HK Time Out Magazine – Column #28

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…

Monkey Business

Since 2000, increasing numbers of fraudulent monks have been giving hit-and-run blessings to passers-by before bowing, presenting small plastic Buddha statues and demanding cash. Sure, being on the receiving end of an unwelcome sanctification is a refreshing change to risking an unsolicited stabbing (which would probably be the more likely incidence were I back in London). However, with these fraudulent holy men refocusing their attention on uninformed tourists and Westerners, they’re surely making a mint from people’s mystified preconceptions of Buddhism, and their outright kindness.

Utomo Francis from HK’s Buddhist Association insists the fake monks are simply mainland criminals who come over, shave their heads and dress the part. All monks and nuns within China, let alone our city, will be looked after very well by their own monasteries, and begging certainly forms no part of their spiritual journey. Mr Francis has been working with the police, security bureau, mainland Buddhist groups and the media to raise awareness of the issue but legally, the impostors can only be charged with loitering. He recommends that Hong Kongers simply ignore them or report the matter to the police. ‘Donating’ may simply embolden those involved in this dodgy practice and make matters worse.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #27

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…

A Textbook Case

Tonight, tens of thousands of patriotic Hong Kongers will gather in quiet, dignified recognition of the hundreds killed 21 years ago by their own government. We have already seen the traditional, sparsely attended debate on the Tiananmen massacre in LEGCO. And tomorrow, as per tradition, the right-wing press will pretend tonight’s Victoria Park vigil never happened.

But it is not only pro-Beijing newspapers that are guilty of self-censorship. Only one of HK’s 12 educational publishers includes full details of the June 4th incident in their history textbooks. In 1994, the then director of Education, Dominic Wong, attempted to cynically ban the topic from schools by ensuring history lessons did not cover anything in the past 20 years. Since then, publishers have played down, omitted or simplified the events of 1989. It is outrageous that many textbooks simply state that the PLA “cleared the square’. Though perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised since they are ultimately businesses and accountable to the government, which compiles a list of recommended, approved textbooks.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #26

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…

Certified Fair

Many Hong Kongers, particularly jet-setting expats, bear rather hefty carbon-footprints, so it’s naive to be too self-congratulatory when wielding reusable bags, recycling and buying organic. However, sometimes a worthwhile idea nurtured by a few can become mainstream in just a few years. This can be said for the Fair Trade movement in the UK, where recent visitors will notice that the accreditation symbol can be seen around every high street. Some entire towns, supermarkets and manufacturers are going 100% fair trade, and the founders want HK to develop a similar, meaningful culture of ethical buying.

HK’s first Fair Trade Fortnight was held last month, and although the organisers – Oxfam – admitted that it is still a tiny movement, it appears awareness is rising in the same way it did in Britain back in the 90s. As CafeDirect CEO Anne MacCaig explained at the opening conference in Wanchai, we’re currently seeing small grassroots efforts in churches, community groups and independent stores – and this is how it all began in the UK

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #25

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…

Dirty Double-deckers

The chocking pollution in the city over the last few weeks has left all HongKongers wanting to reach for the gas masks. Much of the smog drifts in from HK-owned Guangdong factories, but the biggest contributor is roadside emissions. Vehicles belch out 90% of RSPs (harmful particles that penetrate deep into the lungs) and 40% of roadside fumes come from buses.

What is the solution? A government feasibility study has discounted gas buses and fully electric versions are not yet technologically viable. However, hybrid electric models certainly are, and have been refined in recent years to offer a similar performance to the 5768 buses in our diesel fleet. 99% of these currently fail the latest EU emissions standards.

The bus companies respond by claiming that they’re still ‘studying the details’ or that suitable hybrid buses are not available. This is untrue. KMB use Alexander Dennis double-deckers and their hybrid equivalents are currently being rolled-out on London’s roads, where they were introduced with government aid. FedEx in HK and cities in China are trialling such vehicles, where fuel and carbon reductions of up to 38% are being seen along with excellent performance and reliability.

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.