One of the issues that seemed to arise during our conversations is the idea of gaining public support for projects and plans around the city. However, with the government owning the land and having the ability to “buy out” residents and move them elsewhere to gain space for future malls and high rise building, one has to wonder how much public input they are really wanting. Another question that came to me is would the level of growth and the type of development occurred in Hong Kong if there was more public support. As a comparison, it’s taken us in Seattle years to get the 520 bridge tolled and an alternative the viaduct. So it’s hard to say what the absolute right level of each is most efficient.
After control of the former colony was turned over to mainland China, Hong Kong has continued to thrive as the economic powerhouse of the developing Chinese economy. Back in 2007, the GDP per capita was a little over $40,000 but the mainland was only between $5,000 and $6,000. Recently, Shanghai has surpassed Hong Kong in GDP but with a population that is double of Hong Kong, it was inevitable.
The one advantage Hong Kong has over other Chinese cities is the long history of British regulation and oversight. This translates into many investors wanting to buy property in Hong Kong because the property laws are so clear and they know their assets will be secure.
Another advantage Hong Kong maintains politically over mainland China is the continued influence of the former British rule and this helps them maintain some economic freedom and political autonomy. They still maintain a semi-direct democracy and still have in their constitution the promise of universal suffrage by 2007. However this has been postponed to 2012 and then again to 2017. This apparent “dragging of feet” has prompted some protesting but even with the push for democracy there is a widespread conservatism and cautiousness of Hong Kong residents as a whole.
Although these protests may indicate a massive support for democracy and a “people’s voice”, there are many others that are more concerned with their economic rights over their political rights. As long as incomes and standard of living will continue to rise, the political needs will fall second to economic needs. As long as the government can continue to pay above “market” to transplant individuals for prime development land and their standard of living can increase, most of the movements may continue to be grassroots and isolated to a few who see political freedom as a fundamental necessity to the masses of Hong Kong.