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劉廼強 | 15th Feb 2011 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (24 Reads)

The Choi Yuen Village saga was supposed to end and the lingering inhabitants supposed to evacuate with the remaining problem of buying the right of way to their new plots being solved by a mysterious benefactor for a sum of HK$5 million. But instead the inhabitants, together with their radical supporters, kept increasing the stakes.

The more and more irritated public, aghast, watched the appalling results of appeasement by a weak government yielding to what amounts to extortion, worrying that this might become precedent for similar incidents in the future. This is what the Chinese call “the crying babies get more milk” syndrome and it entails grave moral hazards when the wrong parties are rewarded.

However, now that the present administration is near the end of its term and its support is heading south according to recent opinion polls. The officials at the moment are by nature risk-averse, and they don’t want to stir up any controversy. What does it matter to these officials if they give a few more million to some troublemakers just to pacify them? It is not money from their own pockets anyway.

The message is now out that there is a bunch of suckers out there asking to be squeezed, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of that. Our opposition politicians in particular will be the first to notice that, especially in the election season coming up. By making the wrong concessions, the government is now in fact creating more troubles for itself.

Officials have terms, but not us common citizens, and we are stuck here for our entire lives. It is in our own interest to push our government to stand firm when it is right to do so, and to stand behind officials who choose to stick to their principles and refuse to yield to unreasonable demands from the mob. With solid public support even a so-called lame duck government can afford to stand firm and act tough. Under such circumstances, there is in fact no such thing as a lame duck government even to the very last days of its term.

What it boils down to is officials doing the right things and organizing public support along the way. In fact these are the bases of good governance. Failing to achieve one will make it weak, failure of both will be fatal. Unfortunately this is the predicament our government is now in.