Sunday, February 17, 2013

[RTHK LTHK] Hong Kong Entering the Year of the Snake

My Letter to Hong Kong, on RTHK Radio 3, at 8:15am, February 17 2013

The Lunar New Year of the Snake got off to an ominous start when on the second day of the new year, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat drew the number 95 stick at Shatin’s Che Kung Temple, in an annual ritual to cast a prediction on the fate of Hong Kong for the coming year.

As a Christian, I do not give much credence to such fortune telling rituals, but nonetheless it is of great fun to try to guess at its meaning, and watch people try to interpret the meaning according to their own different perspectives.

So what did the stick actually say? I try my best to elaborate on the translation made by our local English newspaper to come up with this:

“In a splendid carriage you embark on a journey afar,
Today, you come home in bare foot;
Is it that you return to your dwelling after failing the Imperial exam?
Or it also looks like your business has failed and cost all your fortune.”

 And then, the official interpretation of the stick drawn was supposed to be:

“Beware of wicked people,
Nothing is going well.”

Well, even though the official fortune teller at the Che Kung Temple tried to put his best face on, and said that things will be alright as long as there will be smooth politics and harmony among people, the reality is, how can we expect any harmony from a Chief Executive bent on not listening to any dissenting voices and resorting to suing the media for libel?

While it is all too intuitive to relate that this poor fellow with high wishes and taking on the challenge of the imperial exam in an attempt to become a court official, but ending up failing and coming home broke, must be our Chief Executive, and he might well be the wicked person we should be cautious about, somehow it is funny to see pro-establishment politicians try to deflect this poor omen away from the Chief Executive.  Mr Lau Wong-fat had to tell Hong Kong people that, oh, “an unlucky stick can be good too.”

Surely a stick does not really dictate where the future goes, but it may prove useful to observe how it resonate with the people and how they feel about our city.  Somehow I don’t think anyone was surprised at this stick, and that tells a lot.

More and more and almost every day, I hear friends around me telling me how they have serious concerns for the future development of Hong Kong, and how they believe that our Chief Executive has not lived up to his campaign visions and promises.  Some have even told me that Mr CY Leung might as well stay as a candidate for Hong Kong’s top post forever, so he could continue to give us hope for the future, one thing that he has failed to do after coming in to his job.

More and more I hear the middle class becoming frustrated at Mr Leung’s policy address, of which we all know after its unveiling Mr Leung’s popularity has dropped rather than risen.  That is as objective a scorecard as one can come up with.

Specifically, not only that my IT constituents are expressing serious disappointment at the omission of any new policy to support and develop our innovation and technology sector in the Policy Address, even my middle class friends are telling me that they too are frustrated at the crunch on local resources created by Mainland visitors, even though they live far from our northern border.  They are also equally unhappy with the Policy Address’ overall lack of vision and direction for Hong Kong economic and social development, as if looking for land and building public housing is all that we care and all that our government cares to do for us.

While we acknowledge that there is a dire lack of housing for our citizens at the lowest ranks in society, and we must put their safety and livelihood as the top priority, yet the over-zealous attention from our government has only successfully created a “social desirability bias” – meaning that more and more people in Hong Kong are led to think that this housing “crisis” is the biggest problem for everyone in Hong Kong, and they too better find a chance to “get on the train” – a local metaphor for buying one’s first property.

However, if we look at the objective facts, over seventy percent of our private housing are self-owned, compared to only 51% in the 1980s.  This is not a low percentage by any means.  Is our government trying to aim at 100% home-ownership for our people, or should we focus on making available public housing for those who really need it, first and foremost? What is the government really trying to do, or not do?

The reality – and the unspoken, inconvenient truth – is that if Hong Kong cannot get back the control on the unstoppable influx of mainland immigrants, then any effort to increase the supply will be futile.  Even if we reclaim our entire harbor or flatten our mountains, it will still not be enough.

Now, the next test to come for the government will be the Budget in the end of February.  Speculation flies whether the Financial Secretary will be tempted to give out “candies” as favors to the middle class.  But if the negative response at the handing out of $6,000 per citizen in last year’s budget is any indication, this kind of tactics is bound to fail.  What our citizen really wants is not some extra handouts and subsidy here and there. If you give it to us, we will take it, but that is not what we really want.

What we are smart enough to really want is a roadmap for Hong Kong’s future society and our economy, and the effective governance that we deserve.  It would be naïve to think that by focusing the government’s policies and the people’s attention on a few matters – such as housing and poverty – then people will put the urge for democracy on hold.  Instead, society’s problems – including housing and poverty – will deepen and worsen because a government not elected by and not accountable to its people is bound to fail and fail miserably, and the people will once again rise.

And so, this is my turn to try to play fortune telling.  If the government does not start to openly and honestly consult on true universal suffrage for Hong Kong this year – for the Chief Executive election of 2017 and with the removal of all functional constituencies in the Legislative Council election in 2020 – then the people will lose our patience and the Chief Executive will suffer a rude awakening that will leave him a fate worse than he can imagine now.

Everyone controls his or her own destiny – I do believe that to be true, even for our Chief Executive. Now it is up to him to make or break his own fate. But this is his final chance.


For Radio Television Hong Kong's Letter to Hong Kong, Feb 17 2013


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