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  • Dec 21, 2014
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Mr. Shangkong
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 7:05am

Family, faith and hard work keep Hong Kong dream alive

The doubters in today's fast-moving society may believe that success is not within their grasp but those that do make it reflect the city's true spirit


George Chen is the Financial Editor and Mr. Shangkong Columnist at the South China Morning Post. George has covered China's political and economic changes since 2002. George is the author of two books -- This is Hong Kong I Know (2014) and Foreign Banks in China (2011). George has been named a 2014 Yale World Fellow. More about George: www.mrshangkong.com

My previous column about one man's "Hong Kong dream" and how it had been affected by the city's new property tax apparently proved to be something that not everyone agreed on. Some readers doubt if Hong Kong will ever be the Asian version of the American dream.

Let me tell you another story about how a Hong Kong dream came true.

One of my favourite places for lunch is a small restaurant in Causeway Bay near Sogo. Like me, the owner of the restaurant was also born in Shanghai but he moved to Hong Kong about three decades ago and became a naturalised Hong Kong citizen.

He opened his first small noodle and wonton shop about two decades ago, which quickly became the top choice for original Shanghai dim sum among many Shanghai people in the city. There have been always many Shanghai people in Hong Kong and even nowadays it is no surprise to hear the Shanghainese dialect in Central and Causeway Bay.

The small Shanghai restaurant even made it to the pages of USA Today some years ago, the article detailing how a Shanghai immigrant survived and prospered in Hong Kong, as a fair reflection of the Hong Kong spirit - as long as you believe in yourself, work hard and earn every coin for your family, you will succeed.

It is true that sometimes you have to work harder when you come to a new city. I think the owner of the Shanghai restaurant will agree, because he was one of the first in Causeway Bay to open his restaurant 24/7. It worked. His shop became a go-to place for young people looking for real food after drinks and karaoke.

When I shared the story with some local friends the other day, some of them tried to argue this kind of "Hong Kong dream" story may be history. They blamed the city's fast-rising rents and the so-called real estate monopoly for the death of small family shops.

They are right, to an extent. But they may not have thought in-depth on how people, especially young people, find their role in a fast-changing society through self-confidence.

I asked my friends why a venture like Facebook could be founded in the United States. Some of them blamed the lack of support from the Hong Kong government for the information technology (IT) sector while others said perhaps local IT professionals prefer working for the back-offices of big banks rather than risk their own ventures.

I have been engaged in such topics many times this year, be it in panel discussions or in chats with friends, but in most cases, these end up in finding blame rather than solutions. If this is the common sense in today's Hong Kong society, no wonder some of our readers say they don't believe there is a Hong Kong dream for them.

After mentioning my friend J in my last column, he sent me a message: "George, I hope in 10 years, you can write another story about me, a story about how I eventually make my Hong Kong dream come true."

In today's fast-changing world, no matter where you are, Hong Kong or Shanghai, Mumbai or Dubai, you can lose money but you can't afford to lose the key to making money - your self-confidence.


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong


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Talking about HK dream, lets talk about HK Shame. yes. I just watched a documentary on ATv showing a young reporter stayed 3 days in a 200 sq ft room divided into 18 beds charging $1300 to $1500 a month basically people live like a dog. I meant a dog or even worst. No ventilation. 18 people share one bathroom and 200 sq ft of space. Is that your HK dream? This people are hard working guy maybe a security guard or a cook making little money but beside work and sleep, what kind of life do they have? So HK dream or success are built on their horrible life? Come on!
George, comment on your friend that we are lacking Facebook alike renovation because of lack of government support etc. this is all nonsense. Remember in Dotcom age in HK few technology companies raised billions of dollar, what they have been doing lately rather than doing properties? Come on. To illustrate further, an IPhone will depreciate everyday you own it but people are still buying it vs. do you think anyone in HK will buy a property if knowing that property will depreciate in price everyday? No. What I am trying to illustrate the different between innovation (iphone ) vs non innovation (property) that innovation will make people to still buying it knowing it will depreciate. But ironically, in HK and recently in China, people in the biz of no innovation, namely property development or landlords, making the most money with the need of innovation. Being a landlord does not require innovation just save up money and buy at the right time; similarly a developer does not require innovation.
That explains mostly we don't have innovation here as it is easier to make money by being dump. Does it make sense? Do you still believe in fulfilling your dream by working hard in HK?
Your friend's HK dream may most likely turn into nightmare !
The HK govt has the fixed mindset of making huge money from its own people. Apart from the govt associates ( tycoons, civil servants, welfare dependants), all other non-associates are surely to be exploited. They have to work twice the workload and get half the returns !
Leave HK for China !
Right on! HK is divided into elite and slaves. Elites are Civil servants, developers, and some professionals. The high land price strategy has been keeping the Elites fat not because they are better or contributed more. To keep 200k civil servants, we have to sell lots of expensive lands. So the Salve group basically works for the Elite group for their whole life. Wake up. Again, I must declare I am an landlord but I did not make my fortune in Speculating HK property, a rare person but I condemn the high price land policy. But HK people has to wake up and tell the government they don't want that too. But that won't happened as this all have been brain washed (nothing to do with national education). Just illustrate, it takes at least 3 if not 5 times the cost to keep a civil servants than private sectors if you take in all the retirement benefits and all costs. So for 200k civil servants, we are almost footing a bill of 1m civil employees by the rest of 3m employees by private sector. Now if you add in the developers and the fat bankers, the Slave group has to work for nothing.
HK food quality is going down hill as far as I see. Many olds shops such as BBQ goose, fish ball, won ton noodle shops etc are getting worst for many reasons. First, the rent is kicking them out of the biz. Second, it is hard or close to impossible to get hard working people to do the 7 by 24 type of work form our new generation, particularly the horrible working condition. The rent push down quality of food too as owners goes for les quality ingredients. I don't see how this will pass on the next generation that's why you are seeing less specialty shops. One of the key is the money made not justifying the hard work almost like a slave, all because whatever a successful restaurant makes, most of its profits will goto the rent. There is no incentive at all.
The last but not least, we don't respect people like chef with little education in our society. How often do we see a chinese chef as successful as Jamie Oliver's who are highly respected and financial success in our society? Yah, there maybe a small article in WJ or HK news talking about a success story, but can you find someone like chinese Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey alike in HK? Without star chefs, how serious is HK people about food? Are u kidding me and calling ourselves as Asian world city? Wake up...
George, ask your SH restaurant friends if he or she is going to pass on the biz to their kids? I guess the answer is no unless theirs kids are not educated with no other alternatives. Their kids, unless with no other choices, would probably not want to work in a horrible dirty and long hour work place either. Unless your friend owns the property otherwise I would assume they are only making an ok living but not really well off. But if they own the property, they are better off financially by selling or renting it too. That's the problem of HK....


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