My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 5:18am

Hong Kong is strong enough to survive Occupy Central

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.
 

Cities are amazing and complex human constructs. They have defined civilisations and may be the greatest engines of economic growth and catalysts of innovation ever devised by people. Yet they defy simple categorisation and understanding. Urbanisation theorists and social scientists still can't agree why some cities prosper while others don't.

Nationalists may be obsessed with countries and sovereignty. Economists and policymakers continue to talk about gross domestic product and gross national product. Yet, it's the cities and people in them who produce the real goods and services. Viscerally, we belong to our own cities and neighbourhoods. It is in cities that we find the most interesting and human things happening.

We know great cities when we see them, though we don't know how to bring them about. Having a to-do list that includes a big theme park, 10 mega-infrastructure projects and an arts hub just doesn't cut it. Because cities have amazing vitality; they are hard to kill even by the most inept urban planners, and we have had plenty of those in Hong Kong.

Tokyo roared back after being firebombed to smithereens. Not a single large building was erected in Shanghai during the whole Mao Zedong era, yet today it has been resurrected as the mainland's premier finance hub. Hong Kong may not be on par with London, New York and Tokyo, but it is special. It is also robust and tough.

So you have to be sceptical when old nannies like Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the former Monetary Authority chief, and Chow Chung-kong, the stock exchange chairman, warn that our tense political atmosphere could ruin the city through a loss of confidence by international investors and China's leaders. Really, mini-riots outside the legislature and a jam in Central led by some two-bit academics are not going to ruin us.

Any great city goes through phases of political acrimony, though. It may look difficult now, but hopefully we will emerge more politically mature as a community.

It's been said people get the government they deserve. We will, in the end, get the type of democracy we deserve. And yes, sectarian violence can kill a city and decimate its population. But I firmly believe that's not in our cultural DNA.

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