Friday, August 29, 2014

The danger of 與虎謀皮

The tiger is baring its teeth.  Communist Beijing is setting outrageously demanding bars for nominations for the Chief Executive “Election” to be held in 2017.  The intention is clear - no one not endorsed by Beijing is allowed to contest the election, guaranteeing a chief executive under its control.  Many pro-establishment types are flocking to sing praises, bad-mouth the opposition, make false accusations, …  It is plain ugly.  

Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that people in Hong Kong are unhappy.  Many, perhaps the majority, would like to see a relatively open and fair election.  But this is akin to 與虎謀皮. History has shown that Communism does not work.  Most people know that by now, having seen the failures in Russia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, and elsewhere.  In an open and fair election by an educated electorate, the Communists will lose.  Hence it will not permit such elections.  

Many people are in such despair that they seem determined to Occupy Central as a protest.  As long as it is done peacefully, it is in the noble spirit of civic disobedience.  They deserve our respect, and even support.  They are speaking our minds.

What I am afraid of is that some may go overboard and become violent in the protests. Provocateurs may incite the crowd.  The police may get violent anyway in their eagerness to show their loyalty to the establishment. …  Violence does not work.  A violent revolution solves one problem but creates others.  I pray that sense will prevail, people will behave as peacefully as in June 4 vigils and the protest against "national education",  and we will not see violence. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

與虎謀皮 - The Quest for Open Elections

Communist Beijing is dead set on maintaining its dictatorship over China, and Hong Kong. It will not allow anyone who is not under its control to take power in China, because its very existence depends on it. By extension, Beijing will not allow it to happen in Hong Kong.  Hence it is not going to accept any election arrangement under which it is possible for someone not under its control to be elected.  Hence it is not going to allow any such person to be nominated.  

Hence what the “Occupy Central” gang is asking for is akin to asking a tiger for its skin - 與虎謀皮.  Without its skin, the tiger will die.  By the same token, without its power, the Communist party is as good as dead.  It is not able to compete fairly in a truly democratic, open society.  So it won’t.  That’s why it is so intransigent. 

We should not give up striving for open elections and true democracy.  But violence is not a viable solution.  It is a hard place to be in.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


It is safe to say you have bananas coming out of your ears in Rwanda.  

People carry them any way they can.

The flower is so amazingly intricate.  But they don't eat them, unlike the Cambodians and other south east Asians.  Not sure why.

We also learn to improve the yield of bananas by cutting off dead leaves from the plant.  Here technology, even very basic technology can be helpful. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lousy Marathon Route

For years and years, we have been running the Standard Chartered Marathon on deserted highways, tunnels, and side streets.  Only along the last couple of kilometres do we run through populated streets.   We have been told repeatedly that (allowing us to run on populated streets) would cause unbearable disruptions to traffic and businesses.  Even though we run on Sunday mornings, when most businesses are closed. 

However, several hundred people were allowed to run from Victoria Park to Charter Garden on Sunday morning, 17 August, to demonstrate against “Occupy Central”.  They were allowed to take up the whole street, on the busiest Hennessy Road, on which we were never allowed to run. 

We have ~70,000 people, almost 100 times more people than the pro-government “run”.  And our event is an increasingly popular, international sports event.  Running on populated streets would, of course, be good for the runners.  And it would also make a much better spectacle.  It can only be good for Hong Kong. 

What kind of logic is that?  Perhaps the unstated rule is: If you are pro-establishment, than anything is possible?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Public Works - Rwanda Style

While we were visiting some of the AEE’s Self-Help Groups, we passed by hundreds of people working furiously on the road.  They were digging drainage ditches on the side of the road.  Some were widening the road, some were digging the ditches, and some were moving the earth from one side to the other.  There were no machines other than their shovels.  It was an amazing sight.  

The people were paid by the government to work in the project.  The pay was very little.  Still, they worked hard because they live here.  It is evident the people here care about their neighbourhood very much.  Just like other places in Rwanda, there were a lot of earth but no garbage.  

It is also evident that the government is doing a lot, to generate work, to give people incentive to work, to train people to work, and to instil a sense of pride about their country.  It is a country full of hope.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Opposition to “Occupy Central”

It has long been evident in Hong Kong that many people are not happy with the prospect that the election in 2017 will be tightly controlled, that only people approved by Beijing will be allowed to contest the election.  Some are advocating “Occupy Central” to show their displeasure and to press for a more open election.  

It is now evident that there is also a significant number of people who are opposed to “Occupy Central”, who are willing to accept the Beijing-style election, ostensibly because they think “Occupy Central” is bad for Hong Kong.  They deserve respect it is an honest opinion. 

However, it is also quite evident that many of the people who marched to oppose “Occupy Central” were paid, pressured, or otherwise enticed by other benefits.  This is regrettable, even despicable. 

Beijing does not allow truly open elections because it is afraid that someone disagreeable to them could be elected, that it might lose control of Hong Kong. 

If the large number of people who signed the petition and marched to oppose “Occupy Central” are genuine supporters of Beijing, then Beijing should not be afraid.  These people will vote for someone favoured by Beijing anyway, even in a truly open election.  If their number is as large as claimed, than they will win any election, open or manipulated.

So if Beijing continues to be afraid of truly open elections in Hong Kong, that can only mean only thing - that it does not trust those who profess allegiance to Beijing.  It knows that loyalty bought with money, power or other privileges is not true loyalty. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teddy bear? Sloth? Dog?

At first I thought it was a teddy bear; I have never seen someone carry a teddy bear this way.  It actually looked more like a tree sloth; I have never heard of someone keeping a tree sloth as a pet. In Hong Kong?  Probably not.  If it is true, it would be interesting.  

Upon close look, it turned out to be a poodle. Some dogs in Hong Kong do live better than people.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cattle Depot (牛棚)

This is the entrance to the Cattle Depot, an artists’ colony on Ma Tau Kok Road. It is now called 牛棚.  It was used to be called 牛房.

The place was really a cattle depot, where cattle imported into Hong Kong were kept before they were butchered at the abattoir, or slaughterhouse. 

Inside the entrance is a row of one-story houses, which are mainly used as offices, or staff quarters.  There was a similar cattle depot in Kennedy Town on Hong Kong Island. My father used to work there as a technician, tending to the machinery, including the boiler and the burner - for carcasses of deceased cattle.  Our family lived in one of the houses there for several years when I was small.   The cattle depot in Kennedy Town had long been demolished. Coming to this cattle depot brings back a lot of memories.  

The cattle were brought to the depot on trucks.  They then walk down the slope into the sheds.  

The cattle would be tied to the rings on the ground, and then fed from the troughs.  

The Kennedy Town cattle depot was where we lived, and also our playground.  We used the grains of rice that we found among the straw to lure and catch sparrows.  We caught tadpoles from the water pond in the depot.  We rode the cows, of course.  But it wasn’t much fun because they were tied down and wouldn’t move.  Sometimes they were led down the street to go to the slaughterhouse, and occasionally one of them would get loose, …, and pandemonium. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

They cannot wait

During the two weeks in Rwanda this summer, we worked at 3 schools.  At Center for Champions in Rwamagana, we improved a computer network that we installed last year, introduced iPADs, e-microscopes, more ebooks, science workshops, and programming workshops. 

At the schools at Kinyana and Gatenzi, they do not have electrical power.  Hence we installed solar panels on the roof, used the solar-generated electricity to charge a car battery, and used the car battery to charge routers, iPADs, and computers, so that we could also run computer workshops.  Their teachers are also at a lower level of computer literacy.  Hence we could not do as much as we did at places like Rwamagana. 

Many people have asked why we bother to go to places like Kinyana and Gatenzi, where they do not even have electricity, let alone broadband access to Internet.  How can they expect to learn and use advanced technology such as computers?Even after we made the effort to install solar panels, it is much harder to work there, and we could achieve much less, compared to places like Rwamagana, where they have at least electricity and broadband access to Internet.  Why don't we wait until places like Kinyana and Gatenzi have electrical power before we go there?

Our African Evangelical Enterprise partners have very eloquent answers to those questions, “The children in those places cannot wait. They might be adults before they have electricity.”

In 1 John 3:17 in the Bible, it says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Help from strangers

It was crowded as usual - this being a Saturday morning - on the TsimShaTsui East Promenade. I was doing my usual run, and planning to do 10 kilometers.  At one point I tried to squeeze between the crowd and a metal police barricade at the edge of the water.  I tripped on the leg of the barricade and fell.  Before I knew it, I was sprawled on the ground.  I was stunned.  My first thought was: it was so stupid of me!  I didn’t feel any pain yet, and was secretly hoping that I did not hurt myself.  

I vaguely realized a crowd was forming around me.  A burly man speaking Putonghua said something, and helped me get up.  A lady speaking Putonghua told me I was bleeding, and gave me some bandaid.  I took stock of myself.  Skin was rubbed off from both of my knees, one elbow, one finger, and one palm. Other than that, I seemed OK. I could still walk. For a moment, I considered continuing.  I realised that I should, however, go home to take care of the wounds.  

I was thankful for the Putonghua-speaking man and woman who came to my assistance. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Street soccer with kids in Rwanda

I was walking back to AEE Headquarters from my friend Ndoli Emile’s home in Kigali, when I heard some kids'
voices from deep inside an alleyway. I peeked and found a bunch of kids kicking a ball.  When they saw me, they seem excited but friendly.  One kicked the ball towards me, …

We had a lot of fun.  Not just kicking the ball but also with the camera.  They all wanted to take photos and to see themselves in photos.  It was not easy to get them to take turns, to point the camera the right way, and to frame the photo properly.   But they learned fast, and some of the photos came out quite good. 

I couldn’t quite figure out who was a boy and who was a girl because they all have such short hair. Except that some of them were wearing skirts.   Rwandan kids are a lot of fun.  

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Candlenut (石栗) in Rwanda

I found something very familiar in Rwanda - 石栗. It is that big tree behind me.  

 It produces a fruit with a thick skin. Inside is a nut with a hard shell, which looks somewhat like a chestnut.  

Inside the hard shell is a whitish flesh. It tastes a little like walnut. That is perhaps why it is also called Indian walnut.

I remember it well.  It is quite common in Hong Kong.  When I was in secondary school, one day a classmate introduced us to the nut.  We felt we found a treasure - a delicacy that costs nothing.  I ate several, perhaps 6 or 7.  That evening I had to go to the school clinic because of bellyache - together with several other classmates.  We recovered.  But I have had an aversion to walnuts ever since. 

Later I found out that it is edible in small volumes.  In some places people do eat them.  It is poisonous if too much is eaten.  It is very rich in oil, which can be processed into many uses, such as soap, paint and candles.  That’s probably why it is also called candlenut.  

It may be one of the reasons why I like Rwanda so much.