to uphold social justice
the plans for Christmas holidays are being made and the crazy Christmas
sale is about to begin, it is easy to forget poverty casts a long
shadow over Hong Kong society.
addressing and framing the problem recently, media attention quickly
shifted away. But suffering remains. The 200,000 poorest households
in Hong Kong society survive on $3,000 per month. Chief Executive
Tung Chee-hwa estimated that the number of poor people in Hong Kong
is near 1 million, an estimate that is regarded as optimistic by
academics and social workers.
publicís reponse to such statistics is, however, indifferent. According
to a survey by the Hong Kong Policy View before the policy address,
nearly 70 percent of 554 randomly selected respondents considered
laziness and failure to do oneís best as the cause of poverty. Whether
the result can be generalised to the whole population or not, it
is far from a healthy phenomenon that at least a sector of the public
is thinking this.
clues imply that Hong Kong people simplify the problem by correlating
poverty with individual responsibility. Most Hong Kong people share
the value that one has to be self-sufficient in society. Those who
succeed as a result of their own efforts are respectable, but those
who rely on outside help look pathetic. It is a value that Hong
Kong people are proud of, and they believe the foundation of prosperity
belief may have been legitimate when the economy of Hong Kong was
still labour-intensive. But with economic restructuring, problems
surfaced. Those who could not follow the pace of change were left
behind and their needs went unattended. Poverty is not a problem
that emerged overnight. As early as 1980s, when the economy of Hong
Kong saw rapid growth, the number of poor people kept increasing.
It indicated that some memebers of society never shared the fruits
is the time for Hong Kong people to take the problem seriously.
However, in the current cultural context, no radical change can
be expected. The chief executive proposes to solve the problem by
providing more job opportunities and retraining. Such solutions
sound compatible with the common value shared by most Hong Kong
people, but it is doubtful whether they can really help.
was once a force that led Hong Kong people to struggle for a better
future. It is this successful experience that frames Hong Kong peopleís
attitudes toward poverty now. But situations change over time. The
idea of a welfare state may not be wise, but social justice has
to be maintained. The real solution to poverty may eventually be
found in a balance between the two.
Assistant Managing Editor