Law­maker James Tien isn’t an­gry: He’s dis­ap­pointed

HK Magazine - - PAGE 3 -

James Tien is a Legco mem­ber and busi­ness­man. The for­mer Chair­man of the Lib­eral Party re­signed his po­si­tion as leader in 2014 af­ter urg­ing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive CY Le­ung to step down, dis­pleas­ing Beijing. He tells Is­abelle Hon about grow­ing up an in­tro­vert, his route into pol­i­tics, and his dis­ap­point­ment with the gov­ern­ment.

I was born in 1947 in Shang­hai.

My fam­ily came to Hong Kong in 1949. Like many other im­mi­grants, we had no faith in the Com­mu­nist Party.

My dad wasn’t rich when he first came to Hong Kong. But he had stud­ied in the UK be­fore and spoke English well, which was a great ad­van­tage in Hong Kong.

There weren’t many univer­sity grad­u­ates, let alone a Chi­nese per­son who had grad­u­ated in the UK.

To be­come a suc­cess­ful per­son, knowl­edge is re­ally important.

He first started work­ing for oth­ers, then in im­port and ex­port trad­ing be­fore start­ing his own fac­tory, Man­hat­tan Gar­ments. He named it Man­hat­tan be­cause he started the com­pany with an Amer­i­can friend from New York.

I re­mem­ber that by around 7 years old, my fam­ily had a bet­ter life. We had a small fac­tory when I was 11 and we be­came well-off.

I was a good kid back in school. I was the youngest in my class. I’m not tall enough to be ag­gres­sive. Small peo­ple are al­ways quiet.

As I re­mem­ber, go­ing to school was such a happy thing. So­ci­ety has changed a lot. Nowa­days kids get much more pres­sure.

The first time I left town was when I went to study abroad in the US at age 17. Be­fore that I’d never taken a plane or a ship.

My class­mates all won­dered why I would be­come a politi­cian. I was in­tro­verted and not very aca­demic.

But dur­ing 7 years of study­ing in the US, I changed.

Nowa­days no one thinks I’m an in­tro­vert. Some may think I’m too nosy, the “bad boy” of the pro-gov­ern­ment camp.

My fa­ther was ap­pointed a Legco mem­ber from 1975-85. Hong Kong was then reliant on the tex­tile in­dus­try. He rep­re­sented the gov­ern­ment when ne­go­ti­at­ing ex­port quo­tas with the US and Europe.

I took over the fac­tory af­ter I fin­ished my mas­ter’s de­gree. I had to han­dle la­bor, en­vi­ron­men­tal and traf­fic is­sues—I also got the chance to meet gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

I’ve been a mem­ber of Legco since 1988. Back then I rep­re­sented the in­dus­trial con­stituency. The Bri­tish Hong Kong gov­ern­ment also sup­ported in­dus­try. So of course I was pro-gov­ern­ment.

In re­cent years, as a busi­ness­man, I’ve be­longed to the Lib­eral Party.

With­out public sup­port, it’s not worth tak­ing part in pol­i­tics. So my point of view comes from the same di­rec­tion as the public. Med­i­cal is­sues, public hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and wel­fare: It’s got to be bal­anced.

Peo­ple in Hong Kong may think I’m a pro­gov­ern­ment, bour­geois rich man. But I dare to op­pose what the gov­ern­ment is push­ing, such as TSA [Ter­ri­tory-wide Sys­tem As­sess­ment ex­ams] or the Copy­right Bill—I won’t blindly sup­port them.

But com­pared to the pan-demo­cratic camp I’m rather mild.

Travel makes me feel younger. As my tex­tile busi­ness turned into real es­tate, I haven’t had to travel over­seas for busi­ness. Now I’ve started to en­joy it.

Nowa­days the most fun I have is hang­ing out with my grand­chil­dren.

I’m quite dis­ap­pointed in what the gov­ern­ment has done.

It’s a di­verse so­ci­ety— rulers should be mild and lis­ten to public opin­ions.

Even if they can’t meet the public’s ex­pec­ta­tions, they should ex­plain them­selves. It makes so­ci­ety less di­vided.

In re­cent years, Oc­cupy Cen­tral, the Yel­low/Blue camp and lo­cal­ists have be­come the main fo­cus.

Young­sters have lost con­fi­dence— Hong Kong used to be the leader, but now look at suc­cess­ful main­land com­pa­nies like Alibaba and Ten­cent.

From new tech­nolo­gies and banks to movies, singers and even painters, China has more tal­ent in all pro­fes­sions.

Hong Kong peo­ple have lost their con­fi­dence to com­pete, and hence have be­come more self­pro­tec­tive. I don’t think it’s good for Hong Kong.

I to­tally agree that Hongkongers should have the pri­or­ity in public hous­ing and wel­fare.

Yet Hong Kong is a free mar­ket—we can’t blindly get pri­or­ity for ev­ery­thing.

We should be more con­fi­dent in our­selves.

There’s fil­i­busters ev­ery day in Legco. It’s not con­struc­tive at all. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Legco and the ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­ally bad.

The gov­ern­ment re­ally has to put more ef­fort into build­ing the re­la­tion­ship.

[If we don’t move for­ward], cities in the main­land such as Guangzhou, Shen­zhen and Shang­hai will de­velop faster than Hong Kong. Then it’ll be too late to re­gret it.

I will not run for Chief Ex­ec­u­tive.

Hong Kong lacks po­lit­i­cal tal­ent. The old-timers are en­ter­ing their 70s.

I wish that Hong Kong had more young lead­ers.

Energy will al­ways bring bet­ter things to Hong Kong.

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