TWENTY-FIVE YEARS have passed since the official Handover of Hong Kong sovereignty from Britain to the People’s Republic of China. What lay ahead were a mixture of uncertainty and hope for the city. The past quarter century had been a period of change, development, and growth. To mark the significance of this milestone, let’s explore the major shifts through the lens of ordinary citizens.
HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT
To no one’s surprise, housing prices and affordability remain high as the city tops one of the “world’s most unaffordable housing market” charts for thirteen years straight. The average price of an 800 sq ft home now costs HK$21,400 a sq ft, almost triple its price in 1997.
Because of land shortage, it has become harder for the new generation to own homes. If they are lucky, they may only be able to afford to do so with the help of their parents. The need to prioritize land strictly for residential housing in the next 10 to 15 years rather than for infrastructure development or country parks is crucial, especially with the wealth gap widening. Besides, tighter regulations on the housing market will balance supply and demand, and prevent short-term speculation. There is an urgency to address and fix the housing problem, but this cannot be achieved without cooperation between the government and the city’s property giants.
FOOD AND CULTURE
Famously known as a food city, there is no shortage of the best dishes from east and west in Hong Kong. Although prices have soared in the past 25 years, caused by high rentals and inflation, the range of food from different cultures represents openness and inclusivity, as seen in restaurants, bars, and cafes throughout the city.
Once described as a “cultural desert”, the city is now also home to international art fairs and events. Ongoing arts and cultural education is undoubtedly critical if the city wants to position itself as more than just a financial hub. This also requires nurturing in schools. Entertainment-wise, the influence from mainland China is apparent in Hong Kong’s television programs and online networks, as the cultures are increasingly being integrated. The opportunities on the mainland have also attracted local talent to immerse themselves into their community, bringing cultural exchanges in the film and music industries.
The expansion of transport infrastructure in the city since 1997 is evident. As one of the busiest passenger airports and cargo gateways, the efficiency of travel has improved dramatically.
Previously, a trip to Guangzhou would take two to three hours. Now the travel time is cut in half. Though transport fares may be still steep for the average commuter, the ease of use of transportation options such as high-speed rail and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge should attract more travellers into mainland China for both business and leisure. As systems become more reliable, the infrastructure across the country will literally and figuratively bridge the gap.
Despite the challenges since the handover in 1997, there is no doubt Hong Kong remains a a resilient and adaptable city. Home to 7.4 million individuals, we rely on current and future generations to preserve our culture and traditions through education and persistence.
When we appreciate Hong Kong’s situation more fully, we can see that the possibilities and opportunities are endless.