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.