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Hong Kong’s future relies on democracy being relevant and trusted

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SOME DAYS AGO, the Government of Hong Kong and the Government of Singapore confirmed creating an air travel bubble between the cities that they govern. This air travel bubble effectively means tourists and expatriates can travel between each city with minimum hassle as long as they follow the rules and remain uninfected. My father, having already moved, proceeded to buy me a ticket at my request. I am now counting down the days and minutes until I see the skyscrapers, lion rock, and that seemingly dominating harbour from a departing plane.

Hong Kong has been a magnificent city to live in for the last year. Unencumbered by lockdown because of impeccable community response, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy an indolent and pleasurable existence. I was observing and experiencing the full flow of ever-present life in this kaleidoscopic portrait. Residents share a dense conurbation doused with profound greenery throughout their line of sight.

Hong Kong is an intensely mystifying and stimulating city. Seemingly omnipresent urbanism peaceably cohabitates with 443 square kilometres of outstanding scenery and natural beauty.  So why am I leaving a city with so many assets containing the most bottomless well of endless potential?

I am going because of politics.

Hong Kong is no longer a city that aspires to be governed by native residents. When the British and Chinese inked the Joint Declaration in 1984, politicians made overt promises that Hong Kong’s autonomy would thrive with citizens possessing necessary and proper self-rule. Unfortunately, this has not come to pass. While the edifices rose Hong Kong’s institutions hollowed themselves out. More government departments are employing civil servants who commute to taller skyscrapers.

Everyone knows who has the last word over the big questions that hang over this city. Hong Kong doesn’t lack infrastructure and amenities, but enjoying these luxuries can gnaw on your soul. You can only savour delights at so many eminent eateries, sleep at so many fine hotels, pause any number of art exhibitions, and shop at any number of malls before you realise that nobody is allowed any genuine or wholehearted self-determination. The more you encounter the award-winning airport or pass through the strangely vulgar West Kowloon Terminus, the more you realize the city’s increasingly curated and contrived nature.

Hong Kong allows raucous and exciting election campaigns on the condition of a pre-determined outcome. Our culture is a mix of east and west but doesn’t allow questions or conversation over its origins and future. The government still observes Remembrance Sunday but won’t honour her veterans. The city elite is addicted to the eyes of the world but immediately clam up in red incense whenever interested onlookers scrutinize the disjunction in our way of life. Simultaneously, Hong Kong people demand meaning in their constitutional settlement, eminent Chinese trot out tired platitudes and false equivalencies. Instead of showing contrition and humility, they keep promising incalculable economic opportunities and demand patriotism at every facet. There seems to be no way out.

My younger self believed that Hong Kong’s salvation lay in a fundamental separation from the People’s Republic. Whether it meant British rule, United Nations trusteeship, or declaring independence, separatism seemed to be the only way out of our morass. Upon further reflection, Hong Kong will only emerge from its perpetual crisis when her people feel represented by her government, regardless of the nation-state.

I pray that we all live to see that day sooner than later.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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