Generation 40s – 四十世代

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德累斯頓歌劇院

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C05 | 城市智庫 | 回眸英倫 | By 毛羨寧 |
2013-11-09

英國指揮家賽門. 拉圖(Sir Simon Rattle)2002 年被選為柏林愛樂交響樂團音樂總監時說,起初接管這個歷史悠久的德國樂團很艱難,有些樂手覺得他不夠資格,故意聽不懂他的英語指示,只跟他說德語。我經常想,來自五湖四海的專業樂手怎樣放下自我?看德累斯頓愛樂樂團到世界各地巡迴演出,成功製造出合一的旋律,演奏華格納的歌劇最傳神,但是「不在家」,就像故事角色欠缺舞台布景,失去了味道。還沒有到過德累斯頓申培爾歌劇院(Semperoper Dresden)之前,我很少特別留意演奏廳和交響樂團有沒有合而為一──「Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic」——豈不止是一個表演場地?我到申培爾歌劇院看德累斯頓國家交響樂團(Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden)演奏室內樂,才發現「有家」的樂團怎樣發揮得淋漓盡致。

申培爾歌劇院根據建築大師戈特弗里德.森佩爾(Gottfried Semper)設計而成,外面由三層文藝復興風格的拱廊和壁柱構成,最上一層向內收入,直接反映了觀眾廳和偏廳的形狀,讓人看出申培爾歌劇院從古典建築到現代建築的演化過程。歌劇院的舞台懸上色彩鮮艷的掛畫,拱頂天花點綴拼湊出希臘和羅馬古典神廟的風格。我想起1843 年華格納選擇在這歌劇院首次公演傑作《里恩濟》(Rienzi),翌年,他的歌劇《漂泊的荷蘭人》(Die Fliegende Hollander )又在此首次演出。華格納自1843年起擔任了申培爾歌劇院指揮達六年,歌劇院的地理位置和建築質素必然是重要因素。

任由拍攝

這樣堂皇的歌劇院,大方地任讓觀眾在內拍照,相信我們不會影響團員彈奏,也不會厚顏地灌錄演出。我舉頭看一絲不苟的設計,每個角度也能拍成明信片;申培爾歌劇院的前身真不愧為薩克遜皇家歌劇院。二戰時期,鋪天蓋地的狂轟濫炸,把德累斯頓這座「易北河上的佛羅倫斯」化為一片廢墟,德累斯頓國家交響樂團一度遷往布蘭巴赫,但到轟炸過後五個月,政府對恢復文化活動不遺餘力,甚至把市政大廳借出來給歌劇院使用。戰後上演的第一齣歌劇是莫扎特輕快而樂觀的《費加羅的婚禮》。戰後德累斯頓被蘇聯佔領,但德國人一心在頹垣敗瓦上重建家園,於是歌劇院在1945年被炸毀後,1948年得以重建。

平日演出歌劇的德累斯頓國家歌劇院管弦樂團,有同樣頂尖的室內樂團,尤其是管樂部吹奏出泰勒曼D大調協奏曲。

謝幕時,樂團選出韓籍年輕鼓手Jong Yong Na帶領一曲,比他年長的德國團員站在他身後。融合起來自五湖四海的樂手,要給他們一個漂亮並互相扶持的家,這才稱得上是完整的拼圖。

毛羨寧

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John Tsang should create legacy of a fairer Hong Kong society

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-02-25

Philip Yeung

Philip Yeung wants policies for affordable housing and wider tax base

A government budget is a political document. This is true in any year. After last autumn’s mayhem in the streets, this is even more so now. Preaching the gospel of prudence won’t cut it in these traumatic times.

Hong Kong society is deeply divided along economic fault lines. Accordingly to the International Monetary Fund, extreme inequality is not just immoral; it retards the economy. How else do you explain our robust employment figures against a snail-paced 2 per cent gross domestic product growth?

In his policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he favours attracting talent over capital. Well, I have news for him. Of the recent mainland university graduates that I talked to who are working in Hong Kong, none plans to stay on, for the simple reason that they see no future as permanent renters with only crumbs from the table. Despite a good salary, owning a flat is out of their reach. And who wants to work for the landlord?

Seven years ago, a middle-income friend used to live in a 700 sq ft flat in Wan Chai, paying a monthly rent of HK$10,000. Now, he is squashed into a 300 sq ft cubbyhole that costs HK$22,000. “More for less” – that’s more or less Hong Kong renters’ fate today.

Developer-pampering policies have led to the destruction of the aspirational middle class. The chief executive talks euphorically of giving young people seed money to start their own business. But how long will their venture survive, with greedy landlords breathing down their necks? Talent goes where dreams are achievable, and they are not here.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has let it be known that he abhors unnecessary expenditure. If so, why continue to subsidise owners of multiple properties by gifting them not only deductible mortgage interest payments but outright property tax rebates? There might be a case for aiding owners of primary residences, but not gouging landlords.

The government is keen to uphold our reputation for having a low tax regime to encourage entrepreneurship. But according to economist Arthur Laffer, people go into business not because of low taxes, but because of better opportunities.

Continuing to shave 1 per cent off the profits tax hardly makes us more competitive against Singapore. Entrepreneurs flock here chiefly because of our access to the huge Chinese market. The lost revenue from the cut is money down the drain.

By abruptly terminating its investor immigrant programme, the government is signalling that it is no longer seeking to attract capital to the city. If so, why not reinstate the inheritance tax forthwith? After all, the sole justification for its cancellation was to attract capital inflows. Given our narrow tax base, the widening wealth gap and a market awash with cash, can we still afford to leave unearned wealth totally untaxed?

Life here has been hijacked by unaffordable housing. The property oligarchy has sucked the energy out of a vibrant society, mortgaging our future and reducing disposable income for workers. With our acute land shortage, why does the government ignore the hoarding of unused farmland, now estimated at close to 3,800 hectares?

The mainland has a policy of discouraging land-hogging by “uncompensated repossession” if it remains undeveloped after several years. Maybe we won’t go that far. But why not slap a tax on owners sitting on long-undeveloped land and long-unoccupied flats ? That’s a ready source of revenue with a broadened tax base.

Prudence in times of plenty is not a strategy, it is a lack of heart. Our officials should behave more like traditional benevolent “city fathers” who “see the people”. Don’t tell us that the old laissez-faire policy has been “proven effective”, as our mandarins never tire of saying. Laissez-faire works only when the playing field is level, and ours has been rendered uneven by bad policies.

Leaving us a pile of cash is not much of a legacy for our finance chief, if it comes with the high price of an unfair society. When he redirects his gaze to the 99 per cent from the 1 per cent, that’s when we will proudly say, “In John we trust”.

Philip Yeung is a former speechwriter to the president of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.


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Time for pan-democrats to stop mistaking wishful thinking for idealism

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-01-15

Kerry Kennedy

Kerry Kennedy calls on pan-democrats to adopt a new vision for democratic development that is not based on wishful thinking – and that means working with the political realities

With the end of Occupy Central, it was hoped that the city would return to normal. Yet it is not normal. The debate that caused the movement has continued and its resolution is no closer now than it was on August 31, when the central government issued its decision on Hong Kong electoral reform.

Beijing’s resolve is as strong as ever, the community remains divided and politicians of all complexions seem incapable of addressing Hong Kong’s political future. Interests are deeply entrenched and the same old arguments continue to be rehearsed. Different thinking is needed to create a future for both young and old, otherwise the city will always be captured by those whose vision is in the past rather than by a vision of Hong Kong’s evolving democratic future.

This is not to say the students got it wrong. They didn’t. They seized a moment, but – in their own words – with little thought and even less strategy. They energised otherwise passive citizens because their initial treatment by the police seemed out of proportion with their actions. Young, exuberant and idealistic, the students put their all into having the August 31 decision reversed.

Others caught onto their coat-tails, but there was never an appreciation or even understanding that when Western democratic values meet the authoritarian state, only one side can win. There is no negotiation, accommodation or compromise: it is about winning. In this case, the authoritarian state won, but you could never tell from listening and watching much community discourse.

There are now ongoing “strategies” of resistance: television images of pan-democrats symbolically tearing up the government’s report to Beijing on public sentiment in Hong Kong during the Occupy movement, legislators declaring they will veto the government’s proposal for universal suffrage to elect the chief executive in 2017, and suggestions that government bills be paid in small amounts in order to disrupt the administration of government. But to what end? What do Hong Kong’s democrats now want?

They want Chief Executive Leung Chin-ying’s resignation and they still want the reversal of the August 31 decision. How the first is related to political reform is not clear and, in any event, Leung is now more than ever a Beijing favourite, having resisted the forces of democracy in the city; and they have already been defeated on the second.

And what is on offer if they do not get their way? Community projects will be held up in the Legislative Council, financial subventions to key bodies in the city will be deferred and, best of all, by defeating the government’s proposal for political reform, Hong Kong will be stuck with the election of its chief executive by a small and unrepresentative nominating committee. Democracy will be off the agenda – not just the “genuine” democracy supported by students but even the less-than-genuine democracy approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

This is why a new vision is needed – a vision for democratic development that accepts political realities but doesn’t give up on democratic ideals. The history of democracy makes it clear that “genuine” democracy takes time. While the 1832 Reform Act in Britain broadened the democratic basis of British politics, it was not until 1928 that women were given the same voting rights as men. In 1901, Australia was given independence from Britain, yet Aboriginal people were not given equal voting rights until 1962.

Democracy is always a struggle – sometimes it is taken and sometimes it is given. There is an end point in terms of electoral democracy, human rights and social equality. But getting to these ends is a process that takes time and strategy. Creating Hong Kong’s vision for a democratic future has to start with political realities. The end point is not contested – but getting there needs a change of attitude. The Standing Committee’s August 31 decision is a starting point. It certainly beats a small-circle election for the city’s chief executive, even if it is not “genuine” democracy. Right now, it is all that is on offer. So why not start there?

Rejecting it out of hand will retard democratic development for the foreseeable future. Nothing could please Beijing more. It will be argued that both national and local governments tried, in line with the Basic Law. Democrats will be blamed and portrayed as “the spoilers”. Beijing wins again with this scenario.

Hong Kong people deserve more. A small touch of democracy in this part of China may light the way for the rest of the country. It is a small step but a great hope. But the posturing has to stop and reality needs to take hold.

Either Hong Kong can move forward or it can remain part of the apparatus of the authoritarian state.

Ironically, the choice is with the city’s democrats. It is a choice about the future and whether there are people willing to move forward rather than remain captured by rhetoric and ghosts of the past.

Professor Kerry Kennedy is director of the Centre for Governance and Citizenship at the Hong Kong Institute of Education


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「量化評估」:學術思想普遍性問題

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C04 | 優質教育 | 教育講論 | By 王耀宗教授 |
2013-11-02

筆者在上一篇文章解釋了「量化評估」及「產出」(output)的概念並略述個人的意見。從內容脈絡來說,可以看出筆者並不太反對這種對學者研究的評審機制。在我讀大學的七十年代,情況十分極端;疏懶的教授,可以多年是零出版;努力的則著作特別多;相信這種情況已不可能再發生的了。

現在的評審機制又似乎過分嚴格了。大學教育質素問題,向來受到社會的關注。談教學質素又不能不涉及大學學者的質素;然而,評審學者質素的機制卻是充滿爭議性的。筆者知道很多大學同寅是不滿意這種機制的,有些可能是個人利害關係,有些卻是值得討論的真問題。其中一個就是質疑在西方(主要是英語)學術期刊所發表的學術論文的普遍性的問題。

這種質疑是十分模糊的,論據往往含混不清。有些人甚至認為在中國人的學術圈內,根本不應該用英語寫論文,也不應該純粹由西方的學術期刊來評斷我們的學術標準。在香港這個高度國際化的大城市中,這樣的論點如果真正說出來,可能支持者不多,甚至很可能被認為是種族主義的偏見。

稍為改變論述的方式,探索學術思想的普遍性的問題卻是值得研究的。第一,用英語寫的論文當然並不普及於平民大眾,讀的人數少,影響自然少;不過,學術思想並不能以銷路或即時的影響力或容易懂得作為評估之標準。

釐清學術思想普遍性問題

然而,在大學的圈內英語卻是普遍的;在香港的大學內,中英文都是教學語文,有些大學更規定只可以用英語作媒介。因此,英文作為一種普遍性的溝通媒介是不成問題的,當然有些人英語差的又另當別論。

要釐清學術思想普遍性的問題,首先要澄清一些概念。學術期刊或論文是一種載體,承載着人們所形成的知識或觀念。西方知識界對於學術規範卻是頗為嚴格的。學術規範是形式的(formal),不涉內容的;例如論證不能矛盾、不能人身攻擊、論點必須有論據(justification)、概念要界定清晰、必須有註腳、必須有參考資料、必須有撮要等。

學術思想的最終目標是追尋真相或真理,學術規範之設定是方便人們追求真理,這方面是有普遍性的。人們不能用一篇論文題材的獨特性,就可以完全不理會這些規範。事實上,不論用哪種語文寫論文,如果拋棄這些規範,要獲刊登出來,難矣哉。這些規範是界定論文優劣的重要標準之一。

學者處於特殊社會的時空

事實上,普遍性的問題不會出現在自然科學或應用科學上;這是因為自然科學或應用科學可以用「互為主觀」(intersubjective)的方法(主要是實驗)去驗證。人文科學或社會科學中,人的主觀性強得多,互為影響的層面廣,做實驗困難得多;但這並不表示沒有普遍性的因素,學術規範就是其中之一;除了這個「形式」的問題,還有三個「實質」問題可以討論:就是學術取材、應用及影響的問題。

學術取材是指學者所研究的內容及範圍,由於學者本身所處於特殊社會的時空之中,以及其本身在該社會所承傳的學術背景,因此,其所感興趣的題材必定是特殊的,因此不可能是普遍性的。

其次是學術思想應用的問題,應用涉及了對整個社會脈絡的理解及掌控,其中對身處的文化、價值觀、人際互動及歷史傳統都需理解;要有效地應用(例如一些公共政策的理論)必須顧慮某些特殊的社會及歷史條件,因此也就沒有普遍性。

最後是學術影響的問題,在一個全球化的年代,這個問題實在是多餘的。思想影響的普遍性十分明顯,例如自由主義理論及人權觀念。但是,這些思想理論影響的普遍性並不表示在其應用(實踐)不需要特殊的因素配合。

綜合考慮,學術思想的普遍性問題是頗複雜的,多年來,探討的學者也不少,例如筆者以前所翻過的「社會學中國化」及「社會及行為科學研究的中國化」等著作都是研究這些問題的。

撰文︰王耀宗教授嶺
南大學政治學系教授兼系主任


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End of ESF as the affordable choice for Hong Kong’s middle class

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2014-06-17

Kent Ewing

Kent Ewing says lack of government vision hastens its return to elite roots

Ever since British gunboats took on the overmatched Chinese navy in the name of “free trade” (then a euphemism for the right to peddle opium), Hong Kong has been a place of great paradoxes – a clash of East and West that ultimately became a triumph of accommodation, ingenuity and hard work.

The contradictions have only deepened and multiplied since the city’s 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty. Post 1997, Hong Kong inherited an English educational system, for example, the unique and exemplary aspect of which was the English Schools Foundation, now a group of 20 schools with a track record of excellence.

For years, the ESF provided a high-quality education not just to a revolving door of wealthy expats but also to a Chinese middle class.

Unfortunately, the ESF is a paradox with which the Hong Kong government can no longer live. As the blinkered official argument goes, the government subvention that has kept ESF fees significantly lower than those at the best international schools amounts to nothing less than an antiquated, unjustifiable subsidy for rich foreigners.

So the annual HK$283 million subvention will end in 2016 – and, in anticipation of that loss, the ESF has been raising fees and imposing capital levies willy-nilly for the past several years. Just this month it announced a non-refundable HK$38,000 charge, on top of tuition fees, for each new student starting next year. Financially strapped ESF parents are again up in arms, lashing out at new ESF head Belinda Greer, and pleading for relief. But the die is cast. It’s time to write the sad epitaph for the ESF as we have known it: once an affordable middle-class refuge for a top-notch English-medium education, it will henceforth be just another group of overpriced international schools catering to deep-pocketed expats and the local elite.

It’s too bad; it didn’t have to be this way. If the Education Bureau had demonstrated a little imagination, not to mention appreciation of Hong Kong’s paradoxical history, the ESF could have continued to serve the city well, playing a key role in an educational vision that is woefully lacking at this time.

Instead, authorities couldn’t stomach subsidising an institution rooted in the privilege and snobbery of Hong Kong’s colonial past. What they failed to acknowledge, however, is that the ESF cast off its upper-class snootiness years ago when many local families, dissatisfied with the beleaguered local educational system, took advantage of the government subvention and enrolled their children. Now, ironically, with that subvention disappearing, the ESF is free to return to form as a haughty educational playground for the elite.

But where do middle-class Chinese families who value a high-quality English-medium education go? And let’s not forget the many middle-class expats who also will find themselves at a loss.

Tuition at top-tier international schools that is comparable to the ESF in quality can top HK$200,000 a year, not including debentures, application fees, capital levies and other expenses. Only the rich can afford to go to these schools.

An ESF education, on the other hand – despite the recent rash of tuition hikes – still costs about half as much. Removal of the subvention, however, will signal the end of the unspoken social and economic contract that existed between the foundation and its host city, keeping costs reasonable.

Soon you can expect to see ESF fees, like those of its international school counterparts, soar into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, the city’s education policies lie scattered in incoherent pieces.

Kent Ewing is a teacher and writer based in Hong Kong