cab chat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2003, 12:00am

Chan Tak-ki, 45, looks back on 2003 and offers a few pieces of advice. Ride from Sai Sha to North Point. Cost: $197.80.

This year has been very educational for all of us. It seems like I've been through a lifetime of experiences and come out a different person. It's not only the July 1 mass rally that has shaken us up, it's the government as well. We don't always just learn from good examples, we can also benefit and learn from the bad ones.

We have learned to question hierarchy because our government is so inefficient and untrustworthy. We have learned to take things in our own hands and make them happen because our government is indecisive. And we have learned to stand up for ourselves because our government refuses to listen.

A lot of people might be moaning about the economy, negative equity, high unemployment and deflation, but I think we should be thankful because all of these things are a blessing in disguise.

I believe people can learn a lot more about themselves when placed in difficult circumstances.

When life was comfortable, we were just too busy indulging ourselves to care about things that were outside our lives. When the economy was good, we wouldn't take time to question the government. Now the truth has finally become more apparent to us all. We have come to realise how important it is to work as a community rather than just as individual enterprises.

I hate to admit that Hong Kong people are generally very selfish, looking after only their personal interests. And we used to think as long as there was money to be made, we wouldn't care how this place was run or who was running it. Now that Hong Kong is not being run properly - and there is no more money to be made - people have finally realised that operating only as an individual without taking an interest in the government will not guarantee long-term prosperity.

A lot of people say the July 1 demonstration was a wake-up call for Hong Kong people. I think it was an eye-opener to show us what we can do to control our destinies.

During the good years, we were never very proactive when it came to politics because we thought it was only for politicians and government officials. It never occurred to us that there is a need to take part in local elections or take to the streets to fight for our rights. We used to think that protesters were troublemakers and demonstrations were only for radicals or the underprivileged.

I have been a taxi driver for 12 years; there is nothing I can do to change my career path. My biggest motivation is my children and, like most parents, I want the best for them. I want society to provide the best education and best opportunities for them. Having witnessed the events of this year, I am hopeful that despite the inadequacies of our administration, we can still exercise our individual power to bring about change. We might not have the power to appoint government officials, but we certainly have the power to question them or even take them out of office if they fail to perform.

We shouldn't forget we still have the accountability system in place to keep checks and balances. It keeps a tight leash on government officials to make sure they are answerable to the public. If we want to make sure this system works, we should start asking questions and keep an eye on their performance.

I think people have generally become more involved with social and political developments this year because they felt there was a need to. My concern is if the economy gets better, the public might return to its previous complacency and let it all go again. I understand it's human nature to look after what's close to us and our personal interests, but I also hope we can make it our second nature to look after the interests of the community as a whole.