• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 3:28pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

The roots of Hong Kong's rage

Regina Ip says Hong Kong people living through the wrenching social and economic changes in recent years may find it easy to blame the mainland influence, but at what price?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:48am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:48am

Anyone who has met diplomats posted to Hong Kong from much more turbulent parts of the world will have noticed how appreciative they are of the safety and security of our city. Famed for their love of freedom, Hong Kong people have established a reputation for staging peaceful public demonstrations. Compared to the mayhem that has torn some parts of the world, Hong Kong has stood out as an oasis of peace. Sadly, that seems poised to change.

Although the threats to Hong Kong's physical security seem insignificant at this stage, an atmosphere of violence has set in and is poisoning the civility and stability of our city. Violence in the form of calls to "occupy Central" from self-proclaimed democracy advocates who want to pressurise Beijing into yielding to their demands. Violence in the form of extremist positions on arrangements for electing the chief executive, taken by student groups who will brook no compromise. Violence in the form of reckless filibustering in the Legislative Council, whatever the cost to Hong Kong's future. Violence in the form of unprecedented attempts by young radicals, some armed with offensive weapons, to storm the Legco building. Violence in the form of hate-filled verbal abuse hurled at mainland visitors unaccustomed to the ways of our sophisticated city.

Also, violence in the form of insults hurled at the chief secretary by graduates of the Academy for Performing Arts at a recent graduation ceremony. By insulting the guest of honour, they debased the ceremony and disgraced themselves.

Many older Hongkongers are asking: what has become of our city and what went wrong?

Many things have indeed gone wrong. First, despite the increase in overall wealth, our wealth gap has widened. Hong Kong has one of the highest Gini coefficients, a statistical measure of income inequality, among developed economies. And so, too, do other free-market economies such as Singapore and the US. This may be due to the fact that when you have free, open markets, the strong get stronger while the weak get weaker.

According to government statistics, Hong Kong's Gini coefficient is not only high but has also been rising over the years - from 0.43 in 1971 to 0.518 in 1996 and 0.537 in 2011. The steady increase is partly the effect of globalisation and partly the progressive narrowing of our economy with the migration of our manufacturing activities across the border. Hong Kong's economy is now 93 per cent service-oriented. This relocation has meant the loss of a wide range of jobs in the manufacturing sector and the skills that go with it.

Hong Kong no longer makes anything, but makes its living largely by providing trading, logistics and tourism services mainly for mainland Chinese clients, and financial and professional services in connection with the city's financial hub. Other than the financial and professional services, many of the services provided by the city are low-end, and by some accounts trending down.

The past decade has also seen a staggering concentration of wealth in the property sector. The overspill of wealth from the mainland caused prices to go through the roof until they were artificially suppressed by the various stamp duties slapped on by the administration. Young people have become increasingly disillusioned as their hopes for acquiring wealth through owning a home diminish. High property prices have crowded out other riskier, more innovative economic activities and turned those without homes against the landed class.

Where education and skills are concerned, in the past few decades, our education authorities have largely succeeded in expanding mass education but at considerable cost to the standards of elite schools, so much so that many have converted themselves into "direct subsidy schools" to acquire greater freedom in setting their curriculum and raising resources.

Parents who want their children to be globally competitive scramble to put them in direct subsidy, international or independent schools, while more and more "practical" subjects, like tourism and hospitality studies, are introduced to cater for students at the low end. The polarisation of knowledge and skills translates into the polarisation of opportunity, another source of discontent to young people with limited scope for upward social mobility.

Adding to all these woes we now have the heated constitutional debate on how to elect the chief executive in 2017. Many Hongkongers oppose any attempt by Beijing to limit the field of candidates to trustworthy patriots. On the face of it, it is a matter of Beijing versus Hong Kong people in allowing the people a "real choice". But, essentially, it is about whether Hong Kong people are willing to support the national goal of safeguarding sovereignty, security and developmental interest, or insist on going the other way.

Void of deep-rooted sectarian or ethnic divides, the political cleavage in Hong Kong has always been about China. In their rebellious moment, some demonstrators might wish to be rid of constraints imposed by the centre. But Hong Kong might well fall to pieces if the centre cannot hold.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is a legislator and chair of the New People's Party

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CatherineOhlLaw
Ms yip should learn the meaning of words before using them. At least in English. Violence is not a word applicable to Hongkong (except maybe when used to refer to some triads activities). Had she lived on the other side of the border during the Civil War or the Cultural Revolution, she would not be using these words lightly in her column.
Hongkon's name, let alone it's context is very vaguely known to the vast majority of people in Europe, the Americas, and Africa ,when at all . Why ? Precisely because THERE IS NO violence . And she should be so grateful that people here have learned to act differently from their natural impulses, as we too often see in China where her kind of violence has been institutionalised to the point that it is not eve recognised as such .
whymak
Ms Ip:
You have smoked out the roaches in the woodwork. Attached below is the finest ever Anthology of Hong Kong Imbeciles, Illiterates and Self-hate Wackos.
mihchinaltd
.
anson
The thing that Ms. Ip gets wrong right at the start is in believing that Hong Kong wants to be compared with Syria, Sudan, or Israel. To do so is pointless and irrelevant. As to mass education and the polarisation of knowledge and skills, this is also a result of Tung Che Hwa's stated aim of 'university education for everyone'. The introduction of Associate Degrees, while boosting the number that can attend university, has simply raised expectations of these students to a point that can not be achieved. So we have good stats for tertiary wide education but these do not translate into finding jobs that satisfy the artificially created hopes of these students - hence frustration sets in.
kevin.mallen1
Regina Ip is the puppet; her puppeteers have a vested interest in ruining this city. It has turned from "Asia's World City" into "China's plaything" in a matter of a few short years. The authorities in China prefer their victims to be silent, and pacifist; look at the Tibetan monks, or the Falun Gong practitioners. It's when people resist that they have a problem. Make no mistake; in the internet age, the whole world is watching.
kevin.mallen1
She talks about the violence of peaceful democracy protesters, but it is ironic that her puppet-masters are the ones who are most versed in using violence, especially against people who are unable to defend themselves.
suewilliams321
And you are obviously the puppet of the internationally recognised war-mongering,terror state of the USA,which even murdered its own people in the 9/11 false flag massacre, 5000 of them. Look up the 9/11 truth internet sites run mostly from US/Canada-based locations. You wont find such truths from the lying Mainstream Media, so much for freedom of the press. EVIL aligned with incredible HYPOCRISY/PROPOGANDA is the Greatest Curse of the latter 20th/21st Century. This is what the world urgently needs to unite to fight against.
Just google Global research.ca and other 9/11 truth websites.
53a3ea90-7c10-4664-a880-4c4b0a320968
Miss Regina Ip is notorious for her absolute loyalty to the one who is in power. Now it is the turn of Beijing. She has to show her natural talent - kiss **** - before her master.
She drops a very "clear" hint that Hong Kong people are ungrateful for the unfailing support of the Central government. But what she ignores is that the cause of the discontent among Hongkongers is the nonchalance of the Hong Kong and Central government which impose whatever they like on Hong Kong without our consent.
So many times have Hong Kong people voiced out our views upon the unwelcoming policies but our efforts are still in vain. Now we turn to peaceful demonstrations which still accused of illegal and threatening to central authorities.
We are always told that Hong Kong must collapse without the support of China. I wonder who so stupid to fuel up the animosity between Hong Kong and China.
chaz_hen
Ms Ip very glaringly chose not to mention the potential for violence by the so called pro-Beijing hooligans that'll for sure show up to guarantee that the peaceful intentions of civil disobedience will become ugly.
Let's see how the HKPD's anti triad sections act on their intelligence sources...of if they're in bed with them!
johndoe
How about stop inflating the money supply that raises prices of all basic necessities, how about depegging from the USD, substantially raising local interest rates, deflate consumer prices, strengthen the HKD and make it more expensive to borrow - that would be a great thing for Hong Kong. Then the crony capitalists and the debt mongering elitists would get what they deserve.

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