the past few months Hong Kong had been greatly affected
by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The impact of it went far beyond the health arena. Rather
it uncovered the common mind shared by each and everyone
in the community.
No doubt the Government and health authorities were
at the front lines during this "war" against
SARS. However, one can witness the extent of community
support by an overview of the strong community network
and the healthy tradition found in all civil societies
at large. Comparing ourselves with neighbouring communities,
we can conclude that the strong tradition civil society
at large in Hong Kong did contribute to the way our
community handled its crisis.
Many had argued that civil society as such is not just
aims at serving the purpose of an isolated phase of
work (e.g. a social service organization providing social
service) but is an important factor which contributes
to the democratic process within society and fosters
the stability of a community.
Civil society very often has been referred to as the
third sector alongside with the business sector and
the government. In Hong Kong, voluntary social service
agencies are by and large the strongest members in the
third sector. It was voluntary agencies that first responded
to the urgent social needs of the 50's. Due to the colonial
rule, it was the voluntary agencies that advocated better
social policy and the participation of each citizen
in the political process until the late 70's when political
reform aimed at representative government began to take
Hong Kong is still in the process of trying to discover
how to have a more representative government. The present
situation in our society calls for a more cohesive inclusion
of all sectors. The recent SARS outbreak demonstrated
that a strong third sector is important for the foundation
of today's society. The Government and each one of us
should work hand in hand to create an environment in
which the third sector could be enabled to develop.