Charles Mok: “I’m not going to cooperate for cooperation’s sake.”

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At the CLOUDSEC 2015 cybersecurity conference, Joy Ming King tracked down Charles Mok, the embattled IT sector LegCo representative who had fighting words for the year before the LegCo elections.

Photo: IT sector LegCo representative Charles Mok speaking on cybersecurity from a policy perspective at the CLOUDSEC 2015 conference on 11 August, 2015.


Chief Executive CY Leung said in a recent interview with Xinhua that Hong Kong’s positive non-interventionist policy is “obsolete” and that government needs to play a bigger role in the economy. Do you think more government intervention is code for cronyism and how will it impact the IT industry?

Well first of all, I don’t think we ever had a totally non-interventionist policy anyway. There’s been government involvement in IT and other sectors all along, including things in IT such as the Innovation and Technology Fund, Cyberport, Science Park, etc. So I can’t say that the government hasn’t done anything. If the chief executive comes out and talks about [replacing the positive non-interventionist policy], the worry is that, “Okay, what does he mean?”

Does he mean that he will be resorting to the Chinese way or the Singaporean way of picking winners? That’s not something that I think most people in Hong Kong – including people in the industry – would like to see.

Even without seeing the details I would be worried already because, well, we’re talking about CY Leung.

If we are talking about more intervention from the government, I think the government should start from investing more in education and giving us a better supply of technology professionals, and there is nothing to stop the government from doing it today. So I think the government should really get its act together and not create more problems.

[The government] say they are trying to solve problems, but I am worried that [they believe they are solving problems] simply by saying that they will become more interventionist. I think they should go back and look at the basic fundamental roles of government: creating a fair, open, and level playing field, then improving education to give the market what it needs in terms of people and manpower. I don’t know what [CY Leung] means by interventionism. If it’s like the interventionist policies in China then I think most people in Hong Kong would be very, very worried.

So you would have to see the details in order to decide whether to support the new policy?

Even without seeing the details I would be worried already because, well, we’re talking about CY Leung.

You were personally attacked by many pro-establishment Legco members during the Financial Committee session on the ITB. You also faced stiff opposition from many of your fellow pan-democrats. How does this affect your ability to cooperate with Legco members in the next Legco session & upcoming election?

I don’t think cooperation is a problem among my pan-democratic colleagues. But even for the pro-establishment camp – first of all, there is no point in cooperation for cooperation sake. We must be doing what is right for Hong Kong. If there are things and issues that matter to the people of Hong Kong where we see grounds for cooperation, then we will cooperate.

We have to lay down all the facts to the people and the people will decide.

Many of the things we see the pro-establishment camp doing are not benefiting Hong Kong, so of course I will not cooperate [on those issues]. I am not going to cooperate for cooperation’s sake. It’s all about what is good for Hong Kong. [This principle applies] even with my pan-democrat colleagues. So I don’t think cooperating or not is the problem. The main problem is whether what they’re trying to do, what we’re trying to do, what I’m trying to do is good for Hong Kong or not, at least in my view.
To answer the second part of your question, about re-election, I think we have to put faith in the voters.

If they see political attacks – just like one of the Op Ed pieces I saw in HT sometime ago – if they see it, and they fall for it, then I have nothing to say [editor’s note – HT drew attention to an attack, didn’t attack – read here].

But my experience with the professionals in this sector [tells me that] they will look at what is happening and see who is trying to benefit the IT industry and Hong Kong as a whole, and who might be doing certain things for a political motive. If the government steps in and starts to pick winners, I can guarantee you that they are not going to be picking everybody, and a lot of people will be asking, “Why is this happening? This is not fair.” They will not support it. We have to lay down all the facts to the people and the people will decide.

There is a rumour that Ms Elizabeth Quat will be taking over the effort to establish the ITB. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t think anyone can take up the effort except for the government itself. There might be rumours that she might be becoming the under-secretary and my only comment is that there are a lot of people out there who are capable of becoming the secretary, as well as the under-secretary. The government should make the process very transparent and open. That’s what we’re talking about here (gesturing to surroundings).

The government doesn’t want to give credit where credit’s due.

The government should really make the selection process transparent – not just the selection of the under-secretary [but also the selection of the secretary], even though we take it for granted that Mr. Nicholas Yang is going to be the secretary. I think the government should be very open about the selection and [clarifying] why they are selecting these people, what these people are going to do for the industry. Right now, a lot of people are seeing that these sort of rumours about Ms. Quat or other people seem to [point to] political cronyism. And I don’t think that is something that our industry – or any industry, or the public in Hong Kong – would like to see.

Will you work with Ms Quat if she does lead the ITB effort?
What does it mean to “lead the effort”? I mean, as a politician, I’m sure she wants to be seen as “leading the effort”, but what is “leading the effort”? If anybody has, I think I have [worked to establish the ITB] for more than 10 years. The government doesn’t want to give credit where credit’s due. And that doesn’t matter.

The most important thing is, in the end, are we going to get a bureau that is good for Hong Kong? If the bureau is not good for Hong Kong, then it doesn’t matter who is leading the effort. If anybody is leading an effort to give us a bureau that might be prone to cronyism, is not going to help the industry, and will only be picking a few winners – if that’s going to be happening, I don’t want to be leading that effort.