Tag Archives: hong kong

Hong Kong Was Better Under the British

Maybe it is politically incorrect, but this article simply state the fact. If there is a referendum in Hong Kong today, asking the people whether they want to rejoin the UK or stay with China, I am pretty sure people will pick UK over China. If people are allow to migrate from one country to another, why can’t a whole city migrate too?

by Hugo Restall, WSJ, Feb 23 2012

The slow-motion implosion of Henry Tang, Beijing’s pick to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, brings to mind a speech given shortly before the 1997 handover by former Far Eastern Economic Review Editor Derek Davies. Entitled “Two Cheers for Colonialism,” it attempted to explain why the city flourished under the British. Fifteen years later, the Chinese officials who are having trouble running Hong Kong might want to give it a read.

The Brits created a relatively incorrupt and competent civil service to run the city day-to-day. Mr. Davies’ countrymen might not appreciate his description of them: “They take enormous satisfaction in minutes, protocol, proper channels, precedents, even in the red tape that binds up their files inside the neat cubby holes within their registries.” But at least slavish adherence to bureaucratic procedure helped to create respect for the rule of law and prevented abuses of power.

Above the civil servants sat the career-grade officials appointed from London. These nabobs were often arrogant, affecting a contempt for journalists and other “unhelpful” critics. But they did respond to public opinion as transmitted through the newspapers and other channels.

Part of the reason was that Hong Kong officials were accountable to a democratically elected government in Britain sensitive to accusations of mismanaging a colony. But local officials often disobeyed London when it was in the local interest—for this reason frustrated Colonial Office mandarins sometimes dubbed the city “The Republic of Hong Kong.” For many decades it boasted a higher standard of governance than the mother country.

Mr. Davies nailed the real reason Hong Kong officials were so driven to excel: “Precisely because they were aware of their own anachronism, the questionable legitimacy of an alien, non-elected government they strove not to alienate the population. Their nervousness made them sensitive.”

The communists claim that the European powers stripped their colonies of natural resources and used them as captive markets for their manufacturers. But Hong Kong, devoid of resources other than refugees from communism, attracted investment and built up light industry to export back to Britain. And as for taking back the profits, Mr. Davies noted, “No British company here would have been mad enough to have repatriated its profits back to heavily-taxed, regularly devaluing Britain.”

Most expatriate officials retired to Blighty, so they were less tempted to do favors for the local business elite. The government rewarded them with pensions and OBEs. A Lands Department bureaucrat didn’t have to worry whether his child would be able to find employment in Hong Kong if a decision went against the largest property developer.

Contrast all this with Hong Kong post-handover. The government is still not democratic, but now it is accountable only to a highly corrupt and abusive single-party state. The first chief executive, Tung Chee Hwa, and Beijing’s favorite to take the post next month, Henry Tang, are both members of the Shanghainese business elite that moved to the city after 1949. The civil service is localized.

Many consequences flow from these changes, several of which involve land, which is all leased from the government. Real estate development and appreciation is the biggest source of wealth in Hong Kong, a major source of public revenue and also the source of most discontent.

In recent years, the Lands Department has made “mistakes” in negotiating leases that have allowed developers to make billions of Hong Kong dollars in extra profit. Several high-level officials have also left to work for the developers. This has bred public cynicism that Hong Kong is sinking into crony capitalism.

This helps explain why the public is so upset with Mr. Tang for illegally adding 2,400 square feet of extra floor space to his house. Likewise Michael Suen, now the secretary for education, failed to heed a 2006 order from the Lands Department to dismantle an illegal addition to his home. His offense was arguably worse, since he was secretary for housing, planning and lands at the time.

In both cases the issue is not just a matter of zoning and safety; illegal additions cheat the government out of revenue. But it’s unlikely Mr. Tang will face prosecution because nobody above or below him is independent enough to demand accountability. So now there is one set of rules for the public and another for the business and political elites.

Under the British, Hong Kong had the best of both worlds, the protections of democracy and the efficiency of all-powerful but nervous administrators imported from London. Now it has the worst of both worlds, an increasingly corrupt and feckless local ruling class backstopped by an authoritarian regime. The only good news is that the media remains free to expose scandals, but one has to wonder for how much longer.

Hong Kong’s Chinese rulers have been slow to realize that, to paraphrase Lampedusa, the only way to keep Hong Kong the same is to accept change. It is no longer a city of refugees happy to accept rule by outsiders. And democracy is the only system that can match the hybrid form of political accountability enjoyed under the British.

Mr. Davies ended his appraisal of colonialism’s faults and virtues thus: “I only hope and trust that a local Chinese will never draw a future British visitor aside and whisper to him that Hong Kong was better ruled by the foreign devils.” Fifteen years later, that sentiment is becoming common.


前言﹕這是一個叫「兩周一聚」的活動。是網友米雪兒發起。每月十五日﹑三十日﹐一班住在世界不同角落的香港人都會一起寫同一個題目。今天是第二十四次相聚,由Mad dog出題﹐主題定為「香港二十」。


  1. 買玩具 – 雖然可以上網訂購玩具﹐但始終還是逛玩具舖開心﹐價錢差不多平一半。
  2. 逛書局 – 每次回香港﹐必定到書局打書釘看中文書﹐看看有什麼新書好書。除非很出名的書﹐買書還是要翻開過才買才安心。
  3. 鴨寮街 – 買電子零件或古靈精怪的東西﹐去鴨寮街一定可以找到
  4. 大家樂 – 中式快餐始終比西式快餐好吃。
  5. 黃金 – 以前讀書時﹐試過每天都去朝聖一趟。
  6. 信和 – 不是去買四仔﹐是去看日本碟。
  7. 天星小輪 – 香港寫意的交通工具﹐每次回香港必搭。
  8. 打風 – 橫風橫雨在海邊看浪最過癮。
  9. 港產片 – 不是所有港產片都是垃圾﹐還有很多好看的港產片。
  10. 會考 – 我那個年代的會考是世界最好的教育制度。讀會考那段日子最開心﹐只需要讀好書考好個試﹐其他事什麼也不用想。一生人讀了這麼多書﹐大部份課文已還給老師﹐唯獨會考教的那些東西﹐因曾下過苦功到現在還記得大半。


  1. 熱 – 最憎出汗。
  2. 人多 – 怕迫﹐怕什麼也要同人爭。
  3. 污染 – 次次返香港都咳。
  4. 無記劇集 – 師奶都嫌老土婆媽。
  5. 只收現金 – 香港又不流行用信用卡﹐找錢太麻煩了。政府應該立法強制所有店舖收八達通。
  6. 八卦 – 香港人特別八卦﹐係又問唔係又問﹐關你叉事呀。
  7. 膚淺 – 除了名牌﹐名星﹐賭波﹐賭股﹐香港人還懂什麼﹖
  8. 亞洲電視 – 為什麼有一間公司可以蝕足二十年錢還未執笠。我懷疑間電視台其實是用來洗黑錢。
  9. 塞車 – 搭地鐵最快﹐不過完全沒有私人空間可言。
  10. Roadshow – 聲音污染。我要發動Roadshow反擊戰﹐號召香港市民齊齊用duct tape把巴士上的喇叭封口。
  11. 共產黨 – 香港當英國殖民地好端端的﹐為什麼要無啦啦回歸。當年鴉片戰爭﹐英國佬要求割地應該不設限期﹐順便割多些地割埋深圳澳門。

其他香港人﹕ mad dog, 微豆 Harico, maggiejoella, Bungy-Zoe, 5pointsorless, Maple, Mugen C, lomichee, 凡鳥雛, chilli mon, readandeat, nankin, 周游, 火羽, Vince…

The world according to Hong Kong people


This world map suppose to be making fun of the shallow mind of Hong Kong people. However, I am quite proud of our geography knowledge. Comparing to the stupid Americans who can’t even point out their own country in the map. At least we can name the relative location of all seven continents on Earth. We also know more or less some accurate information about those places. It may be stereotyped, but that’s the best you can do if you are asked to introduce those places within one line. There are still some places we are unable to name. But hey, we don’t travel there, we don’t buy stuff from there, we don’t export our goods there, who cares about those irreverent countries?

People’s Radio Hong Kong

Today I come across an interesting on-line radio station. It has been operated for quite some time, and apparently ignored by the main-steam media in Hong Kong. I get to know about it because a forum I often visit is introduced by one of their programs, with a link provided to download the recording. The name of the radio station is very grass-rooted, even a bit misleading. It is not a communism party mouth piece, rather it is organized by a group of enthusiastic independent minded in Hong Kong after the last year’s shutting up of famous talk-show hosts incident. The programs has a lot of variety, but mainly focus on different kind of talk shows. Among the hosts of the programs, there are some well known names like council members or writers on newspapers, usually the name you can associate with those who represent the less fortunate to fight against the unjust authorities. So far I had only sampled a few programs, the quality varies. I would probably give follow it a while and if time permits, I may could become a loyal listener of some programs. The radio station is a non-profit organization and its operation expense rely solely on private donation. There is no commercials in the programs and refuse to accept money from business or political groups. If I like the program, I’d probably donate a small amount via paypal to show my support.

Please follow this link to visit their website.