Are Hongkongers just a bunch of angry protesters, or do they want to see real change in society?

Nixie Lam says rather than stoking a climate of fear, local politicians should embrace the many opportunities afforded by being part of China, to help Hong Kong meet the practical challenges of land, labour, education and technological change

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 11:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 7:29pm

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover. In that time, many would say Hong Kong has gone from being one of the brightest pearls of the Orient to a sour lemon with no direction. From then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s resignation, citing “health” issues, to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s bribery trial and the warning clouds over the whole of Leung Chun-ying’s administration, many Hongkongers are angry and crave change.

So, is independence the way out? I’m afraid not; any responsible politician would have to say it is not practical. So what can we do? To begin with, we might try to understand China better. By that, I don’t mean singing the national anthem well when it is played or understanding the meaning of each of the stars on the national flag.

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Rather, as residents of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, we need to be more eager to understand China’s five-year plans, the rationale behind the “Belt and Road Initiative” and Greater Bay Area, and even how important the upcoming 19th Party Congress is.

The metrics behind the “one country, two systems” policy of Chinese revolutionary and leader Deng Xiaoping involves Hong Kong keeping its uniqueness and not only witnessing but also enjoying inclusion in China’s economic reform, the greatest of this century.

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The policies stipulated in the Basic Law that we are told will remain unchanged for 50 years were a preparation plan for China to catch up to Hong Kong’s already mature market economy by using “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, and the approach of “seeking truth from facts”. It has worked.

However, local politicians seem to purposely ignore the developments and opportunities in front of us, focusing instead on creating fear and seeking to cut off this relationship. Witness, for example, the anti-national education campaign of 2012 and the 2014 Occupy Central mass demonstrations that turned violent.

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It’s time to ask ourselves: “Are we hungry for change or just angry?” Are we going to let these political winds sweep us up or it is time to focus on what truly matters?

Forget about protesting against moral and civic education; are we prepared for the challenges ahead, such as how the fourth industrial revolution is going to affect us? What about Hong Kong’s fintech development that seems to perpetually lag behind others’? Are we being left out? Do our legislators and government officials in charge of this even understand what the impact will be and whether we have the knowledge and expertise to work things out?

Can our current education curriculum cope with all these challenges and prepare our children for an era of change and a radically new employment environment? Are we just pumping up the numbers for youth development or are we really trying to help with a cross-bureau approach?

How Hong Kong can build for a better future

What about elderly care and increasing medical needs in the future? Do we need to update our importation of skilled labour or it is too risky? What about the overall housing needs of the population? Where are we going to find the necessary land? Can we better focus our start-up business support for particular industries?

All these issues remain to be solved. It’s time for the Hong Kong government to roll up its sleeves and pinpoint the issues that truly matter to Hong Kong and its people.

What’s in front of us is a portfolio of challenges and/or opportunities. We can either turn our back on them and continue fighting our own shadow or choose to ride on this wave of change and evolve. I choose the latter. Let’s hope everyone does the same.

Nixie Lam is an elected member of Tsuen Wan District Council and vice-president of the Young DAB. She was the Hong Kong representative panellist at the first Young Observers Roundtable discussion at the Boao Forum for Asia 2014