HSBA 25th Anniversary (18th October 2019, Friday)
Speech by Mr. Dennis Chiu, Chairman of Federation of Hong Kong Business Associations Worldwide, Chairman of Hong Kong – Singapore Business Association
• Honorable Mr. Chee Hong Tat – Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Education Singapore
• HE Hong Xiao Yong, Ambassador Extraordinary, and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Singapore
• HE Joseph Del Mar Yap – Ambassador of The Republic of Philippines to Singapore
• Ms. Lynn McDonald – High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore
• Mr. Law Kin Wai – Director-General, HKETO
• Mr. Peter Wong – Regional Director, HKTDC (Trade Development Council)
• Members of Federation of Hong Kong Business Association (HBA) members
• Members of the Hong Kong – Singapore Business Association (HSBA)
What has HK come to?
Strangers can go for each other's throats – a video shows a middle-aged man who disagreed with protesters, end up becoming the victim when a mob descended on him. Even though he was hurt with blood streaming down his face, a young girl wearing a face mask crept behind and whacked his face with a metal railing.
When volunteer medics came to help, he replied to them, “I don’t need help, let me bleed and die”. In response, a young man filming him shouted: “why don’t you just commit suicide?”
In another instance, a transit passenger (a reporter) in HK airport, wearing a T-shirt “I support HK Police” – was discovered by a mob of protesters who surrounded him and when he realized he was no match, he then shouted, I support HK Police, you can hit me now.
How did we become so polarised?
- Where are the answers?
- What are the ways?
- What does it take?
Professor Wang Gung Wu – when interviewed recently on CNBC mentioned the lack of political experience and leadership skills as the top reason. So far, HK Chief Executives are business-driven and Civil Servants. The problem in HK is both Political and Ideological.
Let me start with a quote:
The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.
- By Winston Churchill
1. One Country Two System
There is a fundamental fault in this approach, but history tells us that HK under the British Colonial Rule had always been 2 systems for 155 years. Even pre-colonial HK was the entrepot trading hub. Through trade, the business was done differently to better align with the Western structure. The World used HK as a stepping stone to Chin and China used HK as a stepping stone to the World. The 2 systems co-existed! Subject to certain refinements the 2 systems seem compatible.
So what about the One Country? The loss of Hong Kong was a historical embarrassment to China. A 5,000 yrs civilization, was not about to give up its sovereignty on HK and Hong Kong has always been part of Chinese soil.
It is inconceivable for this to be treated otherwise, as any other option is wishful thinking and the unreal demand when you see the American or British flag. I am so saddened by the lack of feelings and knowledge.
[For those who read The Fall of Beijing, The City Invaded by 8 Foreign Powers, the Japanese Occupation of China especially the Nanjing Massacre. All must be proud of HK’s to return to China in 1997].
2. The Education system here has a “black-hole” or vacuum, a serious weakness in educating the young, the way subjects are taught, how the syllabus is set-up and the lack of integration with China. Subjects are still taught in Cantonese, while people around the World are going to Beijing to learn Mandarin.
In particular, there is the subject of Liberal Studies that became compulsory during the 2009 entrance exam to Universities known as the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
The Education Bureau cited certain textbooks “to have misled students and spread hatred and bias”. Beijing was troubled by a statement from Education Chief Minister, Chen Bao Sheng in 2017, who said the rise of pro-independence sentiment in HK was “linked directly” to its education system.
3. The severe housing shortage in HK
60% of HK’s land is zoned green belt. The area is built up at 33%, with only 17% for residential housing [which is less than 10% allocated for residential use]. Total land allocation for private housing is roughly 45%; public housing at about 55%. In terms of affordability, it takes approximately 17 years for young families to save up to purchase a house, whereas comparing many others between 5 to 7 years of working.
Besides, there is another old law to protect the male-descendant of the Villages in New Territories and ensures the male offspring to have a house “丁屋“ Rights which has a direct impact on the use of all lands and supply in overall HK land supplies. The Agricultural land use which is primarily located in New Territories must be re-examined as there are so little “farms” in HK already.
HK has always taken pride in having the “freest” economy in the World. The best way to describe HK economic model as cited by [late Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman] in this book “Free to choose”. It is a Laissez-faire economy with a small Government, leaving the perfect “supply & demand curves” driven by market forces. Hence, there is little or no interference.
Compared to Singapore, with a much more planned and vision L-T driven eco model with an open economy. Both have achieved amazing successes.
[HK$1.83T Reserves approx. US$235 billion];
[SING$392B Reserves approx. US$285 billion].
But perhaps, one side effect is in the rise of inequality. The Gini coefficient has reached its highest in 45 years and the trend is up. In 2018, Hong Kong with a 0.539 Gini Index compared with Singapore at 0.4579.
The average monthly income of the top 10%, is 43.9 times the bottom 10%.
The average monthly income in Hong Kong is close to HK$17,500 which is approx. S$3,125; household income in June 2018 is HK$28,000 and taking an exchange rate of 5.6, comes to approx. $5,000.
[Medium Gross Income in Singapore 2018 (S) $4,437 per month. Household income (S)$9,293].
If the side effect is inequality, then the outcome is disturbing, with the New World Globalization in retreat, nationalism, and more.
Whatever it is, whether is Socialism with Chinese characteristics, or Singapore version of Vision L-T system, HK needs to dig deeper to re-examine and find a better way forward.
Recently, there is a new term calling for Inclusive Capitalism.
While trying to understand what is behind the mounting street violence, thoughts cast back to months of student riots across Europe in the early ’70s.
Look at a recent study led by psychiatrist Leor Zmigrod at Cambridge University exploring the mind-sets of people of the extreme political spectrum. The heart of political polarisation around Donald Trump and the Brexit debate in Britain, which resulted in conflict between the 2 leading political parties.
In the paper “Journal of Experimental Psychology”, similar to football fans (men alone thesis), religious cults and even Triads, any environment that can create people with a cognitively rigid mind is especially attracted to the clarity and certainty response by certain ideologies as in tribal bonding. The power of social media magnifies and reinforces the mentally rigid-tribalism – especially the adrenaline-pumping war game apps that have been lifted from their laptops at home onto HK’s streets.
The second force is what is called the fracture lines. All societies have their differences. But only when the fracture lines created by these differences overlap do divisions in society become entrenched enough to trigger violence or serious stability.
To overcome the challenges of HK today, I would summarize in 3 phases:
1) Short-Term - at all costs, must return to peace and stability
2) Medium-Term - Housing & Education
3) Long-Term - Integration with China