Sniping exposes our cruel class system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 January, 2012, 12:00am


So the two top candidates to be the next chief executive decided to engage in a bit of class warfare over the weekend. Leung Chun-ying claims that rival Henry Tang Ying-yen and his Commission on Poverty have done nothing to alleviate the condition, which is actually getting worse. Tang replies that Leung never said a word about poverty in his long career in public service until he hit the campaign trail.

They are both right about each other. But you can hardly blame them. There is no quick fix for the poverty problem, the widening income gap and systemic inequality in our society. And chances are that whoever wins, he will not be committed to making the economic and social changes necessary to reverse the trend.

There is a class system in Hong Kong, at least in the form of a permanent underclass. The kind of social mobility we saw exemplified by our rags-to-riches tycoons is a thing of the past. Children born into lower income and underprivileged families today are at a serious disadvantage in terms of the quality of education and employment opportunities available. It is not that they cannot reach the top or at least make a better living than their parents, but with so much stacked against them, they start with a handicap and must struggle extra hard.

So both men are flirting with fire to raise such issues if they only want to score a few points for their campaigns. One particularly jarring publicity stunt was when both candidates rolled out their families this month for the camera. It is instructive that all their children have studied at international schools and/or overseas universities. Our local public schools are not equipped to train young people to meet the demands of the 21st century. But that is ok, because our upper middle class have always been sending their children to private schools and overseas, and they return as executives. But suffer the poor local children.