By Hans Ebert
It’s getting harder and harder to understand the prolonged “winter of discontent” that some are going through about the present and future of Hong Kong. It’s almost as if they have way too much time on their hands with in-fighting to embrace misguided cause célèbres. Remember how Occupy Central suddenly morphed into the Umbrella Movement with the those in charge of the former suddenly disappearing into the background?
Do these people have any idea what atrocities are going on in Aleppo?
Can’t they see the surrealism of America having a President Elect who was a television reality personality and the Great Divide that he’s caused and will further cause? Don’t they know what Putin and the Russians have done throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, funding political parties in France, and now has a new orange puppet to manipulate?
Can’t they see that there’s a civil war going on in gun carrying America with a horrific “Criminal Minds” type crime almost a daily occurrence? Would Hong Kong be receptive to the leadership of a thug like the President of the Philippines? Think he will accept protests no matter how peaceful? President Duterte is the Philippines’ answer to Donald Trump, Al Capone and Putin, combined, is further proof of a world political system gone horribly wrong. How can countries live in fear of their leaders? Because they’re dictators. They’re not leaders.
Today’s Hong Kong is hardly perfect, but this one-time barren rock, which had nothing going for it other than human resolve and the entrepreneurialism of its people and early settlers, has done extremely well for itself. It might not exactly be “Asia’s World City” as one of its advertising campaigns boasted, but it remains a wonderful mélange of nationalities and religions living and working together without fear and the outright discrimination suddenly unleashed in too many other countries.
Having made visits recently to my homeland in Sri Lanka, an island paradise with so much natural resources, but racked with a DNA of politics and corruption, and despite years of promises of “getting there”, it’s still lost and confused.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, continues to succeed where most other countries would have fallen and failed. Like Singapore, Hong Kong has never been labeled a Third World country. Far from it. It’s rich in many ways with one of the most tax-friendly economies in the world. If only some of this city’s people start to drink from a half-full glass, and bother to look at all the very real chaos going on around the world. It just might put everything into perspective. It might underline the thinking about being happy with what you have. And where you are. Stop being petulant and think you need to put on a show for the peanut gallery. Stop trying to be overnight politicians. Be happy like a house without a roof, or whatever the hell Pharrell was singing about.
To those asking for “more democracy”, look around and smell the dim sum. Think back to when Hong Kong was a colony. Was there really “more democracy” then, or was this city silently raped and pillaged and sold down the river by its British masters who left with all the silverware after introducing, getting rich and owning Hong Kong from selling opium to China? The Opium Wars is one of the most vile chapters in history. But, shhhhhh, let’s just sweep that under the carpet, shall we?
That was then, and this is now, and it seems that, perhaps boredom, has created the need for there to be different movements. Even bowel movements. It was interesting to read that protest and rallies have increased seven fold since 1997 with the riots last year in triad-controlled Mongkok blaring out the message that things had gone too far.
Political movements need a reason- like a reason to bring about Change for the under trodden. This is what Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi fought for. It was worth the fight. It was where Bob Dylan and his songs became part of the Sixties protest movement. It was right for John and Yoko to tell us to Give Peace A Chance and to Imagine a world where everybody’s living life in peace.
What’s not right is to create chaos for no reason. There’s a very big difference between a protest and a rally and a full scale riot with triads infiltrating the crowds. It’s no doubt why, the Hong Kong police force are seeking the largest boost in manpower in a decade.
Though the “One Country, Two Systems” mantra sounds like a cute advertising slogan, Hong Kong, part of China, though geographically not on the Mainland, has far more autonomy that many of us thought we’d have when the Chinese tanks rolled in and the British handed this city over to its new Chinese rulers in 1997.
Sitting in silence at the Repulse Bay Hotel with my then-wife at lunch, the future hardly looked bright. Hong Kong being part of China was hard to take. There was probably more uncertainty then than during the lead up to The Handover. But very little changed. Things might have even changed for the better. Colonial rule always had its drawbacks including an underlying feeling of Them versus Us.
Fast forward to today…Those thinking Beijing will hand Hong Kong total independence is naive thinking. Frankly, it’s stupid. To ask for “more democracy” is confusing. We’re talking here about Mainland China, and Mainland China plays by its own rules. If and when Donald Trump ever becomes President, he will find this out. Some in Hong Kong might not like the way the powers that be in Beijing do things, but that’s just how it is. No amount of protests are going to change this. Remember what happened at Tianamen Square.
Let’s also look at the huge progress China has made in every single industry in such a short period of time. Gone are the days when “Made In China” stood for an inferior product. Today, anything the rest of the world can do, China can do better and cheaper. It’s something many other countries have trouble accepting. Again, it’s something Trump will learn the hard way- that China will not be bullied and will not be pushovers when it comes to business negotiations. Just give me your money. Don’t give me your funny papers and don’t make idle threats.
We in Hong Kong should be darn proud of Chinese companies like Alibaba and Lenovo, the renaissance of Shanghai, and the bargaining power that China holds today.
Being part of China, the people of Hong Kong should see all this as providing this city with enormous business opportunities while also providing it with the security in knowing that we have a powerful Motherland who will always protect us.
For over two years, there have been protests against the polarising figure of Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive CY Leung, who’s seen as a “puppet of Beijing”. What’s really so surprising about this? Beijing is “head office” and he reports to it. And now that he’s announced he won’t be seeking re-election, what’s next to protest against? Is there anyone in Hong Kong who everyone will accept? John Tsang? Joshua Wong? Regina Ip and her daft “Win Back Hong Kong” platform? Sounds like Make America Great Again to this writer. Let’s hope she has no plans to build a wall.
Who else? Jimmy Lai? The ubiquitous Allan Zeman? Aaron Kwok? Andy Lai? Jackie Chan? Long Hair? Emily Lau? Harlan Goldstein?
It seems there are different political camps in Hong Kong, each with their own financial backers and self-serving agendas who need something to be angry about so they can crash into a legislative council meeting and throw a shoe or banana at someone. Or throw a wobbly and threaten a protest. It’s all weirdly reminiscent of Monty Python and The Ministry Of Silly Walks.
As a kid, it was tough telling friends in Sri Lanka that the family was leaving for this funny sounding place called Hong Kong. In fact, it was so tough to tell that I said we were moving to Australia. It took us two weeks to get to Hong Kong by sea and life was certainly not easy- not family life, not being the only “darkie” in school and not easy for my parents to find work. But, we did the best we could and learned to understand and appreciate this city. No longer was it embarrassing to say that we lived in Hong Kong.
There was and is pride in being a Hong Kong Belonger. And what’s tough to stomach is the lack of pride in being part of this city by those claiming to fight for its rights and right its wrongs.
There’s a strong whiff of hypocrisy about it all. It’s often looked as fake as The Kanye meeting The Donald and this becoming a hashtag on social media.
There’s even a stronger feeling that there are some very intelligent, but equally confused young people out there who have bought into their 15 minutes of fame and have lost grip on reality and what their real roles should be. Most importantly, don’t be used. Don’t fight other people’s battles and lose the war.
With all the uncertainties in the world today, what’s needed is to stabilise our home- not go half-cocked with idealism and wishful thinking and believe that this is going to create a better Hong Kong. It’s not the way forward. It’s not going to benefit Hong Kong. Especially these days, don’t believe everything you read or hear on supposed “news” channels from the U.S. China is not the only country with its propaganda machinery.
Be agents of positive change without making a song and dance about it. This always dissipates into jive talk and short-term trending on Twitter.
From a personal point of view, Hong Kong will always be a “base of operations”. It’s home. And as home, there will always be those times when one thinks the grass is greener elsewhere. It is for a few days. But it’s an unfulfilling happy ending. After that, you can’t wait to get home.
Where Hong Kong is going wrong is with its rabid preoccupation with money, and always the danger of falling in with the wrong people and being surrounded by negativity. It’s why there’s a need and an excitement in seeking out new people who are on your wavelength, slamming the door on serial cheats and time wasters, and to keep pressing the Refresh button.
Get on a plane, travel, discover, keep your personal life strictly personal, trust few, and always remember that there’s no place like home.
For myself, there’s no place like Hong Kong. And what Hong Kong doesn’t need are those who want Change, but have no idea what this Change looks like. It’s called pissing in the wind egged on by those with no personal investment in this city, and with somewhere to return if and when anything goes wrong. They’re there watching the various side shows unfold from the sidelines. Do they really care about the future of Hong Kong? What do you think?