Friday, July 23, 2010

Source of Trust

In the past few weeks, the political reform package of Hong Kong was eventually passed in legislative council and submitted by the chief executive Donald Tsang. However, we may find that mutual trust lacks among the public, the government and the central government of People's Republic of China. Donald Tsang always urged the public to trust the government. Can trust be built up by public announcement?

According to the chapter of Gongye Chang in Analects of Confucious (Lunyu), we have to listen what he says and observe what he does. Just listening is not enough, we have to check whether it is consistent with what he does. We should settle for short term observation. Long term observation is more reliable.

Firstly, from this point of view, one should be observable before trust is earned; otherwise it is hard to judge it. Regarding government, the process of making policy should be open and fair. Recently, the Hong Kong Journal Association is pushing the Hong Kong government to enact freedom of information legislation to ensure access to government information and documents. According to the principle of governance, it enforces government to release the information pro-actively such that the public can monitor the whole process of making and implementation of policy. Therefore, the former director of Government Records Service, Simon Chu, requested to put the Law of Public Records on the agenda of the Legislative Council in order to ensure the public records created, archived, released and removed properly.

Secondly, it is mutual understanding between government and the public. It requires effective communication. Understanding of nature of communication is crucial. The message will be selected and compiled by the sender, transformed via different type of channels and finally interpreted by different kinds of receivers. Hence, the results would vary so much. The government should not just focus on itself and should use the appropriate methods according to the receiver. Communication is not only a delivery of its own message but also receiving of message from other partners. Selective listening must be avoided. Positive and constructive comments should be included. 

What is positive and constructive comments? When citizens are sitting on the road without saying a word, is it? When protesters are climbing on the tree without saying a word, is it? Objection! Is it? If we speak out what we want and what we need to do, it is a positive and constructive comment.

Appropriate channel is critical for effective communication. Discrimination should be avoided. At least one open and fair platform should exist in a civic society. Every party can have equal right. Their opinions should not be wrongly interpreted. The creditability of Radio Television of Hong Kong is well known. However, it is retained as a government department after public evaluation. HKJA urged government to reverse its decision.

Thirdly, keep the promise. Only hope can be built when the promises are kept all the time. Promises must be kept whatever it is. Typically, those promise should be in black and white. The most challenge issue is the change of the people, the environment and the society. If the need for a specific promised policy vanished, the public can realize that such policy should be suspended; otherwise, apology and backup plan is needed.

Finally, I hope that the mutual trust can be built up. The making of public policy will allow peaceful participation of the public in the public space. The society will be improved continuously.

(Chinese Version)

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