Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ShaTauKok 沙頭角

On Sunday, while 0.017% of Hongkongers played their role in revealing the (designated) next chief executive of Hong Kong, I went on a mini-exploration with my family.  We went to the formerly-closed area (邊境禁區) in ShaTauKok.  

Essentially, the closed area at the border between Hong Kong and the mainland had been reduced in size, and the checkpoint marking the entrance to the closed area had been pushed back a couple of kilometers at ShaTauKok.  Unfortunately, ShaTauKok town center and the famous Chung Yin Street (中英街) are still closed.

The bus 78K from SheungShui and FanLing actually goes to the ShaTauKok town center in the closed area.  But we have to get off at the check point, since we did not have the permit to enter the still-closed area.

We walked around the villages and checked out some of the houses and fields.  We then hiked up the hill skirting the closed area.  The area to the right of our hiking trail is ShaTauKok town centre which is still closed.  And farther to the right is YanTian 鹽田, one of the districts of Shenzhen 深圳.  That is part of mainland China.  

Up on the hill we found some trenches and bunkers from the Second World War.  Inside one of the bunkers we found one lonely bat taking a nap.  It looked peaceful and un-perturbed by my flashlight. Still, I apologized and retreated quickly.

It was quite a nice excursion even though we could not really get to the border.  I felt that I got to know a little more about Hong Kong and its history. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

3.23 Vote - second act

Take a look at the people lining up to vote at the HKPolyU voting station, at 7PM.  There were 800 - 1000 people in the line.   All waiting patiently for their right to vote.   I have a feeling that the blatant attempt by the establishment to shut down the server for the referendum had brought out more people.  We Hong Kong people are mature enough to select our own leaders.  We are civilized enough to carry out the democratic process without causing instability.  Instability is caused by the establishment who manipulate the process to keep themselves in power.

3.23 Referendum

Only 1,200 people, many handpicked by the establishment, can vote for the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong.  But we have a chance to express our opinion by voting for one of the three candidates in the “3.23 Civil Referendum Project” being conducted by Dr. Chung of HKU.  We can vote online at the web site. 

Unfortunately, the web site seems to be under some form of denial-of-service attack, generating so much traffic at the web site such that it is practically impossible to vote online.  We can still vote in person, however, at a number of sites, including the following.  We should not wait to be given the right to vote.  We should demonstrate, by voting in the referendum, that we want that right and are capable of exercising that right in a civilized manner.

Please come out to vote while we can.

香港理工大學: GH201
屯門大會堂: 一樓展覽廳
柴灣青年廣場: 柴灣港鐵站A出口新翠商場接駁天橋
香港大學沙宣道會堂: 香港大學薄扶林沙宣道6 號
香港大學何添堂: 薄扶林道91號賽馬會第一舍堂
香港大學校園主部: (A) 莊月明文娛中心G-01室 (B) 嘉道理生物科學大樓平台
香港城市大學: 藍區
香港失明人互聯會 (觀塘順緻街): 觀塘順利鸷社區中心地下
龍耳社 (石硤尾白田鸷): 石硤尾白田鸷翠田樓地下
香港聾人協進會 (香港仔鴨婣州鸷): 香港仔鴨婣洲社區中心對面
九龍西 (深水埗): 深水埗黃金商場附近
新界東 (沙田): 沙田大圍港鐵站附近
新界東 (上水): 上水港鐵站附近
新界西 (元朗): 元朗炮仗坊附近
新界西 (荃灣): 荃灣兆和街千色店及路德圍附近

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Children with AIDS

In our Service Learning class this past Saturday, we invited 2 doctors from the Princess Wales Hospital to come to speak to our students about AIDS and HIV.  It is because some of us are going back to House of Rainbow Bridge in Cambodia in summer, a hospital for children infected with HIV.  Many of these children were infected from birth, and then abandoned by their family.  In the class were also 3 professors from our university, a pastor and a social worker from the NGO that started the House of Rainbow Bridge.

The hospital was actually started as a hospice service, when the fatality rate was quite high.  With better knowledge, better medicine and better care, the fatality rate gradually came down to practically zero.  Now the children are going to school and growing up like other children.  They have a chronic disease which require continuous care, just like many other chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer.

While the acute problem of mortality is brought under control, other longer term problems come to the front - continued education, jobs and marriage.  For most of them, education had been interrupted by their illness, because of reduced capacity to study, discrimination, and accompanying poverty.  Their prospects of continuing education and career are much reduced. 

They are also growing up into teens.  They are beginning to be interested in dating, and marriage.  Who can and should they marry?  Other youths without HIV?  Each other?  These are tough practical and moral questions.

Many of us are prone to ask - why does God allow them to suffer like this, apparently through no fault of their own?  Honestly, we don’t really know.  We trust that there must be a reason, and in time, we might know.  But at this point, we don’t.

What shall we do?  Wait until we get the answer?  Surely we shall not give up trying to find the answer.  In the mean time, we can just  wait, or take the position that their plight does not concern us, and is not something we are responsible for.

Some people, such as Happy Tree - which set up House of Rainbow Bridge - choose to try to help.  Our team from the last Service Learning class spent one Saturday morning at HRB to get to know them during our trip to Cambodia last summer (2011).  During our week-long trip this summer (2012), some of our students are planning to set up a small wireless computer network for the children, with funds donated by our friends.  Others will be teaching them to tell stories using cameras and computers - digital story telling.  We may also carry our other facility improvement projects.  We are quite proud of our team. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi

Went to see the movie “The Lady” a while ago, because it was about Aung San Suu Kyi.  Not necessarily because she was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.  But because of the moral strength demonstrated by her long-term persistence in non-violent opposition to the Burmese military dictatorship.  Her National League for Democracy won the election in 1980, which was subsequently annulled by the military dictatorship.  She was actually detained under house arrest even before the election, and she had been under house arrest for most of the 21 years between 1989 and 2010.  She had become a symbol of the suffering of the Burmese people. 

She paid a heavy price for her beliefs.  Her husband, who was living in the UK, was diagnosed with cancer in 1997.  She wanted to see her husband but was afraid to leave Burma, fearing that the military dictatorship would not let her return.  She was not able to see her husband before he died in 1999.

Burma is showing signs of opening up.  Aung San Suu Kyi was released in late 2010, and she is now able to participate in public life.  We are praying that Burma will continue to move forward. 

She is my hero.  So are people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Liu Xiaobo. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ching Ming Chaos

There are still almost 4 more weeks before Ching Ming Festival.  But the cemeteries are already full of people on weekends.   My uncle’s ashes reside at a columbarium high up the mountain in Chai Wan Cemetery.  For us the younger ones, it is quite a hike but still doable.  For the elderly such as my aunt, it is mission impossible.  Hence we used to take a taxi, which brought us very close to the columbarium.  We know from experience that the police might close the access roads.  So we decided to pay our respects almost 4 weeks early this year. 

But the roads are closed already on Sunday.  So we had no choice but to line up to take the only minibus that was allowed to go up there.  We ended up lining up for one full hour.  And, at $7.20 for the 15 minute ride, it was an outrageous rip off. 

For most of the ride the minibus had to share the single-lane access road with hundreds of people  carrying food, papier mache offerings such as gold and silver ingots, clothing, shoes, handbags, smartphones, iPADs, etc.  Fortunately, the drivers and the people were all very patient and courteous.  The minibus bus driver did not honk even once throughout.  By and large, Hong Kong people are first rate citizens.

After paying my respects, I decided to walk down the mountain with my father instead of waiting for another hour for the return minibus.  Along the way, several private cars and one belonging to the Correctional Services passed us on the way up.  One had to wonder who these people given special privileges are, and why?  

The drizzle turned into a downpour, and we had to practically run down the mountain.  We did have an umbrella, but we still got quite wet.  At the bus stop, there were big crowds and another big mess. 

I can’t help getting angry at the government officials in charge.  Why didn’t they try harder to find a solution for the burial of the dead?  Why did they build the columbarium high up the mountain without proper access roads?  Was it simply incompetence?  Or that they just didn’t care? 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Mong Kok Street Scenes

 As far as I can remember, this was the first time I saw and heard someone playing guqin (古琴) on the streets of Mongkok.   She played well, but not too many people paid attention.  Although I suspect many of the people on the street were not in a hurry to get anywhere. 

When I saw the crowd from across the street, I didn’t know why there was such a big crowd.  But I quickly realized that this was where many of the Bank of China  Centenary Commemorative Banknotes (中國銀行100週年紀念紙幣) turned up.   Many of them were carrying big stacks of the notes in their bags. Others were carrying piles of money.  The notes were changing hands for hundreds of dollars each, depending on the numbers on them.  Nobody wanted those with 4s and 7s.  Everybody wanted 8s.  The more the better.

Tak Yu Restaurant (得如酒樓) on Shanghai Street is probably one of the oldest remaining Chinese restaurants.  It was said to have opened in 1920s; but I am not old enough to verify that personally.  This is also not really Mongkok, but close enough in Yaumatei.  The food was said to be OK but not particularly good; and business was also not quite blooming.  How long can it last?  Is it going to fade out just like all the other old Chinese restaurants?

Not too far away, a very common but disturbing scene - a crowd in front of the Jockey Club betting center.  They were mostly adult men; but there were also some women.  Not too many young people were there; that was probably because the young tend to bet on line more.  How much time energy, and precious human lives are wasted in places like this?  How much good could have been done, if the time, energy, and real human lives are spent more productively?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Making a living on Temple Street

It could not have felt good to stretch out your hand, to try to hand someone a handbill, and be ignored by everyone that walked by.  I saw on her face quiet resignation.  It is a hard way to make a living. 

A man walked out of a singing palour, stretched his arms while smoking a cigarette.  It was almost like he was practicing Tai Qi.  I could not quite figure out what he was doing inside.  Did he work there?  Was be a customer?  In any case, he did not seem unhappy. 

The lady pulled up her sleeves, as if to fight.  But she was merely getting ready to set up her stall for the evening.

How does it feel to sit there all day, guarding the Guan Yins and assorted idols?  Probably not much more than the girl handing out bills.

One fortune telling stall set up for the evening.   Many more waiting. Somehow something is not aligned there.  You would think that if one is truly able to predict or influence the future, one would not have to make a living telling fortunes on the street.  Perhaps there is something that escapes me.