Rude awakening

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 July, 2002, 12:00am

How sad that the Promotion of Civic Education committee should feel the need to spend precious taxpayers' money telling everyone what, in truth, they already know: how to be polite.

The committee's identification of Hong Kongers' five great sins: littering, mobile phone manners, pushing and shoving, poor punctuality and general rudeness are undoubtedly a sad reflection on what many, including our chief executive, like to refer to as an international city with a sophisticated and cosmopolitan image.

And yet, the ubiquitous shrill of mobile phones, the pushing and shoving and people's sometimes curt manner are also part of what gives Hong Kong its unique character: its no nonsense approach to getting things done, and fast.

Would such a campaign be effective if it was aimed at ridding New Yorkers of their brusque manners, or perhaps used to eradicate Parisians' famous intolerance of foreigners? And do either of these great cities suffer from a lack of overseas visitors because of their reputations? The answer on both counts is, of course, no. The same is true in Hong Kong.

Certainly it would be wonderful if all mobile phones were switched off in cinemas, if people always stood back on the MTR and everyone was faultlessly polite. But these undesirable features of Hong Kong life reflect aspects of the city's very essence. Most importantly, perhaps, without such traits, how could anyone be sure they were in Hong Kong?