Montag, 5. März 2012

Dogs versus Locusts

Close to 15 years ago, Hong Kong was taken over by by China and the resentments have never been bigger. Hong Kong’s latest fissure with China deepened Wednesday after a popular local newspaper published an advertisement slamming mainland Chinese as “locusts” who swarm the city and drain its resources.

February 13th, a young Mandarin-speaking girl dropped some dried noodles on a Hong Kong underground train. As eating and drinking is strictly banned on the spotless metro, a local Catonese speaker objected in bad Mandarin and hence started a quarrel. " That is what mainlanders are like" was perhaps the nastiest thing mentioned.

The whole incident was recorded with a mobile phone and went viral over youtube in days, provoking a controversial interview with Kong Qingdong, a scientist of the University of Beijing, who labelled Hong Kong's population as "dogs of British colonists". In reaction mainland Chinese were denoted to "locusts" swarming to Hong Kong to buy luxury gifts and giving birth to babies.

“Hong Kong people, we have endured enough in silence”

A full-page ad, which shows a locust looking at the Hong Kong skyline, was paid for by an online fund-raising campaign on Facebook and local site Hong Kong Golden Forum, which received more than 100,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$12,900) from 800 donors in a week.

A man who identified himself over the phone as “Mr. Poon” and goes by “Yung Jhong” online said he organized the campaign. He said he was inspired to act after seeing news stories about mainland Chinese mothers who crossed the border to bear children in Hong Kong so that their offspring could obtain Hong Kong citizenship and the benefits that come along with it. Local authorities say that some 40,000 mainland Chinese mothers gave birth in Hong Kong hospitals last year, straining the local health-care system.

"People want to protect the city for their kids, protect the education and health-care system,” he said. “Hong Kongers are welcoming to everybody, even those from China, to come and visit and shop. But they have to follow our rules, which is why we feel like we have to say something"

To complete the picture, a recent published study shows that 16,6% of the population of Hong Kong seems themselves as Chinese whereas 38,6% insisted to be be Chinese only 3 years ago.

Hongkongnes believe in their way of doing things and do not want Beijing to send any more politicians to keep them in check. Their freedom of speech and press is not the only source of conflict though. The rapid increase of mainland women giving birth increased from 700 in 2000 up to 40.000 last year, making it more difficult for locals to get find housing or space in hospitals.

 The Chinese claim though, that Hong Kong's success and fortune would have never been possible without their help.
During the chinese New-Year celebration is is said that 69% of all money spend on goods was payed for by mainlanders, adding up to 7,2 billion $.

The last delicacy is a newly founded "anti-locust-choir" who serenades tourists from mainland with their not so friendly anti-mainlander song, which is going viral in the city. It is said that the song polarises strongly and is only aimed at mainlander who try to "take resources from the city and give nothing in return."

"Bad gets worse: Shanghai's version of Hong Kong's locust add"

Hot on the heels of the anti-mainlander locust ad published in Hong Kong's Apple Daily comes Shanghai's very own xenophobic insect-based agitprop.

The copycat ad grabs readers with a statistic claiming that 4 billion RMB is spent each year to subsidize non-locals in Shanghai, and uses Shanghainese dialect to declare, "Shanghainese, we've had enough!"

Currently making the weibo rounds, themodified ad uses the same template of a locust perched atop a mountain while overlooking the terrorized city in question's skyline. For Shanghai, the Pudong skyline sits in the background, which means the locust would be perched atop the non-existent mountains of Huangpu district.

Our full translation of the Shanghainese locust weibo post:
Do you want to spend 4 billion RMB every year to subsidize the population of outsiders?

Shanghainese, we've had enough!

Because you've come for the gold rush, we have to receive 17,566,700outsiders.

Because you want to settle down, we have to receive 380,000 of the outsider laborers' children.

Because you want to look after your parents, we have to receive 159,500 outsiders who are elderly.


We have to endure you coming and ruining our culture.
We have to endure your fellow villagers criticizing us.
We have to endure your fellow villagers' uncivilized behavior.

[We] strongly request that the government changes the law,

Stop the endless influx of outsiders entering Shanghai!

And for comparison's sake, here's our full translation of the anti-mainlander locust ad that appeared in Hong Kong's Apple Daily:
Do you want Hong Kong to spend $1 million HKD every 18 minutes to raise a child without a single Hongkongnese parent?

People of Hong Kong, we've had enough!

Because we know you have milk powder that's poisonous, we understand why you grab all our milk powder,

Because we know you have no freedom, we host you when you visit Hong Kong on your own,

Because we know your educational system is backward, so we share our educational resources with you,

Because you can't read Correct Chinese (traditional Chinese), so we use Defective Chinese (simplified Chinese).

Please respect local culture if you come to Hong Kong, otherwise it'll be your fault when Hong Kong is finished.

[We] strongly request that the government changes the Basic Law!

Stop the limitless entry of mainland pregnant women from invading Hong Kong!

It goes without saying that both sides are right in their opinion but should just sit down and talk it out. I am keen to see how the situation develops and if Hong Kong will stay a legit SAR.

Sonntag, 22. Januar 2012

Beijing & 798 Art District

 Hey folks, I am back :)

After a long lasting abstinence I could not resist to come back to blogger and share my experiences with you. The last two months have been busy ones for me so I could not find time to blog but see and read for yourself.

To give you a broad overview, the weeks before Christmas were really busy work wise, I spent Christmas in Beijing with a friend (and did some sightseeing) and finally my brother visited me over New Years.
At the moment Hongkong is pretty much abandoned as a lot of people are visiting their families over CNY (Chinese New Year) and I get a few days off. To this occasion: gōng xǐ fā cái!

Okay back to topic: I really enjoyed my stay in the capital of China and would love to go back any time. Compared to Hong Kong it is vast but less crowded.
I stayed in a hostel in the centre, the hutongs, of Beijing and I loved it!! It was one of the best hostels I have ever been to and it was comparably cheap, too. As the buildings usually only have one or at most two floors, it is kinda cosy and not noisy at all. Again a huge upside, if you are used to Hongkong's high rises and construction noise.

For reference:

Anyways: The art district is located in between the forth and the fifth ring, half-way to the airport.

The Dashanzi (Originally 718, nowadays 798) factory complex began as an extension of the "Socialist Unification Plan" of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the newly formed People's Republic of China.It was part of China's Five-Year plan. At the request of then-Premier Zhou Enlai, scientists and engineers joined the first Chinese trade delegation to East Germany in 1951, visiting a dozen factories. The project was green lighted in early 1952 and a Chinese preparatory group was sent to East Berlin to prepare design plans.

The architectural plans were left to the Germans, who chose a functional Bauhaus-influenced design over the more ornamental Soviet style, triggering the first of many disputes between the German and Russian consultants on the project. The plans, where form follows function, called for large indoor spaces designed to let the maximum amount of natural light into the workplace. In total it covered an area of 500.000m². By the time the factories opened in 1957 it was one of the most popular working places in Beijing as it offered accommodation, space for free time activities such as sports and lots of German influence, ranging from motorbike stunts, classical music and good dental care.

By 1980 the work slowly declined due to reforms and lead to a complete stop of production in 1995. Since then, artists looking for cheap accommodation away from downtown slowly settled in, forming the art district as seen today. But enough of the history. Nowadays it is the most famous location for artists to show their latest pieces of art including Ai Wei Wei, Xu Yong, Huang Rui or Sui Jianguo. In addition fashion shows, exhibitions and galas were be hosted, featuring international guest like Morcheeba or Cindy Crawford.

Here are a few impressions of the work. Sorry for the poor quality, I only had my cellphone with me as it was a spontaneous trip. Enjoy!

Random work: Looks like it was made for my build? ;)
Again a Buddha, being a commonly used motive.
Don't you just love fat dancing red buddhas?

Inside one of the renovated factories. Very creative and innovative.

Huge installation of commonly used articles in daily life.

A plastic model showing the vulgarity in today's society.

My favorite piece: 50 bronze wolfs surrounding a lone warrior.

Montag, 21. November 2011

Cockroachs and Water Bills

Curious what this post is about? Well I have been living in Hong Kong for about three months and by now I actually thought that I more or less know what the city has in petto. Well I was proven wrong today, as we received our first water- and electricity bill.
Nowadays one hears a lot about rising energy prices in Europe, so we payed close attention not to overuse the water heater, air con andof course to switch off the light when leaving the room. We even went that far to set our fridge to "winter-modus" during summerly 30 degrees! But see for yourself what kind of misfortune struck us...

Turns out: Energy is ridiculously cheap in Hong Kong!! Besides the enormously high rent, one does not have to fear additional costs when renting an apartment. As the government subsidise the first 140 HKD of every electricity bill in the city, every month, we did not have to pay a single cent for electricity yet.On the contrary we had to settle a derisory amount of 24 HKD for water, over a period of 70 days! Oh, and of course this bill is defrayable at ever ATM in the city in less than a minute. One just gotta love this city ;)

Well back to the actual story of the protagonist! When my flatmate came home today he found a rather odd guest in our apartment (no, this time it was not a couchsurfer who is commonly found at our place) but a cockroach. Being omnipresent in the city and especially in the crowded partying districts, these little fellows are a common site. But in our apartment?

 Apart from us being tidy and clean people we wondered HOW this daily doze of protein could have managed to reach our flat on the 8th floor. The most rational theory  (2 out of 2 votes) is that our neighbours have a cockroach farm to earn a little extra money to pay the rent. Nevertheless we treated him with best hospitality and gave him/ him a piece of rotten banana. Enjoy! Unfortunately he is no longer staying with us as we threw him back to his world, the dark alley full of eatable waste from the restaurant next door.

Progress Report online

Hey Folks,

One of my countless reports was uploaded to the school's website. For anyone who can handle google translator or is capable of understanding German, enjoy!

Samstag, 5. November 2011

Sightseeing #3:Lamma Island

First of all, to state the obvious, Hong Kong is great!On the one hand, this vibrant metropolis has that many highlights and advantages that I dont even dare to name them because I would probably forget some of them. However on the other hand, the noise and the pollution are reason enough escape the grasp of the city on the weekend. One famous sight for a short trip is the car free Lamma Island.
It is located on the south of Hong Kong and can be easily reached by ferry in about 40 minutes via the main ferry pier in central.

Lamma Island has, besides some sights and beaches, two small settlements where one can enjoy local seafood and take a break from everyday life. For this trip, I decided to start at the settlement on the eastern side of the island, Sok Kwu Wan.

As the Island is not very big one can cross is in about 90 minutes if  one is eager to taste some seafood on the other side or enjoy the various sides on the way there and take a lot longer. Along the trail up the hills there are beaches, small temples , shrines, even smaller settlements and a few shops which sell refreshments. In addition to these things one may expect to see, there is a more uncommon one, too. The Lamma Island power plant. A coal-fired power station which was build in 1982 but enlarged over the years. The total power output is said to be 4MW.

Who would not love to enjoy the sight of this fabulous landmark when laying at the beach? Oh and in case someone wonders, these people with the big hats, blue cloths and the rake are hired cleaners to clean the beach every day to attract more tourists from Hong Kong.

Even though the power plant kind of dims the mood, I actually like this small village along the coastline with a few diners and a nice beach. Especially because it is not exceptionally crowded like all of the other beaches on Hong Kong Island and because the diners offer free WiFi giving guests the option to sunbath at the beach and relax while skyping with friends and family from Germany who complain about the cold rainy weather.
Truely amazing

Somewhat later one arrives at the Yung Shue Wan at the western side of the island where seafood can be enjoyed as well. The restaurants have a huge variety of locals and oversee ingredients which are presented in tanks in front of the restaurant. One may even chose the lobster or crab for oneself or just order from the menu to not trouble the conscience ;)
So far I have tried all kinds of crabs, lobster, a few local types of fish, scallops and some veggies out of the see on my previous trips to Lamma Island and they were without exception really good. The advantage of having seafood on one of the Island is not only the guaranteed freshness of the ingredients but also the lower price as the restaurants do not have to 
pay such a high rent for the space they use or even own it.
The trip to the islands is really worth it and it is a lot of fun to sit at the waterfront, eat seafood and chat with friends while watching the fishermen and small boots passing by. If you have the chance, you should go during the week though as it tends to get a little busier on the weekends.
The lush green hills and valleys in between  are a welcome change to the urban canyons of the city.

There are probably a lot more things to see and to discover if one is brave enough to leave the well
beaten tourist-paths.
In addition to the not so forward-looking coal-fired power plant, Lamma features the first wind turbine in Hong Kong as well. One can even walk up to it and wonder: "How could a turbine possibly be a tourist attraction"?
Back in Germany people are complaining that there are too many turbines being erected and over here a single one is so extraordinary that it becomes  a sigh for tourist. Hong Kong really has a long way to go when it comes to renewable energy and recycling!

 Even saving energy seems not to be part of  the every day vocabulary in Hong Kong. Due to the high light pollution in the city, I assume that one of the many things some locals have not ever seen are stars besides snow and Christmas trees.
Oh, and most do not know how to swim, ride a bike or drive a car either. Cultural differences I guess.

This is the sight I enjoyed while eating my lobster in one of the various restaurants in the end of the "across the island" trip. The advantage of a side trip to Lamma is that it can range from 4 hours of time up to a whole day depending on the mood and need for some quiet time.
A trip to either Lamma or Lantau Island should be one excursion if one stays in Hong Kong for more than three days. The sea food is definitely worth it!


Mittwoch, 28. September 2011

Typical sights in Hong Kong: #1 Typhoons

For the past few weeks there has always been some ruckus about typhoons and weather they would hit us or just pass by unnoticed, like most of the time. The magical typhoon level is 8 as school, work and most of the shops do not pick up work on these days.

The same predictions made their way around and most of the persons I talked to believed in the inability of the Hong Kong Observatory to predict accurately but they were wrong!

When I got up at 6 o'clock in the morning and checked my mobile phone my eyeperceived a sms saying that the level raised up to 8 and school would be suspended for today! Not only did I get a couple more hours of sleep out of it but the city fell asleep as well, which rarely to never happens in Hong Kong.
Moreover all the noise from a nearby building site died down and one could only hear the rain for the past 5 hours. Truly magical!

Now it is official, I love thypoon as they bring out the better parts of Hoong Kong :)

Would you be able to predict the typhoon is coming?

The magical number 8 which is supposed to bring luck  in China!

How to survive in Hong Kong: Lesson #1, the Octopus Card

Once, in a  country far far away called Germany there was a traceur, hindered in his movement as he was waiting for a train. He was exasperatedly because the 30 minute trainride cost a small fortune, the service was bad and the train ran only every half an hour, when on time. In addition one always had to carry around change as payment.
The traceur was so furious about this treatment that he flew to a myth-enshrouded place where one could board any of the many different vehicles available and pay conveniently by placing his wallet onto a magic button.

My one and only Octopus Card.
Okay enough of the tails, over here in Hong Kong the public transit system can be described as awesomness²! With the rechargeable Octopus card one can not only pay all public transit by swiping it over a sensor but at all Starbucks, 7-11s and many more stores. In addition you receive one free trip for every 100 HKD you spent (about 10 Euro). Moreover the fair is comparably inexpensive as one pays 2.3 HKD for the tram, 4.8-10.5 for the MTR (Mass Transit Rail) and 5-12 HKD for the bus and minibuses.
Taxis are comparably cheap too. Every Monday I have to switch campuses and therefore take the taxi which takes me about 20 minutes and the charge is only charged with about 75 HKD.

This one being the MTR-logo
The tram being the cheapest vehicle only runs, of course, on fixed tracks on Hong Kong Island. All of the routes go from East to West, covering the northern part of the island.
As one stop is just outside my door, it is really convenient for me to take the tram to most of my afternoon and evening activities. It is always a great sight to just sit on the upper deck and watch the street pass by. Once I have time, I will post some "off the tram shot" pictures.

The MTR is by far the most used public transit vehicle transporting most of the professionals from Kowloon through the tunnel to the many office buildings on the island and back. The reasons why so many people use this way of transportation is because it is fast and really convenient as the waiting time only ranges from 1-10 minutes and the railway area covers most of the urban area.

Every morning I bestow my way to work by bus hence this route is not covered by any other pt-line. Some bus routes are exceptionally busy during rush hour and therefore slow but most of the times the bus is a good way to reach ones destination as well. However during rush hour I prefer to switch to the MTR for some stops hence traffic is sometimes time consuming. Moreover on the bus you can sit on the upper deck up front and enjoy the view while travelling or take a nap.

Tram, double-deck bus and of course a German Benz!

Lastly there is the option to chose a taxi for travelling. The time and money you have to spend for a trip depends mostly on traffic likewise driving skill and English capability vary greatly from one to another driver. So far, the most annoying driving style I have experienced is the constant gas on/off way, at an interval of one acceleration per second. Not only does one have to hold on to a handle but fear for his life as well as the driver is apparently not well schooled. In addition your stomach should not be upset if you board one of these taxis or you lunch/ drinks might cross your mind again.