Monday, 3 July 2006

Three Commemorations of 1 July (Part 1)

From this year onwards, the date 1 July means more than the birthday of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It also marks the opening of the world's most elevated railway that runs across the plateaus and steppes of Qinghai and Tibet, and the inauguration of Jeju Autonomous Province in Korea, and many others, including the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

What a date it is.

Few people in Hong Kong have paid serious attention to the inauguration of Jeju as the first autonomous region of Korea, perhaps due to the World Cup fever, or the sweeping propaganda about the 1 July march in Hong Kong as well as the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Only two Chinese-language newspapers reported the news on Sunday with limited coverage. However, I don't think it is a wise decision for fellow Hong Kong citizens to ignore the emerging rival for Hong Kong after Shanghai and Singapore.

Indeed, it may seem a bit too early for Jeju to proclaim itself a free international city comparable to Hong Kong and Singapore. Jeju's inauguration as an autonomous province on 1 July simply marked the official beginning of a five-year plan that sets out various initiatives and infrastructure projects designed to realise Jeju's aspirations of becoming a free international city in North Asia. However, those who have witnessed the never-give-up fighting spirit of the Asian Red Devils in the football pitch, or the Koreans' resolution of restoring a running river in downtown Seoul by digging up one of the busiest roads and transmitting fresh running water all the way from River Han (Hangang in Korean), should never underestimate how far the Koreans can go. If the Koreans say they have decided to do something, there is a very good chance that they are going to make it, by all means, for anything.

Sadly, the increasing ignorance of some Hong Kong people, and, notably, our honourable political and business leaders, reminds me of the complacence of those so-called football powers that resulted in their early drop-out in the World Cup this year. Some of them thought they were still far more superior in terms of quality, without realising that their competitive advantages are eroding and their competitors have been catching up more quickly than expected. Some others simply could not work out a strategy that effectively capitalises their distinctive competitive advantages. Rather, they sat on the old-school philosophy that has been working well for decades without any incentive for enhancement. Examples of both causes of failure can be easily found in Hong Kong in recent years. And this is exactly why I have been so sceptical, or even cynical, about the future of Hong Kong. This is where I was born and bred and I simply don't want to see it fail.

Though hopeless as it may seem, I would like to urge everyone in Hong Kong, at the strongest possible degree, to take a more strategic and holistic perspective in setting out the long-term blueprint for Hong Kong's sustainable development. Don't just leave our future in the hands of the untrustworthy political opportunists, reactionary tycoons and even the propagandists. Standard of life among fellow citizens shall never improve should economic interests continue to dictate the agenda and mentality of public administration and policy-making. Over the past decade or so we have already suffered enough from the bitterly vicious outcomes of an unreasonably strong favouritism towards powerful conglomerates controlled in the hands of a few. What we need in Hong Kong now is perhaps a civilised version of a cultural revolution that inspires a sincere reflection of who we are, what we do, and where we want to go. Only based on the conclusion of this collective reflection can we draw up a meaningful plan of the actions and steps that we should take.

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