Xi's call for unity misses HK's need for debates

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2012, 12:00am


'Xi (Jinping) said that when two brothers are of the same mind their sharpness can cut through metal. Xi called for better unity in Hong Kong to face future development problems.'

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman
A little DAB'll do you
Quoted in SCMP, March 5

I have a few difficulties with this one, Mr Xi. As a technical matter, it cannot have much application when there are increasingly fewer people on the mainland who have any brothers, what with the one-child policy.

Even in Hong Kong two sons in a family is now uncommon.

Yes, I know you meant brothers in the sense of all humans are brothers or, on this occasion, that all Chinese should treat each other as brothers. But it is a figure of speech that is really best reserved for patching up differences between groups of people who have been 'unbrotherly' with each other.

Unbrotherly, however, is the way brothers often are.

I've had some ferocious fights with mine when we were younger. Brothers squabble. So do sisters. It is far more the common state of things than likemindedness.

Wait for brothers to be of the same mind and you may wait a long time.

But while what most of the people of this town may have in common is that they are ethnically Chinese and that they have a common citizenship in Hong Kong, it does not make them brothers. This metaphor is easily overused

And, as to cutting through metal, why should I want to? I know once again that you spoke in the metaphoric sense and what you really meant to say is that we can do anything if we are of the same mind.

It's not really true, of course, but, even if it were, it begs the question. It is not just anything we want to do when we do things together. We must have a definite purpose. We come together to do something, not just anything. What is this something then to be?

For instance, there is widespread complaint in Hong Kong that property prices have gone beyond the abilities of ordinary people to pay for homes of their own. What should we do about this?

There are many schools of thought here. One blames the trouble on mainland speculators and recommends we ban them from Hong Kong as a remedy.

Another says we have built too little housing in recent years, even though our stock of residential flats exceeds the number of households, and we ought to encourage our developers to build more.

A third agrees with the premise but urges that we instead build public housing because developers are evil.

Then we get the school of thought that says there is nothing much we can really do about it because high property prices are a result of low interest rates and the real culprit is the US Federal Reserve Board plus all those other central banks that have found it convenient to cheat savers. This is the correct theory by the way. I say so.

But if you disagree with me, you still have to find what you think is the real cause of high property prices, and you have to come up with a remedy that addresses the problem. This, in a nutshell, is what the business of politics is all about.

It won't do then to say that we can achieve near-miracles if we all work together. Of course we can. Everyone believes that. But if we work together on solving the property problem without first determining what it is that we have to do and how we will do it, we will only choose an arbitrary solution, probably the wrong one, and make things worse than they were before.

It was different in your formative years, Mr Xi. The way was clearer then. For a poor country in times of peace and heightened technology transfer, the task is to give people real homes instead of mud huts, to build the industry, the roads, the schools, the power network and all the other facets of a modern society.

But what happens when you have built it all and grown wealthy? What do you do then?

This is the question we face in Hong Kong, and the only way to settle it is through debate and contention. Your call to unity misunderstands the circumstances we face.