My Take

A rebellious '60s moment of our own

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 12:22pm

We are having our own anti-establishment '60s moment. It all started with the massive rally against the anti-sedition Article 23 in 2003.

The traditional social, business and institutional pillars that have sustained Hong Kong and characterised its society are being challenged and criticised like never before. The call for full democracy is only the most obvious example of these seismic changes that are shaking up life as we know it here.

Monopolies, duopolies and cartels have been the main features of our economy for as long as I can remember. Once they were seen as the natural order of things; no longer. The scheme of control that underpins the staggering profits of the power companies; the duopoly of the supermarket chains; the monopolistic dominance of free television, and above all, the pervasive influence and power of the property tycoons - all these are being questioned.

The police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption used to enjoy unquestioned public support. Not anymore. Officers now routinely face accusations of political bias in their handling of protesters. The ICAC, which has until now been our most trusted law enforcement agency, has had its rock solid reputation seriously dented by the profligate spending of its previous commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming on entertainment.

The heads of universities used to be Olympian figures above reproach. Now they are regular targets of student leaders and activists. In a recent book, former Central Policy Unit chief Lau Siu-kai argues a recurrent problem of the post-handover government has been its inability to establish the legitimacy of its rule among the public. I would go further. The short political history of the SAR has been characterised by the systematic delegitimising of the government.

As a refugee society, prosperity and stability have long been the primary goals of everyone from different strata of society. Our leaders in Hong Kong and the mainland still share those goals. But if prosperity is seen as benefiting only the top 10 per cent, there can be no stability without social justice.

As the curse goes, we live in interesting times. Can someone bring on the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll? That would be more fun.