Thursday, 10 March 2016

Reflections on the Problems of Hong Kong

The rapid decay of Hong Kong society over the past decade may be attributed to many causes. While many people blame the influx of mainland Chinese immigrants and tourists, the ineffective administration, the reckless and unscrupulous political factions that achieve nothing but destroy trust and reason, the materialistic and utilitarian values that dominate people's minds and thus the education system, few seem to realise that each one of us also shares a slice of responsibility. Aren't we members of this society? What have we done to stop all those awful and ridiculous things from happening and recurring? Are we actually one of those who have fuelled the decay with indifference, inaction or even insanity?

At the end of the day, if I may, it is the attitude, integrity and intellectual power of the people that truly matter. From what I have come across at work over the last couple of years, it is apparent that the problems of Hong Kong are actually the problems of its people. While one may argue that the socio-economic environment has great impact on how the people think and behave, in which of course there is a grain of truth, I still believe that it is the people who have shaped this society as it is in the first place.

Some people fear change, because it brings uncertainty and disrupts the status quo, and thus do whatever they can to resist it. Rules and regulations, policies and procedures, and a blunt admission of 'we have never done this before' or 'this is not the way we work' are often cited as reasons for resistance. In fact, all these administrative obstacles stem from people's reluctance to change, or even to think and come up with viable solutions that can achieve the mission without violation.

Change is never simple. Nor is it created by someone who has nothing better to do. And I don't mean changing who we are, i.e. the core of our heart and soul, but the way we work, we see the world and we deal with problems and unforeseen situations, which are unavoidable anyway. In most cases change is the result of a chain of intellectual activities from identifying a problem, analysing its causes and attributes, conducting research, compiling resources and information to creating viable solutions to tackle it. Unfortunately some people are incapable of perceiving and understanding what happens around them. Perhaps they simply refuse to do so. They seem to live in a static vacuum where only one set of rules and values apply. Any deviation, let alone opposition, is regarded as heresy that needs to be suppressed by all means. While it is perfectly fine to choose what one wants to see, hear and believe, it is a great mistake to reject that each individual is different. Only when people are different from each other can we achieve so many colours and diversities in the world.

Yet acknowledging the differences among individuals does not have anything to do with discerning between the right and wrong, the good and bad. Some people are simply villains for being abrasive, destructive, envious, hostile, selfish, uncooperative and unscrupulous. For reasons that I would never comprehend nor accept, they always stand in people's way to get things done or even attack anyone who voices dissent or takes the lead in change like snipers. Often they claim themselves loyal guards of heritage and tradition, rules and regulations, but in fact they are ruthless defenders of inertia, mediocrity and stagnation. If they are ever asked to share, let alone shoulder, any responsibility, they would never hesitate to decline, evade or rebuke. Even giving advice on how we can work out something feasible is out of the question. Notwithstanding all the excuses to avoid any thread of responsibility, it often turns out to be the game of gloat and jealousy – Why should I help you succeed when I do not have anything to do with it? Perhaps the underlying cause of such attitude and behaviour can be traced back to fear. In addition to the fear of change, it is probably more about the fear of exposing one's inability to cope, adapt and catch up with the uncertainties and unprecedentedness.

It is hardly surprising, or even eyebrow-raising, to come across people who are fearful, lazy and complacent. But the problem, as I have observed over the last couple of years, is that their number is rapidly increasing. If we still believe any organisation is, at least to a certain extent, a miniature of the larger world, the rise of fearful, lazy and complacent people is definitely alarming and worrisome. This means we have to spend more time and effort to deal with those counter-productive people, to solve the problems they create in addition to those that have already existed for long, and to stay optimistic despite all the disappointments and frustrations. More often we are tempted to convert ourselves to think and behave like those people to avoid unwanted troubles. Perhaps the highly contagious virus of complacence, cowardliness, laziness and the lack of responsibility helps explain where some of the problems of Hong Kong have come from.


  1. Anonymous3:24 pm

    Hi Cecile,

    I've seen debates and the news coverage on the recent news, and I think it's great that you reflected on this on a macro level and identified an important issue on a micro level. I made a few posts on hksan on similar topics - I’ll borrow some from there, along with adding my thoughts here and try to articulate them in a more constructive manner.

    I'd like to attribute some of the overall negative sentiments to the imminent economic trends and how people psychologically react to changes.

    Trends - "Numbers don't lie" but could be misrepresented and misinterpreted. While the numbers in the past decade show that the economy hasn't been growing as much as few decades ago, people were to compelled to find causes (and blames). However, many often confuse correlation with causation: while HK enjoyed economic prosperity and rapid growth during the colonial era, many believed that it was entirely the result of the British rule (人和). While I wouldn’t discredit the British for having some important influences, I would think that the success was largely due to HK being a developing city at that time and there was an abundance of opportunities (天時), and the large port served as a major and crucial hub for trading and many other commercial activities (地利).
    However, there were also tons of economic issues that started to surface long before the handover. Since the early 90s, HK has matured economically to become a soon-saturated market - prices were high and growth started to become stagnant. Then right at the time of the handover, huge problems were left for the new government to tackle nominal inflation and find real growth. Fast forward to today, to compare the GDP growth during the colonial era and the almost-two-decades post-handover, one could easily and quickly (but mistakenly) jump to the conclusion that “things have changed for the worse”.

    to be cont..

  2. Anonymous3:25 pm

    Changes - While anyone with the ability to think critically will understand that correlation does not imply causation, but some people do not want to take the additional effort to dig deeper and do more analysis. They believe in the numbers and stories told by the media and their friends, and when the lie (or maybe misinterpretation) is told 100 times, it becomes truth to them. Unfortunately too many people tend to selectively remember the good times, and think that any change is to blame for a derailing economy and society; then they become complacent in the past (and current state) and resist any change. To this day, many still believe in the biased view mentioned above and swear that the democracy was the key to a flourishing economy. One thing people also seem to forget is that the governors of HK were appointed, not voted from an election. So when people say that they were ok with a queen-appointed governor of HK but not okay with CE candidates picked by China and voted by the people of HK, they are actually holding a double standard. In addition, from my experience at work seeing non-stop organizational changes for a few years, my observation is that people like to avoid changes especially when the changes require a new attitude and taking actions. I don’t know the science behind it, but perhaps they feel stressful and anxious to changes and the unforeseen, and tend to think negatively to the result of the changes. From what I saw, the truly successful ones are those who are able to weigh the pros and cons, and embrace changes with a positive and an open attitude. But sadly I wouldn’t assume that is how majority of people are. Yet at the same time, people also want changes (in the government). If the change that people consider 'ideal' and demand for is to revert back to the old policies during days when HK enjoyed decades of prosperity, then not only it is not going to happen, but also might not necessarily be the most effective approach given the situation today. What also worked in the old days were partnership, collaboration, support, and unity, which seem to be opportunities to work on today, but are being quickly opposed and dismissed. The partisan agenda today does little to provide unity, but continues to widen differences on key issues and pull people further apart.

    Aside from my 2 cents, I'd also like to vent a bit on the ethics and standards in media. Some of them are poor at best and seriously infuriate me. (trying to bite my tongue here) I’d say part of the increasing anti-government sentiments could also be attributed to how some news agencies choose to cover and tell stories. Instead of remaining neutral, new reporters and journalists feel obliged to take sides, insert their own stances and feelings on headlines and in stories. (aren’t editorials/Co-ed supposed to serve that purpose?!) . I honestly believe that they fueled the public to jump on the anti-government bandwagon. Unfortunately the more biased they are, the more support they gain and as people really believe that there are some truth through permanent skepticism or cynicism.

    I just realize I typed a wall of text. Thanks for reading!


    1. Thanks Pearltea for your detailed response. Yes, I kind of agree with most of your points, some of which I have been repeating for a couple of years. My two-cent here was actually meant to vent my frustrations at work, which are caused by problems that can't be eradicated anyway, simply because those are stemmed from people's ignorance and stubbornness. Apparently this reminds me of what is going on in Hong Kong.
      The worst problem is that too many people think they are always right and refuse to listen, not even making a minimal effort to step into others' shoe and trying to understand how they feel and think. Communication is meant to promote better understanding, but effective communication has ceased to exist in Hong Kong. Everyone is working hard to getting their point across like aggressive salespeople, but no one seems willing to listen to anything that may seem dissent or heretic. Sooner than later we will all have to pay the catastrophic price of the communication breakdown.


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