Hong Kong, according to Chris Patten


I picked up an interesting book from the library two weeks ago, it was “East and West – by Chris Patten“.  Chris was the last governor of HK and in this first book that he wrote soon after the Handover of HK, he shares his opinions about HK and China.  His writings are mostly enjoyable, though it can get quite dry at times.  There were enough witty comments to keep me entertained throughout.  The part that interests me the most was his impression of HK, drawing from history and observations. 

As history goes,  in order to escape the oppression and famine, early settlers came from China to HK, free city of the East.   They would be characterised by their refugee mentality – at the whiff of a threat to their livelihood, they were willing and able to uproot to another place at high speed.  This mentality has changed little over time, case in point – just before the Handover, those who could afford to, migrated to Australia and Canada.  Today, many HKgers hold dual passports as a result of their pre-1997 migration and also Just-in-case they need to flee again.  HKgers were unsure about the stability of HK and were wary about China’s intentions post-Handover and left to escape uncertainties.  Many would return to HK with their Australian and Canadian accents to find that the worst that they had feared had not materialised – it was Business as Usual.   

As refugees who came with almost nothing, these people have managed to prosper through sheer hard work and possibly some short-cuts.  Very early on, they had appreciated the value of a good education as the way out of poverty.  For that reason, HKgers are obsessed with educating their children well.  It is only in HK that faces of tuition teachers are plastered on billboards and on buses, like movie stars.  In fact some of them look like movie star with their styled hair and makeup and surely command more money.   A teacher’s reputation is built on the student pass % rate.  Once a reputation has been established, the teacher will move from centre to centre bringing their adoring fans along.  Spending on educational books and aids though expensive, is considered necessary.  The most ridiculous thing that I’ve come across is parents doing homework for their children.   A friend enrolled her child into this online program, which requires her child to complete homework everyday.  This homework is in addition to school homework.  Instead of the child completing the homework, she completes it for him.  The reason – the online program is too complicated for her child to operate.  When I asked, why then did she continue paying for the online program, she replied that it was because all the kids in her child’s class were enrolled on the same program AND (this is the hilarious part), each completed assignment is scored and the children are ranked.  At this moment, “her” child is ranked 3rd among all the other kids.  It is likely that the other parents are also completing the homework, so the ranking is actually a ranking of the parents!  

Imaging looking at that face, while learning English - you intepret it anyway you like!

The book has given me an insight into why the HKgers are the way they are.  I continue to be intrigued as I learn more about them.


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Filed under Book Review, Hong Kong

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