Hong Kong As It Is

Mourning for Hong Kong

This city is dying, so quickly, hardly 16 years after handover to China.

The rent is so exorbitantly high due to the influx and consumption of mainland tourists, that many of the old shops and restaurants that retain Hong Kong flavor, that are not run by big enterprises, that are run for generations in the traditional way, have to shut down. Replacing them are the jewelers, cosmetics shops and pharmacies (which sell baby formula), which cater to the needs of mainland tourists.

Hong Kong has become so bland, so uprooted from its tradition and so uninteresting  with the onslaught of mainland tourists.

I passed by Mongkok last weekend and I could not help but swear to myself that I would never ever step in Mongkok again. The area was teeming with people, with mainland tourists in overwhelming numbers, and with buses clogged on the road, spewing out exhaust fumes. What is more, all the shops there beckon mainly to mainland tourists. It is least interesting – I just wanted to run away as soon as possible.

In Causeway, another no-go place because of the packing of mainland tourists, traditional shops are closing one by one due to high rent. What is left is shopping malls after shopping malls and chain stores after chain stores run by established businesses and famous brands. A noodle and congee restaurant near Sogo department store in Causeway with more than 40 year history Lee Yuan Congee Noodles (利苑粥面專家), will have to fold next week  because it can no longer afford the rent that will go double from HK$30,000 to HK$60,000 a month. Lee Yuan Congee Noodles, decked out with tile floor and still using a manually controlled cashier, is famous for wonton and beef brisket noodle which sells at HK$34 a bowl.

After traditional shops like Lee Yuan are all gone, if you want to have wonton noodle in Causeway, the only option would be a modernly decorated restaurant in a shopping mall that sells a bowl of wonton noodle for HK$50 to HK$60 at least.

What is lost is not mere money, but the distinct old Hong Kong flavor.

And look at this. The future cultural hub of Hong Kong West Kowloon Cultural District has named an art centre “Xiqu Centre”. I am sure most of you won’t get it. Xiqu is pingyin, meaning opera. The authority has adopted pingyin to name a centre which neither Hong Kong people nor foreigners can understand, except those who speak mandarin. The speed Hong Kong goes “red” is unstoppable and irreversible.

And how conservative the Hong Kong Government is. The Government under chief executive CY Leung – a liar and a pro-Beijing figure – has just decided that it will not put the enactment of legislation against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation to public consultation. Note that it is consultation on legislation enactment, not legislation itself. The Government has no courage to do even consultation, bowing to pressure of the religious groups who have been drumming up strong opposition. This government is not there to inspire people, but depress them.

And Hong Kong has a legislative council that is dominated by pro-establishment and pro-Beijing Councillors. Any progressive  proposals were voted down.

Adding to all sorts of woe is the poor quality of life Hong Kong people are having. Hong Kong is now the world’s most expensive place to buy a home or rent an apartment. An IMF report released last week also discloses that Hong Kong has the world’s most severely unaffordable housing (based on research by Demographia). More and more young people are now forced to live with their parents as they cannot afford renting a place themselves. The income for young people especially graduates has been stagnant. Housing unaffordability only adds to their losing hope for their future.

I wish I could see hope for them and for this place.

By Anna

With a wanderlust and lusts of other sorts, I look to sth new, sth different, sth fulfilling, and find myself on a journey...

2 replies on “Mourning for Hong Kong”

I was born in HK and when I went back last year, I found there seemed to be even more chain stores everywhere, even in places like Tai Po. It is a shame since as you said, the “distinct flavor” is being slowly diluted and replaced by bland commercial uniformity.
Yet should all the blame be put on mainland tourists? Who are the people opening these stores, who are the landlords of these buildings, who are the owners of these chains? I think it’s absurd that so much criticism is directed at hapless tourists, who are fellow countrymen coming to HK to have a good time and spend money, when the responsibility for much of this commercial makeover is done by HKers.

Similarly, the blame for the lack of enough affordable housing is the fault of HK developers and planning officials who failed and are still failing to prioritize and plan housing for regular folks. Sure, the mainland buyers of megaexpensive flats contribute a little to rising apartment prices, but housing in HK has always been expensive and developers have always focused on expensive highrises. The shortage of affordable housing is not a new problem, and has been around for quite some time. Perhaps Hongkongers should focus more of their energy on local HK developers and property magnates?

I can only agree that rent prices in HK are too high, including for commercial rents. I am originally from Paris, when Hong Kong people come to Paris, just like other Asians, they buy luxury products in the central districts, which means the rents are high and there are no regular french shops in these districts. I just want to say that although mainlanders are quite materialistic, I don’t think HK people cannot be described also as enjoying luxurious products (I mean HK people that can actually afford these products).

The main problem might be the small size of HK and the limited amount of places to live for “normal people” which cannot get government housing and do not have enough to pay for private market accomodation. In Paris you can always go further away from the Center but in HK, even Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long and Tai Po see their property prices increase, then where can HK people go ?

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