Law & More: The Boase Cohen & Collins Podcast

Episode 12 - Mike Rowse

March 07, 2022 Niall Episode 12
Law & More: The Boase Cohen & Collins Podcast
Episode 12 - Mike Rowse
Show Notes Transcript

This time, our Senior Partner Colin Cohen enjoys an entertaining chat with Mike Rowse, former ICAC officer and high-profile civil servant who worked tirelessly to bring tourists and investors to Hong Kong. Looking back at his 50 years in town, Mike discusses building Disneyland, the fallout from Harbourfest and his recent Legislative Council election campaign. Stay tuned.

Host: Colin Cohen
Director: Niall Donnelly
Producer and VO: Thomas Latter

Boase Cohen and Collins

[00:00:34] Colin Cohen: Mike, welcome to Law & More. Let me know, what's been keeping you busy recently? 

[00:00:39] Mike Rowse: Well, I've been having a lot of fun as you know, I have a weekly radio show every Monday on RTHK. And I have a fortnightly column in the South China Morning Post. And I do a bit of lecturing at universities, HKUST, a little bit of consulting work.

I wouldn't say I'm really busy. I'm under-engaged. This is why I've been looking for a full-time employment, something else. I'm 73, but I'm full of beans. I 


[00:01:08] Colin Cohen: Right, let's go back a little bit, right? Because I think our listeners will want to know a little bit into your past. 50 years ago, you arrived in Hong Kong.

Well, thereabouts. What on earth brought you to Hong Kong 

[00:01:21] Mike Rowse: 50 years this year. A little bit strange background. My mother married a Chinese man, an ex-policemen from Hong Kong as her second husband. So I have literally had until they both passed away, a Chinese stepfather. And through him, I met a fabulous girl. 

My last girlfriend in England was a Chinese girl from Hong Kong. And the end of that relationship, I thought I've just got to go to the city where they make these. I go there and find her or another one like her. 

[00:01:54] Colin Cohen: So you arrived in Hong Kong, but before you get to Hong Kong, you were in Thailand, 

[00:01:58] Mike Rowse: I came about 16 months, travelling overland. I hitchhiked France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, then Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass, India, Nepal, back to India, and then flew to Bangkok. After about three, four months into the journey. It was the old hippie trail. 

[00:02:21] Colin Cohen: A Hippie?

[00:02:22] Mike Rowse: Yes, after Bangkok, I went down through Malaysia and Singapore and took a ship to Australia and hitchhiked across Australia and back to Bangkok, but I was a hippie.

It was the hippie trail. The Europeans went down to Australia if they got that far and the Australians and New Zealanders all went up the other way through the UK. 

[00:02:40] Colin Cohen: of course and one great advantage of arriving in Hong Kong in 72 is that no immigration issues, straight off the boat or the plane and one is able to work straight away.

[00:02:50] Mike Rowse: Absolutely, it was a great thing. Sleeping on the couch of a friend, one of my stepfather's friends. And it's obvious I couldn't stay there for very long. So I wanted to rent a room. Which meant getting some money. So I looked in the South China and there was an ad for an English teacher. That was the only skill I had. 

So I taught English for five Hong Kong dollars an hour. 

[00:03:10] Colin Cohen: How long were you a teacher for? 

[00:03:12] Mike Rowse: Six or seven weeks. 

[00:03:14] Colin Cohen: And then what happened? 

[00:03:15] Mike Rowse: I'd always wanted to be a reporter. I have no experience, no training whatsoever. So I walked into the Star Newspaper. 

It was a tabloid, a page three girl in a bikini if you were lucky. And my first job was to write the captions for the page three girl. But I walked in and asked this girl, can I see the editor? And she said, what was it about? I said, I want a job. So the editor came out. Big tall Australian guy, six foot, six and a half feet. And he looked down at me and he said, well, what do you want? And I looked up at him and said a job. And he said, what can you do? And I said, write English. And he said start tomorrow. 

That was the entire job interview. And that was the flavour of Hong Kong. I got the job teaching English just like that with a phone call. I got the job on The Star, just with one visit to the reception 

[00:04:05] Colin Cohen: Quite interestingly, a development in 1974, you joined the newly created independent commission against ICAC. What on earth made you do that? 

[00:04:16] Mike Rowse: I found myself specializing on the newspaper in stories about corruption and particularly police corruption. And it just seemed to me that there was this new organization and I thought, I want put my hand up for this. They probably won't accept me cause I've got no relevant experience again. But I should at least put my hand up and show willing. And so I applied and much to everyone's surprise, I was accepted for the operations department 

[00:04:41] Colin Cohen: And to help our listeners, operations departments is the front line where you actually investigated and arresting people? 

[00:04:49] Mike Rowse: I actually prosecuted one case in court. The guy got off, he shouldn't have, he was as guilty as sin. And that was a big thing, I was in induction course 1A, it was the first wave of recruits to the ICAC in 1974.

[00:05:02] Colin Cohen: Did you enjoy it? 

[00:05:03] Mike Rowse: Absolutely, it was really really worthwhile. And in a macro sense it was very effective. And evidence was so easy to find it really was, it was everywhere. Because the outfit was so corrupt in those days that nobody bothered to hide anything.

[00:05:18] Colin Cohen: That was the days of Treasure Island, Cheung Chau, every policeman was on the take. MacLehose brought in the ICAC in an attempt to try to bring some law and order. 

[00:05:27] Mike Rowse: Yes, and it was very funny. There were about 20,000 policemen all armed and there were about 200 of us in the early days, all unarmed, but within a few weeks, the 20,000, were scared of the 200. Because they couldn't buy us off. We only had one quality, we didn't take bribes but that was enough. They'd been paying their way out of everything. If you were squeezed you just paid and prime rate was officially very low and the detection rate was incredible. Well into the nineties, because of the government offered $5,000 reward for a murder. But the station Sergeant would offer 50,000 from his pocket and someone would always be found who would admit he was guilty. And you couldn't report a stolen bicycle in those days, if you go into the police station to say, I've lost my bike, the Sergeant would give you a hundred dollars from the till and say go buy another bike. Because they knew the crime would never be solved. And would just look bad in the statistics. 

[00:06:23] Colin Cohen: And then you stayed in operation for a bit, but then you moved to another department. 

[00:06:27] Mike Rowse: I was in operations for three years. It was very fulfilling, arrested people, but I realized there was no career for me there. I wasn't local enough to go on that track. But at the same time, I wasn't one of these detectives from the UK. I fell in between two stools. So I thought, well, okay, main job here is done and I'm done. So I went to corruption prevention where you study, how departments operate and give them advice on how to change their procedures to deter corruption in the sense by making it easily visible. You put management techniques that you can monitor the statistics and think oh something going wrong there. 

[00:07:09] Colin Cohen: Yes, then that department expanded considerably, whereby for example, when I was involved doing some and one of my duties at the Football Club, when I was on the board, we would invite the ICAC to come in and help us with the systems to make sure, do you see any issues of the buying, the procurement et cetera. Sort of fair to help people, and you were doing that. 

[00:07:29] Mike Rowse: Yup, and I was asked at the very first interview why I didn't opt for community relations. which is the PR arm. And the answer was well I've only just started as a reporter anyway, but I, I think that's more, addressing the local population. 

[00:07:44] Colin Cohen: Yes, and so 1980, a year before I arrived in 81, you then morphed into an administrative officer for the Hong Kong government.

Now tell me how that came about cause that was the sort of stuff of a very illustrious and distinguished career in government. 

[00:08:00] Mike Rowse: I married my first wife in 1974, and we had two children. And towards the end of the three years in corruption prevention, I was getting bored. Because it was the same methodology for all of the studies, it didn't matter what the department was. The basic techniques that you applied were the same. And the reports were getting very similar because you found the same kind of problems. And I thought I've got to do something more interesting, more demanding. 

And I asked my colleagues in the corruption prevention, what's a good job in the government? And they said, housing assitant or executive officer. That's certainly best job of all they said, is administrative officer. But you'll never get that. So of course, immediately that had to be the one I applied for. When I left the ICAC, they were taking odds on how long I would last in the government if I got in. I think the longest guy had three months the first guy was two weeks I mean, they never thought would survive in the government. But I enjoyed the recruitment process so much that when it had finished, I said to my colleagues, well if I don't pass this year, I'm definitely going to apply again next year. Because it was such fun to sit the written exams.

[00:09:12] Colin Cohen: So you defeated the government examiners, you got good marks on your exam. You did well in the interview. So you became administrative officer. So tell us a little bit as to what you exactly did the start of...

[00:09:22] Mike Rowse: It's based on the old British colonial officer system where you get posted anywhere to do anything. So this week you could be in charge of social welfare and next week you're the director of immigration. It's not as quick as that because you normally have two or three years in a post before you move on. But you're sent repeatedly to jobs which you've never done before. 

[00:09:43] Colin Cohen: Anything stands out that you really enjoyed? 

[00:09:45] Mike Rowse: Oh. 

[00:09:46] Colin Cohen: And what you didn't like 

[00:09:47] Mike Rowse: No, I loved it all.

[00:09:48] Colin Cohen: I do not believe you for one moment. 

[00:09:51] Mike Rowse: I can tell, I have this problem, but I really love it. I was assistant district officer for islands, my first posting. So Cheung Chau, Peng Chau, Lantau, they were all mine. And I went out to them on a government launch, talked to the village heads. Learned a lot about streetlights and land issues. Then my second job was government offices. And I was in land policy. Files would arrive on my desk, and all you could do is take a common-sense view. And it went on from there. I was in information, churning out government propaganda. But finance branch was glorious 

[00:10:27] Colin Cohen: You then became the first director of the financial secretary's office in 1997. 

[00:10:32] Mike Rowse: That was where it took off because I had a range of experience by then. Donald was the FS, I'd worked with him when he was secretary for the treasury. And then he got promoted to financial secretary and he kind of brought me with him. I got the key promotion in the AO grade is from C to B. Lots of people just go in and get to staff grade C and that's it, plateau for the rest of their career. And it's a perfectly respectable level. But getting from C to B is the key one. And he was setting up a new unit in his office, helping business program and a services promotion program. 

And no one had ever done either of these things before. So I had two blank sheets of paper. And it was basically all coming out of my head. Talking to Donald and then putting some ideas to him and then kicking those around, and firming them up. And we had advisory groups of businessmen and everything 

[00:11:25] Colin Cohen: And of course that was the period in 1997, coming towards the handover and all the rest as well. And you continued in government, and you became the first commissioner for tourism. Now I'm interested in that. I mean, what are you doing, showing the tourist around Hong Kong? Tell us a little bit about that. 

[00:11:42] Mike Rowse: Of course, everyone knew we had a Hong Kong tourist association which later became a Hong Kong tourism board. But we'd never had a unit in the Goverment that really devoted itself to tourism policy. And because while I was still Head of BSPU when I was put in charge of the Disney negotiations. Because I had an hour a week with Donald one-on-one. I was his hatchet man, basically. I reported to him, which of the bureaus were delivering and which of them were obstructing him basically. So of course I was hated royally by everyone because I had this privileged access to the FS. And I would tell him the truth about what was happening in his empire. And I went over to see him for of the regular talks, and at the end of our meeting, he handed me a file. It was a single sheet of paper. And it said, the discussions with Disney have reached the stage where we think we've identified a site and what we now need is a lead negotiator. So I said to Donald okay, well, I'll think about this and I'll email you later. No, he said I've already thought about it, it's you. And I said, but I've got a full-time job. And he said yes, and now you've got two. 

[00:12:49] Colin Cohen: So you're the person I can blame for bringing Mickey Mouse to Hong Kong. 

[00:12:53] Mike Rowse: Absolutely, absolutely. 

[00:12:54] Colin Cohen: Did enjoy the negotiations? Dealing with those nice Americans. Or did they get one over you or did you get over them? It's a lot of controversy. 

[00:13:02] Mike Rowse: Lot of things I learned on that. One is that Disney people are obsessed with detail. Every single building, every single structure on every Disneyland everywhere has a hidden pair of Mickey's ears. Best example of that is the trees. They said one day, we'd like to have a meeting about landscaping. So we found a poor lady from New Territories services department who dealt with parks. And Disney said, okay we'd like to bring in the head of the tree team. So then he brought in this guy who knew everything about trees that you could possibly want to know. And we discussed trees for four hours. 

And then, we thought this is over, the poor girl from NTSD. We had to help her out of the room and they said, no no, we're not finished. Now in the afternoon, we'd like to bring in the leader of the Bush team. And it was another four hours about species of Bush and everything. But anyway, what I learned is that negotiating is like arm wrestling, trying to push each other over. They came to the table with a genuine concern and a solution, and we would come with a genuine concern and our solution. And the first meeting is, you're just exchanging solutions. You realize they don't meet. So then you have to trust each other enough to go back to problem behind their solution. And this happened over and over and over again.

[00:14:28] Colin Cohen: Disney then all got built. Standing back now, good for Hong Kong? Bad for Hong Kong? Should we have had the casino there instead. What do you feel of it?

[00:14:37] Mike Rowse: I think it was a great idea at the time and we got a reasonable deal in the circumstances at the time. Disney were ambitious and we were ambitious. I think in later years, various things didn't follow up as it had been planned that they would. For example, the deal provides for three Disney Parks in Hong Kong. The one that we've got now, the first one. We had less than half of it on opening, but the site across the road was going to be a second gated area as they call it where you have to pay separately to get in. 

There's also a third site to the south. So Disney definitely had in mind, maybe not as many as Florida, but California they have two, Paris they have two, Tokyo they have two, and so on. 

[00:15:20] Colin Cohen: At the same time, whilst you were looking after Disney, you still had your job in tourism. 

[00:15:25] Mike Rowse: Well, I was still the director of the business services promotion unit. Then I was a full-time negotiator as well. And then in May of that year, 99, global search for a commissioner for tourism failed. They said, well you're already doing Disney you might as well do the rest of tourism as well. I wasn't allowed to give up any of the jobs I already had until middle of following year in 2000. I was allowed to stop being BSPU on the 30th of June. But I still had another three months to go as commisioner for tourism. When I was asked to set up a new department, Invest Hong Kong as well. So for that three months I was Director-General of Investment Promotion. 

[00:16:07] Colin Cohen: So let's move on to Invest Hong Kong. Can you tell our listeners what exactly your main objectives were and how you got into that and what you had to do?

[00:16:15] Mike Rowse: Well again, it was third job I had with no precedent cases. So I had another blank sheet of paper and it was, what are we supposed to do? Oh, we're supposed to tell companies around the world how attractive Hong Kong is as a place to do business. And encourage them to set up here.

That's all. And you start off by making mistakes and then you realize. You can't just sit at the airport and wait for them to turn up. You actually got to get out there and knock on their doors. I travelled a lot. I did almost 2 million air miles, over a million, just on Cathay, which is great for them, I guess. But once you get into it, you find that your body cycle adjusts. So I would be flying every month in the first three years. 

So you're always flying, and I would get back to Hong Kong, usually at dawn on a Sunday and go to the Football Club and run 10 kilometers around the Happy Valley track and then go home and have a two hour nap. Force myself to wake up. And then Monday morning, I'm back in the office. And when I retired, I noticed for the first time after about four or five weeks, there's something strange about me. What's different? I wasn't jet-lagged for the first time in eight years. 

[00:17:30] Colin Cohen: So let's now move on a little bit. You're still at Hong Kong Invest, and then we have the SARS difficulties. And one of your duties, you were given the responsibility for Harbor Fest. Now perhaps that will bring back some interesting memories. And perhaps a little bit of a difficult time of your career but lets remind everyone as to what happened. 

[00:17:50] Mike Rowse: Well, we had a meeting. What the hell are we going to do about SARS. The economy is in the toilet. No one was arriving, no business came down at all. And unemployment was starting to be very dangerous. I said, when the CDC drops the travel advisory, we've got to launch a campaign to bring people back to Hong Kong, as tourists or as business people.

So we need an economic relaunch program. So I was running a hundred million dollar a year department and there was a billion dollars to launch this economic program. And they looked around the table and said, well, everyone was busy ducking under the table they didn't want to split responsibility for the billion. I was the nearest thing that was appropriate. 

[00:18:37] Colin Cohen: So to remind everyone, you were responsible for negotiating bringing in The Rolling Stones. 

[00:18:43] Mike Rowse: Well not quite. What said was, well we must have ideas from everyone in the community. So there are actually lots of suggestions for economic relaunch. Many of them from within the Government. So there was cycling from Shatin to Taipo, there was dancing under the stars on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai. We brought in David Beckham and we brought in Liverpool for the Invest Hong Kong Cup. But the biggest idea came from the private sector was from American Chamber of Commerce. And they said, we have an entertainment team here. How about if we organize a series of concerts. And everyone on the advisory group, oh let's do that. And they said, well, we're going to need a hundred million dollar subsidy. We estimate it's going to cost 116 million and we're going to get 16 million in revenue. This was the biggest single other item, so I was instructed to make sure that AMCHAM delivered 17 concerts, and give them a hundred million. So then it became very controversial because the economy recovered so quickly. So from April to June, the place was dead. you could walk into any restaurant, anywhere without a booking at 1:00 PM and get a table by the window. That's how bad it was. 

But as soon as the travel advisory was lifted, people flooded back. By the time the concerts were held in October, November. People were saying, well why are we spending all this money. So it became politically controversial, but the ministers all ran away. It was almost amusing. None of the ministers could be found. Legco said, we want to discuss this in front of the such and such panel. And only the two civil servants agreed to go. And then I think the CE must have recognized that this would be a terrible scandal, so he ordered all the ministers to go, and eventually, the FS at the time took responsibility. 

[00:20:35] Colin Cohen: And of course, the outcome was that they started disciplinary proceedings against you. 

[00:20:40] Mike Rowse: Yes, they said it couldn't possibly have been a bad decision by the ministers. It must have been poorly implemented by the civil service. So we're going to take disciplinary action. I wrote to them and said, don't do this, we've had this independent committee. We've had this audit report. Had this public accounts committee. We do not need another report. And if you go for me, I will take it all the way. I will defend myself and I will go to the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. And if necessary, I will go to the subcommittee of the National People's Congress. I told them this in writing. They didn't listen. 

[00:21:16] Colin Cohen: And they instituted proceedings to try to terminate your position as a... 

[00:21:21] Mike Rowse: Well, no. The end result was I was fined. Effectively. It was one month's pay. Alright, what it bore down to. But I said I'm not having it. So I appealed, There were five basic charges but each one had five little legs. And in the end, I was found partly guilty. It's like being partly pregnant. But the absurdity of it was huge. It said in the charge sheet that I had not included in the contract with AMCHAM a requirement for them to review the ticket prices of the concerts. This had been a specific condition set by the committee. And the reason for that is true. There was no requirement on AMCHAM. Because we were doing everything in parallel, we told them you've got to review the ticket prices. They revised all the charges and the new charges were in an appendix to the contract. So having a clause in the contract requiring them to do something they'd already done was actually absurd. So we left it out. But I was found, partly guilty of that one. 

[00:22:24] Colin Cohen: I do recollect at that time. very lovely person, Christina Lowe. And she called me and she wanted to know just off the record, my views. And I said, well I thought you had a slam dunk case myself. And in the end of the day you gloriously won everything. you won in court, you got all the declarations completely cleared. And then you wrote this wonderful best-selling book, No Minister & No, Minister. For our listeners, it's a good read. 

[00:22:49] Mike Rowse: because I felt I wasn't bitter about it. I guess that's just my personality, but I was determined to set the record straight. 

[00:22:57] Colin Cohen: And indeed you did. So you set you have no regrets about that, but then you left government. 

[00:23:04] Mike Rowse: Well I'd reached the statutory retirement age of 60. 

[00:23:07] Colin Cohen: Of 60 at that time. And now it's 65. 

[00:23:09] Mike Rowse: So I just reached the age. There was no questions, I couldn't stay on. 

[00:23:12] Colin Cohen: So how long were you in government altogether?

[00:23:14] Mike Rowse: 28 years in the government, plus the six in ICAC. 34 altogether in the public service. 

[00:23:19] Colin Cohen: And a very, very distinguished career. 

[00:23:21] Mike Rowse: I enjoyed it, all the way through. And Harborfest did not take the shine off that. It was tremendous. 

[00:23:26] Colin Cohen: Well, I've got a couple of things I do want to raise with you. You've became the first expatriate civil servant in Hong Kong's history to naturalize and to become a Chinese national. You, therefore, gave up your British passport and you now have a Hong Kong SAR passport. What prompted you to go down that road? 

[00:23:46] Mike Rowse: It actually goes back to 1986 When I made my first trip to the mainland, I went to Beijing as part of an ex-pat delegation, to meet the deputy head of the Hong Kong Macau affairs office and ask him about the future of ex-pats in Hong Kong. And one of the members of the delegation, he said, is there any way that I, John Lambourne could become a Chinese national. And Lu Ping said, you can apply. The other three laughed but I wrote it So I brought it back to Hong Kong and the message we got from Lu Ping was we want you all to stay. And I said to Lu Ping well, don't think that's the British agenda I don't think that's what they're working to. So you better send them a clear signal about this. 

So the next day, four of us in the great hall of the people with the state counsellor filmed by China television, to send a message. We mean it we want these guys to stay. 

So that was when my first grasp of the idea that in fact it was possible to become a Chinese national. But it was Invest Hong Kong. It was my last 10 years in the government. I was travelling the world, waving a flag for Hong Kong saying Hong Kong is the best place in the world for business. And I was doing it with a British passport and that didn't seem right. so this product is so good, I bought it myself. So I dusted out that old file with the papers on it, and I contacted immigration department. And they nominated a liaison officer to work with me. So it wouldn't be high profile when I went through it. 

[00:25:13] Colin Cohen: It is very common now and I have many clients who want to renounce their British nationality, Become naturalized, to make Hong Kong their home. So you've retired, we know you write your columns in the SCMP.

You have a RTHK program where you broadcast a lot and you're kept busy with lots of other things going on at the moment. But there's one interesting matter, I do want to have a polite go at you with. Very recently, you stood for a Legco member, via the election committee. You and Alan Zeeman. What on earth made you go down that particular road? 

[00:25:47] Mike Rowse: First of all, I think if you look back at my history in Hong Kong. I've always been interested in where the action was. As a journalist, I covered controversial stories. That's what made me join the ICAC. When I thought the job, there was, was basically done, and certainly done for me, I wanted to be in the thick of things in the government. 

I could see Hong Kong getting a terrible rep in international media, quite unjustified, very very unfair attacks. Also I think the government at the time was performing badly, I still think that. And I thought we need with experience. 

Now I dealt with legislation, and I had dealt with spending proposals. I had been a member of the Budget strategy group. If there's anyone in this town qualified to look at government spending proposals, it's me because I know where the bodies are buried. And I know how they buried them. Same with the legislation, I knew how to examine legislation. So I thought I'm well qualified to do this and it needs doing. 

[00:26:48] Colin Cohen: Did you have trouble getting election committees people to nominate you? Was it a struggle? 

[00:26:52] Mike Rowse: Nope, It was yes and no. Can I give you a Chinese answer to that question? If I had been left to my own devices, I would have struggled, but there were people who were in favour of my candidacy. And they helped me to find those signatures. I actually got 3, 3, 2, 2, 3. So I was well over the minimum requirement. 

[00:27:14] Colin Cohen: And you passed the vetting committee, being a true patriot. 

[00:27:17] Mike Rowse: Again, much against a lot of expectations. Yes, I passed that and there are actually five exotic candidates. Me and Allen Zeman, the two white men, right? let's not beat about the bush. There was a Taiwanese lady. There was a bus driver, and there was an electrician. 

[00:27:33] Colin Cohen: And none of got elected.

[00:27:34] Mike Rowse: None of us got elected, and that interesting because the head of the Hong Kong and Macau affairs office actually bragged about the diversity of candidates in a famous press release. And at that point, we all thought that we were going to get elected and the other independent candidates thought we were going to be elected as well. And what I think the calculation was, quite a bit of supposition here, so listen carefully. That pro-Beijing parties the DAB, the FTU, and MPP, and so on. They would vote for their own. Then they'd vote for independents, including the five exotics. And then they'd vote for the other Pro-Beijing parties candidates in the order of least disliked. So DAB would have elected all their own people plus a lot of independents because you had to vote for 40 people, otherwise, your ballot was invalid and then they would fill it up with some of the others that they hated less. Alan and I both thought we were going to be elected but 72 hours before the vote. Things changed, and suddenly all the pro-Beijing parties got together and agreed to vote for each other's slate. If you look at the results in detail, all the winners got about 1200 votes. 

Alan was very close. 

[00:28:51] Colin Cohen: Just on the cusp. 

[00:28:52] Mike Rowse: And some people speculate that maybe some people mixed us up. Some of them for me instead of Alan. But the rules definitely changed at the last minute with 72 hours to go. 

Hong Kong was in trouble, when I hear the sound of firing, I march towards it. I want to be part of the action. 

[00:29:10] Colin Cohen: Mike, we are right now in a difficult time with COVID, the uncertainties. I've been writing a little bit about this. Every other week, you've been writing your columns as well. 

But what's happening here, I mean, for the first time ever, One is seeing policies that are coming out, that make little sense, no rhyme or reason. The mass testing, which is going to happen. The restrictions and people are tired. People are upset. Does Carrie and her team realize what's happening here?

[00:29:41] Mike Rowse: First of all, I think the present administration is hopeless, completely lost its way. And I said this the campaign trail. One of the lines for which I got a round of applause was when I said, really when you're in this kind of situation, the problem starts at the top. And if I was 10 years younger, I'd be running for chief executive. And I got a spontaneous round of applause for that.

They've lost their way. And they've actually, by their incompetence, surrendered part of a high degree of autonomy. I don't think Beijing wanted it. They like a place with a separate system. But it's been such a balls up over the handling of the pandemic. They ran out of options. 

[00:30:18] Colin Cohen: I always ask this to my guests. And your thoughts of Hong Kong's future. You've been here 50 plus years. I'm here 41. Are you on the jet plane leaving home? 

[00:30:29] Mike Rowse: I will never leave, be here until I'm planted in the soil because the alternative for Rowse is a hillside in Cornwall where nothing grows. But no I will be here forever. 

It is my home, full stop. 

[00:30:44] Colin Cohen: Mike, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us on Law & More. 

[00:30:51] Mike Rowse: Thank you. Thank you.