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In Conversation with Fernando Cheung (31 Jul 2014)


STEPHEN DAVIES: “The myth of Hong Kong is the hardscrabble person who began life in a squatter hut and has made it to a senior civil servant level or a comfortable boss of an SME, or runs a restaurant, and this just isn’t true any more.” FERNANDO CHEUNG: “No. This is the Hong Kong dream that cannot be sustained any more. It is quite obvious when you ask any young person in the street. The first thing he would ask: ‘Where am I going to stay? How can I get married without a place to stay? How am I going to have children?’” Born in Macau, Fernando Cheung came to Hong Kong at around the age of seven and spent the rest of his youth here. His mother was a nurse. His father was a teacher who went on to become a principal in a primary school. His parents encouraged him to do volunteer work with the needy during his secondary school years. The satisfaction he got from helping others determined his choice of career. As he tells Stephen Davies “In Conversation” this week, the opportunities for studying social work in Hong Kong were limited at the time, but he did get a degree in social work from Baptist University before moving to the United States to study for Master’s and a PhD degrees. While there, he also worked as executive director of the Oakland Chinese Community Council, helping Chinese and other Asian immigrants. Returning to Hong Kong in 1996, he began working as a lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, but he continues to find Hong Kong’s social welfare provisions lacking, and it was his dissatisfaction with them that encouraged him to enter politics and try to make changes. In 2002, he became the vice-convenor of Civil Human Rights Front. Fernando is currently a Legislative Councillor and vice-chairman of the pro-democratic Labour Party. He says that it is clear that Hong Kong’s economic disparities continue to widen. But he still says he has guarded optimism about the future. Fernando Cheung: “We have increasingly a stronger identity of our younger generation, being: “We are a part of Hong Kong. We are the only free region in the whole of China.” And if we can emerge to become a model for the rest of China, politically or otherwise, I think that is something that the Chinese would look forward to. And me, myself as a Chinese, I would like to see Hong Kong being a model for the rest of China to become, and that is something that keeps me going. When I was studying in the States, I wanted to come back to Hong Kong to teach or to do other work, primarily because I want China to become strong. I want China to be a society where everybody can flourish, can live comfortably … Stephen Davies: “And freely?” Fernando Cheung: “Yeah, and happily. Why can’t we pursue happiness?”

In Conversation
Publish Date: 
Thursday, July 31, 2014
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