Hong Kong is a global, diverse metropolis home to 7.43 million people from every part of the world. Its consumption habits have been largely westernised, and its production structure largely urbanised, in the past two decades. But one thing that hasn’t changed much is its cultural values.
Most progressive-thinking Hongkongers want to remove themselves from Chinese traditions, instead pushing for modern ideologies. As such, there has been an increase in young people’s involvement in politics, with many asking for increased levels of regional independence and western democracy. Their activism has made way for discussions of topics that were previously seen as too controversial, hence untouchable.
However, there appears to be a division among these young progressives: the majority focus strictly on leftist political changes, while the minority attempt to challenge longstanding, unproductive social values. Occasionally, there will be some who do both. Collectively, this results in the youth being presented as politically radicalbeings who do not recognise that a change in governmental systems is ineffective without the equal progression in cultural ways of thought.
Matthew Arnold, in his book Culture and Anarchy, famously argued “culture” serves as a “moral and social passion for doing good”. Young people seemingly tend to take a scientific analysis of Hong Kong’s political structure – voting/election systems, civil rights and so on. They show little to no concern for the predominance of cultural and social values, the rights of minority groups – things that are central to true progressivism.
Rarely do I see the progressive youth speak on racism in Hong Kong; I would argue that this is because they too are unknowingly influenced by traditional racist behaviours that are on full display in our city. Hong Kong’s education system provides no training on racial sensitivity. To learn about such things, you need to do your own research. I have had to school friends who nonchalantly use offensive racial slurs. I often criticise them, but perhaps the education system failing to progress with diversification should take more of the blame.
Hong Kong’s progressive activists must realise that progressivism is more than fighting for a government or state of democracy, or a departure from China’s political control. Progressivism is an all-encompassing movement that fights for all – those who defy traditional cultural values, those who belong in minorities, those who are disadvantaged, and those who are labelled as outcasts. They must be willing to expose themselves to all dimensions of knowledge, with the awareness that school does not teach enough, and that education in Hong Kong misses out on the ‘moral and social passion’ of culture. Hong Kong’s progressivism is flawed, and progressivists themselves need to identify those flaws.