Why the 'Go to China' calls of our elites ring hollow

December 30, 2015 15:37
Lau Ming-wai (L) and Kenneth Fok are among the business family scions that have urged Hong Kong youth to look to the mainland for career opportunities. Photos: RTHK, takungpao

Lau Ming-wai, the son of Chinese Estates founder Joseph Lau Luen-hung, would undoubtedly be in Beijing's good books as he never misses a chance to exhort Hong Kong's youth to work hard for China's development.

Addressing a forum this month in his official capacity as the chairman of the Commission on Youth, the 35-year-old Lau urged locals to "work and study harder to face up to the challenges" and to "align" themselves with China.

Earlier this year, Lau set social media forums abuzz as he offered various nuggets of advice for young people, including "go less to movies and travel less to Japan" and how much one ought to save from their monthly incomes if they want to buy their own home some day.

The gratuitous tips on home-buying drew plenty of sarcastic comments from netizens, some of whom pointed out that Lau's superrich dad is selling some of the most expensive homes in the city.

Coming back to this month's forum, another young business scion who had words of advice for the youth was Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, grandson of the late Henry Fok Ying-tung, a realty tycoon-turned-vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Referring to Hongkongers who face difficulties in landing a satisfactory job in the city, Fok delivered this message: "Go to China". 

For sure, we will see more empty calls like this from the high-profile elites.

"If I was born with a silver spoon, I can do equally well, if not better" -- this is likely to be the response from cynical young lads as they take umbrage at the second-generation rich for preaching about nationalism and career development.

While people may harbor some subconscious spite toward people like Lau and Fok, a quick look at the elites' education and career path can help determine the validity and pertinence of their "go China, love China" advice to the average Joe.

Lau has been sitting pretty since he was born. Like all his rich peers, he studied in Britain and the United States before moving back to Hong Kong to join his family business. He holds a doctorate degree in law from King's College, University of London and is also a registered attorney in the US and a chartered financial analyst.

Before his appointment as head of the Commission on Youth this March, Lau made a HK$400 million donation to Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, one of the world's top medical universities, to set up a research center for regenerative medicine.

Incidentally, the move came as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s son Leung Chuen-yan was undertaking postdoctoral research at the institute. This led to allegations of conflict of interest, which Leung has categorically dismissed.

Fok graduated from Oxford’s Pembroke College and once worked at Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers. He was appointed as the chairman of Hong Kong United Youth Association and a number of other public posts thanks to his family's sound connections with Beijing and the SAR government.

One wonders if the "Go to China" call makes any sense, given that Lau and Fok themselves do not have any mainland China exposure, either in education or work experience.

The prevailing perception is that their social stature has more to do with their family background rather than a result of their own effort, and this explains why their tips for success can hardly strike a chord among the youth, especially their exhortations to look to the mainland for opportunities.

Leung also likes to hail China whenever he gets an opportunity.

"I would be glad to become a teenage student again if I could. When I was 20 years old, our country's economy was not as well developed as it is now," he said recently, adding that the "rapid development of the mainland economy offers great opportunities for Hong Kong's young people".

But the chief executive hasn't explained why he sent his own children to study in Britain and let them work overseas, rather than in the mainland. During the 1990s, Leung had once famously told reporters that he would never send his children to a foreign school. 

If everything is so rosy in China, why hasn't he prodded his children to go there?

Despite all the patriotic messages, statistics tell us the truth as to whether it is a good idea to start a career north of the border.

Hong Kong’s latest underemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) stood at 1.3 percent as of November while the corresponding figure in China, in urban areas based on registered, government adjusted jobless cases, was 4.1 percent on average in the past five years.

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CY Leung told Hong Kong youngsters studying in Beijing that he would be glad to become a student again as China's development offers many opportunities. Photo: HK govt

EJ Insight writer