'City of sadness' needs more than a new name

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am

What's in a name? The troubled district Tin Shui Wai would still be plagued by the same problems, even if it were called something else. That is why the suggestion by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat that the inauspicious-sounding name be changed to improve Tin Shui Wai's fortunes might well be seen as laughable.

The lawmaker suggested it during a briefing in the Legislative Council with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. He admitted afterwards that he was not entirely serious, saying he wished to lighten proceedings in the chamber. Nevertheless, Mr Lau's idea does point to a serious problem: the district's name has become a byword for social isolation, poverty and domestic violence. Tin Shui Wai is falling under the weight of negative labelling and publicity. It desperately needs to improve its image and overcome its 'city of sadness' label. But changing its name alone will not help. Concerted efforts are needed to revitalise the district. Otherwise, it will be difficult to attract middle-class families and new businesses to move in. They are needed to raise the area's profile in a more positive way.

The district's 300,000 people are in danger of being collectively - and inaccurately - labelled as an underclass. With the best intentions, social groups organise new activities and welfare programmes for some of its residents, especially children and the elderly. Such moves are welcome. But they inadvertently help perpetuate an impression that these residents are underprivileged when many are actually from normal, if low-income, families.

Despite a string of gruesome murders and suicides involving domestic violence, most of Tin Shui Wai's social problems are not unique; they exist in other districts, sometimes in even worse forms. The district, which is relatively quiet and green, has great potential. Some promising plans are being made to improve its prospects. The government is considering developing a vacant plot next to the Wetland Park into a tourist attraction. The Jockey Club plans to open a back office, providing hundreds of jobs. More creative social enterprises will help. Tin Shui Wai can be rejuvenated. It deserves that much from us - but not pity, or a change of name.