Sunday, October 7, 2007

No Creative Solution for Hong Kong

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, a private think-tank, has just produced a policy submission paper titled “Hong Kong: A Creative Metropolis”. Other than the boring reified rendering of the subject of creativity, the paper amounts to little else. Above all, it is biased towards developing the hardware, giving 10 pages to cover this aspect, while giving short shrift to the far more paramount issue of education reform, which is given 2 pages of coverage. The worst thing is: it sounds as though it can force-feed creativity into Hong Kong people overnight.

Here are some lines that pretty much describe how the think-tank proposes to go about “making” Hong Kong a “creative metropolis”:-

“As a parallel model of urban planning, this paper proposes a cultural-led approach to address the issues arising from urban development. In essence, the approach promotes multi-tiered urban spatial development; it embraces diversity and enhances spatial quality of the city.”

A culture-led approach to urban development?? The two words “culture-led” and “development” sound so incongruous that they can only become oxymoronic when placed near each other. When I think of culture, I think of something artistic and beautiful like a painting, a piece of literature or classical music. When my mind switches to the word “development”, I can visualize ugly cookie-cutter style apartment buildings, philistine investors and greedy developers.

“And the new economic policy frameworks should be set to harness broad-based creativity for service innovation not only in the bounded domain of the creative industries but also the service economy in general.”

Is creativity something that can be “harnessed” through policy frameworks setting? I wonder what the think-tank had in mind when it used the word “creativity”.

“In making Hong Kong a creative metropolis, the government should take on a more proactive role in defining a creative economic policy and cultivating a creative habitat.”

Here the government is asked to play God. Without a culturally sensitive, inherently innovative and imaginative society (albeit there are some exceptions), thanks to a largely materialistic citizenry and an uninspiring system of education that does not encourage creative thinking or artistic appreciation, all talks about creative this and creative that are meaningless. While it takes time, maybe generations, to nurture such a society, one prerequisite is for government to apply a hands-off approach in this particular area and allow absolute space and freedom for creative ideas to flourish and grow among the citizens. Another sine qua non is a thorough reform of the educational system.

In short, the policy submission paper is trying to suggest that government should take the initiative to build a self-proclaimed culturally inclined hardware (in terms of development) based on some preconceived notion of creativity. Other than an attempt to take economic planning to a level even more extreme than our socialist motherland, the paper hardly offers any creative surprises.


whatacritic said...

Your's is one of the "thinking" person's blogs in Hong Kong, and I read with anticipation of the next blog posts.

However, you have done a great job of identifying the problems with Hong Kong, and I wholeheartedly agree with your premise from my own observations of Hong Kong.

However, what are the solutions? Is universal suffrage the answer (personally I think it is a red herring). If not, what is?

In chinese we have a proverb, about the frog at the bottom of the well, however, it seems to me, that in very general, Hong Kong people are like the tadpoles in the hole at the bottom of the well, they have no idea how far away they are from:

- Political
- Economic
- Cultural


As I ponder the decision I made 4 years ago to return to Hong Kong, I still daily wonder whether I made a mistake, whether Hong Kong can be saved, or whether I should give up and return back to a civilized place. Though what heartens me is that there is building up more people who are understanding the problems with Hong Kong, but when can these people have the power to do something about it? When can we get past the partisan bickering over Universal Suffrage that is dividing people who should be focussed on finding the RIGHT solutions for Hong Kong. I believe it's a combination of:

- Forced Financial crisis (the dumbest thing Donald Tsang did was bail out the property and stock market in 97)
- Education Reform
- Immigration Reform (Hong Kong people leading Hong Kong people - the Blind Leading the Blind - we need outside people to bring the world to the bottom of this well)

But first, we need the people of Hong Kong to realize just how deep down this well they are.

With frustration.


richard h said...

The Foundation may be correct that creativity is a problem in HK. But I think you are certainly right that there is no 'prescription' that will remedy this situation overnight.

More generally, I'm very sceptical about the value of what comes from this particular think tank. I have not been too impressed with their recommendations.

Rather ironically they too seem to lack a bit of creativity.

Anonymous said...

Just briefly -

>"When my mind switches to the word “development”, I can visualize ugly cookie-cutter style apartment buildings, philistine investors and greedy developers."

There's no oxymoron; has it ever crossed your mind that your understanding of 'development' is rather shallow and limited.

Creativity is inspired and the culture of which should be nurtured (a better word for those with a limited understanding of certain nomenclature), education is indeed a crucial starting point and its unfortunate the report doesn't offer anything of substance.

Still, the report is designed to make strategic recommendations, gritty details that require the involvement of particular departments and institutes come later. I don't think the report is 'force feeding' creativity onto HKers; while lacking in some aspects which need correction later on, its nonetheless pointed at the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I live in the UK and US for 30 years. What I observed is the really simple solution in promoting creativity is by "doing nothing". In other words no intervention. In the US, grade school and high school are more or less play school. Students have a lot of free time to develop their own thinking through play or work on their own projects. Their first ten years of this "freedom" really let these young minds developed unimpeded. In HK, what do you have? Fear of failure at school and constant pressure to succeed.

Alice Poon said...

(To the first anonymous)

My understanding of "development" is in the "narrow and limited" context of the report, which refers to property development in the city of Hong Kong.