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The Roots of Hong Kong’s Crisis

Hong Kong, the pearl of the East, yet lives in such a turmoil.  The ongoing political crisis and massive protest have drawn a large amount of international concern and attention.  There are multiple explanations of what has happened in Hong Kong.  Some may say it is for a wider demands for democratic reform. On the mainland side, some may argue, The demonstrations in Hong Kong are not about rights or democracy. They are a result of foreign interference.

However, people ignored another very important perspective of the protest in Hong Kong, economics.  Hong Kong does have a strong economy, it still plays an important role in international trade and financial services.  However, under prosperity, there are extreme challenges that will lead to explosions in Hong Kong society.  The unbalanced economic development, enlarged inequality, and the failure of the Hong Kong government addressing economics issue fueled the anger of the people and dragged Hong Kong into the ongoing crisis.  The extradition bill, in my opinion, is just the spark that ignited the society’s anger.  

Unbalanced economic development was a major issue of Hong Kong in recent years.  When we look back into the history of Hong Kong, the economic booming started from the 1950s and 1960s when Hong Kong enjoyed economy booming.  Hong Kong economy had the opportunity to grow in those eras by developing textile industry, electric industry, and light industry.  Manufacturing became Hong Kong’s main industry until the 1970s when finance, real estate, and trade pick up the main role in the Hong Kong economy.  The Reform and Opening in China in 1979 further fueled the development of Hong Kong in trade and finance.  Currently, financial services, tourism, trading, and professional services and other producer services are the four main industries of Hong Kong. These industries have attracted 47.3% in the labor force and contributing 57.8% of the GDP.  However, the problem is that there is the only limited spot of high paying jobs in these industries.  Many of these jobs either require higher education or does not have enough positions available for the people.  According to Hong Kong government statistics, the 4 major industries are having fewer jobs opening.  From 2013 to 2017, these 4 industries has only created 20,000 new jobs while more than 100,000 people joined the workforce. The rising of China as an international economic powerhouse has made Hong Kong even less competitive in these traditional advantageous industries.  

The unbalanced economic in recent years led to extreme income inequality within Hong Kong.  While the high paid job in these industries is decreasing, it is harder and harder for regular people to live day today.  Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient has reached 0.539 in 2017, the highest in 45 years. This is also one of the highest in the world when it comes to the Gini coefficient.  The highest monthly income is 60,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $7,700 more than the lowest.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has the second most billionaires, and 4th most millionaires living in the city.  Yet, the poverty rate in Hong Kong, in 2017, is 19.9%.  The medium monthly income is a mere $2,200, comparing to its GDP, it is a relatively smaller portion.  We have seen all over the world of the harsh living condition in Hong Kong for some of the poorest people.  Only in Hong Kong will you see people living in cage housing.  The richest of the richest has made more money than ever in Hong Kong while every day people suffered from loses.  This will build up anger and instability in society. 

Now, people may ask, did Hong Kong have the opportunity to avoid all these economic development issues?  Yes, there were many opportunities, but the Hong Kong government missed almost every single one of these opportunities.  The failure of the Hong Kong government has worsened the unsatisfactory in Hong Kong.  Back in the earlier days, Hong Kong executive officer wanted to promote the manufacturing industry and public housing programs to provide a more diverse economy and housing opportunities for those who cannot afford to house in regular prices.  However, none of these opportunities was ever successful.  On the real estate perspective, in the first policy address for the Chief Executive, Tung Chee-Hwa, has promised to build 85,000 affordable housing for the public.  However, the program has failed due to the mass protests from middle-class Hong Kong residents who lost drastically in the real estate market.  The cancellation of Public Housing programs between 2004 to 2014 has made the housing affordability even worse.  In the diversification of the economy, the Hong Kong government also failed.  Tung Chee-Hwa also tried to promote programs such as Cyberport, a program that will help Hong Kong to develop a solid technology industry.  However, the program was born in the wrong time, right before the explosion of the internet bubble.  Also, the leading developer of the project, Pacific Century Regional Development, made most of the project by real estate projects in this project.

Hong Kong’s problem is a political issue within itself right now.  However, the economic perspective is also something that we should be keenly aware of.  We all understand very clearly, that when the economy is maintained in a bad shape, when there are not many opportunities left for young people in the labor market, or in the society as a whole, something will happen.  These feeling of loss in Hong Kong eventually became the anger towards the government, and the Extortion Bill was just the spark that ignited the social conflicts within Hong Kong.


Henry Huang is a Campus Fellow at the International Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development. He lives in Washington, DC where he is a student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs

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Latest Update on Flood Situation in Assam 0500 hrs Saturday IST- Guwahati in danger

27 Jul 2007 - 4:37am | editor

Lakhimpur: The flood situation in the North Bank of Assam mainly the Dhemaji district has turned critical once again. Flash Floods in Ronganodi breached a vital dyke in four places of Lahimpur cutting off parts of Lakhimpur district and Dhemaji from the rest of Assam.

The temporary Bailey bridge constructed by the Army for connecting Dhemaji has also been damaged once again by floods. Reports have just come in on Friday morning that four more embankments have been washed.

The silver lining is that no causalities have been reported so far and there is no shortage of essential commodities as well.

Meanwhile the Brahmaputra is reported to be rising in various parts of the State.

Puthimari river in Goreswar washed away a large portion of a dyke at Harijhora in Goreswar. More than a hundred villages have got submerged.

Report at 500 hrs Saturday IST

Purhimari river breached another vital embankment near Rangia. There are chances that Train tracks and NH 37 may get flooded, cutting off Guwahati from the rest of India.

Meanwhile Encephalitis has also broken out in Lahimpur and Dhemaji due to the continuous floods and has already claimed 9 and 4 lives respectively. Health Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma has intimated that the dreaded disease has already claimed around 55 lives this season.

Budget session resumes on stormy note

8 Aug 2016 - 1:06pm | AT News

The carnage in Kokrajhar, flood, price rise and Hindu refugee issues left the BJP-led government embarrassed when the Assam Assembly resumed its budget session on Monday.

Congress legislators along with their AUIDF counterparts demanded a statement from the Government. Later, AGP members also joined them.

The Opposition tore apart the BJP-led Government alleging the failure of Sarbananda Sonowal who also holds the home portfolio, to ensure safety of the common people.

The session started at 9-30 in the morning which will continue till August 13.

Remembering Parag Kumar Das

17 May 2017 - 7:56am | Rinkumani Pathak

Parag Kumar Das was the person who paved a new way for journalism in Assam. He was the one who transformed journalism into activism. The firebrand journalist cum activist exposed the corruption of the government and gross human rights violations in the name of anti-insurgency operations. Therefore, there were many heinous efforts to silence this courageous voice. On May 17, 1996, Parag Das, then Executive Editor of the assamese daily Asomiya Pratidin’ was killed in broad daylight in Guwahati while he was heading towards his residence with his his son. Unfortunately, after more than two decades of his murder, the family of Das is yet to get justice.

He lived only for 35 years, but within such a short span of life he became a genuine voice of the people. He had ordinary life style, but his journey was truly extraordinary. Being a brilliant student throughout his academic career, Parag Das could have lived a lavish life doing some white collar jobs. But such a flamboyant life never attracted him.  He ranked 4th position both in Matriculation  and Pre-University (science) exams. Das did his graduation from ST. Stephen’s College and Post-graduate from Delhi School of Economics. He left the job of General Manager at Guwahati Stock Exchange to become the Executive Editor of ‘Asomiya Pratidin’.  

Parag Kumar Das was a regular columnist for The Sentinel, an English daily. He was the Editor of ‘Budhbar’, a weekly which began its publication in March, 1989. After the closure of Budhbar, he brought out another magazine named ‘Aagan’ in 1994.  Both in  Budhbar and Aagan he highlighted the cases of human rights violation by the security forces. He exposed the nexus between the government and surrendered militants in carrying out these sinister activities. Journalist Das reported extensively on the incidents of rape by the Indian Army. Das criticised the Indian state’s claim over the resources of Assam.  On the other hand, he was critical of the ULFA too. Journalist Das vehemently criticised the misdeeds of the outfit and the aberration of their struggle.

Because of his strong criticism of the Indian state and uncompromising attitude, Parag Das had to encounter different kinds of harassment.  He was arrested under National Security Act and TADA Act in 1992 and 1993 respectively. On the other hand, his book titled ‘Swadhinotar Prastab’ was banned by the government.  But such supressive measures couldn’t stop his pen. Consequently, journalist Das had to sacrifice his own life. He was brutally killed in the heart of the city for his honesty and integrity. But Parag Kumar Das will  always be remembered for his journalism of courage and sacrifices he made for it.