Hong Kong is not dying, but recovering

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It’s a hard truth for the city’s critics to hear

THE MUCH-DISCUSSED national security law for Hong Kong is exactly one year old. While those who push the Western narrative continue their smear campaigns and cry out “Hong Kong is dead” for the nth time, the truth is that the city is gradually recovering from the economic downturn caused by the 2019 riots and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hong Kong’s economy recovered visibly in the first quarter of 2021, with real gross domestic product resuming appreciable year-on-year growth of 7.9 percent, ending six consecutive quarters of contraction.

Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund said Hong Kong’s financial system remains resilient to future financial shocks and crises even after a challenging two-year period that saw the city’s economy experience its worst contraction on record.

Signs of recovery are everywhere, with packed restaurants and new businesses in popular locations: picture by Fridayeveryday 

STILL WORLD-CLASS
Although Hong Kong’s ranking in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021 slipped slightly (from fifth to seventh place), it is still one of the top places on the planet to do business.

If we take a closer look, we note Hong Kong still ranked top or very high in the areas of Business Legislation (1st), Tax Policy (2nd), International Trade (2nd), Management Practices (2nd) and Finance (3rd).

NOW WE HAVE A TOOL

What is really lagging behind is Societal Framework (34th), Scientific Infrastructure (23rd) and Prices (63rd). These are areas that need close attention and improvement.

And the national security law for Hong Kong is the tool which provides the cornerstone for a stable environment so that our society as a whole can focus efforts to improve our performance in these areas.

Tung Chee-hwa focused on fixing housing and other problems; picture Wikimedia

PROBLEMS DATE BACK TO 1990s
Indeed, Hong Kong has deep-rooted problems. But these problems were caused not by the current administration, nor the central government. They are structural issues that had been in place since the early 1990s and Hong Kong needs to have a thorough debate in order to solve them. There is no easy panacea to deal with such deep and inter-woven issues.

The first chief executive of the special administrative region, Tung Chee-hwa, tried to resolve some of these problems by introducing an ambitious housing plan and a vision of developing an innovation and technology sector.

Yet the Asian financial crisis, SARS epidemic and various other unfortunate interruptions pushed us off course. As a result, these issues today not only remain unresolved, but are even becoming more serious.

HK FINALLY FREE TO FIX THINGS

Now is the time for the Hong Kong society to face these issues and address them. We have wasted too much time on petty politics, not to mention the riots and social unrest that pushed the search for solutions into the far distance.

An Irish friend of mine who once worked as a top civil servant in the Hong Kong government told me as he departed to Ireland to take up a senior government position there: “The legislative council has no power to do good things, but has every power to stop good things from being done.”

Indeed, that was certainly known to be true for people who are familiar with the city’s political landscape for years. And the city just couldn’t bear with that for too much longer.

When you have legislators whose sole political agenda is to stop the government from doing good things, good things could not be done. Pressing issues have to remain unresolved.

Opposition politicians resigned, meaning Hong Kong’s engineers, urban designers and civil servants will no longer see projects automatically rejected; picture by Wikimedia

MALICIOUS INTENT

Luckily, the recent electoral system reform and the enactment of the Public Offices (Candidacy & Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2021 will solve that problem.

These new law amendments will ensure that people with malicious intent will have no role to play in the governing of the SAR.

Hong Kong has always been an economic city, and should remain one. While we do have issues that affect the happiness of Hong Kong people, they should be resolved through economic development and welfare, not through political dogfights of who has an office and who doesn’t.

LEVERAGING ON THE MAINLAND

It is high time for the society to reach a consensus on how Hong Kong should start again and regain momentum in economic development, leveraging on the development of the mainland, and in particular the Greater Bay Area.

Qianhai, a free trade zone in Shenzhen: Picture by Tiuchoithia Luk/ Wikimedia

At the same time, our housing problem also needs serious attention and solutions. All these issues can only be done when our leaders and politicians focus their efforts to face the problems, instead of creating obstacles for each other.
I have always believed that the resolution of inequality can only be achieved by combining development with better redistribution, and not by redistribution alone.

The world learned a hard lesson about the powerless of the latter in earlier experiments in China and the former Soviet Union. We don’t need to repeat them.

The national security law for Hong Kong helped our city regain stability. It is now up to Hong Kong society to devote our efforts to further create prosperity, and not only for a fraction of the society, but for the society as a whole, to ensure that the people of this city can feel more satisfied, happy and secure. The burden is on us.

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Witman Hung is a Hong Kong entrepreneur. 

He has been quoted and his writings featured in the Global Times, the South China Morning Post, and numerous other publications

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Main picture shows Hong Kong people dancing on the waterfront on July 1, 2021: picture by Fridayeveryday

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