Monday, 25 June 2007

Retrospect of a Decade (Part 2)

Repetition is hardly noble. It only serves to remind people with extremely short span of memory of things that are truly important.

However, I find it really difficult to resist the temptation to repeat myself in this second part of my English retrospect. The complacence and hypocrisy of Hong Kong's baby-boomers, who are still dominating the business, political and social helms of the city, just makes me unbearably sick.

Despite the hardships and difficulties we have endured since the handover 10 years ago, there is no sign that Hong Kong's leaders have done any soul-searching in defining Hong Kong's deep-rooted legacy of problems, let alone proposing any meaningful solutions accordingly. It seems that vested interests of the powerful conglomerates have dragged the feet of Hong Kong so much that is leading Hong Kong to nowhere but decay and decline.

For one thing, alarm bells have been activated repeatedly on Hong Kong's over-reliance on the service sector, notably financial services, property development and tourism. Unfortunately no one seems to have paid serious and sufficient attention to this burning issue over the past decade. Now that the economy is said to have strongly recovered and financial markets booming, the issue is likely to be ignored for the next couple of years until another economic crisis emerges. I find it really difficult to understand why so many people genuinely believe that financial services alone would be able to support a diverse population like the one in Hong Kong. Don't they know that about one-third of our fellow citizens are still living in public housing on extremely low rents and wages? Don't they know that the glass-walled skyscrapers in Central represent nothing but the fallacy of elitism and an international metropolis? Don't they know that the financial sector is often dominated by expatriates who never step out of their comfortable zones on Hong Kong Island, feeling intimidated to cross the harbour to visit the local Chinese communities of Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai? What do these guys have to do with the dynamic livelihood of the people of Hong Kong?

For another, the majority of fellow citizens are denied of the chance to share the benefits of economic recovery due to the heavily biased economic structure. With the exception of a few sectors, most salary-earners and self-employed people are excluded from generous pay and income rises like those of the civil servants on permanent employment (sorry, no contract staff allowed). Unfortunately consumer prices have shown no respect to the reality and started to climb due to supply shortages and other factors. Latest figures also showed that the income gap in Hong Kong has widened to unprecedented levels.

This is particularly regretful when the Government is trying to comply with the party line of cultivating a harmonious community. However, the Government has shown no insight or meaningful measures to address this deteriorating problem that can lead to devastating consequences.

The recent dissolution of the Commission on Poverty was welcomed though. The approach adopted by the Commission to address poverty was essentially ineffective and a waste of time and resources because the fundamentals are neither challenged nor questioned. The root cause of poverty in Hong Kong, notably poverty that can be inherited for generations, is the demise of social upward mobility as compared to three decades ago. Opportunities to improve one's life with self-efforts are extremely limited with the rapid institutionalisation of Hong Kong, whereby innovation is suppressed and challenges to vested interests condemned as a threat to superficial stability. Students are not trained to have sharp and critical minds but disciples of the baby-boomers. Fresh graduates and young workers do not enjoy the same level of trust, freedom and exposure as the baby-boomers did. Individuals from humble roots are often denied of chances for a good start due to poor education, healthcare and all-rounded personal development at an early stage, which, unfortunately, is made to be costly with limited admission quotas.

Amid the challenges of an aging population, a narrow tax base, the lack of job security due to prevalence of short-term contracts and outsourcing, coupled with the deteriorating natural environment and living conditions, it seems that Hong Kong has lost its direction for more than 10 years but still can't figure out which is the right way to move forward.

Haunted by its previous success in the 1980s, a sense of complacence prevailing among the business, political and social leaders is extraordinarily disgusting and worrisome. While I understand that Hong Kong enjoys an unmatched advantage, thanks to China's blessing and support, there is no excuse for us to brush aside our long-standing problems as if they never existed. As we have seen over the past decade, the later we start rolling up our sleeves to tackle these problems with courage and substance, the more and longer we shall suffer.

Ladies and gentlemen, harmony does not mean speaking in one voice without any dissent or challenge to conventions. Harmony means genuine respect, tolerance and understanding for diverging views and voices. Harmony is by no means an excuse for brainwashing or whitewashing. Active listening and truly open dialogues with paradigms and stereotypes set aside are the first essential step to achieve harmony.

If you guys are not ready or reluctant to embrace the changing paradigms, stop bluffing and step down. Your dirty old tricks no longer fit the brave new world. Nor are these wanted or sought after any more.

Are you ready to go, sir and ma'am?

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