The House News
11th March, 2014
My Column was Rejected by Hong Kong Economic Journal
By Chan Ka Ming, Lecturer, Department of Culture and Religious Studies, CUHK
At 1pm on 10th March, I received a phone call from the editor of Hong Kong Economic Journal’s column page who told me that “there are some problems” with the article entitled “Done Messing with Hong Kong, Hong Kong is Done” (《玩完香港，香港玩完》) I submitted for my weekly Wednesday column “Cherry Blossom”, and asked me to find tune what I wrote.
My first reaction was, of course, asked the editor what the problems are. “Your article comes across a bit extreme.” Then I asked: which part of it is extreme? It took the editor a while of hem and haw before saying that, “you seemed to have blamed all the problems on Li Ka-shing, which is not quite right.” I suddenly realise that: Of course! Hong Kong Economic Journal (HKEJ, a local newspaper that enjoys a reputation of unbiased and credible for years) and Li Ka-shing (Richard Li Tzar-kai acquired HKEJ in 2006)! Then I tried to explain that Li, who said in recent interviews that Hong Kong’s becoming a state of populism and too emotion driven, and described Hong Kong as a spoiled child with a GDP that is behind others which worries him about Hong Kong’s competitiveness, evaluates Hong Kong purely from an economic development point of view and blames all the social problems on Hong Kongers. All I wrote in the article is words that came out from Li’s mouth and I did not make them up. What I intended to do in my article is to question his mindset that is fixated on economic development, and that Li has been manipulating Hong Kong (referencing to his empire that essentially monopolised Hong Kong’s economy from property to daily necessity) and blame the people of Hong Kong to have harm his business by standing up against social injustices, problems and conflicts. My conclusion is that Li has ignored the fact that he and his empire drove Hong Kong to formulate a single development value.
After hearing my explanation, the editor responded with more hem and haw. So I elaborated further that I was looking at Hong Kong with a view similar to that of the youngsters who filmed the video “Hong Kong Will Be Destroyed After 33 Years”, which allows me to see a value that is completely different from Li’s. I also added that in the conclusion of my article I did not deny that every Hong Konger is responsible for Hong Kong’s one-way thinking (economy first and nothing else) and I did not blame it all on Li. However, the editor said, “it is quite extreme for you to say in your article that: with such vision for economic development, Hong Kong will surely be finished as such one-way thinking mentality has turned Hong Kong into a place that depends solely on economy and at the same time gives up Hong Kong’s unique style which is far more important. It sounded like Brother Shing (a nickname for Li) has a lot of responsibility for (what is happening in) Hong Kong. ”
I was cross and after the editor repeatedly asked me to “fine tune” my article, I said, “I understand that it is HKEJ, but I will not revise my article, I will write another one!” When I finished venting my frustration, the editor sounded relief, “I’m glad that you understand. Thank you so much for writing another piece for us…”
I did not realise that a small potato like me would have to opportunity to receive such “honour”! Given the special treatment, I have to share the original article which is essentially ejected by HKEJ with all readers and allow the readers to decide what part of this article triggered HKEJ’s fear.
Done Messing with Hong Kong, Hong Kong is Done
When Li Ka-shing said (in an interview) that Hong Kong is becoming more and more a populism state and will be changed beyond recognition in a few years, a group of youngsters made a video describing a meteorite will destroy Hong Kong in 33 years.
Li’s “beyond recognition” is not that different from the end of the world (or the end of Hong Kong), as the result will be the same – Hong Kong is doomed. However, in the youngsters’ eyes the end of Hong Kong is far from what Li described – Hong Kong will be changed beyond recognition because Hong Kong is a spoiled child.
Li views everything about Hong Kong from its competitiveness: Hong Kong’s GDP is behind Singapore, a country lacks “natural advantages”. In Li’s eyes, populism will impact development. So in conclusion, the end is caused by the people’s populism which affects the economy.
With such vision for economic development, Hong Kong will surely be finished as such one-way thinking mentality has turned Hong Kong into a place that depends solely on economy and at the same time gives up Hong Kong’s unique style which is far more important. The property development industry and chain businesses, driven by people including Li, have been controlling the public’s livelihood, if it has not already destroyed it. People have grudges is understandable for such reason. However, Li blames the problems on populism and the frustrations of the people without reflecting that the cause of public outrage was caused by him exhausting the development of Hong Kong. This is the same as what he said before “those who are incapable are in power” – to be more precise, those who are incapable of understanding Hong Kong are in power, and tell the general public off as they also control the discourse space.
The youngsters, however, see it quite differently. This is why they were able to film “Hong Kong Will Be Destroyed After 33 Years”. The video describes a meteorite is on its way to destroy Hong Kong, and businessmen and politicians fled immediately. This is describing the privileged bunch, like Li, that have been manipulating and controlling a one-way-thinking Hong Kong. However, the rich and power cannot beat natural disaster. When they give up Hong Kong, ironically, the ordinary Hong Kongers can once again afford having a roof above their head, manage to achieve democracy and universal suffrage, and revive old areas… How different the mindsets are between the younger generation and Li. Hong Kong’s hope is never in the hands of those who have created the rules that benefit the privileged ones, like the property tycoons Lis and Kwoks, who are nibbling away Hong Kong to its death bed.
The sad thing is, for both Li’s theory and the video, external factors are the core for the survival of Hong Kong: populism changes Hong Kong vs Hong Kong’s reborn relies on meteorite. This is no different from the fact that the second-generation of the tycoons blames polling organisations for the Hong Kong SAR government’s low popularity; pro-China supports China mouthpieces that Western democracy is inferior… Everyone seems to be blaming others for the end of Hong Kong and does not reflect on their own. The reality is, the death of Hong Kong is certain because most of the people point their fingers on others without realising they are all accomplices of the rich and power. There is no doubt that Hong Kong is a step away from its dome with so many people messing with it for decades.
All I want to say is that it is up to the readers to decide whether or not an article is “extreme” or if it makes sense. Since newspapers open their columns to all sorts of writers, the columns will be judged by the readers and editors should not screen or filter for the readers. I believe that my original article is not “extreme”, but rather it points out the blind spot of Li’s views. The “special treatment” this article has been given shows that some media are overly “careful”.
I am getting worrier and worrier with the media in Hong Kong. Political and business interference in media content is no longer subtle. Given that an insignificant individual like me could face such pressure, freedom of speech that Hong Kong enjoys righteously is surely in danger.