SCMP Friday, March 9, 2001

Computer skills take precedence over place of birth

Rich, isn't it, that Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen should be introducing ways to attract young mainland computer whizz-kids - in his final budget before taking over as Chief Secretary for Administration - when the government has taken such a harsh line towards those want to live here, in the right of abode cases since the handover.
Twenty years from now, there will be so many retired people in the SAR, and even more across the border, that both sides will be desperately competing for the services of anybody under 30. And not just the technocrats, either. The only qualification necessary to turn today's banned babies into sought-after migrants will be their potential as taxpayers.
But by that time, China could be such an economic force that Hong Kong will have nothing new to offer. The authorities therefore shouldn't be too surprised if the children robbed of their right of abode thumb their noses at the SAR when it has to compete for their services.
Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung's Oi-sie's staff were a bit nonplussed during her visit to Britain last week, when a group of Hong Kong students at Oxford requested a meeting.
The students suggested a pub as a venue, causing some consternation among her circle. Had Ms Leung ever been in a pub before, they wondered, and how would she react to the idea?
Apparently, she took it all in her stride. Given that her poor image with local undergraduates hit a new low last July - when students at Lingnan College voted her the worst performer among all the government officials - it was sporting of her to agree.
But many a disagreement has been settled over an amicable round of drinks.
Democratic Party members are at a distinct disadvantage, in funding terms, compared to their nearest rivals, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), and are desperately seeking ways to keep up.
They will have their work cut out. The pro-Beijing party may not put up much of a show at present in terms of having high-profile, dynamic legislators - although party leader Tsang Yok-sing is an honourable exception.
But once the first graduates emerge from the DAB's political training course to groom students for future leadership, they could become more than a match for the majority party. Undeterred, the Democratic Party has introduced a tempting alternative. They have been working hard to solicit sponsorship from foreign governments, NGOs and international organisations, so that budding Democrats can take study trips overseas.
The party already enjoys about 20 overseas-visit programmes every year for its second-tier legislators and district councillors. But they will now be given to green-horn legislators or "talented" younger party members.
It's the old story: when money is a problem, you can't beat guanxi (connections).
Like father, like son? Not in all cases, according to independent legislator Andrew Wong Wang-fat. He has been telling reporters that Wong junior doesn't in any way share his dad's well-known penchant for whisky or tobacco.
Son-and-heir prefers more healthy pursuits like heading for the beach in his spare time. At the moment, however, he is studying theology in the United States. The father-of-three, a strong supporter of more democracy for Hong Kong, said he took the same democratic approach to family life, and will let his son decide his own future.