HK Time Out Magazine – Column #24

timeout

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Mind the Gap
Our city can boast many superlatives – most expensive housing rental market, largest collection of skyscrapers and highest per-capita orange consumption to name a few. One achievement to be more embarrassed about though, is the fact that the city of superlatives has the widest income gap of any other rich nation.

While Gini coefficients are by no means a perfect way of gauging equality, the UN measurement has shown a steadily broadening gap between rich and poor since the 90s. Financial crisis or not, Forbes magazine says HK’s richest are 65 per cent wealthier than last year, just as the poor have inevitably gotten poorer with 1.33 now living below the city’s poverty line.

Older residents who lived through the sixties know that folks can only be pushed so far before civil unrest emerges. The failure of ‘trickle down’ economics has not gone unnoticed by young people either. Even graduates are finding themselves stuck in their $18.94/hr jobs at KFC. They know they will not see the same job security as their parents, plus they’ve a billion or so mainlanders to compete against. Throw in a sense of powerlessness with a government offering little in terms of social welfare, and you have what the media dubs the ‘post-80s’ movement.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #23

timeout

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Making Waves
When it comes to international climate policy, HK is in the convenient position of being able to hide behind China’s developing country status and exemption from Kyoto Protocol cuts. Yet the most recent data suggests we produce a monstrous 29 tonnes per capita – more than the US or China and second only to Luxembourg. And as embarrassing as it is to lose to such a relentlessly bland country, this is not something HK should be getting competitive about.

One diamond is the rough is a certain Lucien Gambarota from a company called Motorwave. Lucien moved to HK from France in 1987 and has been tinkering with renewable energy technology for decades. Experimenting with wave, solar and wind power around the territory, Motorwave has even invented electricity-generating exercise bikes. Their own factory is going carbon-free and they’re hoping to make some small islands energy sustainable. Recently, Gambarota has been working with construction companies on the Kai Tak re-development, Hennessy Centre and at HKU to integrate thousands of his wind turbines into their building plans.

Activism – 51st Anniversary of the Tibetan Occupation, Hong Kong

Activism

On March 13th, 2010, I joined Christina Chan at the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong to protest the continued occupation of Tibet. The police presence was around 4:1 for each protester, around double last year‘s ratio. The following photos are from the local press, scroll down for video.

Activists hold vigil to mark Tibet riots
South China Morning Post, Mar 14, 2010

About 20 people held a candle-light vigil last night outside the central government’s liaison office to mark the riots in Tibet two years ago.

A scuffle broke out when several activists tried to hang a banner and a snow lion flag – a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement – on the office’s front gate. Police officers guarding the gate threatened to use pepper spray as the activists – including Christina Chan Hau-man, one of the organisers of the vigil – tried to push their way forward.

One person was slightly injured, the group said. Chan, a prominent student activist, was arrested in January over the alleged assault of a policewoman during a pro-democracy protest on New Year’s Day outside the liaison office. She is on bail. Last night the group was marking events in Tibet.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #22

timeout

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Gweilo Gripes
“Why do you care?” I must’ve been asked it hundreds of times at various protests over the last few years, and in particular during last month’s Rail Link rallies. Much to my embarrassment, fellow activists seem bewildered, impressed and even flattered that some gweilo is rocking up to a local demo – and it’s often a Kodak moment. My response is that we aliens are also tax-payers and stakeholders in HK society. Our voice deserves to be heard, especially after living here for a few years – ex-pats needn’t feel they have to leave their political conscience at home. However, not all causes I choose are so positively received.

I received fewer compliments last year when campaigning on the more contentious issue of Tibetan self-determination. One local suggested it was as provocative as them donning a Bin Laden t-shirt in New York. Although a flawed comparison, I was making a point because I felt it was right, not because it was popular – and an issue doesn’t have to affect someone directly for them to show solidarity. Thankfully, most locals graciously supported my entitlement to expression despite their disagreement with the subject.