Hong Kong

Date: 14th Feb, 2016

Lam Tsuen (林村) – Sea of Auspicious Red and a Bundle of Wishes

There is a legend in our Chinese tradition for centuries: If someone gets a bundle of bright red papers caught in wishing tree’s branches, he/she will be granted a wish.  Here on a Wishing Tree in Lam Tsuen, every branch is hung with auspiciously red cards.  Each message on the card connotes to someone’s genuine wishes, wishes that seek for everlasting happiness, prosperity and health.  Owing to its magic, far more than merely decorations, the Banyan tree in Lam Tsuen grabs our limelight with no effort.

Lam Tsuen, literarily translates as “Lam’s Village” in Cantonese, was already a residential area 700 years ago during the Southern Song dynasty (AD 1127–1279). Starting from that era, the locals had been grasping paper josses to worship the gods, while the charms in the paper were believed to ward off evil spirits or for benevolent deities to read.  And amidst the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century, wish-makers wrote their wishes on them during the Lunar New Year, then tied onto mandarin oranges with pieces of string before being tossed onto the tree.  Nonetheless in 2005, a large branch of the tree came crashing to the ground due to overwhelming weight of fruits.  However, that incident has unexpectedly expedited, though not erased, this tradition. For recovering and conservation, wish-makers can only hang their wishing papers to nearby wooden racks, or throw plastic fruits with red cards onto the tree.  Nowadays this sturdy Banyan tree in Lam Tsuen, filled with streamers of paper cards tied to plastic oranges, is still considered as an auspicious spot. Yesterday the sixth day of the Lunar New Year, the village flooded with the hopefuls thanks to its famous Wishing Tree.  All you have to do is to write your desires on a red card, together with your name and date of birth, tie the card to a plastic orange with a string and throw it as high as you could up into the tree. The higher the branch the fruit lodges, the luckier you are, and the more likely your wishes would come true.

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Lam Tsuen archway

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Hope all my wishes come true 🙂
wishing tree
Every red card contains one person’s wish
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Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree
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You can tie the paper josses on this wooden rack

Part of the village square is a Tin Hau temple that was built in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty, with blue brick exterior, curved roofs and elegant flower carving.  The temple was damaged by typhoon and a fire in 1960s, but was extensively renovated in the same decade.  Tin Hau, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea, is long known by myriads in Guangdong.  In bygone days, fishermen would travel from temples located at Hong Kong’s southern ports to make offerings, and arrive at Lam Tsuen, their final destination, to show their respect and ask the Goddess to protect them from the choppy sea.  Besides Tin Hau Temple stands another temple dedicated to both the God of Literature and the God of War (Man Mo Temple).  Red paper scrolls and banners with blessed poems are glued in pairs on each side of the walls, wishing visitors good fortune and best of luck.  Worshippers stepped inside the temple, bowed in front of the statue of Tin Hau with both hands grabbing the lit-up incense sticks.  Queues of fire from the sticks sparked under the dazzle of red lanterns, and thick smoke was surrounding the statue.  There was a sincere glint in the worshippers’ eyes as they fixed on their sticks, and so did mine with the feelings of serenity.

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Way to Tin Hau Temple
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Worshippers near Tin Hau Temple
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Tin Hau Temple
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Man Mo Temple

As I walked through the Square, I was also greeted by wide varieties of traditional souvenirs, local snacks and unique Hakka food in rows of street bazaars.  Multifarious New Year bits and bobs, like Monkey and Lion cushions as well as hand-held windmills, become popular hallmarks of this delightful season and help add festive touch to this hustling Square.  These decorations, as year-long blessings to the visitors, are synonymous to good vigour and luck in business.  Equally attractive were food stalls touting puffed rice, dried shredded squid and many others where people were gathering for their afternoon tea.  One of my favourite treats is peanut and sesame candy.  In this popular Hong Kong-style sweet, peanuts are covered with spoonful of toasted sesame seeds, and cloaked with clay-like glucose and shiny syrup.  It was an enticement to me when enjoying such multiple layers of texture between the sweet taste of syrup, as well as the crunchy and crackling of the nuts.

Not only is Hong Kong merely a financial city with high-rise skyscrapers, but also graced by age-old traditions and cultural celebrations in rural outer villages.  Walking out of the archway of Lam Tsuen, I found people rejoicing, children grinning and couples beaming with bliss in such jubilant ambience.  In front of the backdrop of red spots, I also wish you much joy, and may your wishes come true in the Year of Monkey as well.  San Nin Fai Lok! ♦

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Stall selling lions cushions and New Year decorations
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Shiny red windmills – Red symbolises vitality of life and happiness
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Rows of food stalls
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Boxes of dried shredded squid
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Packages of puffed rice

How to go to Lam Tsuen?

  • Bus 64K or 64P at MTR Tai Po Market Station, get off at Fong Ma Po Station OR
  • Minibus 25K and get off at Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees OR
  • MTR Tai Wo Station and take a taxi

Address: Lam Tsuen Wishing Square, 8 Heung Kung Sho Road, Lam Tsuen, Tai Po


 

Date: 20th June 2015

Hong Kong’s genuine universal suffrage – still a long way to go

On last Thursday (18th June), our eyes all fixed on the television screen, watching legislators on live to cast vote on the controversial Beijing’s electoral reform (so-called “831 proposal) in choice of Chief Executive.  At first glance, by no means did the outcome come as a surprise when the reform was being vetoed by one-third of members at last.  Yet just minutes before the ballot, large groups of pro-Beijing lawmakers, without voting, walked out of the council in a sudden, in hope of postponing the time to wait for one late counterpart.  The reform, promoted as momentous constitutional plan, was crushed more firmly than expected, with only a handful (eight) voting in favour but 28 against it.  That is certainly an embarrassing slap on China’s leadership and Hong Kong’s government.

According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong shall enjoy the bearing fruits of universal suffrage by a broadly representative nominating committee in concordance with democratic procedures.  However, what China aspires to offer in Hong Kong is not liberal democracy similar to the West, but one-person-one-vote while controlling the election process.  Introduced by National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on 31st August last year, the electoral reform aims to expedite the universal suffrage for Chief Executive starting from 2017, as HK citizens long-thirsted for.  Yet to our dismay, it indicates that, before a territory-wide ballot, a maximum of three candidates will be elected by just 1200-people Nominating Committee, in which most of them will be from business sectors or political campaigns that are loyal to Beijing.  Denounced this “fake democracy” proposal package, pan-democracy legislators deemed such regulations of China’s plan simply target at screening out candidates from the opposition camp, thereby prompting waves of discontent.  Our bitter uneasiness, which in turn, galvanized the “Umbrella Movement”, the unprecedented mass protest lasted for nearly three months amidst late 2014.  By and large, this final veto in the Legislative Council two days ago just sent an acute message to Beijing: We, the Hong Kongers, desire for a genuine choice and a real democratic election.

So, what will be the political future of Hong Kong?  After this proposal veto, the next election will be the same as the past’s: the Chief Executive will be designated by a 1200-people committee consisting special interest groups and functional constituencies, but without the vote by general public.  During these few days, under longstanding prevalence of anti-mainland sentiment, myriads are meditating over the need for amending the constitution in the Basic Law, or crafting a more thorough introduction of genuine universal suffrage.  In the future, there might even come a stalemate if pan-democrats and Chinese leaders are unable to make concession or reach agreements about the election procedures.  With diverse yet likely clashed viewpoints in such tense atmosphere, there is still a long way towards full democracy in this city, despite its economic prosperity. ♦

 


Date: 5th June 2015

Topic: June Fourth – A Day of Remembrance

http://www.scmp.com/photos/recent/all/1816858
Credits to South China Morning Post

 

 

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“Safeguarding Hong Kong in memory of June Fourth Massacre”

 

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Light up the candle

 

26 years ago, a seven-week student-led protest in Tiananmen Square, first triggered by the pass-away of the General Secretary Hu Yaobang, was deplorably ended with brutal military crackdown and heart-wrenching bloodshed.  Lines of military tanks, with bursting of gunfire and bullets, kept crushing towards the protesters.  Students who were calling for liberal political reforms were hopelessly wounded and beaten in torments.  Yet even after more than two decades, we didn’t, and will not, let all this dismaying bygone fall into abyss.  Those teary images in this massacre just sent shiver down our spine.  June Fourth, which is a day that thousands of Hong Kongers gather in the crowds, light the white candles and honour the perished souls.

Instead of participating an yearly candlelight vigil in the Victoria Park as usual, this year I however decided to attend the assembly organised by the Hong Kong University Students’ Union first time ever.  The chanted yet clamorous slogan of “Building a Democratic China”, by the Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements of China, split the gluing bond in the Victoria Park where it has been the imperative base for the past 25 years.  Since the Chinese Communist Party will probably cement its ruling legitimacy and national security, it is far too optimistic that a democratic mainland China could be sped up in the foreseeable future.  Nonetheless, we, as Hong Kongers, should not give up any lingering hope for genuine universal suffrage, as well as our core values and own way of living, rooted in our cosmopolitan city.  The evening commemoration at the University of Hong Kong embarked on our mourning and sincere respect towards those Tiananmen students’ innocent lives, as well as watching the video illustrating the scenes during the June Fourth Massacre.  My heart was tugged with mixed sadness and admiration when watching those daring students who were marching in the front-line in the last minute at the expense of their lives, and stayed fearless to their continual pursue for freedom.  While during the dialogue session, a senior journalist were sharing his media covers during the massacre, while the other guests were presenting their retrospective thoughts of the Tiananmen protest and the controversy of Hong Kong identity, to the seas of participants under the dazzle of candlelight.

Free from China’s strict media censorship, Hong Kong is the only place in Chinese soil where we are able to mourn the trauma of Tiananmen, reminding us this piece of history was full of blood and anguish.  China, which is airing its grievance towards Japan for visiting Yasukuni Shrine and whitewashing history textbooks on one hand, ironically seldom confronts its bloodshed history of Tiananmen Massacre on the other.  When will China learn from Germany, rather than just continue turning an irresponsible blind eye, but to face its history with heartfelt and deepest apology? ♦


Date: 17th February 2015

Topic: Flower Market in Hong Kong

Paying a visit to Flower Market, which is usually started a week prior to the Lunar New Year, has been our annual tradition.  Buzzing with exhilarating spirits of festivities, hustle sea of strolling people and peaks of promotion yelps, it is ubiquitous for us to mingle with the crowds along with flocks of visitors, do shopping for new ornamental decorations and fill our home with flowers’ fragrance.  Apart from blooming plants and flowers, myriads of products including soft toys, warm cushions of Mahjong and popular soya milk drink are being sold, you name it.  Yet what gives me a wow factor to this visit is probably sellers’ innovative creativity of illustrating their ironical humour towards specific hot issues in their products. Below are several photos of the Flower Market in Mongkok during this sleepless night.  Happy Lunar New Year in advance!

 

Rows of stalls

Dry goods stalls:

Red banners contained with fortune blessings
Year of Sheep is coming!
Windmills, wishing someone success and all the best
Cushions of Majong, a traditional Chinese game
Coca-Cola cushions, with encouraging words
Selling machine of soya milk drinks’ cushions, with praising names of Boy-God and Goddess
Cushions reflecting Hong Kong people’s views towards specific current affairs
Political sarcasm to our current Chief Executive (CE) who is nicknamed as “689”. “689” means our CE gained 689 votes in the election decided by only 1200 people
Make a wish, write it on the wall
My wishes to everyone 🙂

Flower stalls:

Orchids – connoting nobility and elegance

Gladiolus, a symbol of strength
Peach Blossom, representing spring’s arrival and good people’s relationships
New Year Fruit – An auspicious symbol
Mandarin Trees – A symbol of good fortune and prosperity

Date: 18th Jan, 2015

Topic: Hong Kong Education in a nutshell

Hong Kong has usually been at the top of international PISA test no matter in Reading, Maths and Science for years.  Perhaps you might be wondering about our education system.  Having been studying in HK throughout my life, here I would like to make use of this blogging platform to acquaint all of you with the overall picture of our structure.

In general, ours can be divided into four stages, with kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary education being the vital ones.  Twelve-year free education from primary to secondary schoolings has been granted since the year of 2007.  In addition, there are three types of schools in HK, namely government, subsidized (fully subvented by government but administered by charitable bodies) and private ones (some will receive government’s assistance).

This picture clearly illustrates our education system’s structure:

Kindergarten (= Early Childhood Education)

In these first three years, children will be spending time for reading and playing in fun and interactive manner, so as to arouse their interest towards further learning.

When the child is six year-old, he/she can be directly admitted to parents or siblings’ alma mater on one hand.  Yet on the other, he/she can also be assigned to a primary school based on school enrollment, own choice and random lottery of central allocation process.

Primary Education

The modes of primary schools commprise Morning (AM), Afternoon (PM) and Whole-day schooling.  Teacher to student ratio is rather huge with around 1:40.  A majority of schools are taught in Chinese and only a minority of them construct English as the main teaching medium.  To solid the backdrop of biliteral language proficiency and a wide diversity of knowledge, students basically need to attend Chinese, English, Maths, General Studies, Mandarin, Music, Visual Art and Physical Education lessons per week.

However, when students’ step-into primary five and six, their performance in three school exams would largely determine which banding of secondary school they are going to attend in the next six years.  Three bands are ranked in line with academic prestige, with Band 1 being the most prestigious.  Central allocation system, which its procedures are same as the primary ones, continues playing a crucial role in secondary school’s distribution.

Secondary Education

Followed by six-year whole-day yet free schooling, students would broaden their general knowledge in the first three years, and will become more specialized in later three years.  Some schools are divided into only Boys’, Girls’, or both Boys’ & Girls’ section.  One-third of them, most of the “Band 1” schools, are currently using English as the medium of instruction.

Meanwhile, HK’s secondary education modelled from UK’s O and A Levels until 2012.  After the completion of junior secondary curriculum, all students need to prepare for HKCEE exam in form 5, but could decide whether they would continue  HKALE exam in form 7 as matriculation.  However, this British model has been switched to “3+3+4” curriculum since 2012.  “3+3+4” stands for three-year junior secondary, then three-year senior secondary schooling and afterwards four-year university education.  At the end of Secondary 6, students only need to sit for one public examination, named as “Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education” (HKDSE).

Junior secondary (Form 1 to Form 3)

Speaking of curriculum, alongside Chinese, English and Maths, new subjects such as Combined Sciences, Chinese History, History, Geography, Economics & Public Affairs (EPA) are in line with students’ learning processes.  Apart from the above conventional subjects, others including Visual Arts, Music, Physical Education and Moral Education are also provided for the sake of enhancing their overall development.

These subjects, no matter Sciences or Humanities, help pave the way to students’ elective choices in senior secondary.

Senior secondary (Form 4 to Form 6)

This three-year learning phrase is commenced in a bid to assist students to prepare for “Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education” (HKDSE).  Core subjects (Chinese, English, Maths, Liberal Studies) + 2 to 3 Electives from twenty ranging from Science, Economics to Arts.  Whereas, applied learning courses and foreign languages are also within students’ specialized choices.

In Form 6, students can fill at most 20 choices in a website of university application called “JUPAS”.  At last, about 18% of them will be admitted to the UGC-funded university based on their HKDSE exam result which is usually much higher than the minimum requirements.  For those whose application is not successful or fall short of the minimum requirements, they could still continue their studies in sub-degree such as Associate Degree or vocational trainings like Higher Diploma.

Tertiary Education

Through JUPAS, only top 18% of students are able to embark on their undergraduate course in one of the eight UGC-funded universities for four years.  Subsidized by the government, UGC-funded universities’ fees would be less expensive than the self-financing ones.

However for those who are not granted a place in university but wish to process further studies, a 2-year course of Associate Degree (AD) or High Diploma (HD) in community colleges is a popular option.  After their studies, they may, according to their academic results, selection process, interview performances, apply for degree course offered by local or top-up overseas universities with credits transfer.

After this introductory overview, I hope all of you have gained some insights towards Hong Kong’s education system.  So what about your region/country’s educational structure?  Or do you have inquires regarding to HK’s educational issues?  Feel free to comment below.

© Variety of Life Spice 2015


Date: 1st Oct, 2014

Topic: Do you hear the sea of blacks sing?

“Do you hear the people sing?  Singing the song of angry men?” – Les Miserables’s lyrics

We want a universal suffrage

A blooming sea of blacks in Almiralty
Chingish (a mixture of Cantonese and English languages) “People Mountain People Sea” is best described in Mongkok

Thousands of citizens, myself included, wearing black T-shirt with a yellow ribbon, are spontaneously swarming into densely-populated protesting spots from dawn till dusk.  Filled with founders’ vociferous slogans, crowd’s encouraging pandemonium and chanted roars, we are all lighting our mobile phones up, together singing loud chorus of “Boundless Oceans Vast Skies“.  Even being under the roasting sunshine, even in face of pouring rain, even blanketed by midnights’ darkness, all these physical obstacles never dampened our staunch resolution and conquered our relentless will.  Our connected hearts still illuminatingly stay the same, from first to last.

This is high time for us to jointly articulate our unyielding determination.  This is the moment to let our government and the Chinese Communist Party apprehend that we will not bow our heads down to an unrepresentative universal suffrage, with a pro-Beijing and pro-business nominating committee.  Instead, we are standing up confidently, holding firm of our desires to the road of true democracy.  Utterly impressed by people’s tenacity, how can I not take part in it and deliver additional supplies to the protesters as my wholehearted support?  Action speaks louder than words.  In the meantime, volunteers continue distributing wet towels and masks lest police utilization of pepper stray and tear gas in a sudden again.  On one hand, neighbours assist in sharing packets of biscuits, bottles of water and even bowls of warm soup around.  On the other, scholars are holding hours of civic lectures in concordance to nowadays political and social developments.  At that instant, vision blurred with overwhelming moved feelings.  A surge of warm currents are flushing through my veins especially when people’s firing enthusiasm and courtesy are vividly manifested.  However strenuous this uphill resistant fight is, we know we will never be in complete solitary.  We all love our hometown, and we all care for Hong Kong’s future.  I am so proud to be one of them, to enhance social cohesion and voice our opinions out in such a peaceful manner.  After all, only by civil disobedience at present can we air our grievance, vent our discontent and put pressure to the government.

This “Umbrella Movement” (also named as “Occupy Central”) apparently unveil our united power of togetherness, consolidation and solidarity.  But rather than just smile away, when will the senior officials turn their ears to us and listen to our angry songs?  When will the doors of dialogue open?  Hong Kong is one of few places in China where freedom of speech and assembly still endowed.  We are fortunate, to be here, to treasure the blessed freedom like shiny jewels, come rain or shine.  Let’s make the most of these cutting edges, let the sea of blacks and the yellow ribbons bloom and blossom.

Hong Kong is our home, we love Hong Kong
Bus as the icon of democratic wall
Occupy Hong Kong with love and peace, let’s make the goal of universal suffrage come true
Voices of Hong Kongers
Peaceful Assembly

Date:1st Sept, 2014

Topic: The Glory of Tutor Kings & Queens – A necessary evil

Are these “tutor kings and queens” planning to be Hollywood superstars next?

What is youth?  Youth is supposed to be seizing at those energetic golden years, having new attempts on leisurely pastimes and spending moments for fun.  However here in Hong Kong, teenagers’ basic daily routine is more or less bedeviled by endless past exam questions and reference books.  In a view to standing out from the others, hundreds of thousands of teenagers are sparing no efforts to seek for tutorial classes after school, no matter how worn out they are.  Those “star tutors”, wearing suits with a bow tie or glamorous dress in commercial advertisements, are being portrayed as “kings and queens” on the bus cover and MTR stations everywhere, boasting off how special their exam techniques and how brilliant the past results from their students are.  Their charisma, also their fame and fortune, with the advent of the competitive university entrance exam each year in April, have enabled them to stay in front of the glittering spotlight.

Alongside star tutors’ sophisticated outlook, most importantly, there are certain cutting edges over the school teachers who are being saddled in administration work and have limited time in teaching.  Those tutors, explaining loudly with a microphone on one hand, and on the other hand confidently showing the answering methods through the big projector.  To become more popular, some of the tutors adept at telling funny jokes at times, so as to reinvigorate students from their exhaustion after a long day at school.  Whereas, some would offer discounts if a student has recommended them to the others or has decided to attend more than one of their lessons.  In students’ mind, tutors are just like their helping stars, providing lively phrases and key points to fight for better grades.  And I can still vividly remember a year ago when my English tutor lending me a foundation of a wide assortment of vocab collaborations.  Since then, I have been utilizing them in my blog posts, personal emails and school essays.

Notwithstanding, after wholly relying on those private tutors, hardly do some students pay respect to school teachers by slumping on their desk to fall asleep during the lessons.  More importantly, relationship between tutors and students could be less close and less interactive.  Students just obediently jot notes down into the paperbooks prepared by tutors, but no open discussions included, not to mention a multitudes of them can only watch the screen video as lessons.  By merely encouraging students to bury themselves to those numerous tactics, innovative ideas, all-rounded analytical and critical skills are lamentably neglected.  The more the fees you pay, the more the lessons you can attend, and the more the exam tactics rewarded.  However, an inspiring teacher, in my opinion, should illuminate students as to academic knowledge and facts of life by heart, rather than just indoctrinating several techniques and concerning how many 5** (the highest grade in our public exam) their students being awarded.

In spite of the above cons, going to those large-scale tutorial centres is nonetheless a necessary evil.  In the battlefield of spoon-feeding university entrance competition (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education), only the top 18% of students could successfully fight to the nine local UGC-funded universities each year.  Alas, here goes a saying, “One single exam would make or mar your future”, only by grabbing a university degree can we have an opportunity to climb up to socio-economic ladder and own a promising future.  Therefore, to be high-flyers and live up to family’s expectations, alongside cramming the textbooks from dawn till dusk, it is comprehensive and inevitable that a vast majority of them, if not all, are flocking into the large-scale tutorial centres for additional information.  But for now, a kind reminder for high school students in this new academic year: Striving a balance between study and rest is also equally important.  However competitive the public exam is, don’t push yourself too harsh.

(P.S. For more information about our tutoring culture, here is an article written by TIME magazine: http://world.time.com/2013/12/30/rich-and-famous-why-hong-kongs-private-tutors-are-millionaire-idols/ )


Date: 1st July, 2014

Topic: 17th Anniversary of HK Handover

With flag-raising ceremony attended by head government officials on one hand, and under the prompting roars of unite march protests on the other, today marks the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the United Kingdom to China.  At first, according to the Treaty of Nanjing, Beijing and the Convention of the Extension of HK Territory in 1842, 1860 and 1898 respectively, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were ceded forever and the New Territories leased to Britain for 99 years.  However, after negotiations in early 1980s between Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, it was decided that “the Question of Hong Kong” would be settled by the “Sino-British Joint Declaration” in 1984:

  1. Resumption of Hong Kong’s sovereignty by China on 1st July, 1997 – Here is the video of the 1997 handover ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_aPZGS3CH4
  2. Adoption of “One Country Two Systems” – Although China’s implementing Socialism, Hong Kong can still remain its original capitalist system and its way of life for 50 years unchanged after 1997 handover
  3. High autonomy for HK people, HK people ruling HK  Internal affairs such as economic and social development will be under the capacity of HK government

Nevertheless, the governance and politics of Hong Kong haven’t been quite peaceful.  Due to storms of overwhelming rage to the Basic Law Article 23’s legislation in 1st July 2003, 500000 citizens firmly and openly opposed this security law lest the corruption of freedom of speech.  After all, a spark can trigger off a huge fire.  This vivid power of mutual consolidation successfully put a halt to that clamorous legislation, and eventually constituted to the step-down of the first Chief Executive Mr Tung Chee-hua.

Therefore, starting from 2003, it has become an annual tradition for Hong Kongers to participate in a large-scale march in each 1st July.  This year’s protest is mainly affiliated to people’s resentment over the White Paper issued by Beijing for fear of eroding HK’s autonomy, as well as unfailing demands for their long-thirst of “universal suffrage” by one person one vote in 2017.  It is certain that, HK government will undoubtedly be facing uphill hurdles and blocks of obstacles in the future.  Dealing with the governance challenge is on no account easy, but the best an effective government should do is to consider this annual march as a beneficial pathway to listen to citizens’ voices by heart, instead of just turn a deaf ear and shy away.


Date:7th June, 2014

Topic: Put a halt on the uphill rise of Hong Kong’s Gini Coefficient!

Hailed as one of the Four Asian Dragons, Hong Kong has long been regarded as an affluent cosmopolitan city.  Nonetheless, behind the scene of lavish shops and dazzling neon lights, many grassroots are still struggling to make ends meet and toiling over work to scrape for a living with only around $30 per hour.  In 2012, the city’s Gini coefficient was well above 0.5, which was the highest level of income disparity in a well-developed economy base.  Admittedly, the wealth gap problem has escalated to an alarming state and has already raised our grave concern.

To commence with, low level of government intervention to redistribute income is the manifest factor that constitutes alarming polarization between the rich and the penurious grassroots.  For one thing, the narrowness of tax base, such as no tax on inherited wealth and divided income, could constitute wealth condensation for the rich ; for another, overall transfer payments of government’s social security systems and NGOs’s policies are not well-catered to the needs of the deprived ones.  To make matters worse, no unemployment benefit and state pension are provided, which in turn, inequality is soaring in Hong Kong.

What also cast light to the increase of Gini coefficient are the highly-opened Hong Kong’s economy and economic restructuring to service sector amid 1980s.  With more dispersed income in financial service and the sweep of globalization, distinguished professionals are able to be rewarded huge sums of capital after expanding their markets from Hong Kong to overseas freely; whereas lower-class white collars are in the face of keen competition against their counterparts in Mainland, thus being coerced to reduce their incomes.  All this unveiled the wealth gap quandary has already been aggravating since the past decade.

For the inequality among diversified families background could be minimized, quality education starting from early childhood plays a pivotal role in enabling people to have the opportunities to climb up to socio-economic ladder in the long term.  Government offices should also be dispersed to some impoverished districts or new towns without sufficient urban plannings instead of hustling commercial central-areas.  Others incorporating progressive taxation on the rich’s capital-gain tax and retirement protection are also within government’s capacity to eliminate this exacerbating polarization.

To a great extent, it is convicted that the aforementioned reasons could impede such a distressing income disparity.  Insofar as our city is embracing laissez-faire capitalism and advocating individual endeavour, it is inevitable, if not irresistible, that big economic pie cannot be evenly distributed.  Providently speaking, it brooks no procrastination for various parties to confront this polarization plight squarely.  After all, only if they are willing to expedite concrete and pragmatic remedies can the wealth gap be minimized and this city of ‘Asian Little Dragon’ be more harmonious.


Date: 23rd May, 2014

Topic: Early bird catches the worm?

In the race of Asian financial supremacy, judging by sound environment and quality of labour, beyond dispute, Hong Kong had been an early bird in taking a huge lead on both.  Due to the diversification of economic base, four main pillars namely finance, tourism, property market and banking all flourished substantially, huge sums of foreign investment were invested and headquarters being chosen to locate in the late colonial era.  
But gone were the good days after two decades, however.  Thanks to the Chinese thriving economy with an eye-popping speed since 1990s, it is not to our wonder to see modern landmark skyscrapers and metro transit railway in Shanghai, while commoners are pampering themselves with the best and living in a lap of luxury.  Over the recent years, Shanghai has actively participated in international events such as holding World Expo, and even a new Disneyland is now being constructed and free-trade zone will be established soon.  Facing fierce catch-ups from such a ‘dark horse’, even though Hong Kong was still standing out in overall Index of Economic Freedom, a misty haze of controversial concern is now clouding in HK lest our superior ‘Big Brother’ role would soon be eroded and overtaken by Shanghai, or by the other three fellow emerging members of ‘Four Little Dragons of Asia’ namely Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Despite being irreplaceable composes for China’s continual economic boom with Shanghai, bear in mind that only Hong Kong is still endowed with unique core values like free flow of international capital, low tax rate and an independent legal system.  To continue being a consolidated ‘locomotive’ in the race, all ‘Pearl of Orient’ has to do is get hold of each golden opportunity and maximize those advantages above in such a critical moment.  But beware and watch out, the other metropolises are now galloping towards to their ambitious goals.  So will the early bird catch the worm at last?
For further information, here is a passage from Standard about HK’s competitiveness:

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?art_id=145590&con_type=1


Date: 16th April, 2014

Topic: An entire evening in “The Pearl of Orient”

Watching the golden sun splashes its colour and drown in the far end of the Victoria Harbour, I am utterly amazed by the city’s panoramic reflection of splendid neon lights and brilliant billboards here in front of my eyes.  In this sunset time, some energetic sport enthusiasts are doing regular work-outs, while the hand-in-hand newly-weds are meandering in the Victoria Park, murmuring to each other tenderly.  Featuring dishes of special cuisines, a proliferation of cafes and bars with relaxing music are opened to cater for the white collars after a day of hectic work.  Shopping in some crowed areas like Causeway Bay, it is no longer a surprise to see myriads of luxurious brands touting plushy items with eye-catching logos, sweet-smelling Coco Chanel perfume with sustainable lavender favour, elegant Burberry boutiques and Louis Vuitton pockets and handbags which keep pedestrians’ eyes out of stalks.  

While in Kowloon, filled with Cantonese pop songs and loudspeakers’ voices ‘Come and have a look’ in Mong Kok Street Night Market, you can patently find goods which are comparatively much cheaper in shops hanging attractive banners like “For Sale, 20% discount off, what about Chinese tea sets, oil paintings and photo albums for souvenirs?  Just turn to the corner, aroma begins to fill the night air and the noisy atmosphere, cooks are now using heavy woks to prepare some unique local snacks in the open-air sidewalk food stalls in great dexterity.  Bowls of plain congee, wonton noodles and fried rice are placed in front of their working class and elderly customers.  To them, life is simple yet cheerful, their recipe of happiness lies not in ostentatious banquets with expensive abalones and shark fin soup, nor does it fall on the internationally-known lavish items, but to spend some time meeting friends in person, having smiling greetings and delightful chats to each other.  All these daily activities, with mixture of a wide variety of living-styles, both modern and original, have dazzled our city – ‘the Pearl of Orient’ more diverse and vibrant ever.

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“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde

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