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Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 00:45

Tung calls on HK to address social issues rationally

By Li Yinze and Luis Liu
Tung calls on HK to address social issues rationally

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa makes a speech during a luncheon held by Our Hong Kong Foundation, of which he is the chairman, in Admiralty on Monday. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

Hong Kong should return to rationality and reclaim its civic spirit in order to address pending social and economic issues, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa said on Monday.

Tung, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, stressed that such problems could only be resolved through negotiation and compromise.

He also urged the SAR government to realize the limitations of Hong Kong’s laissez-faire, non-interventionist economic policy. The city needs to adopt a more proactive approach. This would help the SAR to prepare for the challenges brought by new technological innovations, Tung advised.

Addressing a luncheon organized by Our Hong Kong Foundation – of which Tung is the chairman, he reflected on social tensions in the city in recent years. Political wrangling, which evolved into social clashes such as the illegal “Occupy Central” movement in 2014 and the Mong Kok riot in February this year, sprang from weaknesses in economic policies, he argued.

Soaring housing prices – widely attributed to insufficient land supply by previous governments – reduced people's ability to own property, the former chief executive noted. He said the city was also being forced to adapt to difficult challenges posed by a global economy increasingly being driven by innovation and technology.

But Tung said Hong Kong was failing to create new job opportunities for many of its working population.

"This has reduced young people's chances to move up the social ladder and had also increased the wealth gap," he explained, adding such frustrations had clearly exacerbated tensions in society.

Tung urged the government to take a more proactive approach instead of leaving everything to the free market. He hoped policymakers will make good use of the city's US$350 billion, or HK$2.7 trillion, fiscal surplus. This could improve people's livelihoods and also solve urgent social problems.

Tung said the government's increased investment in technology and innovation, education and poverty alleviation has started to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, the former CE urged all parties to work closely together as there were no quick fixes for the SAR’s problems.

He hoped the pro-establishment camp could cooperate with the government and the “pan-democrats” by offering constructive and rational views. Only through negotiation and compromise could Hong Kong achieve a bright future, Tung argued.

Discussing future development, he said the financial sector, the film industry, medical services and the Belt and Road Initiative would be very important.

Tung also predicted that Hong Kong could become Asia’s best medical service center as well as the country's gateway for businesses connected by the Belt and Road Initiative.

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