An open invitation to HKSAR administration

May 10, 2021 09:30
Nearly 1.5 million people in Hong Kong, or about 21 percent were living below the poverty line according to official data. Photo: RTHK

“Hong Kong is a city rife with inequalities. Rampant resource inegalitarianism, abhorrently exborbitant housing prices, and – above all – an administration and ruling class that is deeply out of touch with the ordinary people.” We don’t need this op-ed to affirm such nuggets of wisdom – all we need is to turn towards the administration, and its heavy-handed rhetorical emphasis on combating inequality over the recent weeks.

Yet talk is always easier than action – by miles. I don’t doubt that some in the administration possess the conviction and integrity to take on the entrenched problems afflicting Hong Kong today. I also do not question – at least with the benefit of doubt granted to them – the goodwill harboured by many in the Establishment, in addressing the vested interests and embedded kleptocracy that runs amok in the city today. Indeed, I applaud the words and determination of the Central Liaison Office, whose Director Luo Huining is both more attuned to the sentiments of people on the ground, and willing to engage in conversation and dialogue, than our current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam.

So here’s an invitation from an ordinary Hong Kong citizen.

I’d invite you to head over to Sham Shui Po, to Mong Kok, to Wan Chai – to pay a visit or two to the caged home residents, to those living in subdivided flats and under sweltering 40-celsius heat, to those who suffer with no end in sight as they await public housing. I invite you to do so unaccompanied, with no media, no camera, no publicity – with only your hearts and ears open for listening. Talk to them, speak to them, hear what the people of Hong Kong have to say. It is not fancy high politics or ‘democracy’ these folks are after, it is basic common human decency. It is not the bourgeoisie’s after-dinner thoughts and musings that resonate with them the most – it is a simple, no-frills commitment to providing them with the tools to lift themselves out of the 24/7 routines of relative and absolute poverty.

I’d invite you to join us, for midnight runs and soup kitchens in winter, for deliveries of bottled water and winter melon in the summer, as we tour the neighbourhoods of Kowloon City and To Kwa Wan. These are folks inhabiting homes that they’ve been in since their birth – only to be told that they must make way for urban renewal, whose compensation, in turn, trickles down to only a select few. These are also some of the folks who have consistently and perennially voted Establishment – “Deep Blue” folks, so to speak. They, too, have a stake in Hong Kong – not just the ‘democrats’ or those who believe in indulging in excess political sentimentalism.

I’d invite you to imagine the how a cross-border driver, or someone whose livelihood depends entirely on mainland Chinese tourists, would feel over the past 18 months. Save from the relief measures introduced by the Budget last year under the Financial Secretary, these folks have been largely abandoned by the administration – consigned to the fate of oblivion and crowding-out under public discourse. 14 months. 14 months of being cut off from the mainland. 14 months – where senior officials continued to rake in millions, whilst thousands suffered at the end of the pecking order. That’s Hong Kong – that’s a Chinese city that’s worse than many of its tier-one counterparts in the mainland.

I’d invite you to check out Tin Shui Wai – the broken families, the thriving families; the migrants who struggle to fit in, the migrants who have found their way up the social ladder through starting businesses of their own. Local Hongkongers who relocated there due to the obscene prices downtown; local Hongkongers trying to forge their path to a pensive retirement, only to be told that there is no space for them in Kowloon proper. Fair enough – but it really oughtn’t be the case that Northwest New Territories is treated as a backyard for whom few care, yet many inhabit. Yuen Long. Tuen Mun. Tin Shui Wai. Siu Hong. These are all integral aspects of our city’s urban planning – yet our urban planning officials and directors seem as clueless about these districts as our administration is, when it comes to the views and attitudes of the youth.

I’d invite you to speak with the youth. Our youth. Yellow, blue, green, red, orange. Whatever. Youth with compassion. Youth in destitution. Youth with pride. Youth with humility. Youth who love Hong Kong, who are pro-democracy, or pro-establishment, or pro-Beijing, or pro-Hong Kong-only. It really doesn’t matter who they are. What matters is that they care for our city, they care for a polity supposedly governed by public servants, driven by an administration that bears the unique responsibility of channeling what Hongkongers think to Beijing – as opposed to parroting politically correct statements that Tamar thinks Beijing enjoys hearing (when it really doesn’t).

I’d invite you to rethink what it means to govern; what it means to be a person from Hong Kong; what it means to be a part of China – a thriving, booming country with so much potential, yet so little understanding on this side of the border. In a decade’s time, we’ll be fully integrated by then – and what, really, would our current administration have to offer, barring the relics of the colonial era, and empty platitudes that do not come with action?

The people of Hong Kong are in desperate need of socioeconomic aid, of empathy, of support, of aid. And the administration, as it stands today, isn’t doing its job. Here’s an invitation for you all, to make a move – to take the lead. To make a difference.

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HKEJ contributor