In the US, there was a minor kerfuffle during the campaign when President Obama, in a speech, said roughly, “You didn’t build that.” What he meant by that was that many things contribute to the success of any business – not the least of which is the infrastructure (the power grid), the roads and mass transit that enable people to get to work and shipping of goods, services from the police & fire department, the laws and courts that protect people and corporations, the schools that train people for the workplace, and so on. The Republicans seized on the phrase, out of context as they usually do, and went on the attack.
Something similar, on an infinitesimally smaller scale, in the Letter pages of the SCMP.
Here’s a letter from Graham Williamson of Cheung Sha Wan published on September 9th:
I’m compelled to respond to Paul Lee’s letter (“Unfair treaty no cause for celebration”, September 2) in response to Stuart Heaver’s excellent article on the Treaty of Nanking (“Big deal”, August 26).
While it is widely agreed that it was indeed an unfair treaty, nobody can refute that Great Britain built Hong Kong.
The British built the infrastructure, banking industry, legal environment and political institutions that made Hong Kong the great city that it is, not the early Chinese settlers. That’s why Taipei and Macau, both the recipients of many mainlander refugees, can’t hold a candle to Hong Kong.
Sorry Mr Lee, read the article again; the author approached no less than five mainland academics and they were too scared to comment.
That’s not the mark of a society that can accomplish great things.
The question for Hong Kong people now is: are they going to acknowledge the past and help the mainland build a better society, or are they going to distort the past and acquiesce to mediocrity?
Apparently lots of people can, and will, refute that Mr. Williamson.
I know, you’re expecting something from Pierce Lam. However the response today comes from one Esther Lee Wong in Central.
I would question Graham Williamson’s simplistic opinion about the development of this city (“It is a fact that Great Britain built HK”, September 9).
Hong Kong was not built by Great Britain. It would have remained “a barren rock” , which the British occupied by unequal treaty , without its population. Their industry, perseverance, flexibility and most importantly, intelligence, made Hong Kong what it is today.
Without their enterprise it would at best be a staging post for the opium trade which made many “hongs” rich. It is true that the British built the infrastructure, provided services and some good schools, and foisted the Christian faith on the colony. However, all this was done to train clerks and functionaries to maintain their colonial administration.
The colonial teachers had not reckoned that their subjects would far exceed their expectations of providing a steady supply of docile junior administrators.
Hong Kong’s infrastructure and services merely facilitate the population, which epitomises the essence of the city and enables it to remain vibrant through communal efforts.
The Chinese are known to refrain from commenting on complex issues not because they are “too scared to comment” but rather because they are reluctant to sound simplistic or boorish.
Mr Williamson should try to avoid making sweeping pronouncements and attempt to distinguish illusion from fact as well as give credit where credit is due.
While I don’t agree with Williamson 100% I do take his point. Ms. Wong seems to miss it. Williamson is coming at this from the same direction as Obama. The British brought several key things to Hong Kong that fed into its success, not least of which are the Rule of Law and a sort of smoothly running and basically honest civil service.
But geez, can’t we all get along? Mr. Williamson says it was the British. Ms. Wong says sod that, it was the Chinese. Does national or ethnic pride get so in the way that you can’t say that Hong Kong was built by the British and the Chinese (and several thousand boatloads of other nationalities and races contributed as well)?
Oh, but wait, another voice pops up, seconding Ms. Wong’s emotion. Here’s Ng Hong-kay from Fanling:
I presume Graham Williamson (“It is a fact that Great Britain built HK”, September 9) would also claim “Great” Britain built the United States, India, Pakistan, Ireland and many other countries around the world because it colonised them at some stage in history.
He is obviously very proud of what happened to the indigenous populations in these countries as a result of the “greatness” of Britain.
I should point out that when I landed in my “mother country” with my British passport, as a result of being born on the British soil of Hong Kong, I was greeted with the comment, “Go get lost, you Chinaman.”
I am sure your correspondent must agree that it was us, the “Chinamen” of Hong Kong, who built this city.
I appreciate his comments about building a better society on the mainland.
However, when talking of Great Britain and building better societies, we should not forget what happened in Northern Ireland.
I think that if by “your correspondent” he is referring to Williamson, then why is he so sure that he would agree when he wrote a letter indicating the direct opposite?
The only thing more bizarre in the Letters column today is one of those letters that has nothing to do with anything that the SCMP seems to delight in running. Let’s pass the mike over to Wong Yuen-man of Tseung Kwan O.
Technology can be useful for all of us in so many ways.
We all seem to be heavily reliant on the internet and portable electronic gadgets, but I feel that sometimes people lose a proper sense of perspective.
The use of devices like mobile phones and the internet becomes addictive.
Take cell phones, for example. They are hugely popular throughout the world. There are now so many functions and apps on your average smartphone.
On public transport and in the street you will often see people with their face down constantly checking them for messages. I have seen people joining others for a meal and constantly checking their smartphone at the dinner table, which is very impolite. I wonder how many of them could actually go just a day without the phone.
As with all things, when it comes to new technology, despite its advantages, we must all learn to practise self-control.
Really, that’s what you got? Cell phones are popular and have a lot of apps? Ah well, must be a slow news day.