What has happened to Hong Kong, arguably the greatest city on the planet?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2016, 12:15am

I wish to express my sadness and disappointment at the changing social and political environment in Hong Kong.

I am a frequent visitor to this vibrant, flourishing, cosmopolitan city that has emerged as a beacon of economic freedom, a magnet for foreign investment, and a champion of democracy nestled in a region peppered with authoritarian regimes. However, the city is gradually leaving me

disenchanted.

I recall my first trip 10 years ago. As I was shuttled from Hong Kong International Airport to Causeway Bay, I was awestruck by the magical scenes that greeted me along the way – the busy streets which at midnight resembled peak hour in my home city in Australia, and the spectacular neon lights on the dazzling building facades along the iconic island skyline.

I had arrived during Christmas, and I found the abundance of lights and decorations staggering, the likes of which I had never seen in my home country.

What touched me most about Hong Kong, though, was its wonderful people – the smiling, kind faces of Hongkongers that greeted me everywhere I went. But on my last trip to this resplendent city, I noticed the smiles had disappeared. Like the blanket of fog that recently descended on Victoria Harbour and delivered breathtaking views, a wave of sadness has overcome this land of paradise.

I remember as a teenager watching the Australian TV broadcast of the 1997 handover. Footage of People’s Liberation Army soldiers in trucks entering the city gave me a sense of satisfaction that China was finally asserting itself as a legitimate global power, while safeguarding the unique environment of Hong Kong under “one country, two systems”. Now, nearly 20 years later, that uniqueness is slowly being eroded.

The iconic landmarks of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok are no longer being marvelled at for their idyllic atmosphere, aesthetic beauty and charming character, but are remembered as the sites of protests, and associated with resistance movements laced with political overtures. The smiles have disappeared, and my heart bleeds for what has become my home away from home.

I am hopeful that the sadness in Hong Kong will dissipate, that the dystopian future predicted in the film Ten Years will remain a fantasy, that the smiles will return to the people I pass by on the streets of what is arguably the greatest city on this planet.

Dr Christopher Andrews, Perth, Australia