As one of the world’s most unequal cities, why aren’t Hong Kong protesters angry at the rich and powerful? 香港貧富懸殊於世上名列前茅,為何示威者並未遷怒於權貴?

Jennifer Creery_Occupation of Sha Tin New Town Plaza_Monday 5 AUG 2019

By Toby CarrollCity University of Hong Kong

托比 • 卡羅爾著(香港城市大學)

There have been many explanations for the turmoil in Hong Kong, which is now heading toward its 16th weekend. However, the powerful links between the economic and political elites in the city and the grossly inadequate system of governance they preside over are too often ignored.

In explaining the source of Hong Kong’s unrest, many leaders have predictably blamed the teaching of liberal studies in schools. The notion that students should gain a critical understanding of politics and society – not to mention actively participate in these – is simply too much for those who believe they must make the big decisions.

On the other side, the ire of many protesters is overwhelmingly directed toward China and the Hong Kong government, particularly Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Lam’s actions – first disappearing and then reappearing with equal measures of bureaucratic steeliness and obstinacy – have only made matters worse, as have the actions of a police force once revered by many as “Asia’s finest” and the posturing of Chinese forces. Indeed, the sum total of these efforts has been a hardening localist identity that has become more apparent among the protesters as the unrest has continued.

Moreover, mutual animosity has grown to such an extent that backing down by either side would seem unlikely. Indeed, for the last few weeks it has been much easier to imagine escalation than the opposite.

Decline without hope 有衰退,無希望

However, the most likely explanation for the unrest lies not in the education curriculum or Beijing’s influence over the city, but rather the nature of Hong Kong government and society itself.

Despite the way the Hong Kong government markets itself to the world – emphasising the rule of law and promoting the city’s high-quality business environment – the city has actually been in decay for decades.

Firstly, Hong Kong has been subject to the “hollowing out” processes that have plagued many former industrial economies – a situation in which industry leaves and nothing replaces it.
首先,香港同好多前度工業型經濟體一樣, 深受「空洞化」過程之痛,即各種工業撤走以後,並未有其他經濟活動填補空白。

Importantly, this has been coupled with an inability of those at the top end of town to recognise the vast inequalities this has contributed towards. According to government statistics, Hong Kong’s wealth gap hit a historic high in 2017, with the wealthiest households earning 44 times the poorest.
與此同時,本港嘅最高領導層根本無法意識到,此「空洞化」過程帶來巨大嘅貧富差距。據政府統計,香港貧富差距於2017年錄得歷史新高,最富裕住戶嘅收入係低收入住戶嘅44倍。 Continue reading “As one of the world’s most unequal cities, why aren’t Hong Kong protesters angry at the rich and powerful? 香港貧富懸殊於世上名列前茅,為何示威者並未遷怒於權貴?”