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Christian Service News

Issue 32 (July 2001)

Topic : Opinion Feedback

The Key to Cultural Development is 'Pluralism with a Root'

In a consultation paper, the Culture and Heritage Commission suggests that the cultural development of Hong Kong should base on six principles: people-oriented, pluralism, freedom of expression and protection of intellectual property, holistic, partnership, and community-driven, so as to assimilate the best of Chinese and other cultures, and build a cultural environment that is grounded in Chinese culture but pluralistic.

What is the present culture in Hong Kong? In fact, Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan society that has a mix of eastern and western heritage because of its history rather than a 'pure' form of traditional Chinese culture. Then should we base our cultural development on the former or the latter? This needs clarification.

We agree that cultural development should be people-oriented; we suggest, in addition, that the emphasis be to raise citizens' cultural quality. Equal access and sufficient opportunities to cultural education and freedom of expression for all residents are the prerequisite. For minorities who may have a different heritage, they should be respected so their culture can be retained.

We think cultural development is diverse, dynamic, and vibrant. If it is government-driven, it may become homogeneous and static. Community-driven doesn't mean the government should stay out of the picture, but rather it plays an important role of an "investor" to commit into cultural development. This will warrant enough support and freedom for a vibrant development and will not stifle diversity. Moreover, cultural development should be supported by proper policies in social welfare, housing, education, medical, and the mass media. These public policies will provide citizens basic living standard so they can partake in cultural development.

Along the same line of argument, i.e. the government has a commitment to ensure sufficient resources for cultural development, it will encourage involvement from the industry and business sectors, especially through financial support. However, their involvement must not commodify cultural activities to become instruments solely for business development or tourist attractions. Otherwise, the harmful culture of utilitarianism, shortsightedness, and money-oriented attitude (as oppose to people-oriented) will only be reinforced.

In considering resource allocation, the government should also take into account all ages of citizen, that is, not to 'invest' solely in formal education, which serves only school-age children and youths, but should also cater to pre-school children, adults, and older persons. In order to promote cultural education to a wider public, we suggest the public libraries reach out to the community and organize educational activities for them. In the same token, the role of museums can be extended to not only display "valuable" exhibits, but also to proactively motivate citizens to appreciate the historical development and achievement of Hong Kong. Other suggestions such as government-sponsored display on public billboards or tele-broadcast on public transport system, improve mobile library service, encourage more community-based cultural and arts activities, organize cultural and heritage tours for locals and tourists, and sponsor children and youth centres to set up mini-libraries which are equipped with collections introducing the cultural characteristics of the specific community.

When the government plans for cultural provisions, it should not base entirely on the population ratio, but should also consider and utilize the cultural characteristics of a community. For instance, the government can consider setting up local cultural information centers utilizing its cultural characteristics, and invite local residents to partake of the administration and promotion of the center.

About cultural exchange activities, the government should avoid turning them into a competition or a reward system for the best. For instance, sending outstanding students abroad may not be appropriate as the "not-so-elite" students may indeed need to expand their horizon. Moreover, the government should also set up funds for cultural education in addition to funds for cultural exchange activities.

In conclusion, the cultural development of Hong Kong should launch from the history of a converging East-West (perhaps even Sino-Japanese) culture, develop in the direction of pluralism, and to reinforce its root in Chinese culture.