How much is our city government willing to spend to make Hong Kong people excited about returning to China on the 20th anniversary of the Handover? Well, that is about HK$90 per person.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung last week announced that the government would lash out HK$640 million (US$82.4 million) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China.
That figure was about seven times that of the HK$90 million spent on 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on July 1, 2007.
To many citizens, this is nothing more than a mega public relations show to welcome the mainland Chinese leaders, including possibly President Xi Jinping for his first visit to Hong Kong.
The government’s big summer party budget also carried the grand mission to ease the negative sentiment among residents who have been unhappy with their city becoming more integrated with China.
From tourism to property markets, mainlanders are being blamed for disrupting the daily lives of residents and jacking up property prices in both the commercial and residential markets.
More people are also not happy with the increasing hostility between Hong Kong and China, especially over Beijing’s tightening grip on politics from delaying universal suffrage and manipulating the choice for Chief Executive for the city’s people.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said most of the events were not related to the theme of the handover.
“What makes Hong Kong special is our history, our rule of law and our procedural justice,” said Kwok. “It is a pity that the celebration has turned into a formality.”
That perhaps makes it even more important to celebrate Chinese identity in the international city. Themed as “Together. Progress. Opportunity,” the government has planned more than 320 activities in Hong Kong and 200 activities overseas from July to September.
These activities include exhibitions from the Musee du Louvre in Paris and the Palace Museum in Beijing as well as team visits from the English Premier League, the National Basketball Association in the United States and the Chinese National Basketball League.
To go the extra mile in promoting harmony and a caring society, the outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will lead officials on visits to 300,000 homes in 18 districts.
“This is not just for show. We really want to send the message that we care for the grass roots,” said Cheung, who insisted the amount spent would be “worth every penny.”
Time will tell whether the government is a reckless spender, but it is fair to suggest not many Hong Kong people, especially taxpayers, will be willing to spend their money to please China.