My Take

Same old problems, different city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 3:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 4:45am

"On the surface [Hong Kong] looks better than ever … [with] a well-regulated banking system … the quality of life is high, with good public schools, good free hospitals and a government that combines meaningful regulation with open markets. Yet the city is divided and angry. City Hall is broken.

"Our failed system of government has had serious consequences. The rage against the old elites is evidently profound and resilient.

"It may be one of the most international cities in the world but [Hong Kong] retains a strong legacy of the British Empire. It is ... an expanding hot mess, fuelled by inarticulate desires and inchoate fury. Overcoming nearly 200 years of sensible decisions and ingrained humility, [Hong Kong] is starting to get interesting. It has become a city making a spectacle of itself."

Sorry, I felt lazy yesterday so I just cut and pasted a New York Times op-ed on Toronto and its mayor Rob Ford, who has confessed to smoking crack cocaine. Where you see [Hong Kong], it was actually Toronto in the original. From those passages, you may find Hong Kong's problems are actually not so unique at all.

Toronto, my second home, now has for a mayor a self-confessed boozer and drug taker. Ford rose to high office by raging against "the elite establishment" - "fancy people" he called them. By his own admission, he smoked "a lot" of marijuana. A police report detailed how he and a buddy, out on bail on an extortion charge, left behind a trail of empty vodka bottles on a public path. After his cocaine confession, his popularity rating actually went up five points to 44 per cent. That's almost a fifth higher than our chief executive Leung Chun-ying. I won't recommend Leung to follow his example, though.

There are many similarities between international cities like Hong Kong and Toronto. A lot of our social problems, tensions and dysfunction are fairly typical of big cities around the world; things we blame our government for such as inadequate housing, the wealth gap and our anti-elite anger.

Many think constitutional or democratic reform will address those problems. I keep my fingers crossed. But I do long for the right to elect someone like Ford to liven up the CE's office. May be he will drink me under the table.