Civic Engage in the policy process in Hong Kong


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Civic Engage in the policy process in Hong Kong

  1. 1. Civic Engagement in the Policy Process in Hong Kong Peter T.Y. Cheung Dept. of Politics & Public Admin. University of Hong Kong Korea University July 12, 2013
  2. 2. Contents I. What is civic/public engagement? Competing views on civic engagement II. Hong Kong’s experience in civic engagement III. Prospects of civic engagement in Hong Kong
  3. 3. Unpacking Civic Engagement • Ben Berger (2009): the concept is overstretched. As it stands, it encompasses political, social, and moral engagements (p. 305) • Political engagement- “attention to and activity in political processes and affairs” needs not necessarily lead to economic and government efficiency, or life satisfaction, legitimacy (p. 344-5). • Political engagement refers to any “activity that is intended to or has the consequences of affecting, either directly or indirectly, government action” (Verba, Schlozman and Brady, 1995) 3
  4. 4. Definition of Civic Engagement (CE) • an organized process where a government has taken the initiative to involve citizens in all stages of policy development, from identification of problems, to clarification of values and interests, development of policy alternatives and prioritization of proposals Centre for Civil Society and Governance (2007) 4
  5. 5. Civic Engagement and Good Governance • Most studies tended to consider CE as critical to good governance • OECD (2009): public engagement is a condition for effective governance. “open and inclusive policy making increases government accountability, broadens citizens’ influence on decisions and builds civic capacity. A the same time, it improves the evidence base for policy making, reduces implementation costs and taps wider networks for innovation in policy making and service delivery.” But there are skeptics who argue effective governance is not necessarily an outcome resulting from civic engagement. Many other factors are required. 5
  6. 6. Civic Engagement in the HK Context • CE supplements other forms of political participation in a democratic polity. • CE channels demands for participation and allow for more popular input into policy making in the HK context, and hence also strengthens legitimacy of the policy process. • However, CE could not resolve the problems of a semi- democratic polity or the “disarticulated” or fragmented political system. • CE is also not fully embraced by the HKSAR government, even after 2006-7 and its adoption varies significantly across policy areas. 6
  7. 7. HKU definition: Civic/public participation • Public or citizen participation refers to the activities taken by citizens, whether in their individual capacity or as an organized group, to influence policy- making and implementation processes. Centre for Civil Society and Governance, the University of Hong Kong, “From Consultation to Civic Engagement: The Road to Better Policy-making and Governance in Hong Kong” 7
  8. 8. II. Hong Kong’s Experience in Civic Engagement Legacies of the pre-1997 system: • “Executive-led” Political System • Relatively powerless LegCo • “Administrative Absorption of Politics” • Weak Civil Society 8
  9. 9. Conventional Mechanisms for Public Participation in the Policy Process in Hong Kong A. District Bodies: District Councils (e.g. abolition of municipal councils; reinstatement of appointed members) B. Advisory and Statutory Bodies: 435 C. Public Consultation Exercises: 226 (1997- 2009) 9
  10. 10. The Political Impasse after 1997 • Impossibility of an “Executive-Led” System • Lack of support in LegCo and tense executive- legislative relations • Lack of strong electoral mandate • Emergence of populist forces in LegCo • Insufficient channels to engage an increasingly vocal civil society • Ineffectiveness of the existing advisory bodies 10
  11. 11. No. of public consultations conducted by the HKSAR government Year No. Year No. 1997 2 2004 36 1998 9 2005 17 1999 22 2006 14 2000 12 2007 20 2001 26 2008 9 2002 24 2009 9 2003 26 Total: 226 11 Source: Compiled from
  12. 12. Reorientation of the HKSAR Government’s Civic Engagement Strategy • Why? July 1 demonstration against Article 23 • A series of protests, especially over development and planning: anti-reclamation of Victoria Harbor in 2003-04, demolition of the Star Ferry Pier in late 2006 and the Queen’s Pier in 2007, anti-high speed rail in 2009…. • Leadership changes: From Tung to Donald Tsang and support of the top official, namely the Secretary for Development, Mrs. Carrie Lam • Awakening of civil society and the rise of assertive civil society groups and activists 12
  13. 13. Protests over Queen’s Pier demolition (2007) 13
  14. 14. Protests over Queen’s Pier (2007) 14
  15. 15. Protests over Queen’s Pier demolition (2007) 15
  16. 16. Reorientation of the HKSAR Government’s Civic Engagement Strategy Emerging Participatory Processes • (a) decentralization of more power to District Councils to manage local affairs (2008) • (b) advisory mechanisms active in policy advocacy were tolerated by the government. Examples: the Harborfront Enhancement Committee (the HEC) and the Council for Sustainable Development 16
  17. 17. • (c) more advisory committees had been created to explore policy alternatives and to achieve consensus. Examples: Consultative Committee on the Core Arts and Cultural Facilities of the West Kowloon Cultural District and the Steering Committee on Review of the Urban Renewal Strategy. 17 Reorientation of the HKSAR Government’s Civic Engagement Strategy
  18. 18. Reorientation of the HKSAR Government’s Civic Engagement Strategy • (d) targeting the middle class, the Government established an Internet-based Public Affairs Forum in March 2005. • (e) revitalization and expansion of the Commission for Strategic Development as a high level advisory body in the agenda setting stage (2005): 153 members (though later retrenched in 2007) 18
  19. 19. The Politics of Civic Engagement in Planning and Heritage Conservation • Planning and heritage: the battle ground for contesting visions of Hong Kong’s development model, protection of public space and citizen rights, and legitimacy of its political system • Civil society groups opposing the emphasis on development over heritage preservation in the Government’s policy and the dominance of property developers in Hong Kong’s political economy 19
  20. 20. Lei Tung Street (Wedding Card Street,2006) 20
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. Hong Kong’s Experience in Civic Engagement • New public engagement processes: These new initiatives have become more popular in the last few years, partly in response to increasing demands from civil society groups that are critical of government policies.
  23. 23. • These new exercises were carried out by the government, advisory committees or statutory bodies. Aside from requiring more time for deliberation, they were also more demanding in terms of human and material resources required. Hong Kong’s Experience in Civic Engagement
  24. 24. Hong Kong’s Experience in Civic Engagement • Different stages, including exhibitions, public forums, focus meetings, community workshops etc., will be followed, such as the engagement exercises carried out by the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee and the Council for Sustainable Development. Another important example is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs).
  25. 25. The Politics of Civic Engagement in Planning and Heritage Conservation • Kai Tak Planning Review: a success of planning in partnership with the community under the HEC (2004-06) • Kwun Tong Town Centre Redevelopment (2005- 07) • Urban Renewal Strategy Review (2008-10) • Sustainable Development and Environment (since 2003) 25
  26. 26. I. Population Policy (Council for Sustainable Development) II. Solid Waste Management(Council for Sustainable Development) III. Kai Tak Planning Review (Harbourfront Enhancement Committee) 26 Cases of Effective Public Engagement
  27. 27. Kai Tak Planning Review The Case of the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee (共建維港委員會) ( dex.html?s=1)
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  29. 29. III. The Prospect of Civic Engagement in Hong Kong 1. There is a great deal of continuities in the institutional mechanisms for civic engagement after 1997. Changes began only after 2003 when the HKSARG felt that its authority had declined significantly. Does the Government believe in engaging the public? 29
  30. 30. III. The Prospect of Civic Engagement in Hong Kong 2. Conventional modes of public consultation and participation are ineffective. It is inconceivable that the Government can achieve strong governance without building up a strong partnership with civil society groups and carrying out effective civic engagement. 30
  31. 31. III. The Prospect of Civic Engagement in Hong Kong 3. The past few years witnesses the emergence of new public engagement processes over policy issues such as the environment and planning. They have gone beyond the traditional forms of consultation. Will the government continue to encourage and support effective civic engagement in future? 31
  32. 32. III. The Prospect of Civic Engagement in Hong Kong 4. There is a strong need to consider civic engagement along with genuine democratic political reform, which helps to enhance interest aggregation, consensus building, legitimacy and competitive politics.