What the Star Ferry pier demolition tells us

The management of the Hong Kong ferry company which runs the ferry route from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui, disclosed that following the demolishment of the Star Ferry pier at the Edinburg Square, Central, and moving of the pier to a more remote location, the traffic has decreased by 15%. The company said it would consider a fare hike in the near future.

It is a vivid demonstration of how wrong the HK government has been in ruthlessly demolishing such a historic and familiar place to HK people. The demolishment has not only destroyed a HK legacy and heritage, but also taken away a transport means for the public who now because of the remote location of the pier, have to forfeit its use.

The ferry ride has been an enjoyable ride for me, taking in the harbor view and landscape at both sides of the harbor. Now, physically, I don’t want to walk that long distance to take the ferry; psychologically, I don’t want to use the new pier either – in silent protest against the ugly development of this city and the indifference of its government.

Family visit by China president

During the short trip China president Hu Jintao made to Hong Kong to mark the 10th anniversary of the city’s return to China, he paid a visit to two Hong Kong families. 

In the first family where the father is a construction worker, Hu gave the family a Leno computer as a gift. It was reported that he danced a Mongolian dance with the family’s little daughter.

Hu visited a second family where the mother is a mandarin teacher, He gave the family a plasma tv set as a gift.

Hu also talked with the families to understand their work and family life, it was reported.

I was struck by the “uniqueness” of this kind of activity integrating into the agenda of a nation’s head, and becoming the focus of news reports – It would be something very odd in the West.

I guess when a government is not elected, but claims it serves the people, it should be natural that it has to remind the public from time to time that they do serve the people, by staging relentless shows and propaganda.

Probably the best youth hostel in China: hostel in Pingyao

hostel in pingyao, chinaIn Pingyao, there is a youth hostel called Yamen Hostel, probably the best youth hostel across China. Because the hostel is so wonderful, my friend has stayed in the city for over two weeks.

The hostel is located in a very well preserved and charming traditional courtyard mansion – with front yards and backyards, and halls in the middle. It was built in 1591 to house the emperor on his planned visit to the city, but the emperor cancelled his visit and the mansion was never used for its original purpose.

This explains the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful architectural design of the hostel. Undoubtedly, the attraction of the hostel lies in the rare opportunity it offers to foreign travelers to sample living in a hundreds-years-old Chinese building at a minimum price and with a lovely atmosphere.

The guest rooms are all richly decorated, with internet access. The lobby with comfortable sofas, pleasant music and wifi, is a great place to meet people, or read books, or surf the net. Most importantly, the staff is very friendly. Toward the end of his stay, my friend not only got a discount for his ensuite room, but also had two free nights of accommodation. 

And, the hostel has a nicely run kitchen – the food it churns out, western or eastern, is delicious.

Pingyao: China’s best preserved wall-city

When my friend was in Pingyao, a small ancient city in central shanxi province, he met three professional photographers from the West who came purposely to the city for taking photos. Two of them, father and son, are from Germany. They planned to publish a photo album about Pingyao upon return to Germany.

Pingyao is a beautiful town preserving the architectural aesthetics of Chinese traditional buildings. It is distinguished from other places in China in that it has well preserved its architecture and urban landscape of China’s Ming and Qing dynasties, earning it a place on the UNESCO world heritage list. Because it is relatively unknown, the city is not swamped with tourists yet and the local government has done a good job in preserving the 2,700-year old city – it is the best preserved wall-city in China.

My friend likes the city very much. For one thing, the people there are very friendly and “they smile a lot”, my friend said. In the morning, the locals will pour out on the street to dance a local dance. It was very funny and interesting, he said.

And, there is one more reason to keep him in such a small town for two weeks – most tourists make a day trip to Pingyao from Beijing, or stop by it on the way to Xi’an, a much more famous wall-city known for its heritage of terracotta soldiers. I will write in the following post why.

The hint to applaud

In case you don’t know, in China, when the leadership makes a speech, clapping hands in support of the points they make, from time to time, is common practice. But how can the people know when they should applaud? Easy, the leadership will raise the tone at places intended to be applauded, and then the public will know and acknowledge by clapping hands.

I was watching news yesterday on TV and could not help hold Hong Kong’s chief executive Donald Tsang in awe. Gosh, he was so good in imitating the Chinese leadership when making a speech to the Hong Kong-based Chinese army (PLA, People’s Liberation Army). Where he praised the army for its professionalism and friendliness, he skillfully raised the tone at the end of the sentence, and immediately the audience of the soldiers exploded in applauding. I found it both funny and pathetic.

Well, there must be reasons why Mr Tsang can be HK’s chief executive, and the above episode demonstrates why: You have to behave and think like you boss does.

It is saddening for HK, whose people have worked so hard to build the port city into a world renowned city, only to see they have no say in who with what attributes to lead them, and are told economic prosperity is the only thing they treasure. Their voice is fabricated and not heard.

When the government is spending a great deal of money to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of HK’s return to China, I find myself indifferent to all the fanfare.