When you come out from Hong Kong Harbour City, next to the pier, there’s a number of Western restaurants. Sitting on a terrace, with a sea breeze blowing, and looking at the Victoria Harbour view, that is a real pleasure.
On my first day in Hong Kong, I was tired, and I accidentally went to one of these restaurants, sitting there over an hour. Around the corner from the restaurant, there was a smoking place, and regularly, men and women working at the mall came there for a smoke. In twos and threes, they came for a quick one, some even just took a few puffs before putting out the butt and turning back. Over there, the restaurant waiters were standing and chatting with their regular customers. It was getting late, a man who looked like the chief waiter came out, and with the help of other staff put out more tables and chairs on the terrace, preparing for the evening’s business. Not far away, the Star Ferry was crossing the harbour, calm and steady, like a soft, soothing music.
This is a scene from Hong Kong daily life. In the first days of June, the Hong Kong weather is stifling hot, but the city remains in order, and follows its established mode of operating. Within a few days of walking around, although I did not get an in-depth understanding, I still managed to feel the character of the city.
For instance, when you’re asking your way on the street, people won’t look at you then walk away, minding their own business: even if they don’t speak Mandarin, they will take the trouble to give you directions. At the restaurant, you can often hear: “I think that’s enough ordering.” Once, at a small restaurant, the old woman who took orders, rushed around by everyone, announced: “Don’t order the soup, I’m offering it.” Another thing, the buses in Hong Kong don’t announce the stations in advance, but if you ask the driver before, he will tell you where to get off. My friend even said, sometimes, when she takes the bus, not only does the driver tell her she’s arrived, but even stops the bus and waits untill she reaches the intersection before driving off.
Many taxi drivers in Hong Kong are elderly people, some even in their seventies. Hotels and shopping malls also hire elderly people as security guards sometimes. Does the government not mind that people of that age still need to work hard for their money? That is the first thing I thought about. Of course, the government does mind. Hong Kong gives elderly people a certain amount of money every year (called Old Age Subsidy), and in many ways, that is taking care of them. However, in Hong Kong, a proportion of elderly people do not have pensions, and the government subsidies, compared to the local level of consumption, seems like a drop in the ocean, that is also a fact.
However, I asked a few elderly people whether they thought it was wrong to still “muddle around” at their age. For them, it’s a very simple matter, it’s about adding a bit to their pension, or reducing the family burden a bit. This is very different from the concept of “the government should take car of everything” that some people have, but is a good proof of this city’s positive spirit. In Hong Kong, you can feel that people are all working hard, and struggling to win a better life for themselves. But you can also clearly understand that it doesn’t mean you can do anything to succeed: you must strictly comply with the law and respect basic moral principles. In other words, the region bounded by law and ethics is free territory for personal struggle.
Of course, people in Hong Kong share their lot of sadness and confusion. For instance, shopping mall attendants treat Mainland customers warmly, but there can be something strange in their eyes. Perhaps, this reflects a certain ambivalence: on the one hand, they welcome mainland tourists as customers, on the other hand, they feel a degree of disgust for some mainlanders’ behaviour. Another example, when you take an escalator in Hong Kong, the practice is to “stand left, walk right”; this is a civilized habit. But nowadays, this practice seems increasingly difficult to keep. On the Hong Kong metro, you often see people standing randomly or jumping the queue. This kind of phenomena, and other similar ones, are causing Hong Kongers some concern.
But on the positive side, the large number of mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong for travel and shopping, not to mention their contribution to the local economy, can also learn a lot from the place. After all, only a minority of mainland visitors to Hong Kong do not respect the rules, the majority do not dare to smoke or spit randomly, and always queue nicely. In that regard, Hong Kong people have every reason to be pleased. One day, when I was talking about these questions, a friend who works in Hong Kong said: Hong Kong is a normal society. From my personal understanding, a so-called normal society is a place where “people do things, people check things”, that is, a society ruled by law.
But what I most want to say is, Hong Kong is a city which has dignity. In this city, people strive to make progress, comply with the law, insist on morality, and respect justice. In this city, people pursue their own success without blaming others, they pursue their own interests without forgetting the public good, and pursue their own enjoyment without harming others. The city is made up of individuals, and when individuals can live with dignity, then the city can have vitality; only when a city provides individuals with an air of freedom will it seem attractive to them. In Hong Kong, many details show that this is a city worthy of respect.
Source: 1510, June 30 2012 - http://my1510.cn/article.php?id=79971