Face Off: Is HK a truly international city?

Face Off: Is HK a truly international city?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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Is our city as international and welcoming as we think it is?
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Kin Wan, 18, Chinese University of Hong Kong

If you wander around Central, you’ll notice that lots of foreign brands, such as Shake Shack and Xiaomi, are opening up stores in Hong Kong. The city is built on a mixture of influences from all around the world – from its ideas, to cross-culture experiences, and fusion cuisine. This is what makes Hong Kong a truly international city, both now and in the past.

Historically, Hong Kong was under British rule for more than 150 years. The city then became the bridge between the western world and the mainland. It’s a hub for international trading and cultural exchanges. Hong Kong’s airport used to be the only airport in the country that had international flights, meaning that the city was the key to connect the mainland with the rest of the world. The city’s airport has been the world’s busiest cargo hub for eight consecutive years now.

Education-wise, most Hong Kong students are taught in three languages since kindergarten. Growing up, we’ve been trained to speak and think in Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. This exposure definitely provides us with an advantage in communicating with other global citizens.

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Also, if we look carefully around our city, a lot of the architecture, street names, MTR station names, double deckers, zebra crossings make references to our western and Chinese history.

We should also take a look at how much Hong Kong values the global exchange of ideas. Our well-established infrastructure and telecommunication networks prove how well equipped we are to deal with the rest of the world. The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre provides a quality venue for international conferences and exhibitions, for example. This does not only attract businesses from around the globe, but allows local companies to expand their market to Asia and beyond as well.

All in all, the city is the crossroad where east meets west. How can you argue that Hong Kong is not a truly international city?

I say: If I had a million dollars…

Joy Lee, 16, South Island School

From a big picture perspective, Hong Kong may seem like an international city: the diversity of food and people seem to prove it. However, whether Hong Kong is truly an international city, and whether that label will stay with it, is a debatable issue.

First of all, what is an international city? Other than housing people of different nationalities, I would argue that the main thing that make a city truly international is the interactions between people. This is a bit of a weak spot for Hongkongers, who can be prejudiced: who can look down on people who aren’t Chinese and stereotype them or treat them differently. Earlier this month, SCMP reported that a British worker had to file a lawsuit because of the discrimination he faced in the workplace. Hong Kong should be ashamed of such behaviour: a truly international city offers equal opportunities to everyone regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, religious belief, and so on.

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Furthermore, an international city doesn’t just require people from different nationalities: it also needs to succeed in attracting people from around the world. This is something Hong Kong is becoming increasingly bad at. We have bad air pollution, dirty beaches, and an increasingly serious waste problem. The cost of living in the city has risen and caused a widening wealth gap that makes the “working poor” a disappointing reality. Our property prices are also among the most expensive in the world, and such scarce land resources make entrepreneurship by both Hongkongers and international community hard to stimulate.

Moreover, the city faces a slowly growing tumultuous political atmosphere and problems in areas of civil rights such as freedom of speech and press. These problems are causing real consequences: in 2017 there was an 8.6 per cent increase in emigration, a three-year high for the city.

If this continues, Hong Kong may have to face losing its international status in the near future.

These criteria to be an international city may seem far-reaching and harsh, but the truth is, a truly international city grows and develops with the global atmosphere: actively attracting people from around the world because of unique opportunities, freedom, and the promise of a good living standard.

If Hong Kong wants to stay an international city, it has lots of work to do.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Is Hong Kong a truly international city?

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