23 May 2019
For Hongkongers visiting Spain, the most striking aspect is the purity of the air. Photo: HKEJ
For Hongkongers visiting Spain, the most striking aspect is the purity of the air. Photo: HKEJ

If not Hong Kong, ¿donde?

Hong Kong is developing a serious depressive disorder, and it is not difficult to see why.

The misrule of Leung Chun-ying and his penchant for confrontation complements his government’s unerring propensity for getting it wrong.

Now factor in the infantile posturing of both pro- and anti-establishment factions in the Legislative Council, and it is obvious why apprehension about the future occupies the minds of many Hongkongers.

The dark shoots of doubt are slowly strangling hope, the very beacon that drew the entrepreneurs and professionals who built this unique Asian economic powerhouse.

I use the term “Hongkonger” deliberately because it transcends the simplistic racial distinctions between the gweilo and the ethnic Chinese.

People of countless nationalities have acquired permanent residence, many intermarrying with indigenous Chinese and building families whose roots are unquestionably in Hong Kong.

For many of these people, young and old, the concerns about the direction in which Hong Kong is being driven and the ramifications for the adverse effects upon the quality of life in their cosmopolitan home is prompting increasing numbers to ponder whether there is a future for them — and even more so for their children.

But where else would they wish to live if they had the opportunity?

Viewed objectively, Hong Kong still ticks most of the boxes of desirable criteria for a place in which to live.

The sense of personal security, the accessibility of public transport, the quality of schools and universities, the diversity of amenities and the city’s legendary efficiency all still stack up against the increasing pollution, the ungovernable escalation of the prices of everything from property to comestibles and the growing disparity between rich and poor.

Spain serves as a European destination against which to measure the pros and cons of alternative residence.

It offers the full range of climates, sun, snow, mountains, deserts, beaches and a littoral embracing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, with their harvest of the fresh fish that is so dear to the hearts of Hongkongers.

Its ethnic and cultural diversity is richly seamed with the legacies of Roman and Moorish influences.

The personality of the people reflects the warmth of the Mediterranean and their joy in the natural bounty of a benign climate: fresh food and the world’s most underrated wines.

For Hongkongers, perhaps the most striking feature is the purity of the air.

The stars burn fiercely in the night, and the colors of tiled roofs and horizons of green foliage against a range of blue skies beckon the artist’s palette.

But one must also accept the mañana philosophy that can bring one up with a start.

“Tomorrow I shall be ready for today.”

Frequently, the price of gentle charm is an absence of that degree of efficiency that we in Hong Kong take for granted.

My arrival in Spain on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, coincided with the depletion of my propane gas tank – which provides the fuel for central heating, hot water and cooking.

I called the gas supplier. Delivery was promised for Tuesday or Wednesday, prior to which the driver would call.

Tuesday came and went. On Wednesday, I called and was told delivery would now be mañana: Thursday.

When the driver did call on Christmas Eve, it was to say that he couldn’t deliver until Saturday.

I summoned up my most dramatic Spanish to ask how did he propose I cook the Christmas dinner; was there nothing he could do to help; did he want extra money?

“Sorry, nothing I can do.” Then he paused and said he’d call me back.

I phoned the gas supplier and was asked, “Do you want to make a complaint?” No, I just want some gas.

Then the driver called and asked if 25 percent of a tank would suffice. Oh, my goodness, yes!

But I held my breath, having had all promises broken so far.

At 4:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve, we spotted the tanker, and he was as good as his word; moreover, no incentive was expected.

That first hot shower was bliss.

At present, Spain’s politics are a microcosm of the disparate stresses on societies in Europe generally, but the will of the people is still paramount.

So, Hong Kong it is not.

But if what you seek is crystal-clear air, sensuously fresh fruit and vegetables, untainted meat and excellent but modestly priced wines in a living culture, Spain offers it all for you, mañana.

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Queen's Counsel

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