Mr. Shangkong

Spoilt child or not, Hong Kong merits attention

The territory is more than a financial centre but insight about its political challenges is limited

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 6:35am

Li Ka-shing drew criticism from many when he warned in an interview earlier this year that Hong Kong is behaving like "a spoilt child".

Some Hongkongers felt that Asia's richest man didn't really know what he was talking about, amid efforts by many in the city to defend Hong Kong's freedom and fight for democracy.

When I first heard Li's comments, I had mixed feelings about his contentious description of Hong Kong.

On one hand, I agreed with Li - a legendary figure in Hong Kong - that the city is headed down a dangerous path of populism. However, I can separate the intentions of the younger generation for a better society with actions that may prompt comparisons with the antics of a spoilt child.

With their demands for "one person, one vote" and civic nomination for the city's chief executive in the 2017 election, the activists haven't asked for too much. The sad reality has been that, for many years, neither the Hong Kong administration nor the central government has apparently paid heed to what they are seeking. This environment has given rise to the polarised opinions in the city, where activists are seen either as spoilt children or idealists fighting hard for a deserving cause.

Although I've been a business journalist for more than a decade, I do care about politics - in Hong Kong, mainland China and elsewhere in the world. After all, on the mainland, business in most cases simply means politics, too. How can you do business without attention to politics in the world's No 2 economy?

What happens in the city will affect the future of China, in both business and political realms

Outside Hong Kong, real insight about the political challenges that the city faces is quite limited. We have many great scholars focused on China at top American and European universities but it is a different matter if you want to find someone who really looks into the past, present and future of Hong Kong.

Most students in the West may recognise Hong Kong simply as one of the world's leading financial centres.

As you read this column, I'm actually at Yale University in New Haven. Some of my readers may already know that I've been named a 2014 Yale World Fellow, together with 15 other fellows from all over the world. I will spend the rest of the year with the YWF programme at Yale, an institution whose relationship with China can be traced to the Qing dynasty, when the first Chinese student graduated from an American university.

In my view, whether Hong Kong is already a "spoilt child" is debatable but one thing is clear - Hong Kong must not become a "forgotten child" in the eyes of the world. What happens in the city does matter and will affect the future of China, in both business and political realms. You will hear more from me around this topic during my time at Yale.


George Chen is the financial editor and a columnist at the Post. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in print and online. Follow @george_chen on Twitter or visit