I keep being asked what I think about the future of Hong Kong. What surprises me most about this is that it’s a question not being asked by foreigners but by local residents of Hong Kong origin whose knowledge of what goes on at the grass roots level is far superior to mine.
I usually steer clear from making predictions on the basis that my crystal ball is no less shatterproof than that of anyone else. So, why me? Well, as I follow through the conversations it seems that in the first place no one else is saying anything, so I will have to do. Secondly, I am independent – well most people think so anyway - and I’ve been around a long time living in and travelling to different parts of the world. Perhaps therefore I may have a broader view than some. Also, being willing to express thoughts and test theories, I usually have a view – as long as I have some knowledge of the subject, and accepting that my view is not the only one.
I don’t know how many blogs I’ve written about the potential future of Hong Kong since I started writing them about 7 years ago. I have urged people not to lose faith in the city, no matter what apparent obstacles have been put in the way. The same can be said of speeches I have made about Hong Kong all around the world both before I retired from my full time employment, and then in the almost 10 years since.
Let’s be clear. I write from a particularly lucky and privileged position. If I decide that I don’t want to stay here (or worse, if people here decide they don’t want me to stay), I do have options. But today, there are none that I have seriously considered. I guess that provides you with some sort of insight into what I think about Hong Kong and its future. Certainly at this moment in time.
Back in June 2007, I was saying that Hong Kong’s previously well-publicised and practised “can do” attitude was in danger of becoming a “can’t do” attitude. Since then, regrettably, not much has changed, and by April 2013 I had amended “can’t do” to “won’t do”! But nevertheless the supporters of Hong Kong keep their faith, in the hope that action will be taken for the overall benefit of this city and its people.
All of which leads me back to now: the present.
Any debate about the future, needs also to deal with the present. If, as in parts of the Middle East today with bombs going off all around you, or you are being overrun by terrorists in the name of Islam. If your homes are being destroyed and your people are being murdered on a daily basis, nothing is going to move forward unless a solution is found to the present.
Hong Kong, happily, is not in such a desperate situation as are so many other places in the world. But it has its own current issues to deal with, and some form of resolution needs to be found so that the community can move on and focus on providing a solid base for growth and attractiveness. Therefore it is difficult to even make a reasonable guess at Hong Kong’s future in the present state of affairs.
A recent news article and video report by the BBC, reporting on the Oslo Freedom Forum (go to the final picture for the video - It reads "Members of Pussy Riot are attending the Oslo Freedom Forum. Watch Laura's report") provides an interesting insight into how much pre-planning went into Occupy Central, and the part of particular interest to Hong Kong starts after about the first minute. It also seems that some of the demonstrators are rather well trained. However, while the instructions about what to do in the beginning would seem clear and are being followed, there is little advice available on “what next?” And this is where we are at the present.
It seems to me inconceivable that any discussion on democracy can take place on a “one to one” basis. By this I mean that if there are to be any talks on the subject then it cannot involve solely the student body and Government. It involves all sectors of the public – which can of course include the students.
On the other hand, if the students have concerns about the future job market when they leave their studies, or the huge and future cost of housing in a place like Hong Kong, or other social service provisions in the future – that is a much more relevant starting dialogue where both sides can engage.
Think about it rationally. When a baby starts to move it doesn’t immediately run, or jump or even walk. It crawls to begin with, then it takes small steps and as it gains more understanding of its capabilities and gathers confidence, it can do more.
I honestly have no doubt about the students abilities, nor about their sincerity, but you know – the amount of goodwill they would generate immediately by saying “we’ve made our point forcefully, but it’s now time to move on” would be really significant.
Students all over the world are often idealistic, focusing their efforts on political reform rather than acknowledging the importance of commercial enterprise, but I heard a story very recently where a young protester who was visiting home discovered his Father was unexpectedly also at home. When asked why, the Father explained that his business had been so severely affected by the demonstrations that he had no customers. The young man, I understand, has not returned to the protest lines – but I suspect he is also unlikely to speak out for fear of abuse. Oh dear!
Does Hong Kong have a future? Of course it does – but everyone needs a greater level of mutual understanding. If we don’t get it, then any dialogue between those students who are heading for the job market in the near future or who want to get into the housing market are going to find a discussion about the future not just a “nice to have” but essential.
In my walks down through the students in Gloucester Road there is one sign I always see which reads “Hong Kong Is My Home”. Well it’s mine too!!