom of the housing policy of the government. So, from all quarters, it seems that people grumble about the ineffectiveness of the government policies.

A.L.- It is very disappointing that we come to that. As I said before, one wants to support the government, and at the same time one has the feeling that one supports a lot of people who are incompetent or who could do better, so what does one do? Since one’s voice can’t be heard, one carries on and tries to do what one can within his own organization. But then, it does not help. That is why now people of all quarters are starting to challenge openly the government policies. There are many talents in Hong Kong, outside the government circle, but the government is not, so far, prepared to listen unless you are being friendly. If you are not a friend, it will ignore you.

S.B.- Some critics of the last governor, Chris Patten, were saying that his policies were divisive and that Hong Kong will have a hard time to overcome them. Is the present fracture between the government and the civil society that you describe a legacy of Patten’s policies?

A.L.- You can argue this is Chris Patten’s legacy that we have a polarized society. That may well be true, but we have to do something to overcome it so that the people feel they have ownership of Hong Kong. There are many talented people outside the government circle, many talented ones in different political parties, and I think the government should use the base of these people to galvanize the whole of Hong Kong. But this is not done. What we have done is to polarize against each other. If you are friendly with this or that Secretary, you will be put on some advisory board, if you are not friendly, then you are out. To galvanize the energies of the whole of Hong Kong, no need to say that it is not the best formula.

S.B.- Do you agree with Martin Lee that it is time for Hong Kong to have a government elected by universal franchise?

A.L.- I think Martin is a very constructive person in Hong Kong and I have a lot of time for him. He speaks his mind, although to a certain extent he got his priority wrong in the past because he was focused on China. Today it will be much better if he looks into the Civil Service and the government of Hong Kong. Legislators never dare to do it.

S.B.- Why?

A.L.- Because whoever is going to do it is going to be a martyr. It is as simple as that.

S.B.- You didn’t answer my question about universal franchise…

A.L.- Unfortunately Martin is going to get the thing wrong if he pushes for it today because I don’t think at this moment and time Hong Kong is ready for universal franchise, although in the long term I think it is inevitable. That we should go for universal franchise is the right way to go. But we have another problem to solve first, that is the Civil Service problem.

S.B.- Do you see Tung Chee-hwa solving the problem?

A.L.- I hope Mr. Tung will continue, because he is such a nice man. The trouble is that if you say anything bad about him you feel guilty. His main problem is not his relationship with the Executive Council or with the grasp of the economy or anything else; his main problem is to get his government in order. He can’t please everyone. Look at the Urban Council, the Regional Council. It is a waste of time to ask them to reform themselves. They cannot. Urban Councillors and regional Councillors will naturally try to protect themselves and their friends, and the problem will come back in another form if nothing is done. So you need leadership to pull the reform through.

S.B.- What could Mr. Tung do to move the government forward and tackle the Civil Service reform that you mention?

A.L.- He could do two things. One would be to bring back in some civil servants who left before 1997, the other is to bring in people from the business community to run the economy. It happened in the 1980’s when Hong Kong hit rock-bottom. John Bremridge, the head of Swire group, was brought in as Financial Secretary (17). There are talents outside, there are people of proficiency. When John Bremridge was brought in there was a lot of upset, but it was a difficult period at that time and he did a very good job. So there is a precedent and it was successful. And if you show toughness and leadership, I think people will follow especially when you do what is right.

Autumn 1998



1 - 98% of the population of Hong Kong is Chinese, predominantly Cantonese-speaking people. However it is assumed that about 30% of the population is Hakka (70% of the villagers in the New Territories are Hakka and 25% Chiu Chow). About 9% of the population speak Chiu Chow. This dialect is more commonly used than the other minority dialects as this community has a strong sense of solidarity. 8% can speak Hakka. About half-a million people are Shanghainese and 4% of the population speak the Shanghainese dialect. Another estimated 4% speak the Fujianese dialect. Overall, it is estimated that one person in three in Hong Kong can speak another Chinese dialect apart from Cantonese, but Mandarin (Putonghua), the common language of China, is spoken by less than 10% of the population. As for English, it is estimated even less are really conversant in the language.

2 - In 1986, to take into account the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, the Education Committee promulgated a set of new rules. It was said that secondary school authorities should be encouraged to adopt Chinese as the medium of instruction, and that individual school authorities should themselves decide whether their medium of instruction should be English or Chinese. The Education Committee didn't look at the problem of the primary schools. In other words, laissez-faire prevailed as before. As a result, a mixed-code system without real standards in both languages continued

In 1990 the Education Commission presided then by Rita Fan (currently President of the Legislative Council) prepared a set of recommendations to tackle once again the problem of the bilingualism at school level as the students were struggling both in English and in Chinese. The Education Commission recommended the following:

-grouping of students in terms of their ability to learn Chinese or English as determined through objective assessments at Primary six (eleven years old)… The frame work provided for schools to choose, in 1991-1992, whether they would like to be Chinese-medium, English-medium or two-medium schools.

… regular reviews will be conducted to consider whether stronger measures may be needed to achieve our objectives of encouraging Chinese-medium instruction and minimizing mixed-code teaching.

… the Education Department establish the means by which Chinese-medium students could successfully transfer to English-medium classes at end of Secondary 3. (Note of the editor: It was done by lowering the English standard)

… English-medium students who are making little headway in their learning be enabled to transfer to Chinese-medium classes in Secondary 4, and, further that the Education Department should establish the means for them to do so, including a bridging course if necessary. (Note of the editor: It was done by lowering the Chinese standard).

… a Languages Education Research and Development Unit be formed … to conduct research and development work related to the implementation and monitoring of language improvement measures. (Note of the editor: another Committee…

3 - The deficiencies were highlighted by the dismal results at the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination results passed on the eve of the hand over in July 1997. English and Chinese language subjects had a failure rate of more than 40%, although it was claimed that the tests were said to be easier than in the past.

The declining standard of English had already been widely acknowledged and commented upon, but the pass rate in Chinese being as low, it clearly demonstrated the total failure of the school system, as the children lacked proficiency in either language. Furthermore Chinese University revealed then that just half the 30,863 students who took its entrance exam achieved the minimum English grade.

4 - Tung Chee-hwa said on 1 July 1997 that education is the key to the future of Hong Kong and that he will press forward with mother tongue teaching, so that students can learn more effectively. He pledged to earmark HK$5 billion to establish a Quality Education Development Fund. He also announced that, within two years, the government will set up a General Teaching Council, a professional body for teachers (such a move will undermine the Professional Teacher Union - see note 6 below). He said that "Confidence and competence in the use of Chinese and English are essential if we are to maintain Hong Kong's competitive edge in the world and that Putonghua will become part of the curriculum in the school year 1998 starting from Primary 1, Secondary 1 and Secondary 4, and a subject in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations by the year 2000".

He also said that the government will: 1) set language benchmarks for all teachers in 1998-99, 2) require all new teachers to meet the benchmarks before they join the profession in 2000 (see note 6 below on that point);

He also pointed out that students whose language skills do not meet the minimum standards should not enter the tertiary institutions and that.the universities should consider exit language tests.

5 - In December 1997, 100 schools were allowed to use English as the medium of teaching after being vetted by an Education committee on the standard of the English they were providing. One of the criteria is that 85% of the students are able to learn in English and that their teachers are good in English. 24 that applied for the status were told that they had to switch to the mother-tongue medium. 20 schools appealed against the decision. The establishments claimed that they felt humiliated. Of the 20 or so schools disqualified from teaching in English, many are run by Catholic or other Christian churches.

6 - PTU (Professional Teachers Union) was established in 1973. Today it claims to unite more than 90% of Hong Kong’s teachers. It consists of more than sixty thousand teaching staff from universities, secondary schools, primary schools, kindergartens and other educational institutes. A 35 people’s Executive Committee runs daily operations during the adjournment of the Member Representative Meeting and the Committee is monitored by a 19 people’s Senate. Both members of the Executive Committee and the Senate are elected through a one-member-one-vote nameless voting system by all PTU members. Its President is Mr. Cheung Man Kwong who is also a Democratic Party legislator. Its former leader was Szeto Wah, now a retired schoolmaster, who is vice-chairman of the Democratic Party and a legislator.

The second main union in Education is the Federation of Education Workers (FEW) which was established in May 1975. Its members came mainly from the traditional Chinese school educators, while PTU was more active in the English-medium and confessional school systems. Since 1992, FEW has doubled its membership and it keeps growing with over 10,000 members, whereas PTU's membership has stalled. Its President is Yeung Yiu Ching. Its former leader was Tsang Yok-sing, who is the leader of the DAB party (considered the grass root party) and a legislator.

The PTU and the FEW are basically divided along the same line as the political parties, and it is clearly illustrated by the positions they are taking on the issue of the mother-tongue as a medium of instruction.The FEW argued in December 1997 that learning in English is a struggle for most because there cannot be many true bilingual people among Chinese children growing up in typical Hong Kong families. "Even if a child goes to an English-medium primary school, there is little chance for him to communicate in any tongue other than Cantonese outside the school environment. It is hard to assess how much talent in our younger generation is wasted because students are hampered in developing their potential by limitations in their language skills." says Tsang Yok-sing.

On the other hand, the chairman of the PTU took position against compulsory tests for new and old primary and secondary language school teachers. Cheung Man-kwong, the president of PTU said that teachers should not be forced to take either the trial test or the final version. "We appeal to the authority and schools not to force any teachers to participate in the trial" he said. PTU'S position is in direct opposition to the goals stated by the Chief Executive in his policy address in October 1997 (see note 4).

7 - Members of the Executive Council :

- under Governor David Wilson (1987-1992):

David Ford, Major General P.R.Duffel, N.W.H. Macleod, J.F. Mathews, Baroness Dunn, Allen Lee Peng-fei, William Purves, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, E.B. Wiggham, Wang Gungwu, Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, Edward Ho Sing-tin, Hui Yin-fat and Andrew Wong Wang-fat

- Under Governor Christopher Patten (1992-1997):

David Ford, Major General J.P. Foley, N.W.H. Macleod (then Do. Tsang in 1995), J.F. Mathews, Baroness Dunn, William Purves, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, Anson Chan, John Chan Cho-chak, Denis Chang Khen-lee, Edward Chen Kwan-yiu, Raymond Ch’ien Kuo-fung, Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Felice Lieh-mak, Michael Sze Cho-cheung, Donald Tsang and Tung Chee-hwa.

- Under Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (1997-2002) :

Anson Chan, Donald Tsang, Elsie Leung, Sze Yuen Chung,Yang Ti-liang, Leung Chun-ying, Nellie Fong Wong Kut-man, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, Tam Yiu-chung, Raymond Ch’ien Kuo-fung, Charles Lee Yeh-kwong, Henry Tang Ying-yen, Antony Leung kam-chung and Chung Shui-ming

8 - Sir Chung Sze Yuen was born in Hong Kong in 1917. He holds a PhD in Science and Engineering from Great Britain. He was first appointed to the Legislative Council in 1965 and became a senior member between 1974 and 1978. He was an appointed Executive Councillor between 1972 and 1980 and then senior member until he stepped down in 1988. Before the Sino-British Joint Declaration was struck, in 1984, he visited Beijing and met Deng Xiaoping. China appointed him a Hong Kong Affairs Adviser, and he was invited to join the Preliminary Working Committee, the Preparatory Committee and the Selection Committee which chose Mr. Tung and the provisional legislature. In 1997, he was appointed as the Convener of the Executive Meeting of the Special Administrative Region.

9 - In 1997, the Civil Service employed 184 200 people. the Principal Officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are:

Chief Secretary for Administration : Anson Chan (January 17, 1940). Joined the Civil Service in 1962, Director of Social Welfare 1984, Secretary for Economic Services 1987, Secretary for the Civil Service 1993, Chief Secretary 1993.

Financial Secretary: Donald Tsang Yam-kuen (October 7, 1944). Joined the Civil Service in 1967, Director-General of Trade 1991, Secretary for the Treasury 1993, Financial Secretary 1995.

Secretary for Justice : Elsie Leung Oi-sie (April 24, 1939). First HKSAR Secretary for Justice from July 1, 1997. Prominent local solicitor and adviser to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

Secretary for Home Affairs: David H. T. Lam (May 29, 1940). Assistant Director of USD 1972, Deputy Director of Housing Department 1988, Secretary for Home Affairs 1997.

Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting : Kwong Ki-chi (April 2, 1951). Joined the Civil Service in 1972, Deputy Secretary for the Treasury 1992, Secretary for the Treasury 1995.

Secretary for Transport : Nicholas Ng Wing-fui (November 20, 1946). Joined the Civil Service in 1970, Director of Administration in the CS’s Office 1991, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 1994

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Michael Suen Ming-yeung (April 7, 1944). Joined the Civil Service in 1966, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 1989, Secretary for Home Affairs 1991.

Secretary for Housing: Dominic Wong Shing-wah (April 13, 1942). Joined the Civil Service in 1962, Postmaster-General 1989, Director of Education 1992, Secretary for Housing 1994

Secretary for Health and Welfare: Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching (December 12, 1941). Joined the Civil Service in 1962, Commissioner for Labour 1992, Secretary for Health and Welfare 1994

Secretary for Financial Services: Rafael Hui Si-yan (February 8, 1948). Joined the Civil Service in 1970, Director of the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office 1991, Commissioner for Transport 1992, Secretary for Financial Services 1995

Secretary for Education and Manpower: Joseph Wong Wing-ping (July 25, 1948). Joined the Civil Service in 1973, Director of Home Affairs 1994, Secretary for Education and Manpower 1995

Secretary for Security: Peter Lai Hing-ling (July 25, 1951). Joined the Civil Service in 1973, Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service 1989, Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 1991, Secretary for Security 1995

Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands: Bowen Leung Po-wing (September 18, 1949). Joined the Civil Service in 1973, Private Secretary, Government House 1992, Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands 1995

Secretary for the Treasury: Denise Yue Chung-yee (October 6, 1952). Joined the Civil Service in 1974, Director-General of Industry 1993, Secretary for Trade and Industry 1995

Secretary for Trade and Industry: Chau Tak-hay (January 26, 1943). Joined the Civil Service in 1967, Director-General of Trade 1990, Secretary for Trade and Industry 1991, Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport 1995

Secretary for the Civil Service: Lam Woon-kwong (April 19, 1951). Joined the Civil Service in 1974, Deputy Secretary for Civil Service 1991, Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower 1993, Director of Education 1994, Secretary for Civil Service 1996

Secretary for Economic Services: Stephen Ip Shu-kwun (September 8, 1951). Joined the Civil Service in 1973, Commissioner for Labour 1994, Secretary for Economic Services 1996

Secretary for Works: Benedict Kwong Hon-sang (August 7, 1938). Joined the Civil Service in 1963, Principal Government Engineer 1992, Director of Highways 1993, Secretary for Works 1995

Commissioner, ICAC: Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying (July 6, 1946). Joined the Civil Service in 1969, Commissioner for Transport 1995, Commissioner, ICAC 1997

Commissioner of Police: Eddie Hui Ki-on (October 10, 1943). Joined the Police Force in 1963, Senior Assistant Commissioner 1989, Deputy Commissioner (Operations) 1993, Commissioner of Police 1994

Director of Audit: Dominic Chan Yin-tat (September 19, 1943). Joined the Civil Service in 1969, Deputy Director of Audit 1993

It can be seen that most of the secretaries were moved up the ladder in two stages, with a promotion in 1992 or 1993, and a further promotion in 1995. It was done so because the 1984 Sino-British agreement stipulated that all Secretaries had to be Chinese with no right of abode by 1997. It explained the double-promotion of Anson Chan within a year, to fill a gap left by the unexpected resignation of a senior civil servant that was supposed to succeed David Ford, the Chief Secretary. At the Directorate level, the same exercice took place.

10 .- There are seven Universities in Hong Kong :

The Chinese University.

At present, the Chinese University comprises seven faculties: The Faculties of Arts, Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Science and Social Science. Forty-three full-time undergraduate programs and eight part-time degree programs leading to bachelor’s degrees are offered by the sixty departments within the seven faculties. In the academic year 1996-97, there were thirty-eight graduate divisions. The University offers three postgraduate diploma programs, seventy-two master programs and forty-four doctoral programs. Total number of enrollments (post-graduate and undergraduate) is 12,898

The City University.

The University was established in January 1984, as the then second polytechnic in Hong Kong, to meet the government’s plan for the expansion of tertiary education. The University comprises four Faculties and a College of Higher Vocational studies with 24 academic Departments/Divisions; two Schools, and the English Language Centre. The student population was approximately 17,000 in 1997/1998. It has programs in Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, Law, Commerce, Language Studies, Social Studies, Science and Technology, Building Science & Technology and Computer Studies.

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts was established in 1984 as a tertiary institution providing for professional education, training and research facilities in the performing and related technical arts. Its educational policy pledges to reflect the cultural diversity of Hong Kong, with emphasis on both Chinese and Western traditions. The Academy was granted degree-awarding status in 1992.

The Hong Kong Baptist University.

The Baptist University was founded in 1956. Its programs are essentially research-oriented. The Baptist University is a Christian, publicly-funded institution, which provides undergraduate studies in 38 major/option areas, leading to the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Social Sciences, and Bachelor of Social Work honors degrees. In addition, postgraduate course work and research degree work are available in disciplines leading to the Master of Arts, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, Master of Science, Master of Philosophy, Doctor of Philosophy or the Postgraduate Diploma in Education. The total enrollment was 4695 students in 1997.

The Hong Kong Institute of Education

The HKIEd was formally established in April 1994 by uniting the Northcote Training College, the Grantham Training College, the Sir Robert Black Training College, the Hong Kong Technical Teachers’ College and the Institute of Language in Education, as recommended by the Education Commission in 1992. The Institute formally came under the aegis of the University Grants Committee in January 1997. The HKIEd focuses on teacher education and continuous professional development in Hong Kong and the region. The academic structure of the Institute consists of three Divisions, (namely, Early Childhood Education; Primary Education; and Secondary, Technical and Special Education), one Centre of Research and Development, and 12 academic departments as well as specialist centres.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The PolyU is the largest tertiary institution in Hong Kong in terms of number of students enrolled on its full-time, part-time and self-financed courses. It offers four prominent programs: Accountancy; Construction Industry Development Studies & Research; Apparel Product Development & Marketing; and Rehabilitation Sciences & Bioengineering. In the 1996/97 academic year, the total enrollment on courses funded by the University Grants Committee was 20 082, including 10 999 full-time and 9 083 part-time students.

The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

Opened in 1991. Its research focuses on Advanced materials, Asian financial markets, Biotechnology, Economic development, Environmental studies, Information technology, Infrastructure development, Manufacturing, Micro systems, Scientific computation, Software engineering. Enrollment is 7 000, including 5 600 undergraduate and 1 400 graduate students.

Lingnan College

Lingnan College was founded in Hong Kong in 1967. It has advanced since 1991, from being a post secondary college to one of the degree-conferring tertiary institutions funded by the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong. The College has three Faculties, for Arts, Business and Social Sciences. At present, the student enrollment (both undergraduate and postgraduate) is about 2 100.

The Open University of Hong Kong (formerly OLI).

It was established by the Hong Kong government in 1989. Evolution of the number of Graduates : 1995 : 1 330; 1996 : 1 878; 1997 : 2,225

The University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Founded in 1910, HKU is the oldest tertiary education institution in Hong Kong. It has a student population of over 13,500, including 9,000 undergraduate students and 4,600 postgraduate students (of which 1,500 are M.Phil. and Ph.D. students). It has nine Faculties specialized on Architecture, Arts, Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Science, Social Sciences, offering more than 50 first degree programs and 20 Master’s degree curricula. All Faculties and their departments provide teaching and supervision for research (M.Phil. and Ph.D.) students.

11- In January 1998, Chief Secretary Anson Chan toured North America. According to the South China Morning Post (23 February), when questioned on the issue in Toronto, she tacitly indicated her interest in standing for Chief Executive in 2002. Then, speaking at an Asia Society Conference in Seattle on 15 June 1998, Anson Chan said that she might not retire in the year 2000 if she is asked to stay on.

12 - In the wake of the 24 May 1998 Legislative Council elections, four parties agreed to unite, to put aside political differences and convene a meeting on tackling the economic downturn. Altogether, the Democratic Party (DP), the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), the Liberal Party and the Frontier party control a total of 37 out of 60 seats in the new legislature, which means they would be able to block any law, or even the budget, if the government was not to hear their voice.

13 - The unemployment rate is estimated to be about 4.8%. At a press conference on 3 June 1998, the Financial Secretary Donald Tsang announced 12 new measures aimed at creating job opportunities. They were: 1) Expediting expenditure on minor Government maintenance works: The works are to create some 1,000 new jobs with a duration of about six months, .2) Advancing commencement of five public works projects costing nearly $1.3 billion and which may create some 530 jobs by two to five months., 3) Expanding and accelerating district-based environmental improvement projects to create about 200 jobs. 4) Strengthening the Job Matching Program (JMP) in Local Employment Service (LES) offices by doubling the capacity of the program to provide more unemployed job-seekers with personalized intensive counseling and employment assistance services. Each LES office will get an additional team of two staff as from July. 5) Providing telephone job matching and vacancy processing service for job-seekers, as from July, to reduce the need for job-seekers to go to an LES office. 6) Installing more self-serve touch-screen computers. 7) - Launching an Employment Information and Promotion Program, 8) Setting up a “One-stop” unit at the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) to assist both the unemployed and employers. The ERB’s Tailor-made Training Program will facilitate the creation of jobs in the private sector. 9) Launching a special nine-month intensive full-time basic skills training for 1,000 unemployed persons with less than secondary education. 10) Expanding the capacity of taught post-graduate courses at the institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC): The Government will invite UGC-funded institutions to over-enroll by up to 20 per cent of taught post-graduate courses in the 1998/99 academic year to meet increasing demand from qualified graduates for further education. 11) Extending the Non-Means Tested Loan Scheme to benefit more tertiary students, so that a total of some 60,000 students will be able to benefit.

12 - A bill wase introduced into the first SAR Legislative Council in November 1998 to amend the Immigration Ordinance to hold construction site controllers criminally liable for employing persons not lawfully employable, including two-way permit holders, to work on construction sites.

The above measures were not even in place when a new set of drastic measures were announced by the Chief Executive at the end of June to shore up the economy.

14 - A typical example of high-handedness and inexperience is the recent crisis about the Principals of the schools. On 3 June, Director of Education Helen Yu Lai Chin-ping wrote to schools warning that staff aged 60 or above should retire, unless they had permission to do otherwise. The department received 168 exemption applications and approved 41, forcing 127 retirements at a time where there is a shortage of qualified teachers. The schools were informed end of June, making it very difficult to find replacements. Dozens of schools are technically without a head or a principal for the next school year. The Education Department said that the schools can appeal until 10 July 1998. 21 education groups protested against the Department's policy and handling of the process, as the recruitment of principals and heads is generally a long process and potential applicants are now on leave. The groups accused Mrs Yu of ignorance about schools' operations. She replied that the measures were aimed at helping with the unemployment crisis.

Mrs Yu, born in 1941, is a career civil servant. Prior to her appointment at the Education Department, she has been assigned to the Building Department, to the administrative office liaising between the Executive Council and the Legislative Council (OMELCO), to the Health and Welfare Department, then to the Hospital Services Department.

15 - In June 1973, a police chief superintendent fled Hong Kong while under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Office for alleged corruption. The then Governor, Sir Murray MacLehose, appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the circumstances of the case. Following the publication of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry and in response to public opinion, the Governor set up a separate organization to tackle corruption. The ICAC was formally established on February 15, 1974, with the enactment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Ordinance. The Commission is independent of the public service and the Commissioner is responsible directly to the Chief Executive.

The ICAC comprises the office of the Commissioner and three functional departments : Operations, Corruption Prevention and Community Relations. The Operations Department is the investigative arm of the Commission, comprising 71% of its total establishment. The Head of Operations is also the Deputy Commissioner. His department is responsible for receiving, considering and investigating alleged offenses. The department is also responsible for investigating any conduct of a public servant which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is connected with or conducive to corrupt practices, and to report thereon to the Chief Executive.

Investigating officers have full powers of arrest without warrant for offenses, and additional powers of arrest for any other associated offense disclosed during the investigation of a suspected offense. These powers of arrest are supplemented by powers to search premises, to seize and detain anything which is believed to be evidence of offenses for which the power of arrest exists.

The Secretary for Justice examines evidence gathered by the department and advises on which cases should be prosecuted. The consent of the Secretary for Justice is necessary before any prosecution can be instituted.

The ICAC receives complaints and reports on a 24-hour basis and through local offices situated in various districts. These reports are made in person, by telephone or in writing. From 1974 to the end of 1995, the Operations Department carried out a total of 29 976 investigations, resulting in 7 674 prosecutions. Of these prosecutions, 1 523 were directed against public servants and 1 570 concerned private individuals who either attempted to bribe civil or public servants or were involved with them in other offenses. There were 235 prosecutions against staff members of public bodies and 4 343 involving offenses in the private sector.

The present ICAC Commissioner is Mrs Lily Yam.

16 - Most of the legislators are members of one committee or another or on the board of one Authority or Commission. Rita Fan was chairman of the Education Panel in 1990 when she was an Executive Councillor (today, she is the Legislative Council President). A typical example is Chung Sze Yuen, currently convener of the Executive Council. He is at the Board of Directors of the Hospital Authority, the Hong Kong Polytechnic, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Hong Kong-Japan economic co-operation Committee and the Hong Kong Federation of Industries.

A recent conflict within the Education highlights the problem. Director of Education Helen Yu and chairman Moses Cheng withdrew from the appeal Committee set up to study an appeal by schools to continue teaching as they were members of the vetting Committee that disqualified the schools in the first place. The Committee lamely acknowledged that "members of the public have realized that there may be a conflict of interest and have expressed their worries".

17 - John Bremridge was called to take the position of Finance Secretary, although he was not a civil servant but the retired Chairman of the Swire Group.