Sunday, October 2, 2022

Patriots Come out to Party

A sea of red flags for National Day are hung around the city

It's October 1, National Day, and all the patriots are out in force to celebrate.

At the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre by Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, senior government officials all wore maroon-coloured masks for the flag-raising ceremony.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu was there of course, along with familiar faces, such as former chief executives Leung Chun-ying and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor were there, though Tung Chee-hwa was absent.

Flag-raising ceremony at Bauhinia Square
There was another flag-raising ceremony held at Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- perhaps to show the world that the tertiary institution -- that was the site of a siege by protesters three years ago -- is all cleaned up and under full control of the government.

People on social media have pointed out that all these guests can gather together in public without violating social-distancing measures which has limited people to groups of four...

Meanwhile some local patriots came out to the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour front and donned patriotic masks and some even wore Han dynasty robes complete with headdresses and waving Chinese flags. 

Patriotic maidens wearing Han dynasty robes
Why they did that is strange, considering the Communist Party wanted to get rid of the "Four Olds": old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits.

Perhaps they belong to some pro-establishment group promoting traditional Chinese dress? They sure caught the attention of the media as they seemed to be the only local residents to be genuinely celebrating the day...

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Picture of the Day: Kiwis

Tempting to pick, but these kiwis are not ripe

On our walk the other day we took a different street in the neighbourhood and discovered a house with a kiwi vine! In Vancouver!

Hiding under large green leaves are these small fuzzy brown oval balls, but they didn't look ripe.

A bit of research online confirmed of at least one other kiwi vine growing in Marina Square, a municipal park next to Bayshore Marina.

When a reporter asked the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation about the kiwis, the spokesperson responded they weren't sure when the fruit was planted there, though the park was created around 1997.

While the vine bears fruit every year, picking and eating the kiwi is "not recommended", because "we do not have a long enough season for the fruit to ripen," said the spokesperson.

I imagine the same would apply to the vine we saw, as it had lots of fruit, but no takers.

Nevertheless who'd have thought kiwis could grow in Vancouver!

Friday, September 30, 2022

Remembering Sid Tan

Tan was a community activist passionate about the head tax

The first story I ever did for CBC Radio in 2003 was about the head tax that Chinese migrants had to pay to enter Canada in the 1800s. 

Only the Chinese were forced to pay this discriminatory tax that was CAD$500 per person, which was a fortune at the time and took years to pay back.

There was a callout looking for a Cantonese speaker to conduct interviews and I answered it.

Quon (right) paid the head tax
It was then that I found out I was to interview Charlie Quon, one of the last surviving head tax payers and the growing campaign to demand the federal government address this shameful period in history and compensate the victims and their families.

I also interviewed Gim Wong, the son of a head tax payer. He was well into his 70s but still fit into his military uniform. He talked for over an hour about how the head tax affected his family. I found out later he died in 2013.

Spearheading the movement called Head Tax Families Society of Canada was Sid Chow Tan, a rotund fellow, his hair desperate for a haircut and had a scraggly moustache and goatee. 

What I remember most was how passionate he was about the cause, insistent that head tax payers had to be compensated.

Redress finally came in 2006 when then Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologised and compensated CAD$20,000 to each surviving head tax payer. 

He also had an interest because he was a "paper son" -- a "son" of a Chinese man who was already living in Canada. Tan was born in then Canton, now Guangzhou, China and then came to Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Wong in his uniform
It was only when he was a teenager that he discovered he was a paper son and led to his mission in life.

The news came out on Tuesday that Tan had died the day before on September 26. Tan was 73 years old.

He kept in daily contact with his son Jordan in Victoria. When Jordan didn't hear from Sid, he rushed over to Vancouver and found him in his apartment. 

I found out later Tan was also passionate about many other causes like environmental activism with the Sierra Club of BC, mentoring community media producers and running for city council in 2014.

Many in the community and media circles are mourning his loss. Though I never met him again, I am thankful to him to having me tell the head tax story and be a part of the journey to right a wrong.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ronson Chan Flies to Oxford, Hui Sentenced in Absentia

Chan is chairman of the largest journalist association in HK

It is a relief to know that Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Ronson Chan is flying out tonight to the UK to attend a six-month fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

Chan paid a fine related to a traffic charge
Thursday morning Hong Kong time he had to go to court (again) to face a charge of running a red light last year. He was fined HK$2,000.

Outside the court he told reporters he was looking forward to the six-month program as a temporary break from his 18-year career as a journalist in Hong Kong. 

Meanwhile former lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung was sentenced in absentia to 3.5 years in jail for jumping bail in cases stemming from his alleged disruptive behaviour in the Legislative Council and for participating in the 2019 protests.

It is the first time a fugitive was sanctioned in absentia for offences allegedly committed in Hong Kong related to the protests.

Hui and his family have settled in Adelaide
The court found Hui guilty of contempt in June for breaching bail conditions. He had given up his passport but then managed to persuade two judges to give him permission to travel on the pretext of attending climate change meetings in Denmark in November 2020.

It was later revealed that Hui enlisted the help of Danish parliamentarians to draft a fake itinerary and invitation to enable him to leave Hong Kong on what was thought to be official business.

Hui's parents, wife and children left the city soon after he did, and they are now settled in Adelaide, Australia.

The judge ruled in June that Hui had consciously abandoned his right to defend himself, pointing to his Facebook posts where he "continued to display his displeasure or dissatisfaction towards the legal system in Hong Kong" and "proclaimed publicly his disdain for the integrity of this court".

Hui was in Denmark in November 2020
Before the ruling today Hui wrote on his Facebook that he would continue to lobby for Hong Kong at an international level no matter what the sentence was.

"The only objective effect of a severe sentence on me is to exacerbate the deterioration of Hong Kong's rule of law, giving the entire world a glimpse on how the Hong Kong court is content with persecuting residents fighting for freedom and democracy in cahoots with tyranny," he said.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

HK's Only Carton Recycler's Dead End

Yip says Mil Mill has been given a Dec 31 deadline to leave

The Hong Kong government has very little interest in protecting the environment. The latest news is a drinks carton recycler being kicked out of its space by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, a body set up by the government. 

The science park has given Mil Mill till the end of the year to operate and then it has to vacate the 20,000 sq ft plot in Yuen Long. In order to process everything and leave by December 31, Mil Mill's executive director Harold Yip Man-ki says they will have to stop taking in drink cartons in October.

He added the deadline is hardly enough time for the recycler to prepare for its departure.

The plant processes 3 tonnes of waste per day
Mil Mill is the only recycler in Hong Kong that can process drink cartons that are made with layers of polythene and aluminium for water resistance and durability. Recycling these cartons is considered to have lower profit margins compared to other recycling ventures because of the additional work needed to break down the coating.

In 2019, Mil Mill rented the current space in a three-year contract and then last year science park extended the least to the end of 2022.

It was in September that Mil Mill received an email from the landlord to vacate the premises without stating a reason why or any suggestions of renewing the lease.

The city's environmental department offered three alternative sites for Mil Mill: in Cheung Chau, Chai Wan and Stonecutters Island. But Yip rejected these offers, saying the locations were not suitable.

It is hard to understand why the science park is kicking the recycler out since its mandate is to support small and medium-sized enterprises. At the same time the government half-heartedly trying to solve the situation started by another government body. 

Seems strange and awkward.

Mil Mill takes in these drink cartons to recycle
This is happening at a time when Hongkongers feel even more passionate about saving the city's natural environment and are more environmentally conscious. 

If any thing the government should be leasing the land for the pulp mill since the current space is run by a government body. Mil Mill only recycles 3 tonnes of the 67 tonnes of waste produced in Hong Kong everyday. Hong Kong needs several of these recyclers to try to reduce as much garbage as possible.

It is imperative for the government to encourage more companies and individuals to recycle, if not set up its own enterprise to do so. But instead it shifts the responsibility on people who really care about the environment. They know they aren't going to make much money, but they feel strongly about landfills and excessive waste.

The current recycling bins in the city are a joke -- people haphazardly dump things into the wrong bins -- because the government has not educated them properly on how to separate their waste. 

As a result when they migrate abroad, Hongkongers have had complaints from neighbours about them having little understanding of how recycling works and what part we play in all of this. It is embarrassing that they know so little about it and why it's so important to participate and do it properly.

So this demonstrates how the government has given recycling such a low priority, not enforcing nor encouraging it.

Why does the government want its land to become a massive garbage dump? Very hard to understand its lack of interest in the environment and the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Canada Removes Covid-19 Border Hurdles

From October 1, no more Covid tests, quarantines or masks

After a lot of grumbling with Covid-19 protocols resulting in many American tourists and day trippers staying away, the Canadian government announced this morning that as of October 1, anyone, vaccinated or not can come into the country, are not mandated to wear masks on planes, trains and cruise ships, no more random arrival testing, or even the need to show proof of vaccination.

ArriveCan app will be optional
There is also no need to quarantine or use the ArriveCAN app. The latter was what American visitors grumbled about, particularly those who came for the day, unwilling to fill out the tedious online form on their phones, while others found their app was malfunctioning and told them to self-isolate when they were not infected.

While people are rejoicing and deleting the ArriveCAN app, epidemiologists fear that they are losing crucial information when people are not tested on arrival. They say it's important to know what variants are coming in and from where. When wastewater is tested, it is already too late -- at least when someone is tested upon entering Canada, health experts can be made aware of the situation and react quickly and effectively.

Interestingly, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Monday's decision was not a sign Canada is out of the pandemic, but that the government's data showed the importation of new variants was no longer having an effect on the evolution of the virus in the country.

Duclos says the pandemic isn't over yet
"If anybody believes the pandemic is over, I invite them to visit a hospital," he said.

"That decision again was driven by the evidence that we have seen over the last few weeks and months, which is that the transmission and cost of transmission of Covid-19 on our healthcare workers, hospitals and including those patients who have seen backlogs in their surgeries and treatments over the last two years and a half... are now almost entirely driven by domestic transmission of Covid-19. That's where we need to invest our energy."

However, while masks will no longer be mandatory, Dr Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief health officer, said he still recommends people wear masks on planes and trains.

"The science is clear -- wearing a mask is clearly a means of personal protection that is extremely effective," he said.

Njoo advises people to continue to wear masks
"I hope Canadians will make an enlightened decision about this."

The other issue is that the ArriveCAN app is now optional, but it doesn't mean a border agent will not ask to see it, which makes it confusing at best.

Today some people were still wearing masks on public transport, though the majority chose not to. People seem to have moved on from Covid-19 and don't have the same concerns they had two years ago. Others are still masked up and even wearing gloves. 

It's all relative... and will continue to be.

Almost Half of Secondary School Students are Depressed

Many students participated in the protests, some now in jail

After over two and a half years of the pandemic with schools closed and at-home learning from computer monitors has taken a toll on Hong Kong students' mental health. 

We are not surprised.

NGO Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service conducted a survey among 1,192 secondary school pupils and found 48 percent of them had symptoms of depression, including feeling hopeless about the future, or a loss of fun. Some 36 percent displayed moderate to very severe signs of depression.

Pandemic has taken a toll on students mentally
In addition, 51 percent of those interviewed were found to have symptoms of anxiety, such as being afraid of embarrassing themselves, dry mouth and trembling. These cases needed professional help.

Ivan Fang, a committee member of the NGO said mental stress often stemmed from a dissatisfaction with daily life. The students who did the survey said they were most upset about the Covid-19 pandemic, their education and the state of society.

Sadly this will be a vindication for parents who took the difficult decision of moving their families from Hong Kong to start their lives elsewhere. While they are mostly in primary school, these children who have migrated to places like the UK, Australia, and Canada seem to be happy and not dragged down by the severe pandemic restrictions like in Hong Kong.

In some cases parents may want their children to complete secondary school and then go abroad for university, or others don't have the means to leave the city. But with the pandemic taking such a toll on these young people, they probably can't hang on much longer.

Depressed students feel hopeless about the future 
Perhaps it's no wonder that 70 percent of the respondents also had poor relationships with their parents, making the students' mental health even worse. 

It's also not helpful that the government does not value its next generation and instead throws it in jail.

Hopefully these students will address their symptoms and understand they are not alone. Everyone in Hong Kong is going through not only the trauma of the pandemic, but also that of the 2019 protests and the political repression happening now.

It's a lot to process for a teenager, let alone an adult.

Patriots Come out to Party

A sea of red flags for National Day are hung around the city It's October 1, National Day, and all the patriots are out in force to cele...