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Monday, August 12, 2019, 19:39
The Crux of Hong Kong’s Problems
By Ho Lok-sang
Monday, August 12, 2019, 19:39 By Ho Lok-sang

I have been pondering over the cause of Hong Kong’s present predicament. Why is there such widespread dissatisfaction with the SAR government? Why are clashes between the police and the “demonstrators” so rampant? Why do so many demonstrators become rioters?

The “pan-democrats” blame it on the SAR Government, saying that it is all because the government does not respond to the “five demands” of the demonstrators. Some demonstrators say that there are no rioters; and that there is only violence in our institutions. Some say that to solve Hong Kong’s problems, the only way out is universal suffrage.

Many commentators among the “pro-establishment” camp blame the problems on the housing problem, on the strained healthcare system, on income inequality. Some blame it on foreign interests messing up Hong Kong’s politics.

After much soul searching, I have now concluded that it is all because of selfishness and self-indulgence. As long as selfishness and self-indulgence prevail, Hong Kong will forever be chained to turmoil and infighting.  “Universal suffrage” will not help; the housing problem will not ease; the healthcare problem will not go away; income inequality will widen.

It is selfishness that has prevented the SAR Government from securing developable land for the construction of housing and public amenities. Early this month, a request by the Social Welfare Department to designate one-tenth of the residential land to social welfare amenities met with objections from all 14 submissions to a public consultation. Those who object say the proposed social welfare facilities will increase traffic and may adversely affect the value of the land in the area. Last year a proposal in line with the recommendation of the Task Force on Land Supply to reclaim some 60 hectares of land for housing and technology-based industries from the coastal waters in Ma Liu Shui was rejected for the same reason. Since about half of Hong Kong’s households already enjoy public housing including HOS/TPS housing, and another 30 percent or so are homeowners, the acute housing crisis affects only no more than 20 percent of Hong Kong’s households, any effort to ease the housing problem and even the shortage for social amenities is beset with huge difficulties because it is a minority’s problem.

After much soul searching, I have now concluded that it is all because of selfishness and self-indulgence 

It is selfishness that motivated those who can afford private housing to continue to stay on in public housing while avoiding double rent or market rent. In recent years among all marriages in Hong Kong, there has been an increasing proportion of remarriages. By 2012 the proportion of remarriages between Hong Kong men and Mainland women had gone up to 40%; that between Hong Kong women and Mainland men had gone up to 27%. When such “dumping the spouse” and remarrying occurs, the demand for public housing increases.

It is selfishness that motivated those who desire their brand of democracy to impose their will on the rest of the public. They can ignore other people’s rights to quiet and the use of roads and wantonly occupy the roads and obstruct traffic. It is selfishness and a complete lack of consideration for the health and welfare of others that motivated so much bullying, both on-line and in situ. It is selfishness and a complete disregard for other people’s wellbeing that motivated the flashing of laser beams on police officers who are just performing their duties.

It is selfishness that motivated the bullying of a reporter caught on camera who was compelled to erase the contents in her camera. The irony is that the bullies have been calling for freedom of the press and are “demonstrating” so that Hong Kong will have more freedom.

Sadly, some rioters may genuinely believe that they are fighting for a just cause, since they believe in the narrative that only their brand of universal suffrage is genuine universal suffrage. But many have little knowledge about the Basic Law and the extradition bill and choose to hold on to what they believe without ever thinking about the possible disingenuity of the narrative. They have forgotten that Beijing has agreed to the terms of the Basic Law in the belief that all of its contents will be respected by Hong Kong people.

One of the five demands is the unconditional discharge of all those who have been arrested. Those who make the demand are happy with paying lip service to the Rule of Law. Demanding the unconditional discharge of all those who have been arrested is blatantly obstructing justice. They believe that as long as they outnumber others their word is the Rule of Law. They think they can do whatever they like and are not accountable to anyone or any law.

If such values and culture continue to prevail, can anyone imagine what the future of Hong Kong will be?

I am sure it will be corrupt to the bone, poor to the bone, and will be left behind to decay. The irony is that some parents believe in the narrative that the “demonstrators” and rioters are fighting for a better future for Hong Kong.

I would simply call this ignorance and self-indulgence.

The author is the dean of business at Chu Hai College of Higher Education.

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