It was on South China Morning Post facebook page I saw this letter to editor by Mr. Albert Gazeley; from his letter, I deduced that he was born in the UK from where he left for Hong Kong and lived in there for most of his life. He is a respected and seasoned member of our society. His view is noteworthy, and I replied to his concerns. I think this conversation between us can help us to put things into perspective. Below I would like to quote his letter and my reply to him at the same post:
To the Editor SCMP
We have all experienced a dreadful week of confrontation that in my opinion as “an Old China Hand” was totally uncalled for and unnecessary. It has certainly done Hong Kong more harm than good.
University Students the world over feel they have a need to push the boundaries. Whilst Politicians have the need to defend their station . . . both are wrong yet history shows both are unavoidable.
The Hong Kong students that stirred the pot and exploited the situation were very green as students always are – not having the knowledge and wisdom that later years will bring. The politicians on the other hand have unobtainable objectives that encompass ambition, greed, and longevity.
The Hong Kong students’ live in a “country” that is the envy of the world. . With low taxation, no death duties, relatively corruption free, dependable law and order. . and wonderful employment opportunities “worldwide” with enviable cv’s when they graduate.
The Hong Kong Government on the other hand, are understandably feeble, but they are just an ant that rides on the back of a country the size of an elephant that is racing towards world domination in trade and economics.
Chinese politics may leave a bad taste in the mouth that some prefer not be there. . But in Hong Kong we are used to being fed with a “silver spoon” rather than the wooden chopsticks of the past – something understandably forgotten in the heat of the demonstrations.
Having spent over half a century in Hong Kong – through the “ MacLehose years” when we overcome the hillside slum districts and replaced them with homeownership and the touch base policy for immigration as people ran away from the Mao Tse –tong’s Cultural Revolution. . in the 1960’s .
Then on into the revival of “Four Modernisations” by Deng Xiaoping, starting in 1978, to strengthen agriculture, industry, national defence, and science and technology.
Then came the “Thatcher” years that handed back Hong Kong to China from the British, and at long last freed us from water rationing, gave us control of our air space and reformed the borders and promoted industry with China, albeit the instrument of transfer was and is clumsy; being a rather a makeshift document under the “One country two systems” heading, but it was a beginning of an essential unavoidable new era. An era that we are currently feeling and stumbling our way through.
No. . . I never went to University, and consequently I have a very different memory to the building of Hong Kong than the current student population. However I did sit on the “Labour Adversary Board “for more than a decade, advised four different Governors, was one of the founders of HK Occupational Safety & Health Council, the HKQAA and numerous other Hong Kong committees and organisations, I was a member of the HK General Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of HK Industries for 25 years and also represented Hong Kong at the I.L.O in Geneva on more than one occasion.
No. I am nether a student or a member of the HK Government but I do have as much right to an opinion as anyone on the current state of affairs in Hong Kong having lived most of my life there, was very involved in its development and success, raised my children there and watch my grandchildren grow up there with pride.
Hong Kong has very little to be ashamed of, we are not perfect but we deserve better than the current demonstrators are offering us. Both we and China are evolving into something that the future will respect, honour, and most countries will envy. Should recklessness cause us to commit suicide it will be to the advantage of nobody and the destruction of many.
I’m glad to see you feel more Chinese than English, and settle in Hong Kong exceptionally well that you call it home. I must be proud to see Hong Kong so welcoming to people from different ethnic backgrounds, perhaps more so to British than others for some reasons, that we created an environment and condition to allow able people like you sir to thrive in the establishment. Despite the liking of your brief history of Hong Kong, I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree.
From my first-hand experience, I do not see what you see among the protesters and in the movement. I do not see chaos, destruction or suicide, but I see new order, reform, and self-respect; I do not see manipulation, but I see enthusiastic debates; I do not see recklessness, but I see passions for the future of the place we love; I do not see Hong Kong being a minimal part of something much bigger, but I see a compassionate society yearning for justice coming into existence in a place we rightfully call home. Hong Kong has very little to be ashamed of, we are not perfect. We can fare much better with democracy properly installed, not the other way round. I believe people are not asking for the right to choose candidates, rather, they are trying to resist anyone claiming the right to handpick any candidates.
Students are very green as they always are, however, that tells us very little, if any, about the righteousness of their actions. Maybe they can’t foretell what their action would bring about, but then who can? People before us fought to abolish slavery and for the equality between men and women. There were other people who were convinced the reformists were wrong, nonsensical, but they did not budge- something in their guts tell them they are right. If someone would have stopped and contemplated maybe they are right, a lot of confrontations could have been avoided. Now students, green as they are, are morally motivated and convinced, would someone contemplate that maybe and save us the hassle?
Cynicism is easy, and it grows with age. I understand where you come from and the cynicism and pragmatism all these years have brought you. But there is a better place that maybe your grandchildren too envisions.