Hong Kong is now at a crossroads. In a sense, it is like a city under siege. We have been challenged by months of violence and political confrontations from unfriendly forces. In response to Beijing’s National Security Law for Hong Kong, the United States passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act in July, imposing sanctions against individuals, entities and financial institutions. Together with the President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization, the US revoked Hong Kong’s special status and preferential treatment apart from the Chinese mainland. Even Hong Kong’s exports have to be designated as “Made in China” instead of “Made in Hong Kong”. All this is on top of the toll that COVID-19 has taken on Hong Kong’s economy. We have seen massive layoffs. We have seen many business closures. We have seen a surge in the government fiscal deficit. Our tourism industry, one of our four pillar industries, is suffocating for want of both incoming and outgoing tourists, with no reprieve in sight.
However, Hong Kong is not going to be beaten. That is, if we have the mindset and the culture to prevail. Just like people, Hong Kong is bound to face challenges from time to time. There are always things beyond our control that could become an “existential threat” if we do not hang together and if we do not have the stamina and wisdom to face them. In 1995, Fortune magazine published an article that announced “the death of Hong Kong”. That article at that time already accused Beijing of “persistent backpedaling from its initial commitments to freedom and noninterference”. But data from the World Bank shows that since its return to China, Hong Kong has advanced on many fronts. Whereas Lehman Brothers economist Miron Mushkat in that Fortune article reportedly described Hong Kong in its colonial days as benefiting from “a happy marriage between the animal spirits of capitalism and the certainty of British common law”, since the handover, the World Bank’s Rule of Law Indicator ranked Hong Kong among the top 5 percent in 2018 among all jurisdictions ranked, up from the top 30 percent in 1996. In “Control of Corruption”, Hong Kong advanced from the top 10 percent to the top 8 percent.
Just like people, Hong Kong is bound to face challenges from time to time. There are always things beyond our control that could become an “existential threat” if we do not hang together and if we do not have the stamina and wisdom to face them
Of course, the violent protesters who wanted Hong Kong to revert to its “glorious” colonial days fail to see these facts. Hong Kong SAR and China are just like persons in real life who are sometimes wrongly accused of this and that. But this is no reason to lose heart. In the long run, it is our fortitude and our steadfast adhering to our principles and core values that carry the day.
On Friday, my former classmates at the University of Hong Kong jointly decided to send a letter of thanks to the team of mainland workers who came to Hong Kong to help process the samples collected from across the city. At the time of writing, more than 1.67 million samples of secretions from the nostrils and throats of Hong Kong people have been collected and mostly processed. We wrote:
“We are most grateful for your sacrifice and your toiling through day and night to help us identify silent carriers of the COVID-19 virus. Your hard work has now borne fruit, as the number of local infections has finally come down. Many of our businesses and their employees, who have suffered financial pain and mental stress for months finally begin to see hope. We are sure that people across many industries and sectors like us are thankful and full of respect for you.”
“We had the occasion to witness on TV how the hands of some of you have suffered from sores from long hours of work. A strong sense of indebtedness arose in our minds. On the one hand we feel we could do nothing to correct the biases that some fellow Hongkongers have harbored against our motherland; on the other hand we are so proud of the fact that the motherland has nurtured so many talented workers who are so professional and so prepared to make sacrifices for noble causes. We are now more confident of our motherland’s having a great future.”
It is increasingly clear that there is an important element in common among great achievers like Major General Chen Wei, who led her team to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, Dr Zhong Nanshan, who led China’s fight against COVID-19, Mr Ren Zhengfei, who weathered so many difficulties and grew Huawei into a formidable player in IT that he is inviting fear and loathing from the US, and Mr Jack Ma, who developed Alibaba into such a powerhouse despite disappointment after disappointment. They are all bearers of the Chinese culture. Indeed, the team of mainland workers who came to our aid share the same values and traits.
US President Donald Trump pledged to “make America great again”. But he is on the wrong track. Bullying, lying, and intimidating cannot make America great. On the other hand, a culture of respect for life, the natural environment, benevolence, perseverance, hard work, and gratitude will.
If Hong Kong people will hang together for a good fight against all odds backed by our Chinese values and culture, tomorrow can only be better. I am sure.
The author is a senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS