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.

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.

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.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #21

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…

Hunt for a scapegoat

Mao Zedong’s adage ‘to kill the chicken to scare the monkey’ sums up nicely the plight of HK super activist Christina Chan, whose bail expires later this month. Chan, however, is no chicken – the HKU student rose to (in)famy as the face of the local Tibetan justice movement and ‘Post-80s’ generation dissenters. Her politics, which would be considered mild and mainstream in many other territories, have earned ‘feisty’ Christina notoriety amongst the pro-establishment camp.

Shortly after leading pro-democracy activists to the China Liaison Office on January 1st, she was arrested outside RTHK HQ by undercover triad police for supposedly assaulting an officer – her home was raided and her tattoos photographed. There was no need for the high drama; the police had her address and phone number, but it was time to send a clear message.

Days later, regulators received over 130 complaints against Oriental Sunday Magazine after they printed borderline obscene, telephoto images of Chan in her own home. The public outcry would’ve certainly been louder had they depicted say, Long Hair or Tsang, brushing their teeth in their underwear – but Chan suffers such invasions as she is young, attractive and female.