By: SHI RuoshuiEdited by: Bowie Tse

Culture & Leisure

Cotton trees in bloom and the best places to see them

Hong Kong’s cotton trees are in full bloom. The flame-colour flowers mark the height of Spring in the city, especially along the road named after it: Cotton Tree Drive in the mid-levels. Native to India, Malaysia and the Philippines, cotton trees are widely cultivated in South China, Taiwan, Indo-China Peninsula and Malaysia by immigrants. According to Mr. Ken K. Y. So, arborist and t Chief Executive of The Conservancy Association, cultivation of cotton trees has been recorded in Hong Kong since the Qing Dynasty. Today, there are more than 8,000 trees according to Greening, Landscape & Tree Management Section of Development Bureau. Colloquially known as “hero trees”, cotton trees get the name for their straight and sturdy trunk., They are also named after the legendary hero of the Lizu people, one of the 56 ethnic groups indigeous to Hainan island in southern China. The late Hong Kong pop icon Roman Tam also had a song called Hung Min, the Cantonese name for cotton trees, in which he used the plant as a metaphor for the lofty and unyielding character of Chinese people. It also carries the connotation of cherishing and the promise of wealth and well-being. In 2015, a Wong Tai Sin District Councillor proposed to sterilize the cotton trees around town because he thought the kapok the plants produce was a nuisance. But the proposal was eventually dropped because there was no medical evidence that the white kapok affected the respiratory system. The scientific name of cotton trees is Bombax ceiba. It can be found all over the city, and there is a cotton tree lovers map marking out more than 40 places to admire the bloom. Many are in Tuen Mun and Mei Foo. The most famous place to see cotton trees blossom is along the Shek Kong …

Society

Clubhouse users cash in on invitation codes in mainland China

The audio-chat social networking app, Clubhouse is offering users in mainland China a taste of free speech. One user, John Lam, stayed up till 3am listening to participants talk about Xinjiang, an often taboo subject on the mainland. “An ethnic minority user in America talked about his family members being arrested in Xinjiang, and participants constantly reminded each other about their personal safety,” Mr. Lam said. Launched last March, Clubhouse drew 5 million users within a month when it streamed The Lion King musical in December last year. After registering with a mobile phone number, users get an ID. But joining a chatroom is by invitation only. Another user has to send you an invitation code via SMS, and each account only gets to invite two others. Clubhouse is free outside the mainland. It is ranked the number one free app at the moment. But in the mainland, users are cashing in on the invitations. On the e-commerce platform, Taobao invitation codes are sold for around 100 yuan each. More than two dozen shops on Taobao are selling the codes, with one store getting nearly 200 sales on average everyday. On Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in the mainland, people bid for cheaper invitation codes. Some are available for around 45 yuan. Clubhouse is offering users outside China a glimpse inside the country. Cici Wang, 20, a mainland student studying in America, learned about the Taiwan earthquake while listening to a discussion in the Cross-Strait Youth chatroom. “It was a rare opportunity for people in the mainland to discuss freely on serious political topics with people from other regions or countries,” said Ms Wang. Nearly 800 people joined the chatroom to listen to young people across the Taiwan Strait share personal experiences, opinions on living conditions, women status and politics. Moderators …