Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hong Kong - Mainland War of Words

Recently (some) Hongkongers have complained that (some) Mainlanders behave poorly in public transport, occupy hospital facilities and other valuable resources unfairly, drive up housing prices, etc.  (Some) Mainlanders, on the other hand, complained that (some) Hongkongers cannot speak Putonghua properly, are unfriendly to Mainlanders, require tough laws to keep them in line, do not appreciate the business that Mainlanders bring to Hong Kong, etc.

Indeed, Hong Kong has developed a culture quite distinct from those of the Mainland, Taiwan or other Chinese communities.  And it is often a source of mis-understanding or even conflict.  However, the protagonists in this cases are largely “barking up the wrong trees”. (Just a convenient idiom - no offense intended.)

Hongkongers and Mainlanders are really not that much different in nature.  Put into the others’ shoes, they would probably behave in exactly the same manner.  It is the political systems and the corresponding governments that are responsible for the source of much of the conflict.

It is the Hong Kong government that have failed to curtail unlawful behaviour of greedy and arrogant businesses such as D&G.  It is the Hong Kong government that failed to sort out who should be able to benefit from the public services, such as hospital beds, financed by Hong Kong tax payers.  It is the Hong Kong government that use fear-mongering to prevent a rational discussion of a sensible immigration policy.  It is the Hong Kong government who allow the big real estate developers to manipulate the market, restrict the supply, and to sell flats using misleading information, driving up prices.

On the other hand, it is the Mainland’s political system that allows people like 孔慶東 to prosper from spewing hatred and extremist views.  It is the Mainland’s economic system that allows low-quality, fakes and poisonous products to flood the market - which drive the buyers to seek safer, high quality products in Hong Kong.  It is also the Mainland political system that allows officials to amass fortunes through corruption - which drove them to launder the ill-gotten wealth in the casinos in Macau, and the real estate markets in Hong Kong.  It is also the Mainland government that bastardize the Chinese script into unrecognizable simplified characters - ostensibly for the sake of raising the level of literacy.  Now, both Hong Kong and Taiwan, which keep using the traditional characters, have much higher literacy rates than in the Mainland - it turned out that the traditional characters is not really the obstacle.  The cost of that policy, however, is that generations of Mainlanders cannot read the original scripts in the enormous treasure of Chinese culture. 

So, to whom should our mutual complaints be directed?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Our Hong Kong Identity

Why do so many of us still identify ourselves more with Hong Kong than with China, while we have so many complaints about things in Hong Kong?  Is it because in Hong Kong, at least,

  1. We can commemorate June 4 and not be afraid of being sent to prison?
  2. We can criticize the government and not be afraid of being sent to prison?
  3. We can entertain a reasonable hope of universal suffrage in open and fair elections, even though we are not quite there yet?
  4. We can come and go freely without being afraid our passports might be confiscated?
  5. We can openly confess and practice our faith and not be afraid of being sent to prison?
  6. We can be reasonably sure that our police are clean and fair, and distinguishable from thugs?
  7. Our professors do not call other people turtle eggs and dogs simply because these other people do not speak the professors’ dialect?
  8. When we have grievances against the rich and powerful, we can be reasonably sure the courts will judge our cases fairly? 
  9. When someone becomes very rich, we can be reasonably sure that she has earned the money legally and not through corruption, even if not always completely fairly?
  10. People line up automatically for buses and do not try to cut in front of others?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Angry HongKonger Game

How about this as a game?  The player, an Angry HongKonger (AngrH), throws things at targets.  There are several types of targets. 

Greedy Real Estate Developers (GREDs) float across the screen brandishing prices for apartments: “7 million dollars”, “9 million dollars”, etc.  The AngrH can throw “bricks” at the GREDs.  If a brick hits, the GRED’s wealth is cut by a million dollars.  If the GRED floats across the screen successfully without being hit, his wealth increases by 100 million dollars.  If his wealth becomes zero the GRED is bankrupt.

Incompetent Government Officials (InGOs) likewise float across the screen, mouthing inane slogans: “let us build 9 floor village houses”, “the URD is doing a bad job ... OOPS, sorry, that is my own department”, ...  The AngrH can throw “protests” against the InGO.  A successful hit drops the rank of the InGO by one.  A successful escape raises the rank of the InGO by one.   The InGO with the lowest rank is fired.

Lazy Functional Constituency Legislators (LaFCLs) float across the screen dozing off.  The AngrH can throw “NO” ballots against the LaFCL.  A successful hit lowers the LaCFL’s level by one.  A successful escape raises the level of the LaFCL by one.  If the level becomes zero the LaCFL is out of a job.

Dishonest Supermarket Owners (DiSOs) likewise float across the screen quoting wildly fluctuating prices: “120 dollars for a chicken”, “30 dollars for a dozen eggs”, ...   AngrH throws “price checks” against the DiSO.  A hit penalizes the DiSO for $10,000.  A successful escape earns the DiSO $100,000.

Now what I need is a good artist to create some cute icons for the AngrH, GRED, InGO, LaFCL, DiSO, ...

Friday, January 13, 2012

The angry people of Hong Kong

Why are the people of Hong Kong so angry?  Compared to 40 years ago, we are much better off.  The living standard is much higher.  We have much more food (probably too much).  We are wearing better clothes.  We can afford to travel much more.  Many more young people are receiving tertiary education. The police and other public servants are much less corrupt.  They are actually more courteous.  The streets are cleaner.  Yet we seem more angry - at the rich yet ineffectual government, at the filthily rich yet forevermore-greedy real estate developers, at the politically powerful yet uncaring pro-establishment, at the businesses that discriminate.  Why?  Why do we get more angry even as we get (seemingly) richer?

Was it because people around us then were as poor as we were, so we did not feel as bad?  Was it because the rich then were not as visible and not as ostentatious in flaunting their wealth?  Was it because the real estate developers were not as powerful and domineering?   Was it because there were still decent jobs for those who could not get into university, but not anymore?  Was it because we still felt that if we studied hard and worked hard, that we could improve our own station in life, but not any more?   Was it because we somehow meekly expected to be oppressed by the colonial British in power then, but do not feel we should accept being oppressed by our own fellow Chinese (presumably HongKongers) who are in power now?  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dog at Bakery

The dog was not trying to steal from the bakery.  It was quietly and patiently waiting for its master who was shopping at the bakery in Yaumatei.  I love the dog and envy the master.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roasted Suckling Pig (燒乳豬)

I love roasted suckling pig.  These are piglets that are 2 to 6 weeks old, still feeding on mothers’ milk.  Each weights about 5 kilograms.  The piglet has to be cleaned and dressed, the ribs have to be taken out, and the whole piglet hung up to dry for hours, before they can be roasted.

While they are being roasted, they have to be turned constantly, to get it roasted evenly.  At one point, the head of the pig was plunged so far into the fire pit that the head caught fire; and then the burnt skin had to be brushed off with a wire brush.  Air bubbles formed under the skin have to be punctured to allow the oil to drain.  One has to sit in front of the open fire pit for hours and hours, practically being slowly roasted along with the pigs and ducks.  It is obviously a lot of hard work that produce such delicious meat.  Watching it done boosted my respect for the pig, and the hands that roasted it. 

The lesson for me?  Skill and hard work are required for anything that is done well. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Congee Inflation

When I went to my neighbourhood congee shop in Hung Hom on the second day of 2012, the price list looked different.  

I happened to have taken a photograph of the price list two days ago, on the last day of 2011.  I had wanted to compare the prices with that of my wife’s favourite congee shop in Jordan.  Lo and behold, the price of most items had increased by 1 dollar.

艇仔粥 went from $12 to $13.   牛腸 (牛肉腸粉, rice noodle roll filled with beef) went from $11 to $12.  油炸鬼 (油條, fried bread stick) went from $5 to $6.  The cost of my favourite big breakfast had gone up from $28 to $31 in 2 days!

Most of the time, actually, I would be less extravagant and order only  艇仔粥 and 油炸鬼, which would cost me seventeen dollars.  Now, it would be nineteen, practically a whole twenty dollar bill without change.