Hong Kong last week saw some incidents that largely went under the public radar. Although on the surface they might appear unrelated to one another, the events serve as a mirror to the changed times and deteriorating moral values in the city.
On Saturday, a porter pushing a trolley loaded with fresh oranges was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Yau Ma Tei. According to media reports, many of the onlookers who gathered at the scene started rushing to pick up the oranges that were scattered all over the roadside.
The people were “grinning cheerfully”, with no one seeming to care that a person had just been killed in a tragic accident, a report noted.
Over the years the callousness and greediness of mainlanders has remained a subject of mockery among Hong Kong people, as there has been news from time to time of incidents such as Chinese villagers scrambling to pick up scattered items on the road rather than help the injured at the scene of a traffic accident.
Many Hongkongers look down on mainlanders due to a belief that we are far more civilized than them, and that atrocious incidents that we see often in the mainland will never happen in our city.
Now, following the incident in Hong Kong last Saturday, should we assume that we are becoming more and more like our mainland compatriots? And does it indicate that we are not at all as morally superior to them as we think?
The weekend news reminds me of another incident that took place on Christmas Eve in 2014, when dozens of passersby were caught on CCTV scrambling madly for banknotes that spilled onto the road from a security van in Wan Chai.
But there was a difference in the way the police handled the two cases.
Following the 2014 incident, authorities launched a massive hunt for those who had picked up the banknotes, bringing them to book. However, in the accident last Saturday, police officers at the scene simply turned a blind eye to those who rushed to pick up the oranges.
To me, theft is theft, no matter whether it is banknotes, jewels or fruits that are being stolen. As the police appear to be showing double standard on fighting crime, it calls into question their professionalism and their determination to uphold law and order.
Now, let me come to another incident.
During a debate over the 2016-17 Budget in the legislature last Friday, Legco President Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing stopped lawmakers Wong Kwok-hing and several others from continuing with their speeches on the ground that what they were saying was irrelevant to the topic.
However, Tsang allowed his fellow party colleague Starry Lee Wai-king to go on and on with her complaints on filibusters.
When questioned over his double standard on lawmakers’ right to speak, Tsang argued that he allowed Starry Lee to continue with her speech because she was offering a “comprehensive response” in relation to the topic.
Amid such incidents, it’s no wonder that the approval ratings on our legislature have remained very low in recent years. If the Legco president himself can’t act impartially over small things like who can speak, how can we expect him to act fairly on important things such as voting on crucial bills?
This week Zhang Dejiang, president of China’s National People’s Congress, will be in Hong Kong to chair the “One Belt One Road” summit. The Leung Chun-ying administration is lavishing the mainland official with 5-star hospitality as well as extravagant pomp and circumstance to make sure he is happy.
As many as 5,000 police officers are being deployed to protect Zhang from protesters. There are road closures and traffic diversions, as well as other world-class security measures. As always, it is the Hong Kong taxpayers who will be footing the bill.
The government has justified the arrangements, saying they are necessary as top officials from several other Belt and Road countries are also attending the summit. However, no one really buys that explanation.
Everybody can tell that the red carpet and the extraordinary security arrangements are meant only for Zhang and his delegation. The Leung administration is just kissing up to the mainland leader. And there is nothing the people of Hong Kong can do about that.
It seems the public may have to come to terms with the unpleasant reality that our government will remain at the mercy of Beijing no matter who takes over as the city’s leader next year.
The paramount leaders in Beijing will continue to look upon us with the same kind of patronizing attitude as they treat declining powers like the UK.
And events like these could become the “new normal” in the days ahead.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 16.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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