Pictures of Hong Kong residents struggling with squalid or suffocating dwelling environments, such as “cage homes”, subdivided flats and “nano flats”, have long proliferated all over the internet and frequently appeared on various media channels. These unpalatable illustrations of Hong Kong’s severe housing shortage in no way tally with the city’s status as a major international center for finance, trade and logistics, as well as a modern metropolis. But the housing shortage is just the tip of Hong Kong’s socioeconomic-problems iceberg.
Deep-seated problems, which also include an ever-widening wealth gap, stagnant social upward mobility for the younger generation because of the narrow economic base, and deficiency in elderly-care services and retirement protection, have plagued Hong Kong for years, with government efforts to tackle them mostly having failed to bear fruit because of endless political bickering as well as obstruction by the vested interests.
The political radicals in the legislature, the Legislative Council, made the biggest contribution to the perpetuation of these socioeconomic problems before they were uprooted after the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong in June 2020 and the revamping of the city electoral system last year.
Obsessed with their ultimate agenda of turning the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region into a de facto independent political entity adopting a political system they prefer by first grabbing the governing power of the region, the radicals prioritized their political interests over Hong Kong people’s well-being. They turned the legislative chamber into a battlefield to fight the SAR government, leaving no stone unturned in undermining its governance by obstructing government bills at will with jaw-dropping filibustering tactics, many of which were policies intended to address the city’s deep-seated problems. The calculation was straightforward but sinister: Aside from lofty slogans and ideological propaganda, they needed to leverage public discontent to rally support. To a certain extent, they had been successful: The SAR government’s failure to create more career opportunities for young people by diversifying the economy and to provide decent housing to enough families fueled public discontent.
The social upheavals that happened in the past several years were invariably launched and fanned by the political radicals, featuring various political demands. But other than those brainwashed radicals, many of the participants were driven by disappointment and frustration over unsolved livelihoods problems. The net result was that political bickering, social disharmony and longstanding socioeconomic problems formed a vicious circle, pushing Hong Kong to the edge of an abyss.
It is of great comfort to Hong Kong people that the revamped election system could have broken this vicious circle. The formation of a patriots-only LegCo under the new election system last year has helped significantly improve the executive-legislative relationship, as evidenced by the swift and timely approval of government bills over the past few months. Hong Kong’s executive-led governing system will no longer remain a concept but be put into practice. Conceivably, the SAR government’s governing capability will be greatly enhanced, boding well for a much-speedier resolution of the city’s deep-seated problems.
The formation of an expanded Election Committee, whose members represent the interests of all sectors and social strata and are responsible for electing the chief executive and 40 of the 90 LegCo members, suggests that the well-being and benefits of the whole society will be prioritized over those of the vested interests in policymaking.
Meanwhile, with the political radicals having been kept at bay by the National Security Law for Hong Kong, and the saboteurs having been prevented from entering the SAR’s political establishment under the revamped election system, Hong Kong will find much more room for socioeconomic development by accelerating its integration into national development, particularly the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, tapping into the huge mainland market and the opportunities created by the nation’s new development strategy of “dual circulation”. Amid increasingly pernicious geopolitics and protectionism in the West, the need for Hong Kong to rely more on the huge economic hinterland on the mainland for future development has grown.
Hong Kong’s integration with the mainland was hindered by the political radicals who opposed and obstructed any initiative that would shorten the physical or psychological distance between the two sides. They tried their best to derail the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, and the co-location arrangement for customs clearance at the Western Kowloon Station.
Without the political radicals standing in the way, and with the “patriots administering Hong Kong” precept having been put into full play, ensuring the smooth and accurate implementation of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong is on course to play a bigger role in national development by leveraging its competitive advantages under this political framework and to see a brighter future.
The author is a current-affairs commentator.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.