Archive for July, 2010

  • POLITICS – HK Time Out Magazine – Column #30

    Date: 2010.07.21 | Category: Politics: All Posts | Response: 0

    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.

    Cycling is certainly a terrifying ordeal with government figures showing a 12.7 per cent rise in accidents since 2008 to 1,793 last year. For years, the Transport Department has been talking about linking up NT cycle lanes (a process which itself will take years). They have also promised 1,000 more parking spaces and an information service for cyclists. However, there are few plans for sharing roads in Kowloon and the Island and so – unlike in Japan and much of Europe – we remain far from transforming HK into a real haven for those on two wheels.

    The local Cycling Alliance is campaigning for safer streets, bike lanes, junction ‘bike boxes’, better parking and a lifting of bike bans on public transport. They also point to the new provisions for cyclists within the UK Highway Code, on which our road system is based. While it’s no easy task to reverse-engineer a city built exclusively around the car, the government officially treats cycling as a leisure activity or sport. Instead, ‘Asia’s World City’ should be bought in line with most other modern cities and reclassify cycling as a real zero-carbon transport alternative.

  • POLITICS – HK Time Out Magazine – Column #29

    Date: 2010.07.07 | Category: Politics: All Posts | Response: 0

    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.

    There is little to unify the ideas and policies laid out on the different sites and sparsely populated Facebook groups, but all seem to harbour an odd nostalgia for the old colonial government coupled with a healthy disdain for the motherland. Many of the foreign registered sites urge a boycott of China, foreseeing a democratic sovereign future state, headed by a president as part of the UK commonwealth.

    Whilst there is room for debate over Taiwan, Tibet and East Turkistan’s status, these groups fail to consider how comfortable most Hong Kongers now are with our new overseers. To protect the property market, a decision was made long before handover about the territory’s future and soon, the question of what happens to the city after 2047 will need to be tackled. However, it’s unlikely the ‘Republic of HK’ will be a viable option.

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