Conjecturing Hong Kong’s Future
Lam Hang-chi’s Editorials from the Hong Kong Economic Journal, 1975–1984
︳Lam Hang Chi ‧ Edited and Translated by J. S. Kung ︳Published in Feburary 2018 ︳
1975–1984: the decade leading up to the signing of the Sino British Joint Declaration witnessed the rise of China from an isolated country to a serious economic player on the world stage and the decline of the British empire. Torn between the two was Hong Kong, a stable and prosperous British colony with an almost wholly Chinese population, a city world renowned for money-making with little interest in politics.
What would be Hong Kong’s fate after 1997? At times astute and uncannily prescient, at other times wildly imaginative, Lam Hang-chi’s daily editorials in the Hong Kong Economic Journal analysed and conjectured Hong Kong’s options at the time. His opinion sparked debates and frequently provided a focal point for the discussion on Hong Kong’s future; His views on housing, assimilating immigrants, the collusion of politics and business, issues that are foremost in Hong Kong today, still inform. For the first time, they are made available in English.
In his many thousands of editorials Lam succeeded in combining the acute observation of a seasoned journalist with a profound understanding of the opportunities and challenges that confronted Hong Kong in the run up to the reversion of sovereignty. His observations were unfailingly astute and unbiased. His understanding of the values and attributes that underpin Hong Kong’s unique contribution to China’s ascendancy as a world power is unsurpassed. This translated collection of Lam’s writings enables those who do not read Chinese to appreciate his writings which have long been the mainstay of the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
—Anson Chan, former chief secretary for administration of Hong Kong SAR
Mr Lam Hang-chi rightly became famous for the flair and fairmindedness of his editorial essays. Thanks to this very readable translation of selected columns, an international audience now has access to fascinating insights into the complexities of Hong Kong’s transition from colonialism. That his editorials remain worth reading so many decades after they first appeared is proof of Mr Lam’s superior brand of journalism. Most important of all, they remain a pleasure to read. What more can an editor be expected to provide his readers with! This is an important record of high-quality publishing in a most challenging environment.
—Leo F. Goodstadt, former deputy editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and former chief policy adviser to the Hong Kong government
The experience of Hong Kong people in the late 1970s and the early 1980s are highly relevant to the present generation. China’s policy towards Hong Kong was not a clear-cut matter; it was one of exercising maximum flexibility within a rigid framework. Knowing what the rigid framework means and how to make the most of its flexibility is crucial for Hong Kong to exercise the highest possible degree of autonomy. There are indeed many lessons we can learn from what happened in this early period—mistakes, missed opportunities, righteous foolhardiness, etc.
—Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute University of London
Lam Hang-chi (pen name of Lam Shan-muk) is the founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, a leading business daily in Hong Kong. For over forty years, his editorials and articles have been widely discussed and quoted. He continues to write weekly for the journal.
J. S. Kung, daughter of Lam, worked for Radio Television Hong Kong before becoming managing director of the Hong Kong Economic Journal between 1997 and 2003. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge; the University of Chicago; and the Thomson Foundation.
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