HK Time Out Magazine – Column #30

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…

Pedal Power

In my wide-eyed naivety, I thought it’d be a splendid idea to cycle to work when I first moved to Kowloon and so set about buying a second hand fold-up bike. I immediately regretted venturing out onto Waterloo Road. The comical spectacle of a lanky Westerner astride a tiny contraption with wheels the size of dinner plates provoked so much staring, I might as well have been straddling a hippo. But aside from the instant face loss and unbearable pollution, it soon became clear why the only folks who risk cycling are those with a death wish and elderly gas canister delivery blokes. So hazardous were the roads that after 3 close shaves in as many minutes, my poor bike found itself straight back on AsiaExpat.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #29

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…

Republic of HK?

Last week was the 13th July 1st democracy rally and it tends to attract all kinds of causes – from domestic maid unions and a group demanding full British nationality for Hong Kongers, to individuals with personal gripes against the health system. But one eccentric faction unlikely to be showing themselves in public is the HK independence movement. They exist solely in cyberspace, mostly because some legislators have suggested their campaigns are in defiance of archaic treason laws.

The Hong Konger Front is an alliance of websites proposing that the city finally declares itself a republic. Hkfront.org includes mock-ups of what the flag would look like along with a potential national anthem, complete with a catchy chorus – “Is it a great country? Yes, it is. Hong Kong is really great.” It alludes to the fact that we may have somewhat of a war with China on our hands (perhaps lasting ‘20 years’) but fails to discuss how totally reliant we are on the mainland for much of our food and all of our water.

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