A city that keeps rising from the dead
'This city is dying, you know?' Somehow this painfully pseudo-profound statement from a TVB soap opera has taken root and was recently adopted by an 'anti-locust' campaign against the influx of mainland tourists and pregnant women.
'Declinism' is suddenly everywhere in Hong Kong. But if this is really a dying city, how come so many mainlanders flock to visit us or try to gain permanent residency for their newborn here? Take a walk in Mid-Levels, Central and Wan Chai. The streets are lined with expatriates - many of them de facto economic refugees fleeing their stagnant or collapsing economies after the Western financial crisis.
But some businesses bloom in declinism and defeatism, just like religion, which usually does well in confused times. So it didn't take long for a local Christian church to exploit the malaise for a bit of God promotion.
The Chinese Methodist Church in Wan Chai - one of the oldest churches in Hong Kong - has put up a giant advert proclaiming 'This city is dying, but God is living', with a picture of an apocalyptic Hong Kong on one side and a risen Christ emerging from a tomb on the other. Besides its lack of taste and tact, it deserves credit for cramping so many arguably false claims into one sentence.
The church's Reverend Yuen Tin-yau explained the banner in an interview with the Sunday Morning Post: 'We wanted to unify people through faith in God, that only God matters in our daily lives.'
It seems perverse to promote unity by selling the image of a dying city. Even so, 'declinism' is nothing new.
Before the handover, many Hongkongers fled the territory in droves. The thought - 'Hong Kong's finished' - was on everyone's mind, if not their lips. Two financial crises, seven years of deflation and a global epidemic later we are doing much better than most developed economies.
Whatever its shortcomings and weaknesses, ours is a great, vibrant and growing city, and this bears remembering and saying out loud. Don't let those Methodists tell you otherwise.