Monday, 30 January 2012

Thank you, Kadoorie Farm

I'm told the differential between rich and poor in Hong Kong is much wider than it seems.

A visitor might tour the shopping malls and pass by Baby Dior, but never know the extreme inequalities of wealth that exist here. I'm told that Hong Kong data - richest to poorest - can place this sparkling international city alongside Sudan.

It's easy to see the sparkle and glitz. The super-rich drive this place, and the wealthy families of Hong Kong clearly hold a concentration of power. They stitch the deals, throw up the buildings, and provide our entertainment in the South China Morning Post.

It's all the drama you'd expect. Mistresses (number 1 and number 2) top the character list alongside spurned wives (number 1 and number 2). Then come the righteous offspring (from both sides of the blanket), and controlling figures on executive boards. Together, they set about fighting (literally) for dynastic control, power, and inheritance rights. It's ugly, and not made any prettier when the battles are conducted over the living heads of the elderly men who sired and acquired this noisy lot.

By contrast, the super-poor sink into invisibility; they survive on a meagre few dollars, daily or weekly, maybe none at all. Their stories pop out at Christmas in feel-good captions about gratitude. See them here, lining up with the Salvation Army, where they need only join in a little prayer to secure dinner and bed for the night.

I watch it all. It seems true to me - as shoeless Farmer Chang trundles away with his lettuces, and a passer by casually swings their new Versace coat - that a system which encourages such extremes of wealth is morally wrong. But a wealth distribution constructed by an economy of communism, of the controlling kind that exists just over the dotted line? Downright scary.

Well, I don't have any answers; I'm no statistician, nor economist. I only observe while I pass through. So I'm sure I'll sound naive when I wish that people of wealth and resources would simply feel it is their human duty to be philanthropic. It's not as if Hong Kong has no precedents.

Thank you, Kadoorie Farm.


industrious housewife said...

Is that Michael Palin?

Grit said...

Ha! Looks like a Palin indeed! But is one of Kadoorie Brothers (to my shame I can't recall which one).

Philanthropists and industrialists and owners of Peninsula Hotels. So with the farm, not exactly bringing equality to the masses, but better than doing sod all.