Thursday 25 September 1997

Hong Kong: Business As Usual

You may have noticed there has been no e-mail traffic from me since the handover.  And that just about sums up what is happening in Hong Kong: nothing.

As far as political transitions and changes since Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China there are very few.  Seriously, since July 1st it has been business as usual.  There is no evidence that anything has changed, other than the flags. Life under Chinese rule, at first glimpse, appears to be just the same. The only thing happening that might suggest a change is the bickering in the local media about laws... but even THAT has died down in the last month.  Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority has been fighting off speculators (which many other Asian countries have been unable to do) and children in China with one parent in HK are allowed to slowly but steadily come to HK.  (That was one of the things in the media.) 

Some of you, especially those CLOSELY watching the law bickering from afar, may call me naive to think there are no changes.  Naturally, there will be changes  over time as a result of immediate events (like the outcome of the law bickering) but these changes will be subtle.  There is not a single sign of the PLA.  If you want to see them you have to hunt them down.  There is not a single soldier wondering around... they are less evident than the Royal Forces were. 

When the Royal Forces were off duty they were permitted to wear their uniforms. They often did, and while crawling from pub to pub in Wanchai, would be denied entrance to establishments because of their rowdy reputations.  In contrast,  the PLA must wear civvies because the Chinese government wants them to be low key.  In fact, the PLA has been SO low key, that they have been criticized for not "building ties with the community."

As far as freedom of the press, there appear to be no changes from my own research.  I am only able to read the English papers, and their reporting seems to be the same.  I have not heard whether this is the case for the Chinese newspapers.  The only thing I have heard about them, are stories they ran that Princess Diana was six weeks pregnant when she died.  That never made it into the English language papers, though.  There have also been over forty official public demonstrations since July 1st.

The mood on the street is business as usual.  Perhaps there is a little bit of "post-handover blues", and economic growth has slowed slightly this past quarter.   At the same time, however, economic growth is slowing across the region, but still enviable statistics with Malaysia, for example, expected to grow at 7.8%.

Perhaps the greatest indication of what is happening in Hong Kong comes from what all of my friends are doing -- working.  In the last several months I have looked for new employment, moved flats, completed several training consultant projects, rescued a stray cat, nursed it back to health and generally been very busy.  Interestingly, my friends were conspicuously absent.  A few phone calls revealed to me that most of my friends had not seen each other, either.  Many are away on business, working long hours and some on holidays.  In other words, people are busy in Hong Kong and forging ahead into the future.

The Chinese Government recently gave the Hong Kong SAR Government a vote of confidence, and I will send excerpts of that article in another message.

In the next few weeks I will be posting a number of  fantastic pictures from the handover onto my web site.  Be sure to check back and have a look at them.

That's the latest from Hong Kong.

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