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While processing and calculating next moves on that checker board of life and being in a city much more transient than before, it’s come down to doing whatever one can to ensure that Hong Kong never loses its dignity.

Longtime friends who these days use Hong Kong as a “part-time base” and prefer to travel and enjoy what the rest of the world has to offer, advise me to “forget it”- forget the city that’s been my home since arriving in Hong Kong from Colombo at the age of nine and thinking I had arrived in Melbourne.

Us Dutch Burghers have always been a class conscious group of people who would not want anyone to know that the Eberts were leaving everything we owned in what was then Ceylon to try and eke out a living in some place that rhymed with dong.

This “living” in Hong Kong wasn’t easy, but it was weird, bumpy, adventurous, challenging, dysfunctional and never boring.

Hong Kong today is even more interesting compared to those years of fighting typhoons, going to primary and secondary school, and looking for and finding career opportunities and willing to take risks. There was nothing to lose and something to gain and yet to be bitten by the Greed Bug and become Oliver Twisted.

No matter how young we might be, we’re all older now, each with our own stories to tell, and in a city that’s changed forever.

Yes, the nightlife isn’t what it once was and going out is hardly a priority as most of us- and not necessarily only in Hong Kong- are going through a post pandemic malaise that’s somehow robbed us of things like hope and inspiration, enthusiasm and praying that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.

Listening to those who have no options but to remain here and take whatever is shovelled their way, what’s often heard are nervous sounding questions about the future of Hong Kong and how “everything should be better” in 3-5 years”.

What this “everything” might be is anyone’s guess, whereas with most of these people being in their sixties, time is not exactly a long train running.

It’s easy to say that Hong Kong has lost its “mojo” and pine for the “good old days”, but often, these “good old days” weren’t really that good.

Selective memory recall can often paint a warped picture of the truth and which takes many into some fantasy riddled La La Land.

As someone who’s always been in creative driven industries, these days, I am using my god-given talents to write a musical about Hong Kong based on my life journey and finishing up what I describe as a “journography”.

This “journography” is going to take no prisoners and with various sacred cows led to slaughter. There’s no point to run away from the truth. There’s social media for that.

Here’s not the type of person to keep thinking of and looking at the past as I don’t see the point. The past is not here nor there anymore. It’s something that happened. Past tense. What’s here and always has been is the Now along with what’s part of my DNA- writing, making music and creating all types of new things.

What’s missing, at least for me, is the creative camaraderie that might have once existed here. If still here, it must be in a different guise or else standards have dropped so drastically that no one seems interested/capable enough to pick up the pieces and try to make odds and ends work.

Often there’s the feeling that I’m in a Far Side cartoon.

There’s the feeling that Okay will do and this then becomes an all too familiar circle game where the same old stories are regurgitated by the same old people who are now older with the usual jealousies and politics quickly resurfacing and all trust going out the window.
Having said this, there is a new generation of Hong Kong born artists working in a creative environment that many feel has to be “underground”. One presumes this has to do with censorship and a certain paranoia of being watched by Big Brother- unfortunately, an image of Hong Kong that’s travelled near and far.

Personally speaking, I don’t think that this fear and loathing is the mindset needed to press that Refresh button.

The mindsets of many today are difficult enough to understand, but, then again, wasn’t this what was once called “the generation gap”? Wasn’t it this same “generation gap” that helped give birth to artists like Dylan, Peter Max, Warhol, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, all those songwriters in the Brill Building, the sound of Motown and a music industry bursting with potential and energy and led by game changers like the Ertegun brothers, Berry Gordy, Jerry Wexler, Jac Holzman and others?

So how does any of this work to help build what can or could happen next in a new Hong Kong?

This can never happen en masse. It needs small pockets of talent- real talent with the experience and ability to manage, lead and create work that can be accepted globally and by those not continuing to take gulps from that half-empty Canto Pop dim sum pitcher.

What Hong Kong in 2023 doesn’t need are things like another horrible version of “Don’t Stop Believing” at the Beer Garden at Happy Valley racecourse and more appearances by the same function singers and middle aged cover bands in hotels and other tired looking venues. We need an injection of Forward Thinking.

This is why, as a Hong Kong Belonger, it’s embarrassing to see Coldplay in Japan, Indonesia and Taipei- but not in this city. It’s like not being invited to some world party.

There’s also more than a twinge of jealousy seeing David Beckham in India at the ODI cricket series with the great Virat Kohli.

It’s not nice that Taylor Swift has given performing in Hong Kong the flick whereas Macau is looking far more entertaining and welcoming to international tourism.

There’s much in Hong Kong that is difficult to understand- like all the very expensive white elephants allowed to just graze and gather dust.

The big question is this: Are there any real game changers in the city or has the game changed so much that it’s become nothing more than a yakkity yak “networking” talkfest comprising talking heads?

Where is the mothership from which hope is going to spring eternal and give birth to where Hong Kong is heading next, especially if driven by the algorithms of technology?

Technology is never ever the idea. There’s nothing stronger than The Big Idea. Ask Richard Branson. Or Steve Jobs. Ask Don Draper.

For myself- and some others in Hong Kong- one thing that’s going to be important is exactly how the HKJC Charities Trust initiative recently launched and named The Institute Of Philanthropy will work.

Maybe it’s me, but, at least for right now, The Big TIOP seems long-winded, sketchy and scratchy despite words and terms like “think-fund-do-tank”, serendipity, trust etc mentioned by the head of the Charities Trust in Dr Gabriel Leung, below.

Interview: Dr Gabriel Leung, Executive Director, Charities and Community of The Hong Kong Jockey Club - Alliance magazine

IF this initial HK$5 billion initiative is not to be another version of the much-hyped disappointment that is CreateHK and will instead genuinely invest in different types of relevant new creative business opportunities with no signs of nepotism, this must be done without the bureaucracy that has killed off independent thinking in the past plus the enthusiasm to even bother trying.

It’s time to think big and have Gabriel Leung- and the HKJC hierarchy- in conversation with someone like Elon Musk or perhaps Michelle Obama? Or Oprah Winfrey AND Yan Lang, the Oprah of China.

Breakaway from the same old same old and create new interests from overseas and international opportunities for the Made in Hong Kong brand- like, yes, the musical that I’m writing.

There’s something else: To add more meat to the HKJC’s showpiece event next month- the Hong Kong International Races- imagine getting on the front foot and having the CEO introduce exactly what the Club is making happen to the mainstream international media other than horse racing with its charity stories that are not relegated to being paid for advertorials”.

Let there be specific dates and specific everything else and not more corporate smoke and mirrors and guesswork that goes in one ear and out the other.

Some might not want to hear it, but now is not the time for Hong Kong and the HKJC to suffer from shrinkage and again talk about “record turnover” numbers and have more one dimensional reportage from racing reporters.

What the HKIR brand needs is something new, big and bold and not more warmed over chicken soup races not much different to what recently took place in Melbourne and other racing jurisdictions with pretty much the same cast.

The Hong Kong horse racing product is not what it was. We all know it though some will never admit to this as they fear “reprisal” and try to have others fight their battles.

The presence of “J-Mac” during HKIR week might as well be a Big Mac to that mainstream audience of decision makers, possible partners and big businesses wishing to invest in the future of the Hong Kong racing product.

These are potential customer groups able to look and learn about Hong Kong- and the future of Hong Kong racing- through international news outlets like CNN, the BBC, Bloomberg, the Guardian, the Financial Times et al.

None of these organisations care about who won whatever on the day and other examples of horse racing deja-vu.

What’s important to them is hearing about tangibles, sustainability, and delivering news and information to the global stage about a city that is very much part of China.
It’s time for the HKJC as one of the most influential organisations in Hong Kong to be seen as much more than it ever was with new business streams and strategies being able to open new doors of opportunity on its own.

Make this happen, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, and it will be your finest hour- and the best that can happen to rebrand and refresh the image of Hong Kong - and impress the leaders in China.

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