Sorry to disappoint, doomsayers, but Hong Kong is far from finished
Yonden Lhatoo attempts to put all the negative news into perspective, arguing that this is still one of the greatest cities in the world
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say, just as familiarity breeds contempt. I find that to be so true whenever I’m able to get away from Hong Kong and reflect on the popular narrative about the alleged “decline” of our great city.
“Is it that bad in Hong Kong?” I get asked a lot these days by friends, acquaintances and readers alike. Can you blame them for the negative perception? One look at the news headlines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re staring at the abyss, that one of the most vibrant and prosperous cities in the world has gone to the dogs. Sanctimonious commentaries, my own included, help perpetuate that sense of gloom and doom.
This is how the world sees Hong Kong at the moment: our legislature is in chaos over the state-sponsored ostracisation of two young lawmakers who surfed to election victory on a wave of localist and anti-establishment sentiment; bogeyman Beijing is poised to overstep its bounds in curbing the spread of independence advocacy; some puppet with no mandate is on the verge of being installed as the city’s next leader; social injustice is rife; and most Hongkongers want to get the hell out of Dodge because life has become just too unbearable.
Or has it? Let’s put it in unprejudiced perspective.
The two newly elected lawmakers whom our government is trying to shut out of the legislature for their highly offensive anti-China rhetoric and separatist agenda represent a fraction of the population. The vast majority of Hongkongers are pragmatists who are fully aware that independence is a dead end. There is, and will be, no mass uprising over this.
I personally don’t give a damn whether the duo are able to retain their seats or not. What I do care about is not losing sight of the fact that there is so much freedom in this city, people are so entitled to flaunt their rights, that two misguided youngsters testing the boundaries of tolerance can unfurl traitorous banners in the legislative chamber, and mouth seditious obscenities at their sovereign nation. Try doing that in the US Congress without getting lynched.
We can’t elect the city’s next leader by universal suffrage next year, so there is a chance that the unpopular Leung Chun-ying may be foisted upon us for a second term as chief executive. The horror. Look at Americans now, reaping the rewards of democracy with a forced choice between two of the worst individuals in the history of their nation to run for president. Leung is a guppy next to that pair of piranhas.
Notice a pattern here? It’s all relative. We make mountains of our molehill-sized problems in Hong Kong because we hold this city to higher standards. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s just make sure that, while we project our grievances in the global arena, we don’t lose that perspective.
There’s a reason why hundreds of thousands of immigrants and expatriates, many from purportedly far sunnier shores, continue to call this city home.
Hong Kong is still one of the most dynamic, progressive and corruption-free cities on the planet. We are safer and freer here than in any of the biggest metropolises in the developed world. The rule of law prevails, no matter how sorely we test it. Our public health care system is as world-class as it is affordable to the masses. Ditto for our public transport system.
Negativity makes news, and cynicism sells, while positivity is often perceived as propaganda, even though it may be more reflective of the truth.
To all the doomsayers out there: sorry to disappoint you. Hong Kong has changed a lot, but it is still a great city. You should know better than to believe everything in the news.
Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post