English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

July 3 2015 Friday          

A Tale of Two Cities

I just returned from a four-day trip to Singapore. I have been to Singapore quite frequently in recent years not only for educational exchanges but also because my sister’s family had moved to Singapore in early 1990s. More importantly, I have a very good Singaporean friend whom I crown as the Ambassador of Hospitality. He takes leave every time I visit and insists that he pays for all expenses. In his words, he is “reciprocating” for what I do for him when he is in Hong Kong. But for sure I have not been generous as he is in terms of money and time. I have never taken any leave driving him around. Nor have I put him up in world-class hotels. That is how this friendship of close to three decades has sustained.

 While I was enjoying my holiday savouring local cuisines and fresh air, I couldn’t help comparing Singapore with Hong Kong.  

 If the ethnic composition of a country can reflect the degree of its globalization, then the city-country of Singapore is intrinsically more cosmopolitan than Hong Kong. According to 2014 figures, of the 5.5 million people living in Singapore, 2.1 million people are foreign nationals. One-third of the 3.4 million citizens are foreign-born naturalized citizens. Ethnic Chinese predominate (74.1%) followed by significant minorities of Malays (13.4%), Indians (9.2%), and Eurasians. There are four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. English is the lingua franca of the country and you hear it spoken even at street stalls.

 Hong Kong is predominantly a Chinese society. According to 2011 figures, ethnic minorities made up only 6.4% of the 7 million population. Our official languages are English and Chinese. Unlike Singapore, rarely do we hear English being spoken. Cantonese is everyday spoken dialect with the use of Putonghua or Mandarin catching up due to the increase of mainland tourists.

 So which government has a tougher task to unify the people? Singapore for sure! And yet, scenes of confrontations between pro- and anti- government fronts have become quite a common sight in this demographically homogeneous city of Hong Kong. We can cheer that this is democracy in manifestation and despise Singapore for the lack of it. But at what cost and for what cause? We seem to have forgotten that conflicts can be resolved and differences can be tolerated for benefits and successes to be shared. Meanwhile with the government faltering and councillors filibustering, Hong Kong stagnates!

 Look at our West Kowloon Cultural District project first proposed in 1996. Almost 10 years have gone. On this wedge-shaped development site of 40 hectares, only a temporary promenade has been developed. If software is to be counted, then there was the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre, a combination of traditional Cantonese opera, contemporary visual art installations and film shows in collaboration with the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong and various renowned visual artists held for 7 days at the future site of Xiqu Centre in 2012.

 In Singapore, the Marina Bay district built on reclaimed land, a concept similar to our West Kowloon Cultural District Project, is now complete with a 101-hectare Gardens by the Bay, the giant Singapore Flyer, and Marina Bay Sands etc. To name but a few, this resort complex features a 2,561-room hotel, a 1,300,000-square-foot convention-exhibition centre topped by a 340m-long SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m Infinity Pool.

 As Hong Kongers applaud Singapore for her many successes, maybe it is high time we examined the “why”!

Happy 50th anniversary, Singapore! May you stay united and prosperous!