This is the first part of a two series-article focusing on Brunei and Hong Kong relations. See the second part here. Do share!
Written by Jacky Li Chun Leung
President of Southward Research Centre (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong is an international financial city that situated in the Southern coast of China. It is guaranteed to enjoy the right of autonomy after the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 based on the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Although it is 2000 kilometers far from Brunei, historical evidence shows that Brunei-Hong Kong relation has started a long time ago. Here, I would like to examine the importance of preserving sustainable co-operation between them under the new global circumstance.
Historical background between Hong Kong and Brunei Darussalam
It is claimed that Brunei-Hong Kong connection started shortly after Hong Kong Island became a British colony, during the period of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II, but with inadequate evidence to proof the reality. According to the folktale, the earliest postal service provided between Hong Kong and Brunei in Hong Kong has been located around the intercepted area of Chater Road and Jackson Road in Central nowadays. Later Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories became British colonies respectively, and Brunei then became a British protectorate in 1888. Brunei and Hong Kong shared similar historical experience in the past, they benefited from the western systematic administration and improvement of living standards under the British colonial ruling. At least before the Second World War, British colonial government imported labor power from Hong Kong and Canton region to fulfill with the modernization project, until now we can still discover Hong Kong and Cantonese cultural influence in Belait District, especially the drama television are still enriching their lifestyle. Moreover, other than Baiduri Bank and Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank, those British international banking could be discovered in Brunei and Hong Kong too. Direct flights offered by Royal Brunei Airline and the appearance of AirAsia give more choices to Hong Kong and Brunei people to travel back and forth, and subsequently resulted in boosting up the tourism in Brunei and Hong Kong. Apparently, we can conclude that Brunei has a good relationship with Hong Kong
However, Hong Kong and Brunei are now facing with challenges from the local and international environment, but we can optimistically consider them as a chance to find a better outlet by a principle of reciprocity in modern international politics.
Hong Kong and Brunei Darussalam challenge
Hong Kong, after the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, experienced at least twice global financial crises, with the risk of socio-economic homogenization and the weakness of distribution policy, people are now suffering from wider economic inequalities. On the other hands, as a result of the domination of economic-oriented customs in the society, human value always ignored by the social mainstream, and thus this is not favorable for the Hong Kong people to understand different cultures. Other than traditional and western culture, and Islam is not a dominant religion in Hong Kong, Hong Kong people have a very weak understanding of Islamic culture, it is not easy to be found in the educational syllabus, and Hong Kong people seldom have a chance to get in touch with Muslim communities. This will affect the next generation about their career competitions while comparing with others cities. During an era of globalization, it is unignorable to realize the importance of Islamic culture to the meaningfulness on diplomacy, academic and financial exchange, whether people are Muslims or not.
For Brunei Darussalam, increasing population and the improvement of economic caused the shortage of oil production. Facing with the oil price dropping crisis last year and the change of energy consumption recently, these factors are affecting the government revenue negatively. Brunei is necessary to think about the sustainable development policy as to prevent the inertia of relying more on Oil & Gas sector. On this point, Brunei is facing similar challenge comparing with Hong Kong, but display in a different format. However, human value in Brunei is better than Hong Kong, especially Social Science learning and environmental protection policy.
Hong Kong and Brunei Darussalam advantages
After the US election, people are now more concerned more as president-elect Donald Trump may adopt different policies from the previous government. This sensitiveness is reflected by the sudden drastic drop of stock market after the announce of election result on that day. Under the principle of sharing risk and burden, other than Brunei’s long-term partnership—Singapore, Hong Kong is another good choice in East Asia region to Brunei. Apart from the different political system, Singapore has a lot of similarities with Hong Kong, especially economic and social attitudes, both have excellent talents and technologies on business and financial activities. At least, after the post oil-oriented period in the future, increasing co-operation with Hong Kong will reduce any needless obstacles during the transition of economic structure. Yet the question is to increase career diversification in Brunei with reference to the case in Dubai.
On the other hands, other than Western and Chinese culture, Brunei can share its Islamic civilization to Hong Kong, Brunei government has organized the promotion of Islamic tourism recently, former Brunei Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Sheikh Jamaluddin Mohamed has shared the promotion activity of Islamic Tourism on his Facebook on 3rd October, 2016 . Brunei could be regarded as “a window of civilization” or “Tingkap Tamadun” to Hong Kong in Southeast Asia, realistic environment factors such as inevitable pushing of globalization and poor knowledge of Islamic civilization in Hong Kong could be treated as a chance to Brunei. Brunei can enhance academic exchange with Hong Kong as a lot of professional experts from Middle East found in Brunei’s institutes and colleges. To the Hong Kong people who are interesting on Islamic culture, academic exchange with Brunei is a good choice as Brunei enjoys more peaceful environment than in Middle East. In long term, it could help improving cultural homogenization and broaden the socio-economic spectrum in Hong Kong. Brunei can also benefit from the affirmation of particular identities so that it can raise the national confidence in international society in future, and increase the chance of fulfilling Wawasan 2035.
In conclusion, Brunei Darussalam and Hong Kong need to have not only on economic co-operation but also academic and cultural exchange, it will magnify the meaningfulness on bilateral communication. Drawing on the oil shortage crisis, as Deputy Minister of Finance Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said, Brunei should try to develop more diversified economy rather than continue relying on oil production in future.