Hong Kong As It Is

The urgent event on 4 June

June 4, the day China’s student democracy movement was suppresed, is a sensitive day for Mainland authority. On this past day, the press organizations in HK received an urgent press invitation from the Liaison Office of the China Central Government in Hong Kong, the highest China authority in the city. This must be something very big and important to cover, the press reckoned, given that it is on June 4 and the invitation is marked urgent. 

The press organizations sent out strong teams to the event venue, only to find that the “big and important” event was China Premier Wen Jiabao had written to a Hong Kong primary school pupil. The premier wrote in clear writing so that the pupil could identify the characters, and he encouraged the pupil to study hard and love her country and Hong Kong, the press was told.

The following day, this urgent event was reported in a small corner of the non pro-China press.

For the China press, anything that the leadership says and does is important, and invariably becomes a headline story. With little knowledge about Hong Kong and its people, the China authority in Hong Kong attempted to apply that principal to Hong Kong’s press, only to see dismal results.

The sad thing is, the China authority in Hong Kong has refused to see the reality and the truth of the world, despite their ten years in Hong Kong, after the city’s handover in 1997. And it is these people who can influence Hong Kong’s future.

Hong Kong As It Is Hong Kong As It Was

Sequel to demolition of Hong Kong Star Ferry Pier

The old Hong Kong Star Ferry Pier in Central was demolished, after the authoritarian HK Government frowned on public protest and anger and went ahead as planned.

I used the new Star Ferry Pier last week, carrying my 3-year-old niece with me. It was a hell. The way from the bus station on the main road of Central to the pier is SO LONG.. With the baby in my arms, it was an uphill battle to walk the minimum 15-min passage to the pier. Anger fired up inside me. What the hell is this demolition for? Not to mention keeping history and collective memory, the simple fact is, the demolition is not in the interest of the residents of the city. The new pier in Central is so hard to reach.

With a nice location, historic value and collective memory, the old pier just disappeared like that, and a fake-Victoria style building as the new pier, stands somewhere, out of touch with people. Just like the government of this city.

Hong Kong As It Is

A Political Farce Unveiling

Hong Kong is staging a political farce. The candidate of the Chief Executive of the Government, also the incumbent Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, will surely win in today’s election where only a privileged group of 800 people in the whole HK’s 7 million population can vote.

What is more, these 800 people are mainly pro-Beijing businessmen and professionals, mostly appointed or elected in their respective professional sectors. The so called “election” is blatantly a sham – the election’s result is known even before the campaign starts, and most of the people in the territory, including me, are not eligible to vote.

Ironically, Mr Tsang staged a rally on the eve of the Election Day, summoning some HK pop stars and outstanding athletes, among others, to the occasion. Given that these HK pop stars and athletes never discuss in public at length or shown any interest in politics or social issues, and neither any of them is civic or political activist, the rally became an awkward show where they used the language they were uncomfortable with, to sing swan songs to Mr Tsang.

And today, after the election result was announced, the TV showed throngs of people surrounding Mr Tsang, congratulating him on his success. What success is this when the “success” is pre-determined and not won?

I feel disgust. When lies and fakes are obvious lies and fakes, but taken to be truth, and when so many people are willing to be the accomplices of these lies and fakes, can you not feel disgust? 

Hong Kong As It Is

Dismal maternal leave in Hong Kong

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.

Hong Kong As It Is Hong Kong As It Was

What Hong Kong Star Ferry’s Tragic End Exposes

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.