Hong Kong As It Is

The unbearable noise in the bus

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.

Hong Kong As It Is Hong Kong As It Was

Farewell to Hong Kong’s Star Ferry Pier

riding past the new star ferry pier in Central
riding past the new star ferry pier in Central

Hong Kong’s Star Ferry Pier in the Central has serviced Hong Kong for 48 years and sadly, was closed yesterday for demolition to make way for reclamation and re-development, a fate that so many other sites of heritage and historial interest in the territory have been dealt. Thousands of people emerged yesterday to use the cameras/camcorders to record the last day of the ferry using the old pier. I was one of them, spurred by my fond memories of the pier and a deep sense of loss. This pier is about 20 minute bus from where I live and I used to take the star ferry from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui, so as to take in the spectacular harbour view and get some rest during the short boat ride.

star ferry pier in central, the old one
star ferry pier in central, the old one

The pier has become part of my memory about the city, my growing up and my life. It is no doubt also part of the collective memory, testified by the big crowd which turned up to memorize the loss. Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary Ho Chi Ping said those against the demolition of the star ferry are abusing the collective memory. I hope he did come in person to the ferry pier yesterday and see by himself how collective that memory is.


When the city loses its collective memory, what is left is stronger sense of isolation and alieniation among its citizens. At the same time, Hong Kong is also losing its uniqueness and charms in its quest to modernize itself to become “Asia’s World City” by demolishing sites of heritage and burying its past.

China As It Is Hong Kong As It Is

Inconceivable and conceivable: Margaret Chan picked to head WHO

Margaret ChanThe news that Margaret Chan, the former health director of Hong Kong, becomes the new director -general of World Health Organizaton(WHO) appalls me. For those living through the SARS and bird flu epidemics in Hong Kong, they know pretty well how competent Margarete Chan is and I am sure they all find, just like me, the fact that she is picked to head WHO is inconceivable and not justified.

Well, to some extent, it is not inconceivable – she is picked because china is campaigning hard on behalf of her and the other countries have to give “face” to China, a rising economic power on the world stage. That is real sad. Because an organization as important as WHO should be headed by one who has passion, integrity, capability and experiences, especially of dealing with developing countries. Margarat Chan doesn’t seem to me a person who possess any of the attributes.

She hided the truth from the public when dealing with bird flu and SARS crisis so as not to alarm the society; She refused to go to the orginating place of SARS to make inspections for fear of getting infected; she was slow in taking actions to stem an epidemic like SARS, resulting in many deaths; she has no experience in dealing with developing countries which desparately need to grapple with urgent health crisis such as AIDS. 

And my criticism is not alone –  she was even criticized in the government-commissioned reports reviewing the government handling of the SARS and Bird Flu crisis.

The irony is, she has no chance to be promoted to such an important international post if not for her poor performance in her HK government post and subsequently being transferred to work in WHO as head of a sub-section.  

The whole fanfare awakes me to a bare fact: the order of the day is politics – not about merit, justice or fairness. At the end of the day, the global players don’t care if the world will be better. They care only what is good for them.

Hong Kong As It Is

Secondary students not happy with him

donald tsang, chief executive of hong kongHong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang attended a meeting with secondary students this past week. It was an informal occassion where students would have opportunity to interact with the head of their government. It was reported that the students were not happy with the meeting because they found Mr Tsang not a sincere speaker.

Why did the students have such an unfavorable impression? Let me show you the kind of answer Mr Tsang gave the students in the Q&A session.

Q (a student): What advice do you have for us?

A (Mr Tsang): You should make use of the “one country two systems” to wring from the Central Government (ie. Beijing Government) what is advantageous for Hong Kong.

Is this a “person” talking? It sounds more like an official giving lecturing to his/her subordinates, as in the mainland China. His answer is so boring and so impersonal. And I assure you this style is very typical of him. 

Whenever I hear Mr Tsang talk like a top official in the Mainland China, I conjure up a bleak picture for Hong Kong. He never succeeds, in his public speeches, in convincing me that he is a leader of imagination and humanity, not to mention the ability to inspire in people. 

Hong Kong is sadly a city without leadership. Will the city have one day? I doubt it, under the current “one country two systems”.

China As It Is Hong Kong As It Is

Top Secret Means Leader’s State of Health

The spying case of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has sent shocks to the Hong Kong community. The seasoned journalist known for his patriotism was sentenced to jail for five years by the course in China on charges of spying. Upon hearing the verdict, a sense of frustration and pessimism prevails, espescially among the journalists here, and those having believed that China is well on the way to modernity.

First of all, the trial is clouded in secrecy. No evidence is clearly presented and there is no clear explanation of why Ching is accused of spying and what intelligence he has leaked.

Secondly, there is contradiction in the court papers.  The court says Ching surrendered himself, which appears to be a total fabrication. Ching did not surrender but was arrested when visiting China. Also, in the first court paper issued, Ching was accused of leaking top secret state information. In the second court paper, the intelligence he leaked was classified as secret only.

I found out because of the case, that in China there are three classifications of “secrecy” of state intelligence. The top secret goes to state information such as military move, important diplomatic and economic information, and the state leaders’ STATE OF HEALTH.

The second level of secrecy goes to information such as news of resignation of the state leaders, their temperaments and expertise.

The third level of secrecy goes to news of plagues, corruption of local officials, etc.
So it is obvious that if you are a journalist in Hong Kong or China, you can easily step into the trap and report something that belongs to state secrets and land in the jail like Ching Cheong. No wonder the sentence of Ching Cheong has sent a chilling shock to the local journalists.

Hong Kong has been a major outpost in reporting China news of depth and a wide range of topics. If Hong Kong’s journalists are silenced because of the threat of spy charges, the news about China are doomed to be unexciting and more pro-government.