Beyond its polarised politics, Hong Kong remains a city to be proud of

Peter Kammerer says once we get past the protests and bickering legislators, there's a world of diversity waiting for us to explore and benefit from

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 4:17pm

The ruckus over political reform has given the impression that's all Hong Kong is about. Many of us, myself included, have little time for the protests, the filibustering by legislators, the appeals and squabbling. We just want to get on with our lives and enjoy what our city offers without the annoyances of politicking by this side or that. My eagerness to avoid the months of high-volume street campaigning have taken me on days off to ever-remoter areas that have given me greater appreciation of the place I call home.

Country parks, islands off Sai Kung, the wilds of Lantau: To me, they are what make Hong Kong special. Few cities have so much tranquility so close to the clamour of downtown. I have always enjoyed them, but not taken the effort to get out of the polluted city to visit as much as I should. Blasting speakers below my North Point window, weekend protests and footpath-blocking signature campaigns convinced me to flee for the countryside. I now know what I would miss most should I ever permanently leave.

But what one person finds special others are less impressed with. I discovered this while talking to two men from Finland who were sitting at the table next to me in a restaurant. I found that they had been living here for a number of years, their jobs being in the electronic parts industry. I asked them what they liked most about Hong Kong, expecting an answer from the usual list of suspects: the shopping, the food, infrastructure, public transport, perhaps the convenience? Naturally, I was surprised by their unanimous answer: the weather.

Outside, the sun was a scorching 32 degrees Celsius and the humidity a clothes-soaking 95 per cent. Yet they considered such conditions made every day a pleasure. Put in the context of Finland's minus-30-degree winters, where there is as little as four hours of sunlight a day, and a snow season that can last from October to May, and their viewpoint is understandable. It is a lesson in diversity that those who promote Hong Kong would do well to think about.

The Tourism Board's list of top 10 attractions is as predictable as can be: the Avenue of Stars, The Peak, Ocean Park, Disneyland, the Ladies' Market in Mong Kok, Temple Street night market, the Wan Chai convention centre and nearby Bauhinia Square, the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, the Wong Tai Sin temple and the old railway clock tower next to the Kowloon Star Ferry pier. But my newfound Finnish friends taught me it's not just what's on the streets, beside the harbour or on top of a mountain that's a draw.

Convenience stores on every second corner, unparallelled night lights, a view from almost every window (a bonus with high-rise living) and safe streets are also magnets. Those walking trails, secluded temples and ferry rides to near-empty islands also feature.

But Hong Kong, especially for those doing business, banking and finance, also brings a competitive spirit that pulls in the best and brightest from around the world. They are the reason we can call our city an international one; such people drive and inspire co-workers and give a perspective that would otherwise go unnoticed. They push us to greater heights in our work and open up career and social opportunities. The gains are knowledge, understanding and higher wages.

The politicised media can be off-putting for those who want to know what is really going on around them. Crowds of mainland tourists can be annoying. But we can easily avoid what we don't like and find alternatives.

That is why Hong Kong is such a great city and its future so bright: There are many and varied reasons to visit, live, work or set up business here. We have much to be proud of.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post