the sovereign power to ‘modernise’ the colony (Chun 1996: 58). Hong Kong is the eighth largest world trade entity, the busiest container port and the fourth ranking financial centre, as well as the main ‘gateway’ to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Economic development prompted the expansion of public services, particularly in health, education and housing. A Hong Kong government publication, Serving the Community (Ef iciency Unit 1995) claimed that economic success meant that people demanded ‘more and better public services’.
The last Governor, Chris Patten, appeared to be sensitive to the demands of a changing Hong Kong society. For instance, in his address to the opening session of the 1992/93 Legco he remarked:
an increasing prosperous and sophisticated community quite rightly demands greater openness and accountability from the public sector which it pays for and an official attitude of mind which regards the public as clients not supplicants (Patten 1992: 26).
Although Hong Kong regards its society as open and meritorious and the expansion in its economy has improved the standard of living for the vast majority of people, not all have gained equally from rapid economic developments (Wilding and Mok 1997).
Hong Kong appears to be a bastion of ‘laissez faire’ government (Cheung 1996), but this description is largely inaccurate given that the government does legislate and regulate over large areas of economic activity, especially housing, public utilities, transport, banking and financial institutions. The public sector is well developed and carries out, or subsidises, most of the functions found in liberal democracies. Islam and Chowdhury (1997: 192) argue that the Hong Kong government ‘is very much Keynesian
in nature tune the
and has never shied away
from using an example
its public expenditure programme to fine- that to assuage uncertainty following the
Tiananmen incident, ‘the government used its spending power increased public-sector wages’. Furthermore, in August 1998, the on the financial markets to protect the Hong Kong dollar ‘peg’ government is only minimalist in terms of restricting intervention
to boost demand and government intervened to the US dollar.6 The in particular sectors or
The Hong Kong dollar fixes its exchange rate to the US dollar.