Historian G. B. Endacott thought that the Hong Kong government was a consultative government. The definition of a consultative government is that it consults people’s opinions and listens to them. The features of a consultative Government are that it establishes communication between local associations, asks and listen to opinion of people, asks for opinion and support in decisions making, sets up advisory bodies to collect opinions and set up departments to consult people’s opinions.
To a large extent, I agree that the Hong Kong government was a consultative government in the first half of the 20th century. To a small extent, I don’t agree that the Hong Kong government was a consultative government in the 20th century. In the following essay, I will further explain why Hong Kong was a consultative government in the first half of the 20th century in the five features of a consultative government. In a larger extent, I agree that Hong Kong was a consultative government in the first half of the 20th century.
First, it established communication with the local association that it had established communication with the Chinese association. The government had collected opinions from two types of the Chinese associations, the Chinese mutual-aid associations and chartable organization. In the Chinese mutual-aid association, like the district societies, clan associations and kaifong welfare associations, they helped to settle disputes, find jobs and obtain relief fund to the local people, so they knew people’s life well.
They helped reflecting the opinions of people well and the Hong Kong government offered them supports as a way to compensate for its lack of social welfare services. In the charitable organization, like the Tung Wah Group and the Po Leung Kuk, they helped to carry out different welfare programs. The Hong Kong government often consulted opinions form the directors of the above organization and built a good relationship with them. Second, the Hong Kong government asked and listened to opinions of people, both Chinese and British.
It had to listen to the voices of the British merchants in the first half of the 20th century. There were a few Governors being dismissed because they didn’t listen to the voices of the British merchants. It also had to listen to the Chinese’s voices, like relying on the secretariat of Chinese Affairs as a bridge of communication. Third, the government had asked for opinions in decisions making that the Governor had to cooperate with the government officials and councilors, both Executive Council and Legislative Council.
For example, we can see how the Governor cooperated with the councils in making a law. Before a law is made, it had to be approved by the Executive Council before drafting into bills by the Legal Department, and passed back to the Executive Council for evaluation. During the evaluation, the Executive Council gave advices to the Governor and assisted him in making the final decisions. Afterwards, for a bill to be passed, it had to go through three readings in the Legislative Council. Moreover, some important officials were ex-officials of both the Executive Council and the Legislative Council.
These concurrent members had a good communication with both the councils and it easier for the government to propose, pass and carry out policies. Besides, there were absorption of both the Chinese elite into the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. In 1880, Ng Choy was appointed into the Legislative Council, and more and more unofficial seats were taken by Chinese later. Later on, the Executive Council also absorbed Chinese into the council. The government absorbed them to win over the Chinese people’s support and gather the opinions on policies from the voices of Chinese.
Forth, the government set up advisory bodies to collect opinions, like the Heung Yee Kuk. Since the land situation of the New Territories was unique at that time, the government relied in the Heung Yee Kuk N. T. to deal with the inhabitants and collect public opinions. The Heung Yee Kuk N. T. acted as a statutory advisory body concerning the New Territories. It assisted the government in settling disputes and mediating between the two sides and helped expressing the inhabitants’ opinions to the government and represented them in negotiations, fighting for their rights and interests.
Fifth, the Hong Kong government set up department to consult people’s opinions. The Hong Kong government relied on the Secretariat for Chinese Affairs to establish communication with the Chinese people. The department was established in 1913. It carried out different functions, involving it in almost all Chinese matters, like receiving complaints from the Chinese and mediated and settled their disputes. It helped the government in knowing the local Chinese people well. It assisted the government in liaising with Chinese associations so that it can understand the public opinions.
The department provided the government with information of the Chinese, for example, the Chinese custom and religious belief, and helped explaining the policies to the public. It helped the government to gain better understanding from the Chinese, especially before the Second World War. To a smaller extent, I don’t agree that Hong Kong was a consultative government. First, the Governor was the core of the government at that time. He owned enormous power, including the executive power, legislative power, appointment power and some other powers.
The Governor can lead over both the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. All important decisions and policies had to be approved by him. In case of emergency, he could veto the decisions of the Executive Council and impose his own will. He had the veto power and could casting vote in the Legislative Council and even dissolving the council. He could also appoint the government officials and enjoyed judicial power. Second, the Hong Kong government imposed oppressive measures to the local Chinese.
They had designated the Peak as the residential area for the Westerners only. Also, the Governor and the official members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Councils were all British, same as the majority of the unofficial members. The Chinese could take up junior positions in the civil services only. Moreover, the British government distrusted them, like when Governor Clementi nominated Chow Shouson into the Executive Council; the foreign office had objected on to the grounds that Chinese people can not be trusted with confidential matters.
In conclusion, I agree that Hong Kong was a consultative government in the first half of the 20th century in a larger extent that it listened to opinions of the Chinese associations and British, the Governor cooperated with government officials and councilors, established advisory body like Heung Yee Kuk and established the Secretariat for Chinese Affairs to consult people’s opinions. However, in a smaller extent, I don’t agree that Hong Kong was a consultative government in the first half of the 20th century since the Governor owned enormous power and it imposed oppressive measures on the local Chinese people.