Five reasons to love Hong Kong (never mind the complaints and rants)

Yonden Lhatoo says few places in the world can match the city in its offer of the good life, thanks in part to its law-abiding and hard-working people

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 October, 2015, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:41am

"Don’t you have anything nice to say about Hong Kong?” It’s a question quite a few readers have asked me.

The answer is a resounding yes, even if the amount of column space I devote every week to highlighting our city’s problems may suggest otherwise.

How do I love thee, Hong Kong? Let me count the ways.

5. Sheer convenience. I don’t drive here; I don’t have to, because our public transport is so remarkably efficient, convenient and comfortable. It’s easy to complain when a train is late by five minutes, but our subway system is a marvel in motion compared with its counterparts in major world cities I’ve been to. And our public bus services are excellent.

You think taxi drivers have attitude here? It’s all relative. Just ask someone from Singapore, where the grass is often viewed as greener, and they’ll tell you they prefer our cabbies.


4. We complain a lot about our living environment because urban areas are congested concrete jungles. And yes, property prices and rents are crazy. But three-quarters of Hong Kong is protected countryside. It’s pretty amazing that I can be dodging suitcase-wheeling hordes of mainland tourists in Mong Kok one moment and strolling peacefully along a nature trail the next. If only we could do something about the air pollution, though.


3. Whatever you may say about the money-grubbing culture in Hong Kong, this is the land of opportunity and efficiency. It has been for me, and it is for all the foreigners lining up for residency here, whether they’re high-flying expatriates or grass-roots migrants.

It’s easy to take the efficiency for granted when we’re so used to it here; it’s only when I travel overseas that I realise how much I miss it. From calling a locksmith in the middle of the night to chasing up a tax bill (capped at just 15 per cent of my income) or starting a business, customer and public services are so smooth and hassle-free, it’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement that other cities would never accommodate.


2. Hong Kong is the safest city in the world. It doesn’t matter where I am at what time of day or night – I feel supremely confident and secure. Cities like London, Paris and New York can’t offer me that. Of course it helps that we have a first-rate police force that is corruption-free and competent.

We grumble about racism here, but nobody gets beaten up or murdered for the colour of their skin.

And where else, with the exception of Singapore perhaps, can a young woman walk around all by herself in the middle of the night without being harassed or molested?


1. Hong Kong is the freest city I’ve ever been in. We may not have universal suffrage yet, but in practice every citizen is entitled to and enjoys more basic freedoms and rights than some of the most advanced democracies. Residents are acutely aware of protest power and ever ready to exercise it, whether it’s over the death of a stray dog hit by a train or electoral reform.

Where else can you block main roads in the city centre for 79 straight days in the name of civil disobedience, while not only expecting the police to tolerate you but also protect you while you break the law?

Hong Kong’s energy is infectious and addictive, and the “can-do” spirit is for real. Let’s give credit to a law-abiding, hard-working and tenacious population.

From the highest number of skyscrapers, and Rolls-Royces per person, to neighbourhoods that may be poor and rundown but are steeped in proud tradition and culturally unique, the vibrancy and diversity make this a truly special place.

I may not have anything nice to say about it next week, but I’m proud to call it home.