JULY 2011, NUMBER TWENTY TWO
Despite its growing wealth, Hong Kong is a city of increasing discontent, writes Anthony B.L. Cheung, a member of its appointed Executive Council (cabinet) and president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The income gap is becoming acute, with both lower-income and middle class residents growing alienated by the government’s inability to tackle social and political problems effectively. Hong Kong needs more visionary leadership, he concludes.
HONG KONG’S FINANCIAL CENTER IN A REGIONAL AND GLOBAL CONTEXT
The city’s financial sector has become a world leader thanks mainly to the economic boom in next-door China, according to Louis W. Pauly of the University of Toronto, though in many areas Hong Kong cannot match Singapore as a regional center. Looking ahead, he believes its government cannot continue to rely on its traditional laissez-faire attitude and low tax regime to remain competitive; it must become more energetic and innovative if the city is to have the qualities needed by a prosperous global financial center.
UNITY PROBLEMS IN HONG KONG’S PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT
Though most of Hong Kong’s political activists agree on the need to introduce a long-promised universal suffrage for local elections, tactical and personality disputes have split the pro-democracy camp, writes Chan Kin Man, Director of the Centre for Civil Society Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a leading member of the group that negotiated a political reform plan with Beijing officials. He worries that continued division will slow adoption of a more democratic voting system, perhaps serving China’s interests but not those of the Hong Kong people.
ELECTORAL REFORM IN HONG KONG: FROM SCHEDULE TO SUBSTANCE
There has been too much foot-dragging in the process of moving Hong Kong toward a universal suffrage voting system, according to Lorenz Langer, a law professor at the Institute of International Law of the University of Zurich. The governments of both China and Hong Kong have cited concerns about preserving stability as they repeatedly delay implementation of local democracy. But Professor Langer argues that only real threat to social stability is a continued refusal to move faster toward a goal that most people want.
THE LONG HISTORY OF THE UNITED FRONT IN HONG KONG
Ever since 1937, the Chinese Communist Party, with Zhou Enlai playing a key role, has pursued a common front policy with Hong Kong businessmen to advance its shifting goals—from fighting Japanese invaders to replacing British rulers, writes Cindy Yik-yi Chu, professor of history at the Hong Kong Baptist University. It found big business leaders particularly amenable and formed several front groups to jointly promote Beijing’s political aims. According to Professor Chu, these common front tactics continue to the present day and help China project a positive image within Hong Kong.
RESILIENT REFUGEES: HONG KONGERS COME HOME
More than 800,000 Hong Kong residents left what was then a British colony after London and Beijing decided in 1984 to return it to Chinese sovereignty—but an estimated 500,000 have since returned, according to Nan M. Sussman, professor of psychology at the City University of New York. Their years abroad changed them in many ways, yet most have acclimated successfully into local society though with cultural and professional differences; a preference for “both steak and dim sum,” she writes.
COMMENTARY: NO PROGRESS ON LEADING ISSUES PRODUCES A MID-YEAR MALAISE
Behind Hong Kong’s glitzy but deceptive exterior, social frictions grew worse as little was done to resolve festering economic and political problems, writes Robert Keatley, editor of the Hong Kong Journal. The government’s main financial move was to plan refunding a budget surplus to individual residents rather than devise a longer term welfare, public health or education policy. Soaring home prices, high inflation and a sense of decreased social mobility, among other things, fed public discontent which culminated in massive July 1 protest march.