Jan 072007

Starting from 1 January 2007, parents of new born children in Germany are entitled to share 14 months of parental leave with two thirds of their net salary paid. The news reminded me of the dismal maternity leave Hong Kong mothers have.

While the mothers in Germany have maternity leave of up to 14 months, mothers in Hong Kong have a paltry 2.5 months only. And do take note that it is maternal leave, not parental leave, meaning that only mothers are entitled to the leave and father are not allowed to share in the leave.

While the dismal maternal leave is affecting many families, there is little voice raised against the system. Well, maybe once a year, women labour groups come out in protest but their voice is quickly submerged. It seems that people are not satisfied with the system but they accept it as it is because they don’t believe that they should/can change it.

Hong Kong is an advanced economy in Asia. But its labour protection is hardly mature and advanced. So are other advanced economies in Asia such as Taiwan – Taiwan has only 56 days of maternal leave. I wonder if an economy is still an advanced one when the government is so reluctant to give a better quality of life to its people, such as giving a generous parental leave to those becoming mothers and fathers.

 Posted by at 4:34 pm
Dec 172006

The Hong Kong Star Ferry Being Torn DownHong Kong Star Ferry along with its clocktower was dismantled eventually, despite the last-ditch efforts and protests of civil groups.

It was heart wrenching to see the clock tower perched atop the pier being torn down.

When I was a high school student, the Hong Kong City Hall, which is situated next to the pier, was the cultural hub and housed the largest public library then in Hong Kong. I passed by the pier a lot, as a result, on the way to the library or to see arts performance.

As time goes by, Cultural Centre at Tsim Sha Tsui becomes the cultural hub, along with the Arts Museum, Space Museum there. I used to take the star ferry from Central to arrive at the Cultural Centre and the Tsim Sha Tsui area.

The star ferry at Central was part of my fond memories of my growing up and living in Hong Kong in general.

Now the pier is gone. Many things surrounding its being torn down make me fume.

First of all, the star ferry company said that the clocktower at the ferry must be demolished because it could not find a company able to replace its parts. A big lie.

According to a report from South China Morning Post, Melvyn Lee, a director of Thwaites and Reed, the clock-making company that maintains London’s Big Ben, admits that he can help. The British company restores clocks all over the world – in Australia, the United States, India and former British colonies that have English clocks. And Mr Lee even promised to visit Hong Kong and help save the clock.

Second, shouldn’t those decision makers in the Hong Kong Office of Antiquities and Monuments be held accountable for the demolition of the pier? They are the ones being put in charge of protecting Hong Kong’s monuments. The irony is that these people only started to voice out their opinion when the demolition work was already underway. What is their brilliant opinion? The government should try to move part of demolished bricks and walls to another site to recover the clocktower.

If the policy-decision makers in the Office of Antiquities and Monuments can come up with this brilliant idea, what hope can I still hold out for the preservation of Hong Kong’s past and history? Their ideas echo those of the government who said that it will recruit a consultancy firm (yes, when there is problem, the Hong Kong government always has one way to deal with it – pay a huge sum of money to recruit a consultancy firm to conduct research) and see how the look of the old pier can be incorporated into the new pier. And may I mind you that the government said this when it was faced with mounting pressures to stop demolition, so you can regard this as kind of concession from the government.

I reckon that it is not difficult to come to grasps with the idea that when a monument or historic spot be demolished or removed, it is doomed, completely. The replica of it at somewhere else, or in a museum, is a sign of history, but not history itself, because it is no longer part of people’s life, their collective memory and history. The replica will attract tourists, but not the people living in this territory.

The idea is easy to grasp, but it seems that those decision makers fail to see it. 

 Posted by at 11:14 am
Dec 092006

short term apartment rental in ChinaThe best way to rent an apartment for short-term in China is through internet. If you travel in China and want to stay in a city for a few days, you can seriously consider renting an apartment.First, you will have the benefit of living in a neighbourhood and hence observing the local life first-hand. Second, it is good value for money. The price you pay is cheaper than staying in a hotel but you can have all the comforts of living at home.

Take Hangzhou for instance. A clean, well-furnished apartment equipped with internet connection as shown in the photo above costs only 150 yuan per day.

Many major cities in China have a growing supply of such apartments, catering to the increasing demand in the domestic market. This has prompted the mushrooming of short-term rental websites, most of them in Chinese. So if you can read Chinese, this will be a great way for you to rent an apartment. There are some websites offering both Chinese and English versions, but the English version is much more brief.

This is a website I once used, which has a very comprehensive coverage of all the major cities in China. It has an English version, which has much less listing than the Chinese version, though.

 Posted by at 4:53 pm
Dec 032006

Two days ago, I saw on the TV that hundreds of prostitutes were shamed in a public parade in the neigbouring city of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. They all looked downcast and very ashamed, with heads bent down to the chest. I later learnt that in such a parade, their names and dates of birth would be announced so that the purpose of “shaming” them is well served.

This, in China, is called “a public meeting to combat and punish vice” and it is particularly popular in a city just before a high-ranking government office is due to visit. This time it was for the visit of China’s No.2 political figure Wu Bangguo to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The scene is reminiscent of the dark age during the Cultural Revolution where all those deemed enemies of the communist party were paraded and shamed publicly. China’s economy has progressed fast enough in the past two decades, and yet, in many aspects, the country remains the same, especially in terms of its political and social mentality.

China falls far short of a civilized country, much less a world power when it holds no respect for the rights of its people and when people themselves do not respect the rights of others. The parade of prostitutes has told it so clearly.

 Posted by at 11:21 pm
Nov 202006

IIt was 8am, and I was riding a bus to work. The noise belching out from the screen hanging in the front and middle of the bus compartment was so loud that even though I put on my ipod, the noise was still “noise” and it was just unbearable, especially in the early morning when I would need some quiet time and a clear mind.

This screen is part of an entertainment broadcast system common on all Hong Kong buses. Special entertainment programmes are produced just for broadcasting on the bus through this system, along with many advertisements. All the bus companies benefit, of course, from such a device. So is the private company which conceives this idea and owns the service. Who to suffer? Those having to commute on the bus and who hate noise and stupid entertainment shows.

It is hard to imagine this would happen on the tubes of London, where many commuters are seen reading newspapers, books or magazines, and the flooding of noise from advertisements and stupid shows is certainly not to happen. People will protest.

Here in Hong Kong, we keep silent, and are submerged in the noise day and night, while the bus companies and the concerned parties continue to make handsome money from the “roadshow” – the noise system they name.

I filed a complaint to the bus company and the following day, the roadshow was on as usual, and loud as usual.

 Posted by at 11:26 pm