Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Do we deserve a free press?

Ming Pao fired their executive chief editor, Mr. Keung Kwok-yuen.  Keung is well-respected in Hong Kong.  The firing was sudden and coming right after Ming Pao published articles on the offshore account scandal damaging to some rich and powerful people.  Ming Pao claimed the firing was for financial reasons.  Many people believe that it was just a thinly disguised attempt to suppress press freedom.  Some writers of columns in Ming Pao left their columns blank in protest.  Ming Pao inserted a statement  in the column to repeat its claim that the firing was for financial reasons.  Few people believe that.  

This is serious.  Ming Pao is one of the few newspapers in Hong Kong with some credibility.  It is considered relatively objective, and still courageous enough to publish articles unfavourable to the rich and powerful, and those well-connected to the establishment.  Although its standard is considered to have declined significantly in the past years, particularly since ownership has passed into the hands of pro-establishment businessmen.  

It is often said that the newspapers reflect the quality of the citizens.  To put it another way, the citizens of a place gets the newspapers that they deserve.  If there are enough people who demand objective and courageous news reporting, there will be people who are willing to work to produce them.  It is up to us to say what kind of newspapers we are willing to pay for.  If we are not willing to support, with our voice and money, objective and courageous reporting, then we do not deserve to get them in Hong Kong.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Monkey King Temple

Today, while running along the edge of the city in East Kowloon, I stumbled upon an unusual temple.  It was at the junction of Sau Mau Ping Road (秀茂坪道) and Po Lam Road (寶琳路). 

When I spotted it on the other side of the road, I almost decided to give it a pass.  It was raining, and I was eager to go home to change to go for dinner with my sister.  But my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to investigate.  And I am so glad I did.  

It turned out to be dedicated to the monkey king (齊天大聖,孫悟空).   

The monkey king takes centre stage, with the pig (悟能, 猪八戒) to the right, and the grisly monk (悟净, 沙僧) to the left. 

The concept behind the worship of the monkey king is rather fascinating.  The three characters are obviously fictional characters in the 16th century Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West (西遊記).  While the characters may be vaguely based on some original legend, the idols worshipped in the temple are obviously based on the fictional characters.  How could a fictional character become a buddha/god?  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A restaurant for Mainland tourists only

A restaurant with hundreds of people waiting to enter must be a very very famous place, correct?  Not this one.   

It would have big signs facing the street, advertising the type of cuisine that it serves, special dishes, etc.  Not for this restaurant. 

This one is on the second or third floor of a commercial building in Tsim Sha Tsui East.  A normal restaurant would have prominent signs to help customers from the street to find the restaurant.  Not for this one. 

Inside most restaurants, they have big, mouth watering pictures of seafood, ducks, chicken, and other appetising dishes on the walls, to entice people to open their wallets.  Not this one.  

Instead, there are signs warning you from bagging the leftovers, not to leave the restaurant, where the tour guides should eat, etc. 

It is, of course, a restaurant specially designed to cater for tourist groups from Mainland China.  Local people are not welcome. 

Such is your (our?) Hong Kong. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sheung Shui to Yuen Long via Castle Peak Road

Yesterday I started in Sheung Shui and ended up in Yuen Long, running along Castle Peak Road (青山公路).  

Progress was very slow because I was feeling lethargic and stopped too many times to take photographs.  Right outside Sheung Shui MTR station parallel importers (水貨) were packing/unpacking.  It seems they are as busy as ever.   I didn’t stare - they probably wouldn’t like it. 

There was a big celebration of the opening of a new Cha Chan Tang.  You don’t see these kind of multi-storey-high flower plaques (花牌) in the city too often.  But in the New Territories they are still very popular.   

There are still many old temples.  This one was dedicated to one of the ancestors of the Man clan (文氏).  

Outside one of the smaller temples, there was an army of gods, Guan Gong (關公),  Guan Yin (觀音), …  You have to wonder why you need so many of them in one place.  

People were unhurriedly waiting at bus stops, set against lush thickets of bamboo and assorted other trees.  This is how I remember the Castle Peak Road of old.  

Then I stumbled against this.  At first I thought it was a church.  But many things were not quite right.  It seemed too small to have such an elaborate facade.  There were no signs in front, even thought there were several empty metal frames that were presumably designed to hold signs.  And the place looked so desolate.   Apparently it is (was?) a themed restaurant - where people are (were?) supposed to go to have wedding photographs taken (against a fake church?).  But it did not seem to be in business, judging from the state it was in, and it was a Sunday, …

A traffic police motorcycle flashed its lights and sounded its siren, stopping a motor vehicle on the highway.  Perhaps the car was speeding?

Just before arriving in Yuen Long, there was a factory where our sauces are made.  I hope these local brands stay and flourish.  

Running outside does have a lot of benefits.  You get to see so many sights of Hong Kong that you don’t normally get to see.  I have many other photographs.  But then this post would be too long.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Food Divide

It is a disturbing scene that I witness every time I passed through our canteen.  Half-eaten sausages, fried eggs, toasts, …, toasts completely buttered but not eaten, …  We have so much food that a lot go straight to the garbage bin.  

Yet in another place in the world, e.g., in many villages in Rwanda, a small plate of boiled potatoes is a big meal, when they can get it.  

Our world as a whole does not necessarily lack food.  Nobody really needs to be hungry.  But some have too much while others have too little.   We may not be the cause of the problem but we all can be part of the solution.  There is no silver bullet for the problem but it is not impossible if we are willing.  

Service-Learning is one way to address the problem.  

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Sleek Raptor

Doesn’t it look like a a very sleek velociraptor?  

It is made from pieces of dead leaves  that have fallen from palm trees.  A by-product of our service-learning projects in Cambodia, when we try to make use of material that is plentiful and inexpensive in Cambodia to enhance our service projects. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Give and Take

It is often thought that one has to be aggressive, ruthless and look after one’s own interest in order to be successful in one’s career.  According to Adam Grant, a very successful academic and popular writer, the reality is more complicated than that.  Grant is the youngest full professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  

In “Give and Take”, Grant’s research found hat the least productive and effective engineers are givers.  That matches conventional wisdom.  However, he also found that the engineers with the highest productivity are also givers.  That is counter-intuitive.  And the observations proved to be valid in many other domains as well. 

When he dug deeper, he found that some givers do become pushovers and door mats.  They put too much effort into helping others, to the detriment of performance in their own jobs.  They also burn out when they cannot see the positive impact of their giving.  

However, if givers focus their giving in areas where they are more effective, give in chunks for better impact, avoid takers, …, then they can avoid the pitfalls and enjoy more the benefits of giving.  Researchers found that giving activates the reward and meaning centres in our brains, which sends us pleasure, giving us more energy, motivating us to work harder and be more successful. 

On the other hand, takers may gain in the short term, but risk ruining their reputation in the longer term.  But people tend to be more generous towards givers.  

“Give and Take” corroborates with the experience that we have been having in service-learning.