獅子山精神 The Lion Rock Spirit
“The road is rugged and rough,
And it is mired with worries.
But since we are on the same boat below the Lion Rock,
All discord set aside, with one heart on the same bright quest”
The Lion Rock is the unofficial symbol of Hong Kong, and naturally, the famous theme song from the 1970s TV series hit “Below the Lion Rock” has become the unofficial anthem of Hong Kong. The term “Lion Rock Spirit” emerged in the 1970s to embody the hardworking attitude of the many Hong Kong people at the time, who strived to work their way out of poverty in the period of fastest-growing economy in Hong Kong. To this day, not only does “Lion Rock Spirit” remain a popular cultural reference, it has gained currency in politics. Former financial secretary Anthony Leung (2001-2003), Zhu Rongji, former Premier of the PRC (1998-2003) and the 2017 Chief Executive election candidate John Tsang have used the term. The last post in the Handover series , “A Place Like Hong Kong”, will address this core value that is perhaps the most sentimental to Hong Kong people. Can our boat sail on?
【Wealth inequality－the spirit of community?】
Last year, the Gini coefficient of Hong Kong reached 0.539, a high in 45 years, and the highest among developed economies. It means that Hong Kong’s wealth inequality has been steadily rising, but it would be misguided to blame it on the handover. In fact, the surge of Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient started in the 1980s, which was normal in any rapidly developing economy. It is difficult to judge the impact handover has on wealth inequalities. According to a study done by the government, while the average monthly household income disparity widened from 1997 to 2009, average monthly employment earnings of full-time employees improved across decile groups. However, many would argue that the handover has made the lives of average Hong Kongers a little bit harder. Mainland Chinese investors keep the housing price high while an influx of mainland Chinese tourists since the Individual Visit Scheme was introduced in 2003 forces small, local businesses out of business.
+ According to the study done by the University of Hong Kong, 54.1% of those in the poorest quintile stay in the same quintile after 10 years of working.
+ Affording a place to live still accounts for a massive chunk of Hong Kong people’s savings and expenses. The price of small apartments rose by 188% from 2006 to 2013, while the median income has only risen by 30%.
+ The median income of young people is lower than the median income of the entire Hong Kong working population.
Many see the causes of low social mobility to be exorbitant housing price and an economy that is lacking diversity. Unfortunately, education, an asset that previous generations rely on to escape poverty does not give young people the competitive edge they need anymore.
Hong Kong has seen numerous cases of people escaping poverty through education, including the former Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung whose father sold ice-cream for a living. Are such stories still possible in today’s Hong Kong?
+ In 2011, child of the richest 10% of Hong Kong families has a 370% higher chance of getting into university than his cohort living below the poverty line. In 1991, the figure was 116%.
+ If the father is a professional, there is a 42.8% chance that the son will become a professional too.
Many blame rising intergenerational poverty on the rise of private tuition culture and the transition of many government-subsidised schools (free-of-charge) to the direct subsidy scheme (schools in this scheme charge about HK$2000-3000 per month).
What is the Lion Rock Spirit?
The term “Lion Rock Spirit” originates from the RTHK television series “Below The Lion Rock”, which which ran five times discontinuously from 1972 to 2016. The series featured communities struggling to survive in the 1970s, including new immigrants from mainland China and the slum dwellers of SheK Kip Mei. “Lion Rock” refers to the peculiar-looking hill in Kowloon Country Park, which has become a symbol of Hong Kong.
It has never been clear what the “Lion Rock Spirit” actually entails. Rita Chan Man-yee, who was the production assistant for the show in the 1980s and now an executive director, said that when the show first came out, it was merely about “people being poor and working to improve their living standards.” Professor Kristof Van Den Troost of the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that the term strikes a different chord in each Hong Kong generation. For the older generation, the Lion Rock reminds them of the time when people were self-reliant and self-sufficient. To them, it means a grounded approach to improve life. To the younger generation, the Lion Rock dream is becoming unreachable for them due to low social mobility and high housing price. While the older generation condemns the younger generation for expecting the government to help them, the younger generation points to the changing circumstances--Hong Kong economy is no longer booming as it is in the 1970s.
Instead, the younger generation looks to something beyond improving material living standards as their Lion Rock dream. In 2014, a group of hikers reached the peak of the Lion Rock, and hung a banner that said “I want Real Universal Suffrage”. The backdrop to the message was significant. During his election campaign, John Tsang released a post about his reflections on the “Lion Rock Spirit”. He points out that the “Lion Rock Spirit” has acquired the meaning of pursuing fairness in society and a high quality of life.
In sum, the “Lion Rock Spirit” is about idealism and the possibility to reaching dreams. Now, we turn to the last 20 years to review whether our Lion Rock Spirit has been dampened.
Below the Lion Rock
The Lion Rock, a symbol of solidarity, perseverance and idealism, is still a symbol that every generation looks up to. It is unsure how the new administration can improve social mobility and give the younger generation hope. In 2014, the now Chief Executive Carrie Lam encouraged the youngsters to inherit and pass on the “Lion Rock Spirit” by “cherishing today, looking forward to the future and understanding the past”. We hope that apart from promoting a positive attitude, the new leader of Hong Kong can provide the vehicle for the young to achieve their dreams. Today, Lam announced that her plan to add 5 billion to recurrent expenditure in education. New measures include subsidising students in tertiary education and students studying in mainland China, and increasing the teacher to student ratio in primary and secondary schools.
Apart from persevering, the “Lion Rock Spirit” is about embracing. Embracing differences, embracing opportunities. It is uncertain what the new administration can bring, but the future can be promising. In her election campaign, Lam promised to diversify economy by “reindustrialisation” and investing particularly in creative industries. She also mentioned in her manifesto that small enterprises will be supported by new technology. To address the housing issue, Lam promised to increase the supply of residential units reserved for Hong Kong first-time buyers. Some also say that the One Belt One Road Initiative can bring new economic opportunities and broaden the minds of the younger generation. No matter what the future brings, the “Lion Rock Spirit” teaches idealism.
“Together we work hard to create
The everlasting legend of the Fragrant Harbour”