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by Joyce , United States Apr 16, 2003


"SARS has yet taken another 9 lives - What has the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Admin Region) Government done to stop it?" reads the headlines of a local newspaper this morning. It has been at least three consecutive mornings since the local newspapers used the above as the headlines, only the figure is different each morning. And the numbers aren't showing any signs of decrease.

Named the 'Epidemic of the Century' by one of the local newspapers, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is definitely the greatest problem that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has to deal with since the handover in 1997 to the People's Republic of China. And did you notice the acronym SARS and the official name of the region most severely infected with it?

Hong Kong has been suffering quite a lot economically in the recent years as a result of Asia's economic downturn as a whole. Unemployment is still on the rise, breaking records after records in the region's history. Inevitably, the public blames the government - for being insensitive to their needs, for being indecisive and for being simply useless. As if that's not enough, the local media worked extra hard to worsen the government's general impression by the extensive use of empty rhetoric in their headlines. Polls show that the public has given the Chief Executive a failing score of 41 out of a 100.

It seems like Hong Kong is falling into an abyss, right? Being a resident of the region, I can feel that the region is slowly decaying, or at least it is losing in its competition with other major cities in China, eg. Shanghai. We should not put all the blame onto this health crisis. The main reason for this potential 'Fall of Hong Kong' is its failing education system. The syllabus is shrinking yet students are still unable to grasp the basic materials. High school graduates still find difficulty in filling out a form. All students are fed up with learning before they finish high school. Those who aren't fed up yet simply are the slaves of grades and exams. The classroom atmosphere is unhealthy as students never show any interest in the materials while showing great interest in how the exams will be set and scored. They only care about the results, not the process. The education system is really rotten and a revolutionary reform is urgently needed.

An epidemic only strikes once in a decade. Yet the above mentioned phenomenon is something that will last - those who are in school now will be leaders of Hong Kong in two decades. What would the administration be like by then? What if another round of epidemic strikes the region? Will they be able to show better judgment than the present administration? Or will they be even less decisive?

All I can do is to keep my fingers crossed.



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