I recently started writing a short, light-hearted political column for Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version…
The force is Strong
“We serve with pride and care” so say the cheesy Hong Kong Police recruitment ads – unless you’re a homeless Nepali guy, it is presumed. Police behaviour is in the headlines once more, but perhaps we need to examine the more fundamental issue of accountability?
Our police to population ratio of 440 for every 100,000 residents is amongst the world’s highest, boasting over 30,000 officers and the world’s largest marine fleet. The numbers speak for themselves when assessing the authoritative nature of the local constabulary, but if something goes wrong and you’ve a complaint against our boys in blue, you might as well tell it to the pigeons.
I began to question police powers last summer when I – along with fellow Tibet activist Christina Chan – found myself followed for days and detained by clearly angry officers during our peaceful human rights protest. We were simply expressing our free speech, yet were bundled into police vans and removed from the Olympic Torch Rally sidelines. Our official complaint was well justified but it came as no surprise that nothing came of it…
Whilst Tokyo is perhaps like Hong Kong on a copious amount of illegal drugs, some things have turned out to be truer than others… The (in)famous Star Trek toilets are more the rule than the exception, though I’ve been too scared to experiment with the buttons as one of the symbols looks like what can only be described as a ‘deep probe wash’. Yes, they love their manga and their gadgets, but – alas – no, I’m yet to be groped on the metro (disappointingly… maybe it’s the chicken suit!?). It is also accurate to say that all the men are suited up to the nines – with mirrors and pit-stop barbers in tube stations.
When walking the spotless streets over the past 9 days, it’s been difficult not to compare everything to back in HK – our public transport is certainly cheaper and simpler. Plus, there are few escalators here; instead there are weird static steps you have to climb manually (“stairs”, as I remember). But on pretty much everything else, Japan’s cyber-city capital, probably wins… Beyond the super-busy areas, everywhere seems so much quieter and calmer (often eerily), with clean streets – designed with cyclists and pedestrians in mind – and little pollution. English is obviously less prevalent here but when people try to communicate, it is with grace rather than embarrassment. There is a greater sense of service and a feeling of wider social conscience (known as ‘Wa’) – something Singapore attempts to buy with strict enforcement and Hong Kong achieves only through its ‘face loss’ phobia. ‘Same same but different’ might be an appropriate Asian saying.
I have started writing a short, light-hearted political column for Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version…
Beyond the tree-hugging hippies of Lamma Island, the City of Lights is not exactly renowned for its eco-awareness. However, with Earth Day coming up this week, and the economy sliding faster than a greased-up penguin, Hong Kong has a golden green opportunity to clean up its act.
As a small and wealthy territory, it should be easy to switch our investment from endless infrastructure projects to environmental initiatives. New Zealand, Norway and even the Maldives have made carbon neutral promises, so instead of bridges to nowhere (or indeed, Macau) and cynical token gestures, surely it’s time for Hong Kong to grow a spine and become the world’s first green city!
Money earmarked for construction could be redirected to renewable energy projects, electric cars, cleaner public transport, upgrading buildings, LED street lighting and much stricter regulation of companies and industry.