SCMP wonders why Hong Kong is a city in decline!

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Hong Kong's Protest
Hong Kong's Protest

Reading the article on why Hong Kong is a city in decline on South China Morning Post, one has the impression that the people of the once British administered territory is facing the same onslaught that other countries in Asia are facing.

There is the issue of soaring property prices to the extent that few locals can afford them, and the other issue of disparity in salaries where locals salary have not increased to keep up with the inflationary pressures.

But there is also the invasion of Hong Kong by the in-famous People’s Republic of China (PRCs), which was one of the popular complaints by Singaporeans in particular  a few years ago.

And PRCs are is still an ongoing issue in Singapore.

Regina Ip says the city’s past success has made us blind to how much – and how fast – others are improving, not least the mainland and its embrace of technology and the new economy. Hong Kong has fallen behind simply by standing still…

Ip, in the article said, amid the thunder of denunciations, the Parliamentarians missed a crucial question pertaining to Hong Kong’s economic future – why is Hong Kong’s economy listing and what are its future directions?

According to her, the Hong Kong community feels that the economy peaked in 1997.

Twenty years on, many people share the feeling that they are neither happier nor living better than before.

Basically, there is a take-over, or a massive invasion of Hong Kong by mainland Chinese and that is disrupting the community that lived in the territory prior to 1997.

And Ip says it without hesitation: “Property prices have skyrocketed, far outpacing increases in real wages.

“Hong Kong people are unable to buy homes, or have to content themselves with living in “nano-size” cubicles. Hong Kong people watch helplessly as wealthy mainlanders snap up properties and school places in elite school districts.

“While the government continues to tout Hong Kong as Asia’s premier business and financial hub, an increasing number of overseas-educated mainland graduates, with mother-tongue fluency in English, Putonghua and their native dialects, swell the senior ranks of banks, and consulting and law firms, professions which used to be the exclusive reserves of Hong Kong’s brightest and best.”

Hong Kong also lags woefully behind its mainland counterpart in the construction sector, which is falling apart and this is not to mention too much on mainland China’s adoption of the latest technological advances.

Not dismissing a political change of the system in Hong Kong as part of the problem, Ip says deeper reasons lie behind Hong Kong’s inability to innovate and restructure its economy to keep up with changing times.

And these reasons are:

The obsession with safeguarding its pre-1997 lifestyle and separate systems has blinded Hong Kong’s leaders.

Hong Kong’s leaders have also failed to alert Hong Kong people to the far-reaching implications of China’s economic ascendency.

The rise of a new class of Western-educated Chinese professionals is presenting unprecedented challenges to Hong Kong’s elite.

As a conclusion, Ip says

 Hong Kong must think hard about what remains of its competitive advantage and core strengths, economically, culturally and system-wise, and sharpen its competitive edge. Otherwise, marginalisation will become an inevitable reality, and Hong Kong in 2017 will go down in the annals of world cities as a city in decline.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is a lawmaker and chairwoman of the New People’s Party