Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung, headmaster of the elite Diocesan Boys’ School, recalls a time when life was more carefree. He says that when he was a DBS student, he had no pressure from examinations and cared less about marks. Unlike students nowadays, he did not need to go to tutorial classes after school.
Chang says there was also greater social mobility before the handover. In the past, a Form Five graduate could be a police inspector while a Form Four graduate could qualify as a civil servant. Today, a degree holder can only be a police officer.
However, Chang does not believe these differences can be attributed to the change in sovereignty.
For Yeung Sum, a veteran former legislator and former leader of the Democratic Party and an associate professor of social work at Hong Kong University, credit should be given where it is due.
Yeung cites a professional civil service, a well-established legal system and world-class social infrastructure as the best contributions the colonial administration made to Hong Kong. “Foreign companies set up their factories in China and their headquarters in Hong Kong because of our mature legal system,” says Yeung.
However, he also points to the downside of British rule. “Hong Kong citizens had no say at all,” Yeung says. He explains that before 1991, all legislators were appointed by the governor and the government implemented policies with little or no public consultation.