We’re pleased to announce that Paper Tigress, Rachel Cartland’s memoir of her years in the Hong Kong government, sold out. And it’s now reprinted and is back in the shops.
To mark the occasion, we print below the text of a speech Rachel gave to a Hong Kong business group late last year.
A Difficult Passage
I was a Hong Kong civil servant, a member of the Administrative Grade, from 1972 until 2006. So all you taxpayers funded my salary for all those years and I hope that I gave you value for money.
In May I gave a speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The title of my address to the FCC was “Has Hong Kong Become Ungovernable?” and the answer was a fairly unqualified “yes”.
It would be unconscionably lazy even if tempting just to repeat that FCC speech but I would like to quote a few sentences from it which sum up what I still believe to be the systemic failings in our political system which are causing us all to suffer:
“During my time in Hong Kong we have gone from a Legislative Council wholly appointed by the Governor to one in which the entire membership stands ever poised to provide the disloyal Opposition to the Chief Executive, who is specifically required to have no political party to support him. Within the Legislative Council there are representatives of the functional constituencies, some of which are rotten boroughs as bad and self-interested as anything that tainted nineteenth century England could come up with and directly elected members who get there thanks to a particularly peculiar proportional list system which is skewed towards ensuring that more radical candidates will get a seat.”
Another reason that I have for not wanting to reprise that FCC speech is that it caused me a lot of trouble. I was interviewed about it by a charming young man from the SCMP afterwards and his report was a pretty good effort apart from confusing “rotten boroughs” with “robber barons” and also liberally deploying a metaphor that I had used about there having been in effect a wicked godmother hovering over the cradle of the infant SAR. It went up on the online version of the Post which I don’t have but I realised that something was amiss when I got an e-mail from a friend in UK with the subject line, “Cat. Pigeons. Among.”. I asked the Charming Young Reporter to give me a link to the article but he demurred. “Oh, Mrs. Cartland, I am afraid you will be upset by the unkind comments.” When I finally got to read them, I didn’t feel at all wounded as they were basically utterly bonkers and bore no relationship to what I had actually said.
I was castigated as an old Colonial and told to return to my homeland, accused of badmouthing China and of being responsible for the failure to introduce democracy during 100+ years of British oppression of Hong Kong. In fact, I had avoided assigning blame for the constitutional debacle which confronts us. It is, as it happens, my opinion that the roots of our troubles lie in bad moves made by the Brits and they did it by introducing too much democracy