• Thu
  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:30am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 3:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 4:45am

Same old problems, different city

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

"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.

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This article is now closed to comments

captam
Oh come on....... he should be forgiven for snorting cocaine ........ he was in a drunken stupor
Can't wait for real "democracy" in Hong Kong. Things can only improve with elected populists like this oaf.
superdx
By and large Toronto's problems are not similar to Hong Kong's at all. The wealth gap is nowhere near as alarming and while prices in homes are rising just as in Hong Kong, there are plenty of choices as to where to reside, whereas Hong Kong choices are severely constrained with a monopoly of developers.
Toronto's problem is an apathy to politics in recent elections. Rob Ford is a wake-up call to Toronto to be more active in their democracy, otherwise you pay the price. George W. Bush was also elected on near record-low turnouts. Voter turnout in the next election will for sure be charged. Hong Kong does not yet know true democracy, and thus can only dream of it.
The two cities are not the same. This article is just playing with words. In fact you could take a recent article about Singapore and do the same thing, and the comparison would be similarly *not* relevant. Singapore's main problem with foreign imported labour, which HK does not have. Housing is similarly increasing but not to stratospheric levels as speculation on government housing (majority of supply) is not allowed.
The author was honest at least about one thing. He was being lazy.
shouken
Perhaps Texans and people in Toronto are smarter than you think. Perhaps the low turnout was due to the fact they have seen through democracy, real or sham.
caractacus
For all his shortcomings, and they are bad, it doesn't look like Ford is in the pocket of a corrupt property cartel - so there's one big difference between Toronto and HK.
lexishk
This technique - pluck an extreme and extraordinary example from a functioning democracy in order to give the impression that our own situation is actually just fine - is well-known to the CCP's propaganda department.
impala
Well spotted.
321manu
Mr. Lo, pssst, (...i've got something to tell you...)...there's one big difference between Toronto and HK. I'll give you a hint...it has something to do with the political system. And before you go too far with the comparisons, at least know that Ford could be turfed out next year in the 2014 civic election. The same can't be said for Leung, at least for now. On the other hand, if HK underwent "genuine" democratic reform, THEN that would make them all the more comparable.
Try to think of it another way. To be sure, democracy is not a panacea. But if you're gonna have the same problems anyway (housing, wealth gap, etc etc), would you like to live with them within the confines of a democratic society, or a non-democratic one?
John Adams
True, but CY can - and probably will - be turfed out in 2017.
Or we can all take to the streets as we did when old Tung went one step too far
johnyuan
All the symptoms may appear identical and interchangeable between the two cities. Since I have never even been to Toronto except I have a tone of my school classmates and teachers immigrated there, I am not sure if the root causes of the two cities ills are the same. Without fathom the root causes the news remains superficial.
.
The identical and interchangeable symptoms could well be just a coincidence. Or unless my classmates there have bought Hong Kong along with them – I doubt it, it’s just another coincidence.
.
In fact, I think whatever Toronto city’s problems they won’t last as long as Hong Kong’s.
Hong Kong may still wallows in its problems with 30 some odd years to come. But I hope not when common sense gets a chance to play.
John Adams
I think, on balance, I would prefer someone like Rob Ford who at least gets something done to right long-standing social wrongs than a CE-who-promised- everything-but-did-nothing, or a CE-in-waiting-who-would-have-done-nothing and who has a huge closet illegal underground wine cellar,.... or a CS who was on the take from one of HK's biggest property cartels .
.
But that's choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.
.
But then again, maybe these days only city-state leaders who are high on drugs are bold and crazy enough to take on entrenched government-cartel collusion and entrenched bureaucracy.

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