立場新聞 Stand News

World Story of Hong Kong 03

2018/5/19 — 9:43

Write us your "World story of Hong Kong" https://goo.gl/WHE2b8

Write us your "World story of Hong Kong" https://goo.gl/WHE2b8

【Author:George Cautherley(a local non-Chinese Hongkonger)】

I was born in Stanley Internment Camp in September 1942 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. On my mother’s side I am the sixth consecutive generation to have lived and worked in China and on my father’s side I am the fourth consecutive generation to have done so. My mother was born in Shanghai in 1912 and her mother in Hong Kong in 1887 and my great grandmother came to Hong Kong from Ireland aged around one or two years old in about 1862 or 1863 and her mother died here in 1864 and as she was the wife of an Irish soldier was buried in Stanley Military cemetery.

As a non-Chinese family with neither Portuguese nor Eurasian ancestry, we must have one of the longest associations with China and since 1841 till now there has always been at least one member of either my mother’s or father’s family living in China. Also of the 200 or so children interned in Stanley and the 52 born there during the Japanese occupation, I am one of only three who still live here.


I lived in Hong Kong until I was eight years old and was then sent back to the United Kingdom for education, coming back for my summer holidays until 1954. In 1964 I returned to work in my uncle’s trading company and have made Hong Kong my home ever since. With my marriage to a local Chinese girl and thus the acquisition of a Chinese family, my integration with the local community intensified considerably. In due course this lead me to involvement with public policy issues.

In 1979 I left my uncle’s business as he was wanting to sell it and retire and established a similar medical products marketing and distribution business in collaboration with a UK company, eventually buying out their share in the early 1990s.


Between my return in 1964 and around 1990, I was primarily focused on my business activities, marketing and distributing a wide range of products to medical professional in Hong Kong and to some extent in China and my family. As my wife had also acquired majority ownership of a family graphic design business, while generally aware of what was going on in Hong Kong in the broader context we were very much distracted observers. However, the shock of the Tiananmen massacre and the formation of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation (HKDF) were the catalysts for my participation in public policy issues. I joined the HKDF in early 1990 and in 1991 became a Vice Chairman. In early 1991 I was responsible for organizing the first major conference on Constitutional Reform held in Hong Kong on behalf of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation and organized a further two more large scale conferences in 1998 and in 2000 and constitutional development has been an interest and concern of mine ever since. My public policy interests are quite broad, and in addition to constitutional development I have been involved in social issues, such as retirement protection, where in 1992, on behalf of the HKDF, I drafted the first proposal for a universal mandatory pension scheme, which the government of the day largely adopted to put to the legislature, but subsequently withdrew. I was and continue to be a robust supporter of minimum wage, competition legislation and because of my involvement in the medical products field, healthcare issues and was convener of the Healthcare Policy Forum and served on a related government working group. More recently, I have started to look at the issue of innovation and technology, as I have concerns that the government’s policies may not be as well thought out as they should be. I was also a founding member and served a few terms as Vice Chairman of the environmental NGO, Clear the Air. Furthermore, I am an active member of the Professional Commons, Hong Kong2020 and member of and advisor to, the Liber Research Community.

As I pull back from my business interests, which in addition to my Hong Kong companies and two manufacturing entities in China, include interests in a number of biotech and medical device start-up companies, mainly in Europe, but also some interests in Hong Kong and China, I shall be able to refocus that time on further involvement in public policy development.

There is no doubt that almost 21 years since the return of Hong Kong to China, we are far from where we expected to be. There is not the space and this may not be the place, to analyze where and why, by 2018, Hong Kong is not where it should be in its development. Suffice to say we have both a deficit in expectations and achievement.

The current situation, however bleak it may look, should not be used as an excuse for despair, but rather as a challenge to persevere and for me it is a reminder of a lesson my mother tried to teach me when I was really very young. My mother, being Scottish, drew on the story of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, who during a low time in his battles with the English, while hiding in a cave observed a spider trying to attach its web from one side of the cave to the other and kept failing, but each time restarted until it eventually made the connection. This inspired him to go back to the battlefield and eventually fully defeat the English and spawned the maxim, “If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again”. This is how I look at how to address the future of Hong Kong; we simply have to keep battling on if we are to realize fully the fair implementation of the Basic Law.

I am certainly an optimist, but I don't regard myself as being an unrealistic optimist. Over two centuries my family has seen many ups and down in China and Hong Kong. I personally have gone through the Japanese occupation, experienced the threat of communist invasion of Hong Kong in 1949, the 1965 bank run, the 1966 Star Ferry riots and the chaos and damage of the heavy rains that year, the 1967 riots, the adverse impact of the 1973 oil crisis, the 1983 run on the Hong Kong $, the euphoria of the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and subsequent despair of the massacre, the 1997 Asian banking crisis and related Hong Kong property slump, SARS in 2003 and the Article 23 crisis that year, the 2008 western financial crisis and the persistent erosion of the high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” concept since 2003.

As the saying goes, no one has ever made money betting against Hong Kong. In the end the logic of justice will prevail, so as Winston Churchill would have put it “KBO”.

[April 20, 2018]

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