Hong Kong people don’t hate the rich – they hate cronyism

Hong Kong people don’t hate the rich – they hate cronyism

Stephen Vines disputes the welfare chief’s characterisation of society

Sometimes, a single sentence in an otherwise unremarkable newspaper story really leaps out at you. This week, it happened with a reported statement by Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the labour and welfare secretary, who said that a new scheme to help stay-at-home parents rejoin the workforce could reduce “the city’s hatred of the rich”.

This statement provides an unwitting insight into the thinking of senior government officials who are wrapped in a self-reinforcing cocoon and remarkably out of touch with the society they are supposed to serve.

We shall gloss over the general patronising tone of Cheung’s other comments accompanying this statement, as he spoke of how “the kids might feel grateful when they grow up…” and might even be able to become the next chief executive.

Patronising people outside their circle is, after all, the default attitude of Hong Kong’s elite. However, they seem unaware that there is no hatred of the rich as such, but a deep distrust and loathing attached to the cronyism, institutional obstacles and nepotism that have produced a remarkably small and powerful wealthy elite.

Hong Kong people admire creative and hard-working people who, by their own efforts, have succeeded in making money. Indeed, in this immigrant-based society, the creation of wealth is a widely shared aspiration.

What has changed has been the rapid consolidation of the Hong Kong elite’s power and wealth, giving rise to a sense of desperation among those hoping to climb a ladder that evidently has its upper reaches securely blocked.

Moreover, and this is something common to all immigrant-based communities as they mature and become more settled, there is less of a focus on wealth alone. A wider appreciation of other important aspects of life starts to develop. This, in turn, breeds greater social and political awareness of a kind so feared by the elite.

Many of the younger people who took part in the recent street protests belong to the third generation of Hong Kong residents. They are looking beyond mere individual economic survival to collectively building a community, which they view with pride.

I also happen to be a third-generation descendant of very poor immigrants who arrived in Britain with nothing. My grandparents worked and worked to feed and clothe my parent’s generation. That generation climbed out of poverty with steely determination and became more self-confident members of the wider community.

My generation reaped the rewards of their hard work. We started to take economic sufficiency for granted. Still, we had an awareness of how it came about and this may explain why we were attracted to social and political activism that not only affirmed our identification with the wider community, but was also part of a feeling that we had to pay something back to a society that gave shelter and opportunities to our grandparents.

This pattern of behaviour is clearly evident in Hong Kong and should be widely lauded. But, instead, it is viewed with fear by those who have scrambled to the top of the pile and want to ensure they stay there.

Ironically, the scheme Cheung was talking about is one of the few government plans that makes sense because there are many parents, especially mothers, who can become valuable members of the workforce, if their domestic obligations allow this to happen.

The problem is that the government sees this kind of social, and indeed economic, advancement as part of its plan for containing social and political pressure, not as an end in itself.

As ever, what the privileged elite fears most are the people.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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