Ever since the handover, Hong Kong’s greater economic integration with the Mainland has been touted as an engine for future growth. But in recent years, Hong Kongers have begun to view integration, especially when it extends beyond the economic realm, with suspicion.
Last month, the government acknowledged reports that it had considered a proposal to rent land in Guangdong province to construct a “Hong Kong Park” to house Hong Kong’s poor and elderly. Although it said the proposal has been deemed unfeasible, it highlights Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s belief that the answer to Hong Kong’s problems lies in greater cooperation and integration with China.
Without doubt, Hong Kong has benefited from its position as a gateway to China for the rest of the world, and as a source of expertise and international knowledge for China. But as China produces its own professionals and with more “sea turtles” – overseas educated mainland Chinese returning to China, Hong Kong’s role as a bridge between East and West is shrinking.
The April 2014 edition of Varsity takes a closer look at three major integration-related policies mentioned in this year’s Policy Address, in education, employment and elderly care.
In education, the Government is making it more attractive for Hong Kong students to study in mainland universities by offering cash allowances on top of the direct admission scheme.
Studying in mainland universities gives students greater exposure to Chinese culture and society; it can help them build up their personal networks in China. But what kind of an education will they be getting? Besides, those who study in the Mainland may be more likely to stay and work there and, in the longer term, this may add to Hong Kong’s workplace shortages as the city’s population continues to age.
The Chief Executive used the story of a young Hong Kong entrepreneur striking it rich in China to encourage young people to seek their fortunes in the Mainland. We talk to young people working in the Mainland and hear about the pros and cons. Doing business in a rapidly rising market brings lucrative opportunities, but also risks. There are failures as well as successes.
Figures from the Census and Statistics Department shows the Hong Kong workforce in the Mainland is actually shrinking, and ageing. Are the streets of China still paved with gold for Hong Kong’s young people?
Old age is not so golden for many of Hong Kong’s elderly. There is a serious lack of nursing and retirement homes here. The Policy Address acknowledges the problem by expanding local elderly care services to the Mainland.
But without mainland medical insurance and also hampered by a lack of trust in the mainland medical system, most of the elderly who retire to Guangdong, go to Hong Kong’s public hospitals for their medical treatment. Apart from the practical difficulties involved, we ask whether the best solution for the shortage of services in Hong Kong is to outsource them.
Underpinning these three stories, is the question of whether China is our best or only solution? By looking north for the answers to problems at home, could we be inviting more problems?
At the crossroads of Mainland-Hong Kong integration, pinning our fortunes and our future on China may be the most politically correct thing to do. But turning our backs on developing local potential to solve the problems on our own is not the self-strengthening “Lion-rock spirit” of which we were once proud.