Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Protest strategy should go beyond ‘sticking it out’

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Manisha Mirchandani

Manisha Mirchandani says a tactical retreat may revive flagging campaign

The violent escalation of the Occupy protests in Admiralty and Mong Kok in the past week has been tinged with a sense of exhausted protesters raging against the dying of the light. A risky plan to blockade the central government offices and paralyse activity was deemed “largely a failure”, and key student figures such as Joshua Wong Chi-fung are now resorting to a Gandhian-style hunger strike in a bid to draw the government back to the negotiating table.

Squabbling among various factions on strategy, compounded by a lack of gumption by pan-democratic legislators, is giving oxygen to radicals. An ugly, violent end to the protests is looking likely.

When asked why they were still there holding up their umbrellas, despite the bleak forecast, one student summed it up thus: for this generation, there is no other recourse for their voice to be heard.

Hong Kong’s young people feel boxed in, and are resorting to desperate measures to be heard. Much of the blame lies at the feet of the leadership, who have neglected to use this to enhance opportunities for the public to participate in decision-making. Valid suggestions for improving representativeness in the nomination committee have fallen on deaf ears.

This is in contrast to trends across the Asia-Pacific, where winds of change are blowing in fledgling democracies such as Myanmar and adolescent ones such as Indonesia. None are faultless, but all acknowledge the importance of giving people a “voice” and of the power of a mandate for elected leaders to make decisions. Like a pressure valve, these mechanisms allow for steam to be released in societies that are complex, messy and often unfair.

The events of the past nine weeks suggest ours has been poorly designed and manufactured. To be fair, Hong Kong protesters have hardly demonstrated a willingness to consider moderate solutions within the parameters of the Basic Law. There is a missed opportunity for our leaders to be brave and forward-thinking within these parameters. And in this spirit, Wong and his supporters must also seize the opportunity to be modern, young and dynamic. They will lose if they continue to protest in a traditional fashion, against conservative forces who always win a numbers game.

Even Wong’s courageous hunger strike reinforces a paternalistic narrative that has underpinned the protests, and one that the administration has played astutely.

Along with democratisation in the region, new modes of discourse and communication have risen. Social networks have changed the way information is shared. Protesters here have been innovative in their use of the internet and social media to mobilise support, but less so in their protest tactics which remain outdated, and premised on “sticking it out”.

Wong said to his fellow protesters in early November that leaving now would amount to nothing. He was wrong.

At no point has there been serious consideration of a “flash mob” strategy: the threat of being able to mobilise protesters in significant numbers if good faith is broken. As well as minimising disruption to the public, the unpredictability of this tactic has its benefits against a bureaucracy.

Retreating with the strength of agility and the threat of rapid remobilisation is a formidable weapon that the umbrella movement wields, and one which can be used to influence the pace and momentum of the pro-democracy movement. After all, as Wong himself posited, time is on the side of the young protesters.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Manisha Mirchandani is an independent writer and researcher on development issues in Asia


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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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「This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.」




























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Occupy protests may be ending, but the grievances won’t go away

South China Morning Post

Philip Yeung

Philip Yeung says many of the problems can be traced back to Donald Tsang’s disastrous policies

By now, popular support for the Occupy Movement has melted away. After two noisy months, its chokepoints have exacted a painful price on the retail and transport sectors. The tide is turning.

When it began, some cab drivers would ferry passengers to the occupied areas for free – until the occupation began to eat into their livelihood.

Tactically, the government’s approach of waiting it out has worked. Student organisers, seeing the writing on the wall, have resorted to increasingly desperate moves to keep the movement alive. Scholarism’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who tasted victory in the campaign against national education, is eager for an encore. But the government won’t budge, and Wong can’t win.

But the government cannot afford to gloat. The ugly factors that have fuelled the movement are still festering.

It is good to see that the Commission on Poverty has swung into action to address social grievances. Livelihood-obsessed Hongkongers are notoriously apolitical. They may not hanker for messy democracy per se, but they do yearn for good government and a fair society.

People returning from living overseas lament the loss of the old Hong Kong, celebrated globally as the most freewheeling place on earth for entrepreneurship. A decade of pampering the super-rich has tilted the scales against the rest of society.

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, known for hobnobbing with tycoons, is as notorious for his expensive wine collection, sold upon leaving office, as he is for a series of disastrous moves that fundamentally altered our universe. He suspended land auctions, discontinued the building of public housing and curtailed the construction of the Home Ownership Scheme, artificially driving up property prices well beyond the reach of the middle class.

While decrying Hong Kong’s narrow tax base, Tsang’s government nevertheless saw fit to drop the import duty on wine, rescinded the inheritance tax, cut profit tax rates, and gifted custody of the Mandatory Provident Fund to banks and financial institutions. With rent spiralling out of control, every budding entrepreneur is now working for their landlord.

Years ago, the government used to sing the tune that young people should go into business for themselves. But these days, who can afford to? Most commercial leases run for three years – the first year is a money-loser; the second, a break-even year. By the third year, at the first sign of profitability, the landlord slaps an obscene rent hike that drives people out of business. The entrepreneur’s dream is no more.

In the sad satellite towns of Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai, government town planners failed to include wet markets which would have provided hundreds of jobs for local residents trapped in poverty, forcing them to pay through the nose at one of two tycoon-owned supermarkets.

School social workers will tell you that many students from poor but proud families have never been to Central, much less occupied it, as they can’t even afford the bus fare into the city. These are the lost souls in this filthy-rich city, where wealth disparities are among the most severe in the world.

While mainlanders are busy chasing the China Dream, the Hong Kong Dream is dead, killed by self-serving and short-sighted decision-makers. Job creation schemes for young people won’t be much of a cure or correction. Having a job that barely keeps the wolf from the door can hardly qualify as upward social mobility. Who can see a future living in an exploited city touted as having the freest economy in the world, but that is, in fact, a pseudo-free market – free for business tycoons, but not for the rest of us?

No anti-poverty measures can work without factoring in rental affordability, both residential and commercial. Perhaps the government should go on a hawker licence issuing spree to give the young and poor a new lease of life, to break the near-monopoly of big businesses. At least they can operate rent-free. This city must find its old magic when even street hawkers and itinerant vendors could climb out of poverty. We need deliverance from rental slavery.

Education was once a path out of poverty. But the poor have been priced out of quality schools. A dysfunctional school curriculum unanchored by a study of history is now reaping the bitter fruit of a generation of youngsters ignorant of their own country, and indifferent to the world. Despite their activism, the youthful protesters are trapped in their own narrow corner, unconcerned about the past and unprepared for the future. They are misfits within a rising China and a shrinking world.

Hong Kong is crying out for a compassionate and competent leader. Whatever happens to constitutional reform, even if we can’t get a Lee Kuan Yew, we don’t deserve another Donald Tsang.

Philip Yeung is a former speechwriter to the president of HKUST and co-founder of the Hong Kong Society for the Promotion of English.


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Hong Kong Economic Journal
B03 | 專家視角 | 一瓢集 |
By 張宗永 |

5 年前告別了最後一張糧單,離開銀行, 「從良」之後,投資了一些時間和金錢研究怎樣利用金融知識替社會創造更大的利益,而不單是在銅鈿堆中打滾,其中包括投資社企。坦白說,到了今天,我仍然掌握不到在經濟效率和幫助弱勢社群中的平衡點。

我最想做的是促進新移民和香港社會關係的社企,讓大家明白︰人的出身,包括口音,不應該是原罪。一位25 歲祖籍雲南的香港大學畢業生劉涵,月初在太古城橫過班馬線時被貨車撞倒,傷重不治,網上憤青竟發表仇恨言論,高叫「支那人」滾回中國,但香港普羅大眾仍然非常理智,這些噴血言論很快便被其他網民批判。



上世紀80 年代末期,加拿大政府重新開放香港移民申請,地廣人稀的加拿大開始感受到「小黃禍」,唐人街一下子充斥着香港電視劇主題曲靡靡之音。今天,香港人抱怨大陸同胞吵鬧和暴發戶,當天加拿大的WSAP何嘗不是用同樣的形容詞來批評香港移民?同樣,當新移民扯高樓價後,很多加拿大人一方面抱怨,一方面又急不及待賣掉舊房子套現,搬往鄉間「享清福」。

我在投行工作時,公司是頗「藍血」的,我是交易室少數的黃皮膚,雖在當地畢業,學校和成績都尚算過得去,加上工作性質以技術為主,日常不用和客戶接觸太多,但很多事情上仍然感受到和主流社會的隔膜。記得有次棒球錦標決賽,公司設了包廂招待貴賓觀賞賽事,我也被邀作伴,整整4個小時要和客人small talk,跟老外談棒球,而棒球是我一點也不感興趣的體育運動,箇中辛苦可想而知。




1974 年,香港和大陸邊境爆發偷渡潮,港英政府宣布實施「抵壘政策」,偷渡者如果能夠避開軍警,成功到達界限街以南的市區,就能獲得香港居民身份。今天,我們看待新移民,也應該實行抵壘政策,能夠理直氣壯在香港生活的,我們都應該視他們為香港人!