Has Hong Kong lost its mind?

Mak Kwok Wah says irrationality is threatening to destroy social fabric

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 3:09am

What's on the menu for lunch in Hong Kong society today? Perhaps toxic soup, tainted meat and fruit laced with poison. The venue, of course, would match the meal - a foul and fetid atmosphere, with the conversation at every table the absolute opposite of being convivial.

The meal would end with disputes over the bill. And positively no tip.

An absurd scenario, of course, but we have become not just a divided community but a sick and angry one, boiling over with something approaching hate. Hong Kong is tearing itself apart as it sinks deeper into a self-created mire of irrationality and perversity.

Everywhere you look, listen or watch, you can find the signs not just of dissension but social disintegration … in the press, on TV and the radio, all across social media, and in everyday conversation.

What a lot of trouble we would have been spared had she been arrested for obstruction

So what are so many of us arguing about and agitating against?

The following is an incomplete list - and definitely not in an order of importance (who would be foolish enough to suggest that he or she knew that!): the astronomical prices of property and rents; keeping mainland buyers of baby powder at arm's length; encountering rude visitors on the MTR; the clamour for Hong Kong to be granted democracy; musical chairs in the corridors of government; getting a voice in the 2017 election for the chief executive; road rage and queue-jumping on the approaches to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel; the rising cost of living; the proposed landfill extension; and Lung Mei beach.

And of course we mustn't forget the case of the teacher whose behaviour towards the police has exploded into yet another burning issue dividing Hong Kong.

Since her rant was caught on video, she couldn't deny what she said and did - but at least she has apologised to the school in Fanling where she is a primary school teacher, to her pupils and to their parents.

However, she has not apologised to the people most deserving of it - the police officers she swore at.

Her rant included calling the police kung on (the public security officers on the mainland) and could be seen as apparently aimed at sowing the seeds of hatred against the People's Republic. Further, her insistence that the police explain why they had not arranged to separate the two camps at the gathering served no useful purpose. Did she really expect officers to explain to her chapter and verse their crowd-control instructions?

What a lot of trouble we would have been spared had she been arrested for obstruction. In court, she would probably have been given a slap-on-the-hand penalty and walked free with an overdue appreciation of the give-and-take norms of civility.

But, no, she got away with it, and now in today's spirit of ferment and back-stabbing, this bad-tempered incident has taken on a life of its own, embroiling our long-suffering chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.

Answering a question at a community forum recently, Leung said he was calling for a report from the education minister on what he termed "a matter of widespread public concern", which it most certainly is.

That, inevitably, led to a tide of denunciation from the naysayers. But woe betide Leung had he said it was only "a trivial matter" undeserving of top-level investigation. Would not those same critics have been aghast at his "failure" to become involved in such an important matter? Once again, it would be a case of "Mr Leung, heads we win, tails you lose".

Mak Kwok Wah is a public affairs consultant