Malaysia-based journalist Terence Netto has reviewed the third volume of David T. K. Wong’s family memoir.

Sometimes the arrival of a book dovetails nicely with an issue that’s sparking in the public arena. Such is Hong Kong Confidential: Life as a Subversive by David TK Wong, a Hong Kong-born author living out his sunset years in Kuala Lumpur.

Wong served 21 years in the administrative service in Hong Kong, from 1961 to 1981. Hong Kong Confidential is a chronicle of the 89-year-old’s experiences in the civil service of the last British colonial outpost in the East which reverted to mainland China’s suzerainty in 1997.

The book holds valuable lessons and insights into what makes a good civil servant and how, perhaps, to foster and sustain a top performing service.

The book is replete with cautionary wisdom against the temptation of bureaucrats which the first editor of The Economist Walter Bagehot described with his customary panache as civil servants’ imagination that “the elaborate machinery of which they form a part, and from which they derive their dignity, (is) a grand and achieved result, not a working and changeable instrument.”

Wong’s wry humour and knowledge of the world and Chinese history insulated him against the temptation of bureaucratic hubris.

Read on at Malaysiakini.