Politics

"Bless Hong Kong" is Not a Blessing

 

by Kary Hsu

Last year a local church leader, Law Pei-kun, took dozens of elderly people and families out for lunch to a nice Chinese restaurant. They also had an outing in an open-topped bus called "Bless HK." Everyone enjoyed the outings and the government paid for everything.

The events were part of the Bless Hong Kong campaign initiated by the government in 2014 to "make Hong Kong a more cohesive society."

Although the large-scale free activities attract large numbers of individuals and social groups annually, there are those who question the roles of Bless Hong Kong in solving social problems and political disputes.

"The campaign does, to certain extent, make the neighbourhood more connected," says Ms Law, the person in charge of the Login Club for New Arrivals at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong. "But as the events are one-off, their effects are really short-term."

The government's efforts to create harmony through such campaigns did not stop after last year's Umbrella Movement protests. In November, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngo announced the kickoff of the Appreciate Hong Kong Campaign.

This year the government is offering free visits to local museums, a public open day at a disciplinary force's training school and a free Hong Kong Disneyland visit for selected students sponsored by the amusement park.

Ms Law says the low cost encourages many organisations to take members to the events.

"The elderly and the underprivileged families were happy to be invited for a free, tasty lunch. We paid nothing. All we needed to do was to fill in the application forms."

The campaigns held in 2013 and 2014 -- Hong Kong Our Home, and Bless Hong Kong -- cost the taxpayers a total of six million dollars.

Benson Wong-Wai-kwok, assistant professor of Goverment and International Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, says the government's trying to restore order in society through the Appreciate Hong Kong campaign.

"This campaign is very similar to the Hong Kong Festival held in late Sixties, through which the British-Hong Kong government tried to restore Hongkongers' confidence in the government after the left-wing riots in 1967," Dr Wong says.

But he says it's a waste to spend taxpayers' money on campaigns like Appreciate Hong Kong.

Dr Wong says that with Hong Kong people facing extreme pressures in their daily lives, government should take concrete measures -- like tax rebates -- to give them some relief.

But pro-government politicians argue that these benefit the community, especially the underprivileged.

Legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun says the events spread a sense of caring and happiness among the neighborhoods, although the quality of the events could be improved.

She took part in the Bless Hong Kong campaign in 2014 and says people should appreciate the city's good qualities.

"The low-tax policy and the public health system are among the good qualities of Hong Kong that people of our generation very much appreciate," she says.

(Edited by Joanne Lee)

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