Executive Councillor Nellie Fong Wong Kut-man has some strong words to say about the attitudes of Hong Kong people. Perhaps her generalisation will shock some people; perhaps that was Ms Fong's aim. Certainly notice should be taken of the points she makes. A view that many people in Hong Kong are now too ready to blame the Government for every ill that comes along is hardly one designed to court popularity; and yet political polls again and again reveal that the point is true. When the economic outlook is good, the popularity of the Chief Executive rises accordingly; when prospects are bleak, his popularity falls. On many occasions the economic climate is, for the most part, quite beyond the Government's or, indeed, the Chief Executive's, control. Ms Fong, of course, did not refer directly to people blaming the Government for matters beyond its control, but instead to people expecting the Government to solve their problems; but this is a reasonable corollary of what she said. To accuse Hong Kongers of being lazy, as Ms Fong does, is perhaps a little unfair; but an accusation of complacency among many is not unjust. Whether the Asian crisis is to blame for sapping people's confidence and increasing their reliance on the Government, as Ms Fong says, is moot; but there is no doubt that the culture of easy property profits that grew in the 1980s and beyond is to blame for a certain insouciance in parts of the community. The belief lingers in some quarters that nothing has really changed and that property and easy stock market profits are the quick-buck answer to wealth creation for Hong Kong's future. Yet the new message is very clear and has been repeated many times by, among others, business leaders, academics and those in government: Hong Kong urgently needs to redefine itself in the context not only of the mainland's entry to the World Trade Organisation and as an increasingly integrated part of the Pearl River Delta region, but also as a hi-tech hub where creativity and inventiveness flourish. Without wholeheartedly embracing this approach, the SAR and its people risk being left behind as the mainland's economy attracts foreign investment and, therefore, more competition for Hong Kong businesses. It is likely that what Ms Fong rightly identifies as 'the Hong Kong spirit' is far from dead, and that it will manifest itself in time to meet the challenges ahead. Meanwhile, strong words designed to act as a wake-up call do no harm at all.