An outdated and profitable chauvinism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 1994, 12:00am

THERE has been much debate concerning the Heung Yee Kuk's furious rebuttal of the Government's attempts to expunge their fine old traditions and bring the New Territories dwellers into line with the rest of Hong Kong.

I have considerable respect for old traditions: they are, after all, broad conduits of social history and a living reminder of successive generations of society's cultural inheritance. But surely there are traditions which do not reflect well upon the society which created them and would be better forgotten. For instance, even the most militant of Roman Catholics tend these days to regret the misplaced zeal which spawned the Inquisition. Similarly, few Indians regret the passing of the cults of thugee (strangling travellers with silken scarves) and Suttee (forcing widows to share their husbands' funeral pyre).

So let us look at the Heung Yee Kuk's stance. It castigates the Government for failing to consult either the Kuk itself or indeed the 700 odd thousand folk it represents.

Its spokesmen inveigh long and loud against what they see as a gross usurping of their rights. And what are the rights in question? Freedom of speech? Curtailment of movement? Mass deportation perhaps? Er, no. The Government wants to allow women to be able to inherit property. And that's about it.

With the best will in the world, it is hard to believe that any more than 50 per cent of the Kuk's proteges would object to this, if asked and one dares to imagine the division would be primarily on sexual lines.

The Kuk has employed an author with a fine and ringing turn of phrase to put its viewpoint but whilst one must respect the outrage which fuelled the stated aim ''without fear or fright (to) battle to the very end to protect village, clan and way of life'', a dispassionate observer might be forgiven for thinking that the high-sounding polemics employed by the Kuk do little more than try to give an aura of respectability to the self-interest of those who wish the continuation of a totally biased, outdated and profitable chauvinism.

WILLIAM GOW The Peak of those who wish the continuation of a totally biased, outdated and profitable chauvinism.