Wednesday, October 05, 2022

The Hong Kong Way

I had a very full Chung Yeung Festival.  It started when I went with cousins to pay our respects to our grandparents at Aberdeen Chinese Cemetery.  While there, I took the opportunity to visit the former president of Peking University - Tsai Yuan-pei’s tomb.  Then I went to Happy Valley to visit the Muslim Cemetery, and then the Catholic Cemetery where some of my teachers were buried.  


Then I re-visited an important part of Hong Kong’s past - a route that millions of us used to be very familiar with, but now feels very distant.  




It started at Victoria Park.  Which often took hours and hours to get out of.  



We would quickly got stuck outside of a pawn shop, staring ahead at a circular footbridge, waiting and waiting, not knowing when we could move ahead. 



We often had to inch along the road, finding a way through the buses, trams, and other vehicles stuck in the middle of the road because of the traffic. 



We then filled up the huge pedestrian crossing outside one of the most iconic department stores.  I made the mistake once, to meet someone at the street corner outside the department store in the middle of a march.  Big mistake!  But miraculously, we managed to find each other.  That created a special bond between us.  I am sure we will remember that for a long long time. 



We would walk under one of the many footbridges across the main road.  They are always filled with people watching, taking photographs, applauding, cursing, …



Eventually, after many hours, we would arrive at Admiralty, sometimes using a footbridge to cross a main road. 



Other times just pushing across the road itself to arrive outside a small “square”.  



The marches were always peaceful and orderly.  Sometimes other activities take place after the marches along “the way”.  But the marches along “the way” were always peaceful, rational and non-violent.  Many would recognise that as the Hong Kong Way.  


  

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Three Cemeteries

On Chung Yeung Festival, the day the Han Chinese traditionally hike to escape from  pandemic, and to remember our ancestors, I went to three cemeteries.  


At a cursory glance, they look quite similar.  Rows and rows of regular and not-so-regular tombstones.  Upon closer inspection, however, there are significant differences.  



At the Chinese cemetery, these is a lot of food, offered to the dead, and then eaten.  There is also a lot of fire - burning of incense, Chinese candles, and lots of stuff - clothing, food, money, … - all made of paper, for the benefit of the dead in the underworld. 


At the Catholic century, no food or burning.  But plenty of flowers.  And prayers.  There are plenty of foreigners, many of them priests.  Several of my teachers from the days when I was at the Salesian Aberdeen Technical School are buried there.  Many are Chinese, others are from Italy, … 



The Muslim cemetery seems to have the strictest of rules.  No sacrificial offerings of any kind (joss-sticks, paper money, fruits, etc.).  No bowing or kneeling.  For women (Muslim or not): must wear Hijab (head covering); NO hot pants, NO mini-skirts, NO low-neckline, …  Most of the names seem to be Chinese, with many surnames that are common among the Muslim minorities.  There are also quite a number of names in foreign languages.  Quite a number of words in Arabic-looking scripts.  There is plenty of water for washing. 



The Muslim cemetery is right next to the Catholic cemetery.  



Hong Kong is truly quite multi-cultural, with the different cultures living side-by-side fairly amiably. 


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why do good people disagree?

In 2013, my wife and I started a book club, “Spring”.  We will choose a book, or a theme, study it, make a presentation to the club, and discuss together.  The purpose of the club is to learn together to be thinking Christians, to make our faith relevant to the world, to understand and address pertinent issues in the world from the perspective of faith.  


Currently we are discussing the topic: “Why do Good People Disagree?” using Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind”.  The promotional pamphlet for the presentations reads:


“Good” people believe in “good” things such as love, justice, freedom, peace, joy, faithfulness, respect, sanctity, and kindness.  Why then, do we disagree so often with each other so strongly? Even violently? To the extent painting it as good against evil? With no room for compromise? What does our faith have to say about this? We will study this matter referencing Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion” and teachings from our faith.



Haidt’s premise is that people generally agree on the foundations of morality: care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity.  That people consider all of these to be good things.  But people differ in the weightings they assign to each of these foundations.  For example, liberals tend to assign heavier weightings to care, liberty and fairness, and lighter weightings to the other three. Conservatives, on the other hand, may assign more or less the same weightings to all six foundations.  



I found the (linear) diagrams that Haidt uses informative.  But I believe a more two dimensional representation may better highlight the commonalities and differences between different groups of people.  Further more, I added a repesentation for another major group - the authoritarian - which is also very influential, and more and more so these days.  


Once we have a good understanding of the issue, we will then discuss what we can do to address this important issue that affects each and everyone of us so much these days.  



Spring book club will meet again on Sunday, October 2, 2022, 2 PM at EFCC Spring Church in Jordan, to continue to discuss this topic.  All are welcome.  Feel free to contact me for questions and more details. 










Friday, September 23, 2022

Just don’t sell your soul

Living in Hong Kong these days, 


It is difficult not to be sad - in the face so much disappointment - still, just don’t sell your soul because of it. 

It is difficult not to be angry - in the face of much injustice - just don’t sell your soul because you are angry.

It is difficult not to shut up - if only to stay out of trouble - just don’t sell your soul. 

It is difficult not to want to leave - with such gloomy prospects, so many have already done so - just don’t sell your soul. 

It is so infuriating - to watch people make bold face lies to curry favour from the powerful - just don’t sell your soul even though you are furious. 

It seems so unfair - to watch people sit in high places but oblivious to the suffering of the people - just don’t sell your soul. 

It is so tempting - to want to lie to for advancement or even only for survival - just don’t sell your soul even if others have done so. 

It is difficult not to be frustrated - to listen to church leaders preaching vague platitudes with no connection to the realities that we face everyday - just don’t sell your soul because others are not doing their job. 



In the face of everything, we are under pressure to give up so much that we treasure.  But whatever we do, do not sell our soul. 


Seizure?

A young lady collapsed on the ground, at a busy corner on campus.  Three young male students found her lying on the ground, face up.  They didn’t know her. They were concerned but didn’t know what they should do.  Campus security was alerted and consequently, so was the university health clinic.  A couple of nurses rushed to her side.  It appeared that she might have lost consciousness and was having seizures.  The nurse gently rowed her on her side, and gave her oxygen. After a while, it appeared that she was conscious and was able to respond to the nurse.  



A couple of lady students, passing by, seemed to recognise the lady on the ground.  They called another person, who called the lady’s phone, verifying her identity.  She seemed to be an undergraduate student studying at one of the academic departments.  It seemed that she might have some health issues known to the public hospitals. 


An ambulance was called.  A gate to the campus had to be opened to let the ambulance reach the spot where the lady was.  In a few minutes, the ambulance was there.  A doctor from the clinic came.  The lady was moved to the ambulance.  The atmosphere seemed calm.  Perhaps the lady had stabilised.  Later, it seemed that she was taken to the hospital.  We pray and trust that she is taken care of. 


Each of us have their own story, and needs that may or may not be obvious on the surface.  Let us all try to be kind to each other. 







Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Spirit of Service

At its core, Service-Learning is the integration of learning with service to the community.  On the one hand, we do things for the benefit of the community.  On the other, our students learn much from the experience.  Naturally, we strive to do projects with the greatest benefit to the community, and we are very proud of how our students are transformed by the experience.  The focus is on what WE do, the benefits that WE bring to the community, and how good OUR students are.

Generally, a university does not use its own resources to help other universities’ students.  It also does not put a lot of effort in helping other universities. In fact, there is much competition among universities in practically all aspects, service-learning being no exception.  Sometimes, universities do collaborate with others, e.g., in student exchange.  Here, a university generally aims to collaborate with another which has a status (ranking) on a par with, or even higher than, its own; but not one with a lower status.  Naturally, a university is expected to conduct its business with the objective to benefit itself, not to another one.  Even in service-learning.  At a cursory glance, it accords with human nature, which is to look after its own interest, to compete, to survive, to beat others - “survival of the fittest”.  



However, something is not quite right in this picture when the context is service-learning.  Isn’t it the purpose of service-learning to teach students to not be selfish?  To take the interest of the community into consideration?  If we teach our students to be altruistic, while we seek our own interest only, aren’t we being somewhat hypocritical? If we truly believe in the spirit of service, shouldn’t the university also be looking beyond its own interest?  


Perhaps the university can also share its experience with others who also aspire to implement service-learning?  To help to train the teachers from other universities?  To share its teaching material and curriculum so that others can come up to speed quicker?  To open up its service sites so that others can develop their own programs faster?  



When a university thus shares its “secrets”, it may run the risk of helping its “rivals” improve, catch up or even surpass itself.  At the same time, it is building and strengthening the community, developing and strengthening its own leadership, setting an example for our own students, promoting the cause in a much broader scope.  It is a much broader vision than simply building up an exemplary program in itself.  It aims at  improving the wider higher education community, building a better world.  


What does the spirit of service-learning teach professors, administrators and universities? 


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Open Hong Kong

One of the biggest secrets of Hong Kong’s success is its openness. The opening has not always been voluntary. It was forced open by the British in 1842, certainly involuntarily.   In came the British who ruled it for 150 years. Yet it can be argued that Hong Kong would not have achieved the prominence that it did had it not been forced open. The British brought their political and economic system, rule of law, …, and a lot more.  


After the Second World War, in came refugees from China.  Some brought with them their skills, factories, wealth, and business acumen.  Hong Kong was then able to rebuild after the devastation of the war.  It was definitely open for business.  In came trade, light industry, and fast growth.   Hong Kong also became the middlemen between Mainland China and the outside world.  Business prosper.  Land rise in value.  Many Hong Kongers become rich.  People begin to travel internationally, in large numbers.  They bring back more experiences, knowledge, ideas.  



When Mainland China began to open up, Hong Kong was the first to invest in it, with skills, technology, business acumen, international connections.  In the 1990s, when the higher education sector enter a period of rapid growth, in came professors and researchers - returning HongKongers, Mainlanders, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Indians, …  Universities in Hong Kong rise rapidly through the ranking lists across the world.  


At times of uncertainty, whether economic, political or otherwise, people drift away, many emigrate to foreign countries such as Canada, Australia, Britain, USA, …  When the crises pass, many would drift back.  Some more than once.  


Hong Kong has not been afraid of strangers, new ideas, new technologies, new practices.  it has always been stimulated by challenges and competition, and taken advantage of the opportunities offered.   


It is hence terribly sad to see Hong Kong looking inward, tightening control on ideas,  restricting movement, closing borders, effectively killing itself.  In the short run, a kind of stillness may be achieved.  But it is a suffocating kind of stillness.  Opportunities open up only when there is movement.  People are stimulated only when there is hope, expectation.  People cannot innovate when they are afraid to think, or feel that it is useless to think.  


For the sake of Hong Kong, open it up.