Similarly, the evil institution of colonialism in Hong Kong history did not prevent the emergence of a sensible administrator in the person of Murray MacLehose.
Fluent in Chinese and a student of Chinese culture and history, Crawford Murray MacLehose
was first posted to Hong Kong in 1963 as a political advisor to ensure that colonial policy in Hong Kong supported evolving British policy on China.
He held several other political posts in the British Empire before becoming Hong Kong's 25th British governor in 1971.
From 1971, when he
assumed the post of governor, to 1982 when he
left the post and returned to Britain
, of a new breed of governors more in tune with the progressive British Foreign Office than the conservative Colonial Office, practiced an "enlightened form" of colonial administration with an eye on Cold War geopolitics.
moderated the traditional colonial attitude of aloof, discriminatory disinterest in Chinese community problems and needs.
also balanced the traditional policy of open government support for British monopolistic businesses with a new progressive social awareness.
Reflecting the ideological wind from the British homeland under Labour control, MacLehose
took an active role in social welfare (particularly public housing, medical care, colonial education, and protection of workers), and improved the living conditions of Hong Kong residents within the context of liberal capitalism and benign colonialism.
administration accorded with Hong Kong's economic takeoff, laid a socio-economic foundation for the colony as a labor-intensive manufacturing center, and instilled a sense of respectable if not totally honorable identity for colonial Hong Kong residents.
MacLehose established the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) to ensure rule by colonial law, even indicting mid-level British police officers and colonial officials who had run a police force and a regulatory regime known for widespread corruption.
While the ICAC
stopped administrative corruption in the colony, much of the regulatory regime of structural British preference remained in place and at the same time exempted US commercial interests from British protectionism.
After a mass demonstration by off-duty policemen on Queensway in Central in 1976, the governor ordered an amnesty for all crimes of corruption committed before January 1, 1977, lest the entire police force had to be imprisoned.
The rule of law indeed.
initiated moves toward social welfare as effective and timely responses to mounting social and political turmoil, such as the riot against the Star Ferry fare increases in 1966 and the leftist anti-British-imperialism strikes and demonstrations in 1967.
handled deftly the student movement launched by Hong Kong University students in 1968-69, the movement to legalize the Cantonese language in 1970, and demonstrations in Queen Victoria Park in defense of Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Archipelago in 1971.
MacLehose became governor at the end of Hong Kong's tumultuous anti-colonial phase, but the economic fringe benefits from the Vietnam War gave Hong Kong a much needed and timely boost, which stabilized Hong Kong's economy at the beginning of MacLehose's benign rule.
In reality, MacLehose
repositioned Hong Kong by giving it a central anti-China role in the Cold War.
time in charge, MacLehose
oversaw a historic period of social reform and public investment that formed the foundation for unprecedented economic growth, including the building of Hong Kong's underground transit system.
Lord MacLehose was knighted in 1983, a year after his
These social programs formed the foundation of Hong Kong's subsequent economic success in the command economy, not the much-touted free-enterprise myth.
In retirement, Lord MacLehose summed up his
opposition as governor, to any introduction of democratic elections in Hong Kong by saying: "If the communists won, that would be the end of Hong Kong.
If the nationalists won, that would bring in the communists," in an interview in Britain's Daily Telegraph.
Of course even MacLehose
was not delusionary enough to contemplate the possibility of the British winning.
British colonialism had no use for democracy until Britain
was forced to return Hong Kong to China.
MacLehose, on October 10, 1979, reported the government's housing policy of creating between 40,000 and 45,000 units annually: "The housing program continues to be of prime importance, and in the review of public-sector expenditure it was rightly given very high priority ... None of the housing, amenities, schools and landscaped surroundings would be of any value without employment.
To make matters worse, it has abandoned its public housing and other social programs started three decades earlier by MacLehose
, in a panic attempt to save the over-leveraged real-estate tycoons at the expense of the future of the Hong Kong economy.