16 February 2019
Shanghai people neither have the time nor inclination to think about what's happening in Hong Kong. Photo: Xinhua
Shanghai people neither have the time nor inclination to think about what's happening in Hong Kong. Photo: Xinhua

In Shanghai, who cares about Hong Kong’s leadership race?

Since Leung Chun-ying announced last Friday that he would not seek a second term, Hong Kong has been in ferment as candidates step forward to take his place.

But in Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, no-one is talking or thinking about it.

The city’s newspapers have no coverage of the leadership contest and Hong Kong newspapers are unavailable.

The websites of most Hong Kong newspapers are blocked, except for the pro-Communist dailies. Upmarket hotels offer CNN, BBC and NHK, but not Hong Kong channels like TVB or the Cable stations.

“My friends don’t care about politics in Hong Kong,” said Richard Ward, a Briton who works in a Chinese property company. “The whole issue is far from their thoughts. How big is Hong Kong? How big is Shanghai? I didn’t know that Leung had announced he would not run again.”

Liu Meiling, a hotel manager, said censorship of the media and the internet had a political agenda. “We cannot find out about Hong Kong even if we want to. It is not something we decide. We are in the dark about it. So we know more about politics in the US than in Taiwan and Hong Kong.”

Huang Li, a company secretary, said she was unaware that Leung was not seeking a second term. “We are more interested in mainland news than about what’s happening in Hong Kong. It is far away. I went there and bought many cosmetics. I will do so again. I enjoyed the trip.”

On Thursday, the main stories in Shanghai newspapers were about improving environmental standards and controlling bubbles in the economy.

The city’s Environmental Protection Bureau announced a new emergency response for severe air pollution. It said major polluting industries were required to cut or shut down production on heavily polluted days.

Another story laid out the schedule for buying railway tickets for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

The headline story in Liberation Daily on Thursday was about President Xi Jinping’s messages of condolence to the leaders of Turkey and Egypt for the victims of terrorist attacks in the two countries.

Hong Kong is known here as a holiday and shopping destination. “I have been there with my husband and child to visit Disneyland and buy things,” said Wang Xiu, who works in an advertising company.

“The Disneyland there is smaller than the one in Shanghai but has its own distinctive character. It is cleaner and you do not have to wait so long to go to an attraction. In Shanghai, it can be two to three hours. Hong Kong is also a good place for shopping, with cheaper prices for many items.”

Smith said his high-income colleagues used to go to Hong Kong for holidays. “But they have given up. Each time they were insulted for speaking Mandarin. They switched to speaking English but were hurt by the experience. They are well-paid, sophisticated people and cannot tolerate such treatment. So they take holidays in Taiwan or Japan instead. Why do they need to go to Hong Kong? You can buy here most of what is available in Hong Kong.

“People here are most concerned about their daily life, what they earn and the difficulties of buying an apartment. Politics are far from their mind,” he added.

News from Hong Kong and Taiwan is censored because people there enjoy civil and political rights denied to those in the mainland.

The central government does not want and will not allow a struggle for such rights to become part of the public debate here. Why can people in those two places have a say in choosing their leaders when mainland citizens cannot?

The population of Shanghai, at 24 million, is more than triple that of Hong Kong. 

Life for the vast majority of people – other than the rich – is a daily struggle.

During the last 12 months, the average cost of housing has risen nearly 100 percent, putting an urban apartment far beyond the reach of a middle class couple who both work.

In 2015 the average salary in the city was 7,108 yuan (US$1,023), down from 7,214 yuan in 2014, according to recruitment portal

Each day people make long commuting journeys on crowded subway lines and buses to reach their offices and factories; they will spend their whole working life servicing the debt on their apartment.

They worry about rising costs for education and about major illness for themselves and their families; do they have insurance and, if so, will it cover the full cost of the treatment?

How can they still think about Hong Kong’s next chief executive?

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker

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