POP Site From the Editor - New Signs in the New YearBack

Note: This article represents the view of the author and not the University of Hong Kong.

At the beginning of a new year, everything is starting afresh again.

At the end of last year, according to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong, only 23% of Hong Kong people lived a happy life in 2003, which was the lowest in 5 years. Nevertheless, 74% expected Hong Kong's development would become better, this was record high in 10 years. Perhaps it is time for the tide to turn.

People's power emerged in Hong Kong after July 1. How to channel this new force to push the development of a new civil society, and hence re-integrate all classes, is not just another lesson for the Central and SAR Governments, it is also an important topic for the people themselves to master.

On the positive side, July 1 has given impetus to the rational force represented by the middle class and the professionals. Our leaders have learned to be more modest, while the Central Government led by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao has begun to stress more on people's wish, than on ideological differences. All these are factors conducive to the development of a civil society in Hong Kong.

However, on the negative side, politicians are still throwing nasty titles to others, and reinterpreting people's demands according to their private interest. Those in power are bullying others, while those being pushed out are planning for their own come back. One day, when our stock and property markets thrive again, will Hong Kong people once again squander their easy moneys and become hoity-toity again?

At this juncture of the new meeting the old, the most pressing task is to enlarge our social capital, and to enhance the role played by our professionals.

To develop people's power, we must work for it ourselves. We must not rely on the SAR Government, and definitely not the Central Government. If we genuinely believe that a government's mandate lies in its people, then we must recognize that a good government cannot come along without first having a good people. Along the road to democracy, we must demonstrate, in every aspect and in our every move, that we know who to exercise people's power wisely. Across all institutions, especially those which emphasize freedom and liberty, like the academia, the cultural sector, the education sector, and the media, just to mention a few, bottom-up mobilization and undertaking should be encouraged. Budget-cutting and layoff are simply top-down and shortsighted administrative measures, which also represent the pitfalls of the SAR Government in leading us through economic restructuring. Voluntary services and collective actions are the building blocks of a civil society. They are the best ways to consolidate people's power.

To exert professionalism, we must actively safeguard the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the professional bodies and our professionals, including their academic freedom, press freedom, and religious freedom. On the other front, our professionals should also anchor themselves firmly to the world, and adhere strictly to the international professional standards and universal values.

Anchored to the world, and construct a better China, should be a common mission for all Hong Kong people. Democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, equality, love… are already common values and beliefs embraced by the international community. Whether or not Hong Kong can lead the Chinese race to become part of the commonwealth of the world depends on ourselves, not our governments any more.

Robert Ting-Yiu Chung
January 6, 2003