Friday, 20 January 2012

This City is Dying

Recently, two incidents have given me a terrible wrench and kept me wondering what has become of Hong Kong.

A District Council member was allegedly punched in the face by a Legislative Council member at the headquarters of Kuomintang, Taipei. If I were not mistaken, the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan and its members were synonymous with violence and brawls only some 10, 15 years ago and Hong Kong people used to regard that sort of barbaric behaviour with sneer. Just last week, when the Taiwan presidential election finally drew to a close, the world, Hong Kong included, joined in a chorus of admiration for the giant step forward by the nation of 23 million. Yet, amid the highly-applauded poise and composure of the Taiwan President-elect and the losing candidates came the despicable altercation, and possibly scuffle, among Hong Kong’s so-called “politicians”, more appropriately radicals nowadays. How Taiwan has improved. How Hong Kong has deteriorated.

I don’t remember when the use of violence, both verbal and physical, started to emerge in the once solemn and dignified LegCo. Somehow, this contemptuous culture has seeped through, gathered momentum and spread like cancerous cells in the community. What used to be a rarity has sadly become a norm. What used to be an alternate form of expression is now getting out of control. Why has our society evolved to be one of disputes and commotions? Aren’t these so-called “public figures” supposed to set up good examples and be role models in society? Why do these people think they need to resort to force to make their voice heard?

Another incident involves Times Square’s 18-year-old UA cinema making way for a French luxury fashion brand. The monthly rent of the premises is reportedly to be skyrocketed from the current 1.1 million to a whopping 20 million. The movie theatre’s manager shed some light on the grim reality – the gross revenue generated from the presumably-all-day-every-day-full-house theatre will not even be enough to cover the jaw-dropping rent, not to mention other costs and expenses.

Such is the depressing scene on the streets of Hong Kong nowadays, especially in the CBDs. Small-scale, and often family-run, businesses are gradually edged out by leading international enterprises thanks to the continuous influx of big spenders mainly from the Mainland. The immense financial resources of distinguished multinational corporations are unmatched by the modest capital of micro-businesses, whose ruthless elimination from the market not only endangers the livelihoods of the ordinary and self-sufficient owners and workers therein, but also slowly nibbles up the hard-fought image that Hong Kong has strived to establish throughout the years – the harmonious integration of east and west. Sooner rather than later, Hong Kong will merely turn into another metropolitan without its own distinct glamour and charisma as global high-end brand names flood our streets in another form of totalitarianism.

One of the candidates of our upcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive election maintained that his core value was to defend Hong Kong’s core value (Yes, it’s a tricky tongue-twister, I admit!). I wonder if he, a prominent entrepreneur himself, realises that Hong Kong’s core values nowadays have diverged from those our population was once so proud of. Camaraderie, perseverance and acceptance of diversity have been replaced by a certain degree of violence, a distorted interpretation of Darwin’s survival for the fittest and the domination of influential tycoons and mega-enterprises.

Indeed the Hong Kong I grew up in has declined in a certain sense. It is now a city where our government splashes out on new headquarters and extravagant high-speed rails while shelving plans for upgrading its medical institutions. This is a world renowned metropolitan where some people can afford to indulge themselves in lavish lifestyles while others live in “cage homes” and earn their meagre living by selling scrap paper and aluminium cans.

Hong Kong is sick and is getting worse day by day. 


  1. A solid article (that I have shared in my blog)

    To the candidate that you have mentioned in the article, Hong Kong's core value probably refers to building more high-risers and thereby boosting its GDP.

  2. In Mexico we have an informal saying that goes: "with money, the dog dances", meaning that whoever has plenty of money can do whatever he/she wants. Which, in a few words, it's what capitalism is about: a supposedly "free" system where big monopolies and tycoons are the real rulers, getting richer everyday, while poor people get poorer and the middle-class disappears.

    It is a pity what's happening to Hong Kong, though maybe this has been its destiny since the day UK decided to return its former Asian colony to the People's Republic of China.

    PS. Even with all mainland influx, HK is still a better place than Mexico :D