Why the govt's new 'appreciate' campaign will evoke cynicism

November 17, 2015 15:57
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (L) announces the "Appreciate Hong Kong" campaign at a ceremony on Monday. Photo: HK government

With days to go before the district council elections, the Hong Kong government has unveiled a new campaign aimed at making locals feel good about the city and appreciate all the things they have. 

On Monday, a ceremony was held for the launch of "Appreciate Hong Kong", a five-month campaign that will run from December.

Speaking at the event, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said the initiative is aimed at bridging divisions in the society that appeared following the Occupy protests of 2014 and the rejection of a political reform package earlier this year.

The campaign, which is backed by the government and several business sectors, will help the public appreciate the beauty of Hong Kong and prompt them into contributing more to the city, she said.

"A lot of people have lost hope in Hong Kong after the political reform package was voted down. It is time now for everyone to appreciate the city and contribute to its development," Lam said.

As part of the campaign, various freebies will be offered the public to enable them to explore various attractions in Hong Kong and "feel proud" about the things the city is blessed with.

Among the initiatives, all museums run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will provide free admission in January.

Meanwhile, around 10,000 people from low-income families will be allowed to visit Ocean Park for free. Hong Kong Disneyland, on its part, will donate 13,000 tickets for students with special education needs as well as their parents and teachers.

In other moves, the Hong Kong Police College and the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy will organize open days for the public.

Through the initiatives, the government is hoping that the campaign will help foster civic pride among the locals and renew a sense of hope about the city's future.

Rather than griping about issues such as electoral reforms, people should appreciate the things that we have, like good infrastructure and arts, culture and sports facilities, officials are suggesting.

Well, we must say that the authorities are living in a world of their own if they think that campaigns such as these will make people put aside their concerns over social and political issues.  

While people may enjoy the freebies, many will however see the campaign as a public relations stunt aimed at diverting the attention of the public. 

If the government really wants to heal the divisions in society, it should learn to listen to people's voices and respect different viewpoints.  

Hong Kong people do not want the city to become just another Chinese enclave, putting economic interests above political and personal freedoms. 

With the central government seeking a tighter grip on Hong Kong affairs, many people fear the city runs the risk of an erosion in its international status and appeal.

Meanwhile, there are also worries about attempts to subvert the independence of Hong Kong's judiciary and media.

Against this backdrop, how can Hong Kong people really appreciate what is going on in the city?

If the government really wants to lift public sentiment, it should think beyond public relations exercises.

Rather than dole out free tickets to museums and theme parks, authorities should focus on strengthening the uniqueness of Hong Kong and upholding its core values.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his top officials have in the recent past showed that they are incapable or unwilling to stand up for Hong Kong's rights, be it on the issue of genuine universal suffrage or defending local academic freedoms. 

Rather than doing what is good for the city, officials have been trying to stay on the right side of Beijing.

Such attitude is evident even in the relatively minor aspect of which team to support in a World Cup qualifier football match that will be played on Tuesday.

As Hong Kong prepares to take on China at a local stadium, government officials have hesitated to openly express their support for the home team.

The reason is because they are worried that such displays won't be taken kindly by Beijing.

Given the poor record of the administration, the latest "Appreciate Hong Kong" campaign will only evoke cynicism, more than anything else.

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EJ Insight writer