Save Hong Kong from its naysayers

Mak Kwok Wah says we need to banish the pettiness and negativism pervading politics and the media, lest Hong Kong lose its dynamism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 3:36am

On the occasion of Singapore's national day this month, its prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, delivered a speech containing some important points that Hong Kong's critics should seriously reflect upon.

Lee drew attention to the achievements of the island republic, such as its efficient infrastructure and social welfare policy. But what might have escaped the attention of many was his call for gotong royong - a Malay expression describing how a community mobilises itself to help one another.

Lee cited Singapore's Malay community as setting a good example to follow with their strong spirit of gotong royong. In particular, he pointed out how members of Malay-Muslim organisations are joining hands to meet socio-economic needs. This has brought significant improvements to Malay Singaporeans, including higher incomes and better education standards, and Lee urged other community groups to follow suit and do more to help one another.

Like Singapore, Hong Kong is a shining example of a small territory with minimal natural assets that by sheer determination - plus the ingenuity of its leaders and the sweat of its masses - wrought an economic miracle. To accomplish this "Hong Kong miracle", we bonded and worked together to get the job done, however tough it was.

We should ask ourselves whether we are happy with our life, and whether we are enjoying far better conditions than did our parents or grandparents when they migrated here from the mainland. For most, the answer to these questions would be "yes".

Though some of us seem to forget, Hong Kong has a lot going for it: a sizeable public housing scheme, an independent and effective judicial system, and low tax rates.

There are still job opportunities in Hong Kong, plus cheap and efficient public transport, a fairly high standard of living for most, not to mention its safe environment, one of safest in the world.

Despite all these advantages, a dark cloud of negativism grips the minds of a highly vocal minority. To some of these naysayers, our government is blind or at least short-sighted. Sadly, most of this negative criticism occurs in the Legislative Council, where some radical members are always trying to obstruct government proposals and turn the minds of the community against its every decision.

Hong Kong has always prided itself on its get-up-and-go spirit. So what has dragged these naysayers into such despondency and despair?

If the qualities of gotong royong sound familiar to some old Hongkongers, it is because we used to have them in spades - our renowned "can-do" attitude, plus the communal spirit that marked our parents' and grandparents' generations. This is also why some media commentators lament that Hong Kong has lost its mojo.

If we are to recapture it, we must first eliminate the poison of petty politics and negativism pervading society. Let's see a change in Legco from the present atmosphere of obstructionism to one where everyone pulls together to get things done. And let's not allow some of the media, which abides by the adage of "bad news is good news", to dictate the tone of our conversation.

Mak Kwok Wah is a public affairs consultant