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Monday, April 26, 2021, 23:54
Hong Kong residents can choose happiness
By Ho Lok-sang
Monday, April 26, 2021, 23:54 By Ho Lok-sang

Hong Kong people are mostly fortunate. Most of us can choose happiness if we want to. One would think that if people had the choice, they certainly would choose to live a happy life. But the reality is not like that.Some people appear to choose a life of misery.

While most Hong Kong people are fortunate, there do exist many unfortunate people among us and in other parts of the world. These unfortunate ones just cannot choose happiness. They appear to be condemned to a miserable life by the wheels of fortune. Think about those who live in a war-torn country like Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. Think about those who live in Palestine. Think about those who live in a country where clean water is not available, where crime is rampant, and where many children do not even have the chance to receive an education.

The irony is that while living in Hong Kong, which does not suffer from any of the above-mentioned problems, and which enjoys the longest life expectancy in the world, there are people who somehow find this city miserable. They even circulate among themselves the message: “Living in a messed-up world, we have a particular responsibility.” When they say this, they are not referring to the world out there — with sanctions arbitrarily imposed on perceived enemies, and hot and cold wars ravaging in different parts of the world. They are somehow disgruntled with the reality that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and will not accept the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” setup. The “responsibility” that they are talking about is fighting to “free Hong Kong” from China. They may pay lip service to China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, but they want nothing other than a government formed by “free and open elections” in Hong Kong — in total disregard for Beijing’s worry that without the necessary safeguards, some foreign powers will take advan-tage of the loopholes in the political system to exert their influence through proxies, as they have done before in other parts of the world.

They (people who somehow find this city miserable) may pay lip service to China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, but they want nothing other than a government formed by “free and open elections” in Hong Kong — in total disregard for Beijing’s worry that without the necessary safeguards, some foreign powers will take advantage of the loopholes in the political system to exert their influence through proxies, as they have done before in other parts of the world

I would call these folks utterly foolish. The “one country, two systems” principle gives Hong Kong the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we will continue with the capitalistic system that we are used to, complemented by the common law system and without fiscal responsibility to the central government; on the other hand, we will benefit from riding on the strong economic growth and counting on the support of the central government in the event of economic crises. There is just one condition: that we must not oppose the political system on the mainland. I don’t think this is asking too much, especially for those who take up public office. But some HongKongers choose to fight for bypassing the requirements explicitly stated in the Basic Law. What they do is to say goodbye to happiness.

The irony is that while some can choose happiness but they don’t, not everyone in Hong Kong is fortunate enough to be able to choose happiness. In 2018, a 5-year-old girl died of physical abuse by her father and her stepmother who were then 26 and 27 respectively. The couple were convicted of murder last week and will face a life sentence. The girl and her 8-year- old brother, being so small, were totally dependent on their parents. At the time, the brother attended a primary school, and the girl attended a kindergarten. Teachers of the kindergarten had found wounds on the child, but did not report them to the police, and the parents eventually withdrew the daughter from the kindergarten. With the father working in the transport sector, the family was not well-off and probably faced some financial pressures. Many poor families, including those who are living on meager incomes, had managed to live happy lives. One girl, and a new immigrant who lived in a cubicle in a subdivided flat in Kwun Tong managed to get top grades in the Diploma of Secondary Education examination last year. This would not be possible without a loving family. Many parents who had to tend to severely handicapped children are obviously under even greater stress, but they chose happiness and managed to give love and hope to their children. In contrast, in the child abuse-cum-murder case, it is clear that neither the father nor the mother had ever thought about the suffering that their children underwent. It was reported that the brother had 128 injuries, and the sister 133. The girl eventually died of a bacterial infection in 2018 after years of abuse.

Just over the weekend, an elderly man, aged 83, killed his wheelchair-using wife for whom he had cared for years, then hanged himself. The tragedy was discovered by their son. This tragedy appeared to be a case of caregiver “burnout”. Without the necessary support, these people cannot choose happiness.

Choosing happiness means that we need to put ourselves in the position of others. In particular, policymakers need to be sensitive to those who are desperate for help but cannot find help. The entire Hong Kong community needs to get its act together to build a happy Hong Kong.

The author is a senior research fellow at the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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