Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good enough?

The revised 2012 political reform proposal by the government is not a good proposal. I am not even sure whether it will not, as some people say, lead to the preservation of the functional consitituencies, in which people with special privileges hold disproportionate power. It is only that, at the moment, it seems to be an improvement over the status quo. And that both sides have made some compromises, which is not easy.

At the same time, the behaviour of some of the people involved is really disgusting. People claiming to be “democrats” attacking other “democrats” more vehemently that they did to the establishment. A “democrat” mocking another’s illness - simply because he disagrees with the other’s viewpoint.

Government officials and pro-establishment types gloating over their "victory" and mocking their opponents' mistakes. Pro-government legislators opening confessing their role is simply to provide backing to the government. A pro-government legislator complaining in the legislature that they re not receiving enough favours from the government for supporting the government. You don’t need more blatant examples of the evils of the small-circle functional constituency system.

It is not a “victory” to be proud of. Just an acceptable compromise at the moment. I would not shake hands too vigorously. Judging from the behaviour of some of the participants, sometimes I do wonder whether we are ready for more democracy.

Everyone is a democrat when one is not in power. Once in power, even if it is just a little bit of power, those who hold a slightly different opinion are treated as the enemy. How ironic. Don't people at least know 有風不可駛盡悝? Particularly those in government. Don't they realize even those who oppose their proposals are also citizens that they are supposed to serve? Aren't they supposed to be proposing reforms for the benefit of the citizens? Why did Mr. L have to gloat and mock in such an ugly way in the legislature? Why do they thumb those noses at those people they are supposed to be serving?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Acceptable reform?

The government made proposals to change the methods to select the chief executive and to the legislative counselors in 2012. They are essentially the same as the proposals rejected in 2007 and obviously unacceptable to the majority of citizens in Hong Kong. They were heading for defeat.

A counter proposal was then made by some from the “pan-democrat” side to allow practically all voters (estimated at 3.2 million, out of a possible 3.4 million) to elect the 5 new seats representing the district councils. Many people seem to think it makes the government’s original proposal more democratic, and consider it acceptable.

The government was initially opposed to the counter proposal. In the last few days, however, the government turned around dramatically, and accepted the counter-proposal. Now it is the more extreme factions of the pan-democrats who are opposed. Because they feel the counter-proposal is not democratic enough, and may even make the future abolition of functional constituencies more difficult.

As indicated by this SCMP graphics, acceptance of the counter proposal still leaves the resultant legislature highly unbalanced. 30 out of 70 seats will still be chosen by a very small group of people with special privileges. There are some seats with only 100 or so “voters”.

Is it a step forward then? I think so, and so do a lot of people. It is certainly slightly more democratic than the current situation, and the original government proposal. It is not ideal, but both sides have made some compromises. It gives us some hope that future steps will gradually make our political system more democratic and fairer.

Surely there are still many people who disagree. It is important that we respect each other, and present our views in a civilized, non-violent manner. If we do not respect other people’s views, we do not deserve democracy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Refugees in Hong Kong

Yesterday was World Refugee Day. The Chung King Mansion Center of Christian Action organized a fund raising gala in Kowloon Park, attended by hundreds of people, mainly their clients and supporters.

It is estimated 1,000 to 3,000 asylum seeks arrive in Hong Kong each year. And there are more than 7,000 asylum seekers and torture claimants currently in Hong Kong. Those that I have met came from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Congo, Benin, and Somalia. Only 5% of them gets recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Those recognized has a real possibility of being re-settled in some country such as USA, Britain, Canada or Australia. Those not recognized have very little hope. Some have been stuck in Hong Kong for more than 5 years.

While they are in Hong Kong, they cannot work, and most of those at school age cannot attend schools. Whether they are genuine refugees or not, they are in a wretched state in Hong Kong. Mostly they are invisible. Most people in Hong Kong are probably unaware of their existence.

A number of organizations and individuals, such as Christian Action, some churches, some lawyers, ..., including a small team from our university, are doing what we can to help, mostly on a volunteer basis. It is a shame that Hong Kong, a wealthy community by most standards, is not doing more for them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cambodia service-learning - preparations

We will be taking a team of about 40 students and staff on a service learning trip to Cambodia towards the end of June. This was unanticipated. We had visited an orphan school in Gansu, China 3 times in 2008 and 2009. We had built up a very good relationship with the school and the students there, and we were looking forward to going again this summer. Unfortunately, the situation changed drastically in 2009 and we had to look for a new project.

G went with her church on a short term missions trip to Cambodia last December. I also have some contacts there. So we started asking around. It took many months of emails, telephone calls, proposals, and counter-proposals, to build up an understanding between the NGOs over there in Cambodia, and us over here at the university in Hong Kong. Our experience reminds me of what Greg Mortenson said in his book “Three Cups of Tea,” on his experiences building schools for girls in remote places in Pakistan. Basically, he had to build relationships before he could build schools. (More about that book later.)

Then we have to find the funding and the students. We are trying to keep the costs down as much as possible, but the cost per student for a trip of about 10 days still runs up to several thousand dollars. Most of our students cannot afford it. So we wrote proposals to a government agency, to our department, to the dean of our faculty, ... We wanted to involve students from other departments, so we broached the subject with a number of colleagues. Eventually we received close to 200 applications. We short-listed and interviewed about 70 of them, and selected 35. Subsequently 2 students dropped out. One because she had a legitimate prior commitment. The other because she could not demonstrate the commitment that the project requires.

We also have to decide what to do, and to prepare for it. After much brain storming, we settled on the main theme of digital storytelling - teaching the children and young people over there how to tell stories enhanced with digital images and videos. We will also do some teaching of IT, fixing some computer problems, arts and crafts, performances and games, etc. - a very rich and challenging program.

By chance, we ran into an American professor of performance, and she taught our team “image theatre” - very useful for teaching storytelling. When we invited an experienced social worker to give our team a crash course on volunteering, she insisted on doing it for free. When we needed some advice on the health aspects, a doctor provided it enthusiastically. When we needed some extra manpower, our senior management promptly gave us the funding for it. It seems everywhere we turned, we found the support we need. ... In fact, a friend of my good friend A donated quite a significant amount when he heard of our service learning projects, before we even started thinking about Cambodia. People indeed do want to help. And God has been graciously guiding and helping us.

Our students themselves have already spent several weeks preparing lesson plans and teaching materials, learning the needed skills, getting vaccinations, learning about Cambodia, procuring needed equipment, ... Now, we are asking our students to raise funds so that we can donate some much-needed equipment to the NGOs we will be working with.

So now, we are almost ready. And we are very excited, rearing to go.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rice noodle roll (豬腸粉)

A piece of cloth is laid on top of a flat pan on the steamer.

A thick mixture of rice flour and water is ladled onto the cloth. It is covered and steamed for a couple of minutes.

The mixture solidifies into a soft, smooth rice sheet, and sticks to the piece of cloth. The piece of cloth, with the rice sheet sticking to it, is lifted, flipped over, and laid on a rack made of bamboo. The piece of cloth is now on top. It is allowed to cool for a little while.

The piece cloth on top is removed. The rice sheet is now laid bare on the rack. It is cut up, and rolled up. There we have our 豬腸粉. If a piece of 油炸鬼 is inserted in the middle when it is rolled up, it becomes 炸兩.

Eaten with congee, it is my favourite breakfast.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A tall and handsome young man was walking with a pretty young lady in a white dress on the Avenue of Stars in TsimShaTsui East. A couple of steps behind them walked an older lady. The young man turned and said something to the young lady in Putonghua. They stopped. The older lady pulled out a bottle of water and passed to the young man. He drank from the bottle and continued walking.

He finished drinking and without stopping nor looking back, passed the water bottle to the young lady, who passed it back to the older lady, who put it back into her bag. Neither the young lady nor the older lady drank.

What was the relationship among them?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Image Theatre

In preparation for the service learning trip to Cambodia, we held an unusual training session on “image theatre”. Professor C taught our students to think of a situation, say a Hong Kong taboo, and put their bodies in such a way to present the situation. The audience is not told what it is supposed to be, and have to guess from the pose. At first, I was not so sure how our students would respond to such a task. It turned out our students enjoyed it very much, and demonstrated much creativity. They came up with very interesting poses for topics such as homosexuality, (lack of) punctuality, idol worship, drug addictions, computer game obsessions, ...

We all had a lot of fun. More importantly, we learned a lot about ways of expressing ourselves and ideas, and how to teach others doing so. This is very useful for our trip to Cambodia. Because our theme for this project is to teach the Cambodian children how to tell stories, enhanced by digital media such as photographs and videos. Hence techniques in expressing ourselves through poses and images would be very useful.

There is much more to image theatre, of course. It also involves creating movements to change the pose, or image. These images are linked to social situations and problems, and the movements are linked to solutions to social problems. And they are all part of the “Theatre of the Oppressed”, ... It is all very exciting. And all thanks to Professor C - which is another story.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

長者大學 (Elderly Mini-U)

During these two weeks, we (the i3Learn team of GVS) have been teaching computer classes for the 長者大學 program offered by our university. Each morning, we go over there to start the class by telling them stories about computers - the early days of email, stories about RFID and Octopus, what we can use Google Maps for, how Google changes as it grows bigger and bigger, what I use my blog for, ... Then my students would take over to show them how to set up and manage their email accounts, how to set up and register for Facebook, to enter Chinese characters, ...

These elderlies are perfect students. They would all be seated before I arrive - which is extremely unusual for my regular students. They are respectful, attentive, responsive, and appreciative. They make it so much fun to teach. It takes quite a bit of our time, and our students‘ time. But we all enjoy it, and most likely will do it again next year.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

June 4th Candlelight Vigil - attendance figures

These are the attendance numbers reported by the South China Morning Post, for 1990 to 2010. Many people gave up their lives for the future of China. We have no right to forget them. And the figures show that we have not forgotten. In fact, it is truly miraculous that so many people came, as many as were there at the first vigil in 1990.

Judging from what I saw last evening, many of the new comers are young people who must have been very young in 1989, perhaps not even born then. But they have decided to stand up for the future of China by remembering the history. I know only a few of them - but they have earned my deepest respect.

Life is so important that no one gives it up easily. Those who did in 1989 died in the hope of building a more democratic, open China free of corruption. We remember them so that they do not die in vain. Many of us pray for the day that a China respectful of the rights of individuals would openly acknowledge their sacrifices.

June 4th Candlelight Vigil

It was the evening of the fourth of June. Of course I was at the Candlelight Vigil for those who died or otherwise suffered during the protests and subsequent massacre on the 4th of June, 1989.

I walked around a bit. As far as I could tell, the crowd filled up all 6 soccer fields, the big grass field next to the soccer fields, and the paths around the fields. An estimated 150,000 people attended. Even the police estimated that there were 113,000. (The police estimate is usually less than one half of the estimate by the organizers.) The crowd was huge, yet we were so orderly. I bumped into someone, and both of us apologized to each other profusely. It does not always happen this way in Hong Kong.

Many of my friends, and some of my students, were there - even though I did not see them. It is also good to see so many young people there. Many of them were very young, or not even born in 1989. Yet they care enough to come to show their support. Tonight I am proud to be a part of Hong Kong.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Wanchai Reclamation

If you love Hong Kong, particularly the Victoria Harbour, you may wish to take a good look at this scene. Because it will not be there much longer.

The boat in the center marks the extend of the current round of reclamation. It may sound melodramatic. But the heavens did seem to be crying for (the assault on) the habour, which is becoming narrower and narrower.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Outside a popular stationary and toy store, a bunch of kids were lining up, jostling, and screaming. What was it about?

It turns out to be a competition of 爆旋陀螺. In the old days, we spin the 陀螺 with a piece of string, to see whose 陀螺 can spin for the longest time. The modern game relies on a mechanical device to spin the 陀螺. And seems to be more about bumping and killing the others.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

As preparation for the service learning trip to Cambodia, we watched the movie “The Killing Fields” together. In the movie, Dith Pran was a Cambodia journalist who worked with an American reporter. When Cambodia was taken over by the Communist Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodia) in 1975, Pran was arrested and forced to work in brutal labor camps. He witnessed the forced and complete evacuation of Phnom Penh, the indoctrination of the populace, the extermination of intellectuals, and numerous other killings.

During one of his escapes, he stumbled upon the infamous killing fields, where an estimated 2 million Cambodians were killed by the Pol Pot regime.

Our students were very attentive throughout the movie. But when Pran suddenly found himself among the piles and piles of dead and broken bodies, I noticed a deepened dead silence. Some sat up erect, others looked askew.

Some said the targeting of intellectuals was particularly damaging to the country, making it so hard to recover, even though the fighting had essentially stopped 20 years ago. We are hoping the movie would help our students understand better the situation in Cambodia -before we go there.

Many people feel optimistic that the human race will progress as we become more knowledgeable. Cambodia reminds us of the evil that we continue to inflict on each other. That the regression of specific countries and the human race altogether is by no means just history. We are compelled to do what we can to help each other. But what we can do is very little indeed. Only God Himself is capable of real saving grace.