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彭定康「善治:民為貴」演講辭 中英文版全文

2016/11/26 — 13:54

彭定康

彭定康

前港督彭定康早上出席由前政務司長陳方安生有份創辦的公民實踐培育基金主辦的「公民實踐論壇」,主題為「香港管治:禮崩樂壞?」他演講題目為「善治:民為貴」,以下為演講辭中英文版全文。

【文:彭定康】

我在香港生活的五年是我人生中最快樂的日子。在那段期間,我體會到孔子的智慧與人們的日常生活息息相關。我在1992年來港,當時我差不多50歲,在此之前,我從沒讀過《論語》。這於我不單是一個錯誤,而且引以為恥。自此之後,我重覆參考《論語》,學習當中的精湛智慧和道德教誨。

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今天,我首先想引述孔子與弟子的對話,看他怎樣一針見血道出良好管治的精髓。

子貢問政。子曰:「足食,足兵,民信之矣。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,于斯三者何先?」 曰:「去兵。」 子貢曰:「必不得已而去,于斯二者何先?」 曰:「去食。自古皆有死,民無信不立。」

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「民」指的當然是公民,他們比總統、總理、君主、黨委書記及總督,都來得重要。公民創造良好管治,也受惠於良好管治。讓我解釋我的意思。

當你上網搜尋「良好管治」,你會找到大量關於這題目的書本、研究和報告。談論這課題的人明顯比真正參與管治的人多!這不僅是一個關乎國家或地方政府的課題,它亦涵蓋國際和商業機構、公民社會和大多數其他性質的組織。不過,好政府的很多特質有廣泛的共同適用性。無論是國家或省級的政府、公共或私營機構,最好也具備這些特質。而這些特質當中,一個放之四海皆準的,是問責性。

第二,良好管治並沒有一個可以區分出來而獨特的西方模式、非洲模式或亞洲模式。良好管治就像人權,全球適用。這個論點在一九九零年代受到挑戰,有人認為在亞洲與所謂西方之間存在着文化衝突:西方政府和社會可能認為值得擁有的優良特質對於亞洲並不那麼重要。當然,在一九九七/九八年亞洲金融風暴之後,這個說法已經大幅貶值。儘管好些亞洲政治家和思想家,例如諾貝爾和平獎得主南韓總統金大中、諾貝爾經濟學獎獲獎人沈恩和被可恥地粗暴監禁的馬來西亞政治領袖安華反對,新加坡國父李光耀和他的親信卻為這個關於亞洲價值的論點撐台。我今日暫且不談李先生等人擁抱這論點的或有因由,我只想說明這種主張的荒謬之處。

試想,中亞專政政權、全球最大民主政體印度和北韓石器時代極權主義究竟顯示了甚麼樣的,共同的亞洲管治價值?即使為了便利政治分析,我們把範圍收窄至東亞,我們依然看到各種各樣的政府模式:由新加坡的引導式民主(客氣點說),到中國帶有資本主義特色的列寧主義、到南韓、台灣和日本的民主,和香港對民主的訴求。難道香港的儒家思想真的比上海或北京少? 我看不大可能罷。

話雖如此,我不相信有完美的政府模式,更不用說一個完美的西方世界,可以就這樣推出來,安裝在任何地方凡的政治模式。我熟悉的大多數民主體制中,公民和選民都明白他們制度中的弱點。在美國和西歐肯定如此。不過,即使沒有完美的模式,有些版本運作起來比較優勝,也有一系列互相協同的安排,實行起來就比個別安排造成更大的效果。例如,在有言論自由、法治和監管得宜的地方,貪污不太可能變得猖獗。

經濟持續成功與良好的政治安排之間明顯有着緊密的連繫。經濟政策具包容性,讓人人有機會擁有財產並共同創富的社會,在政治體制同樣具包容性的地方就更有機會發展起來。如果只有少數擁有特權的精英壟斷所有經濟機會,這些精英也必盡力捍衛滋生出這種不公平的政治安排。例如,在俄羅斯,寥寥可數的特權階級寡頭政治執政者或前蘇聯國家安全委員會官員牢牢控制着國家的經濟。假如你想有公開鮮明的政治競爭,就得挑戰這個經濟模式。根據以往經驗,這個模式的結果是不斷惡化的經濟衰退。

盤點一下以上這些交錯的課題,良好管治的社會的特徵大概會是那些?

在意大利古城錫耶納的社區會堂裏,掛着三幅文藝復興藝術家洛倫澤蒂的偉大畫作。中間的一幅畫的是「好政府的託喻」:畫中「公義」(當然是女人的化身)指向擬人化的「智慧」手中持着的公義天秤。兩旁的畫作則描繪了「好的管治」與「壞的管治」。兩者之間的分別是甚麼?這分別首先來自法治。國際大律師公會理事會在二零零五年寫道:「法治是文明社會的基石。它確立了一個對所有人平等、讓所有人都可以引用的透明程序。它確保一方面讓人自由,另一方面讓人獲得保護的原則得以遵從。」

普通法的「法治」並非只是依法管治而已。正如亞里士多德力陳:「法律的守護者本身也遵守法律。」受權力管治的要守法,當權者自己也要守法。

我還記得一次和魯平主任的對話。魯主任是個文明的人,說一口流利英語。我嘗試向他解釋「法治」和依法而治的分別。我提到當我出任英國內閣環境大臣時,我的決定經常在法院受到挑戰,有時更被推翻。(英國政府就脫歐一事現正面對類似情況。)結果是我要改變我的政策而非法院。我覺得魯主任認為我在編造故事。

法治的完整性來自獨立的司法和法院制度。這是公平審訊和程序公義的保証。在實施地方政府通過的法例時,同時確保國家機關根據國際法履行義務。獨立的司法系統對公民權利的保障和提供的保護涵蓋良好管治社會的多方面。例如,它保護基本人權;它禁止酷刑;它確保得到公平審訊的權利;它確保思想、良心、信仰、表達和集會的自由;它保障財產。法治是良好管治社會的基石,法治就是讓當地獨立的司法系統內的獨立法院裁定罪責,黨政機關不得過問。舉例說,貪污行為可以由警方或國家代理人調查,但是否有人貪污違法則由法院定奪。

我一直相信法治是香港的自由、穩定和福祉最重要的保證。我對於在此維護法治的法官、大律師和律師,懷着極大的敬仰。他們站在前線,確保香港在一份國際有約束力的條約裏得到許諾的自由,得到維護。法治對香港的自由和繁榮至為重要。

第二點我想談的,是世界銀行在分析各地的良好管治時,慎而重之稱為「民眾的聲音與問責性」的特徵。我相信世行所指的,是我們大多數人認為的民主。世行明顯是要避免被指在提倡某一形式的民主。畢竟,民主的模式很多:立法機關有單院的、雙院的、行政主導的,也有部分直選的、部分間選的。讓我清楚說明我心目中,可以讓公民發聲、參與管治和使當權者通過公開有效方式問責的制度,應該包含的必要成分。

首先是選舉制度。無論是選舉立法機關或主要官員,選舉制度都應該公平,公民在投票時應人人平等。每張選票的票值應該均等。除了當地憲法的規定之外,投票過程應該公開,並不受任何限制。舉例說,作為英國國會的議員───上、下議院有着同樣的規定───我必須宣誓效忠女皇。拒絕宣誓的民選議員不得就任,以往的例子有北愛爾蘭的新芬黨。這對我來說並非不合理。但是,如在伊朗那樣,只有由另一權力機構(這裏說的是宗教機構)核准的人才可參選,我就認為不自由,也不公平。選舉安排應由當地的立法機關在憲法中訂明。如果想民選的立法機關有公信力,並能保證有正當的問責性,就必須能夠換掉主掌行政的負責人;除非選民可以通過直選另行任免。不能或大抵不能改變任何事情的選舉是一場鬧劇。真正的民主制度,政府必然更替。

我們可以一直討論,怎樣才算是公平。我懷疑這在很多方面有點像大象───難以描述,但一看就明白。

不過,我都想說說關於民主的三點體會。

民主而多元化的社會不能單靠選舉產生。除非有着整套軟件硬件配合,否則民主可變成大多數人專政的民粹優越主義。既然法治是良好管治社會的核心,社會中的大多數不應乘機把法院填滿他們的支持者,以鞏固自身的地位。成熟的民主會認識到考慮少數人的意見的重要性,而不是嘗試踐踏這些意見。反過來說,民主中的少數也要承認選舉中有贏有輸的後果。我想,今日的英國和香港,都可以從中得到教訓。

民主政府並不易為。就像千千萬萬其他人一樣,我純粹認為沒有比這更好的選擇。民主政府加上出色負責的領導能讓社會接受大家始終要作出艱難的決定,而不需要採取純粹高壓的措施。如果公民可以自行決定生活和工作的地方、子女的教育、用錢和儲蓄的方式,但對於其他影響他們生活的選擇不能發聲,我會覺得十分奇怪。這也是當我在一九七九年,以新晉國會議員的身份首次來港時,我大力支持區議會直選的部分原因。我回到英國後也就此寫了文章。

我想就「議會民主」再說兩點。首先,這是比通過公投實施的所謂直接民主更好,更先進的決策方式。我們正開始為英國公投脫歐付出代價。這個決定早應通過議會作出;甚或如有需要,應通過大選,讓人民作最終抉擇。第二,當民眾壓力就某項政策或政府的政績升溫時,民主當可為政府提供安全閥的角色。我們目睹這情況在印度經常發生;所以儘管信仰和種族紛陳,印度始終團結一致。

政府效益在世界銀行的清單排行第三。我一直相信,當政府通過民主程序受到緊密監察時,它就越能勝任。在英國,反對黨幹得越好,越是似模似樣時,執政黨的表現就越優秀。

當然,效益也取決於管理運作的公務員隊伍的質素。我在英國、歐洲和香港曾經與幾個不同的官僚系統共事。毫無疑問,在和我一起工作過的公務員隊伍中,最能勝任的是九零年代香港的公務員隊伍。我希望它的活力和士氣依舊。

三個主因造就了香港九零年代的公共服務紀錄。首先,那是個一流的隊伍: 待遇好、自動自覺、有智慧、以服務公眾為榮。這種承擔完全沒有受到政治考慮干擾。舉例說,公務員的聘任和升遷完全視乎功過。第二,他們的操守不容置疑。貪污絕無僅有,規模肯定比歐洲和亞洲多國少很多。第三,政府指派的工作,公務員都認真全力完成。這就是說,當你把香港與生俱來的企業家精神,與公務員立志超額完成差事的決心配對起來,基建工程用上的時間,就比在任何其他地方都要少。

我在上世紀八十年代末當英國環境大臣(聽起來好像中世紀那麼遙遠),那時政府就於希斯魯機場興建一座新客運大樓,已討論了好一段時間。我在一九九二年來港。到達後的首星期,霍德爵士帶我看挖泥船倒泥,開始興建赤臘角機場。雖然過程中經歷了些談判障礙,但我在一九九七年離港時,機場已實質上完成。我回到倫敦,發現人們還在討論那座新的,但還是無蹤無影的客運大樓。我希望香港公務員仍保留着這些質素。

第四個區分良好管治社會的特徵是政治穩定和沒有暴力。幾個因素起着作用:一是優良、廉潔、透明和得到人民尊重的警務工作;另一是持續繁榮,而且隨之而來的得益大致上公平分配。我不是社會主義者。我相信妥為監管的市場是創造和分配資源的最好方法。但我也相信政府本身有着保護弱小和幫助強者取得更大成就的重要角色。美國一些共和黨人以前常這樣說笑,他們認為英語裏最令人憂慮的一句說話是:「我來自政府;我來幫助你。」這種講法愚昧得驚人,它漠視了政府在促進經濟和政治穩定的角式;也對政績優良的多屆美國政府不大公允。在這方面,艾森豪威爾執政時的共和黨政府就幹得很不錯。

新加坡實行的社會改造工程毫無疑問是成功的。但我一直相信香港應避免這樣做。我認為讓市場和低稅率自由發揮更適合香港。當然我也極之贊成應該動用經濟增長的得益,改善福利、醫療、教育和房屋。也因此,一些來自北方的批評,曾指責我是共產主義者!很明顯,我是有香港特色的共產主義者。

當政府對人民的訴求感覺敏銳,政治穩定也就更有可能。其中一個方法,是明白到他們是公民,有他們的權利和責任。證諸世界各地的歷史,不乏關於敏銳地處理政治訴求的經驗,及如果處理不當,政府怎樣很容易把溫和推向極端。如果你把人民當作負責的公民看待,他們就更可能對自己的行為負責,而健全的公民社會組織就當上他們與政府之間的中介人。他們應該有自由舉行非暴力示威;有自由說出和寫出他們的要求;有自由選擇宗教信仰。他們的教會應不受到政府控制;他們的大學應該自我管治和擁有自主。

這一點值得細說。我曾任香港和英國數間大學校監,現時是牛津大學校監,對這一點感受很深。牛津大學最近獲排名全球大學之首,也得感謝大學裏為數不少的中國(包括香港)學生和教授。大學不是國家的代理人───它並不是一個政府部門───大學也絕不是商界的附屬品,刺激着生產總值。大學是多元化和自由的強大支柱。香港彈丸之地,能有兩所非凡的大學全球排名首五十、三所全球排名首百名之內,成就非凡,值得香港人引以為傲。當中部分原因,當然是香港的大學享有國際條約和本地法例賦予的自由和自主。大學享有自由和學術自治,但不等如大學不需通過適當方式,為其獲批的公帑問責。我們在牛津也要這樣做。但我們享有也行使學術自由,就如蘇格拉底所言:「論證無界限。」我們做喜歡做的研究;我們探討學問、尋根究底;我們用我們視為最佳的教學模式教授學生;我們自行挑選教學和行政人員;我們基於學生的能力收生。我們可以自由就任何事情發聲,不用理會政府喜歡與否。以這種模式運作的大學不斷拓展知識的領域,惠及整個社會,惠及全人類。我肯定你們在香港,當然也明白你們享有自由的大學,是這偉大城市皇冠中的瑰寶。

我也想談談另外兩種特質。首先是監管質素;比方說,應該以透明和公平的方式監管商界。這樣,私營部門的機構本身必須展示高透明度,並遵從私營部門管治的最佳標準。我肯定中國的官員知悉有這麼一個得到學術研究証實的看法,就是外界認為印度的公司比中國的公司管治得更好;因為印度公司的董事局不受政治干預,公司也更能符合國際標準。中國必須正視這個問題,否則必會拖累中國在國際間的經濟表現。這不會對任何人有好處。世界需要繁榮興盛的中國。

良好管治的最後一個特徵是控制貪污。這不僅是立法,或設置制度打擊這個政治經濟弊病的問題。貪污直達政治的核心,明顯與自由為敵。自由的傳媒揭發貪污罪行和罪犯,亦因此獨裁和極權政府要壓制傳媒和其現代科技表親───互聯網。各種形式的傳媒壯大公民,對付貪污。貪污其實增加守法公民的負擔,對社會它是個侵蝕和破壞的元素。如果政治權力決定資產所有權,便沒有人能夠行使權力剷除貪污腐敗。貪污舞弊於是傳遍整個政府架構。

在我以上描述的各種管治模式中,其核心皆為公民。公民就是管治模式的健康和完整性的驗証。公民享有自由、權利和責任,尤其是睦鄰的責任。他們有自由與人爭辯、同意別人、寫作、在廣場的演說台發言、攻讀和享受自己選擇的學科、決定自己的工作和事業、與任何人談論政治又不怕別人無意中聽到、以法律解決問題因為有信心會得到公平公正的對待、閱讀和收聽真實新聞知道世界發生甚麼事、當政府咎由自取時戲謔它、到他國旅遊、到教會去或到馬場去、以自己的方式表達他們對公民身份和愛國的看法。有一份文件涵蓋了這些自由社會的各方面。那是一份已存放在聯合國約三十年的條約。它叫做《中英聯合聲明》。


Good Governance: Strong Citizens

One of the many pleasant lessons that I learned during the five years that I lived in Hong Kong – the happiest years of my life - was the ubiquitous relevance and wisdom of Confucius. I had not read the Analects before I came here, aged almost fifty, in 1992. That was worse than a mistake, it was a shame. Since then, I have turned back to the Analects again and again. They contain sound wisdom and moral counsel.

I want to begin today with an exchange with the Master that goes right to the heart of the issue of good governance. Tsu-Kung ask him what constitutes good government. The Master replied, “Enough food, enough weapons, and the confidence of the people”. Tsu-Kung goes on to ask, “Suppose you definitely had no alternative but to give up one of these three, which would you relinquish first?” The Master said, “Weapons”. Tsu-Kung goes on, “Suppose you definitely had no alternative but to give up one of the surviving two, which would you relinquish first?” The Master said, “Food. From of old, death has come to all men, but a people without confidence in its rulers will not stand.” Such people, greater than presidents, premiers, monarchs, party secretaries and governors, are of course citizens. And it is citizens who are both the beneficiaries and the creators of good governance. Let me explain what I mean.

When you look up good governance on the Internet, you are offered a huge selection of books, studies and reports on the subject. There are plainly far more analyses of what it is than there are practitioners! The subject goes wider than the question of national or local government. It covers international and corporate bodies, civil society and most other types of institution. But many of the attributes of good government have a broad common relevance. They are invariably desirable features of both a national or provincial government and of public and private corporations. Accountability, for example, is relevant everywhere.

Secondly, there are not separate and distinct Western, African or Asian models. Just as human rights are universal, so too is good governance. This argument was challenged in the 1990s – a proposition subsequently much devalued by the Asian financial crash of 1997-98 – by the contention that there was a civilizational clash between Asia, and the so-called West. As a result, it was suggested, what might be desirable in a western government and society did not matter so much in Asia. Despite the opposition of Asian politicians and thinkers like the Korean Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Kim Dae-Jung, the Nobel Economics Laureate, Amartya Sen, and the disgracefully incarcerated Malaysian political leader Anwar Ibrahim, the argument about Asian values was given some intellectual heft by the father of the Singapore City state, Lee Kuan Yew, and his acolytes. The probable reasons for their embrace of this argument are subjects for another day; for the moment I will only mention the absurdity of the overall proposition. So let us consider for a moment what values of governance embrace dictatorship in Central Asia, the largest democracy in the world in India, and Stone Age totalitarianism in North Korea? Even if you narrow the field, for political convenience, and look at East Asia alone, you have to contend with totally different sorts of government from (to be polite) guided democracy in Singapore, to Leninism with some capitalist characteristics in China, to democracies in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, and to aspirations for democracy in Hong Kong. But is Hong Kong really less Confucian than Shanghai or Beijing? Rather unlikely I should have thought.

That said, I do not believe that there is a perfect model of government, let alone a perfect Western world, which can be wheeled out and installed anywhere and everywhere. In most of the democracies that I know best, citizens and voters know very well the weaknesses in their own systems. That is certainly true in America and Western Europe. So while there is no perfect model, there are certain versions that work better than others, and there is also a self-reinforcing series of arrangements that create an impact greater than separate influences. For example, corruption is less likely to be endemic when there is a free press, a strong regulatory system and the rule of law.

There is also plainly a powerful connection between sustainable economic success and good political arrangements Societies where economic policies are inclusive, allowing everyone the chance of ownership and a share in creating prosperity, are more likely to flourish where politics too are inclusive. Where a privileged elite has a monopolicy of economic opportunity, it will defend the political arrangements that have spawned this inequity. In Russia, for example you cannot allow open and clear political competition without challenging ownership of the economy’s commanding heights by a few favoured oligarchs or ex-KGB officials. The result has been and will be accelerating economic degradation.

So taking account of these cross-cutting issues what are likely to be individual features of a well-governed community?

In what is in effect Siena’s town hall, there are three great paintings by the Renaissance artist, Lorenzetti. At the centre, there is the Allegory of Good Government, showing Justice (in the shape of course of a woman) pointing to the scales of justice held by the personification of Wisdom. On either side of this painting, there are two others showing, respectively, the effects of good and bad governance. What makes the difference between the one and other? Above all, it is the rule of law that does that. In the words of the Council of the International Bar Association in 2005:

“The Rule of Law is the foundation of a civilised society. It establishes a transparent process accessible and equal to all. It ensures adherence to principles that both liberate and protect”.

The rule of law is different from rule by law. As Aristotle argued, “even the guardians of the law are obeying the laws.” The ruled are subject to the law as well as those whom they are entitled to rule.

I recall a conversation with the late Director, Lu Ping, a civilised man who spoke excellent English. I was trying to explain the difference between the rule of laws and rule by law. I noted that when I had been a British Cabinet Minister, Secretary of State for the Environment, my decisions had been regularly challenged and occasionally overturned, in the courts. (Something similar has just happened to the British government over Brexit). I had had to change my policies as a result. I think that Director Lu thought I was making it up.

The integrity of the rule of law depends on an independent judiciary and court system. It guarantees fair trial and due process. It applies domestically agreed laws and ensures compliance by the state with its obligations under international law. The rights which it guarantees and the protections which it offers to citizens cover many of the features of a well-governed society. It protects, for example, fundamental human rights; it prohibits torture; it ensures the rights to a fair trial, to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression and assembly; it protects property. The rule of law is the cornerstone of a good and well-governed society, in which guilt and innocence are determined by an independent judiciary in independent courts not by political apparatchiks. To take a relevant example, a corrupt act may be investigated by the police and by agents of the state, but whether or not the law has been broken is determined by a court.

I have always believed that the most important guarantee of Hong Kong’s freedom, stability and well-being is the rule of law. I have considerable admiration for the judges, barristers and solicitors who have stood up for it here. They are in the front-line in ensuring that the freedoms which Hong Kong was promised in an international and binding treaty are preserved. The rule of law is fundamental to Hong Kong’s freedom and prosperity.

The second feature on which I should like to comment is called (rather circumspectly by the World Bank in their analysis of good governance around the world), voice and accountability. I think what the Bank have in mind is what most of us would call democracy. They obviously wished to avoid being thought to recommend a particular sort of democracy; there are, after all, many models from which to choose. There are single and bi-cameral legislatures; there are executive led legislatures; there are legislatures which are partly elected and partly selected. So let me be clear about what seem to me to be essential ingredients of any system which gives citizens a voice in the way their community is run and applies an open and effective way of holding those who run it to account.

First, the system of election – whether for a legislature or for an executive - should be fair, giving equity at the ballot box to citizens. Some votes should not count more than others. The choice of candidates should be open without restrictions that go beyond the requirements of a local constitution. For example, as a member of the Westminster Parliament – it is true for both chambers – I have to make an oath of affirmation of allegiance to the Queen. Elected members who refuse to do this, like members of the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein party, cannot take their seats. That does not seem to me unreasonable. But to insist, as happens in Iran for instance, that only those approved by another (in this case confessional) authority can be considered for elected office would not seem to me either free or fair. The electoral arrangements should be determined within the constitution by the local legislature itself. To be credible and ensure proper accountability, an elected legislature should be able to get rid of its executive, unless that choice is in the hands of the electorate through direct election. Elections that cannot change anything, or not very much, are a farce. In real democracies governments change.

You could go on and on about what exactly constitutes fairness. I suspect that in many respects it is a little like the elephant – difficult to describe but you know it when you see it.

But I just want to make three other points about democracy.

A democratic, plural society is not created simply by holding an election. Democracy can turn into populist majoritarianism unless it comes complete with much more soft-ware and hard-ware, some of which I will mention. Since the rule of law is at the heart of a well-governed community, a majority should not try to buttress its position by stacking the courts with its supporters. A mature democracy will recognise the importance of taking account of the opinions of the minority and not trying to trample over them. For its part, the minority in a democracy will recognise the consequence of both winning and losing elections. I think there are lessons in this for both Britain and Hong Kong today.

Democratic government is not easy. Like millions of others I simply think that it is better than any alternative. With good and responsible leadership it enables communities to come to accept the need to take tough decisions without authoritarian measures. When we allow citizens to decide where they live and work, what schooling their children have, how they save and spend, it seems to me odd to try to deny them a say in the other choices that effect their lives. That is one of the reasons why, when I first came to Hong Kong as a young MP in 1979, I argued for the introduction of democratic elections for District Councils and wrote about this when I got back to Britain.

Two other things I would say about parliamentary democracy. First, it is a much better, more sophisticated way of taking decisions than so-called direct democracy through referendums. We are starting to pay the price in Britain for holding a referendum on our membership of the EU, a decision which should have been taken through parliament and if necessary with the ultimate choice being made through a General Election. Second, democracy does provide a government with safety valves when popular pressure builds up about a policy issue or about the government’s own record. We have seen that regularly in India, which has held together despite such extraordinary diversity of religion and ethnicity.

Government effectiveness was third in the World Bank’s list. I have always believe that governments are likely to be more competent when they are subjected to close invigilation through the democratic process. In Britain, the government is better when there is a good and credible opposition to it.

Of course, effectiveness also depends on the quality of the civil service which manages its operations. I have worked with several different bureaucracies – in the United Kingdom and Europe as well as Hong Kong. Without any question the most competent civil service that I worked with was that in Hong Kong in the 1990s. I hope it has not lost any of its vitality and morale since then.

There were three principal reasons for Hong Kong’s public service record in the 1990s. First, there was a first rate team, well-paid, strongly motivated, intelligent and with a sense of the value and honour of working for the public good. This commitment was in no way disturbed by political considerations. Civil Servants were, for instance, appointed and promoted entirely on merit. Second, their integrity was unquestioned. Corruption was negligible, certainly on a much lower scale than in many European countries as well as Asian ones. Third, there was a real commitment to complete the task assigned by government. This means for example that when you put together Hong Kong’s natural entrepreneurialism with the determination of civil servants to complete, preferably ahead of time, the tasks allotted to them, infrastructure projects were finished in much less time than would have been taken elsewhere.

When I was the British Environment minister in the late 1980s (it sounds like the Middle Ages) the government had been talking for some time about building a new terminal at Heathrow airport. I came to Hong Kong in 1992. In my first week here Sir David Ford took me to see the dredgers dumping soil to begin the building of Chek Lap Kok. By the time I left in 1997 it was virtually finished despite the verbal and negotiating impediments that the process had to overcome. I returned to London to discover that people were still talking about building that new but still non-existent terminal. I hope that Hong Kong has not lost any of these qualities of public service.

A fourth distinction of a well-governed community is political stability and lack of violence. Several factors come into play. Good, clean, visible and respected policing is one. Another is growing prosperity, the proceeds of which seem to be fairly distributed. I am not a Socialist. I believe in properly regulated markets as the best way of creating and distributing resources. But I also believe that government itself has an important role in protecting the weak and helping the strong to prosper. Some Republicans in the United States used to use a joke that the most worrying words in English were: “I’m from the government; I’m here to help”. This was a spectacularly foolish way of down- playing the role of government in promoting economic and political stability, and was contrary to much of what the most successful administrations, including Republican ones like Eisenhower’s, have actually done.

Here in Hong Kong I always believed that we should avoid the sort of social engineering practised in Singapore where it undoubtedly worked. I thought we were better served by allowing the market and low taxes to work their magic. But I also felt strongly that we should use some of the proceeds of growth to improve welfare, health, education and housing. As a result some of my critics in the north denounced me as a communist! Clearly I was a communist with Hong Kong characteristics.

Political stability is also more likely when a government is sensitive to the aspirations of its people. Recognising them as citizens, with rights and responsibilities, is one way of doing that. There is a shed-load of evidence throughout history around the world about how to manage political aspirations sensitively and how, on the other hand, if you fail to do this you can easily turn moderation into extremism. If you treat people as responsible citizens, they are more likely to behave responsibly, with vigorous civil society institutions as intermediaries between them and the government. They should be free to demonstrate without violence; free to say and write what they want; free to worship as they please. Their churches should be free of government control; their universities should be self-governing and autonomous.

It is worth saying a word more about this, a subject on which I feel strongly as the past chancellor of several universities here and in Britain and the present Chancellor of Oxford, recently placed at the top of the world rankings doubtless in part thanks to the number of Chinese (including Hong Kong) students and professors we have. Universities are not agents of the state – departments of government as it were – nor are they simply adjuncts to the corporate sector, fuelling GDP growth. They are liberal pillars of pluralism and freedom. It should be a matter of huge pride in this community that Hong Kong, with a small population, has two great universities in the world’s top fifty; three in the world’s top 100. This is a remarkable achievement. It is partly of course a result of the universities having the freedom and autonomy they were promised by international treaty and local laws. University freedom and academic self-governance does not mean that universities can avoid accounting through appropriate machinery for any public funds they receive. We have to do that at my own university in Oxford. But we have and we exercise academic freedom – as Socrates wrote “we follow the argument where it leads”. We undertake research on what we want; we take our enquiries as far as we wish; we teach as we deem best; we select our own academics and administrators; we choose our own pupils on their ability. We are free to speak out on anything and everything, regardless of whether the Government likes what we say. It is in universities operating like this that the frontiers of knowledge are advanced for the good of our own societies and of humanity as a whole. I am sure that here in Hong Kong you recognise that your universities, with their own freedoms, are jewels in this great city’s crown.

There are two other qualities to which I would like to refer. First of them is regulatory quality; the way, for instance, in which commerce is regulated needs to be transparent and fair. This should demand of private sector corporations themselves a high degree of transparency and compliance with the best standards of private sector corporate governance. I am sure that officials in China are aware that there is a general view, borne out by much academic research, that Indian companies are thought to be better governed than those in China, with no political interference in their boards and greater compliance in meeting international standards. Unless the issue is properly addressed, it will become a drag on China’s international economic performance. That is in no-one’s interest. The world needs a China that thrives and prospers.

The final mark of good governance is the control of corruption. This is not just a question of making laws and establishing institutions to fight this political and economic disease. Corruption goes right to the heart of politics and, rather obviously, freedom. A free press exposes corruption and the corrupt. That is one reason why authoritarian and totalitarian governments want to suppress the media and its modern technological cousins in the internet. The media in all its forms strengthens the citizen against corruption, which is a tax on the law abiding and a corrosive and destructive element in society. If political power determines ownership of assets, it is impossible to exercise the authority to root out corruption. Corruption becomes endemic to the whole system of government.

The governance I have tried to describe has at its heart the citizen. Citizens are the test of its health and integrity. They have liberties, privileges and responsibilities, not least the responsibilities of good neighbourliness. They have the freedom to argue as well as to agree, to write, to speak out from a soapbox in the public square, to follow and enjoy education in whatever subject they choose, to decide on their jobs and careers, to talk about politics to whoever they want without worrying about who might over-hear, to go to law in the confidence of fair and just treatment, to read and hear real news about what is happening in the world, to make fun of the government when it deserves it, to travel to other countries, to go to their church or to go racing, to express their own views of citizenship and patriotism in their own way. There is a document that covers all of those aspects of a free society. It is a treaty, lodged at the United Nations. It has been there for about 30 years. It is called the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

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