As this report is published, Hong Kong is entering a critical period because the core values of this modern society are under threat. Without these core values our mission for environmental protection and sustainable development is but a distant dream.
These core values include, inter alia, the freedom of speech, effective public participation in policy-making, respect for fairness and diversity, pursuit of social equity and the rule of law. In our submission to the Chief Executive for his annual policy address last January, we stressed the need for a Big Reconciliation – the first principle of which is the reconciliation with the cores values of a modern society.
Unfortunately in the past year we are seeing more evidence for the erosion of Hong Kong ’s core values. Recent and more tangible examples include the controversy concerning the low-cost transfer and proposed demolition of the Hung Hom Pennisula estate, the continuing destruction of freshwater streams because of either corrupt behaviour or official inaction, the increasing problem of illegal dumping on good agricultural land, the systematic bias in favour of large developers in West Kowloon Cultural District development and other town planning decisions. When examined closely, the decisions leading to such outcomes not just cost the environment dearly, but also contravene sustainable development principles of equity, diversity and transparency.
What is more worrying: these systematic failures are being reinforced by an undemocratic, pro-big-business governance structure which is largely frozen by the recent decisions of the Central Government on constitutional arrangements.
How should civil society organisations react to this situation in such a trying time?
There is perhaps only one answer: to mobilise the public to mount a civic defence against further erosion of Hong Kong ’s core values in their social, political and daily lives. As a first step, civil society organisations which are ideals-driven, the Conservancy Association included, must articulate to the public how these core values are linked to their missions, and why the erosion of such core values will lead to the failure of their missions. If we are serious about pursuing our missions, we must be ready to stand up to defend Hong Kong ’s core values.
I hope that members of CA and members of other civil society groups can stand together for what they believe in during the days to come. As the saying goes, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. And the only source of vigilance is the civil society.
Albert Kwong Tak Lai
23 May 2004