Culture & Leisure

Culture & Leisure

Century-old Tradition Warding off Diseases Driven away by the Pandemic

Burnt smell of incense, flaming joss sticks and cheering of the people... the Fire Dragon have been parading along the streets of Tai Hang since a century ago. However, this year Mr Chan, who is the commander in chief of the Dance, felt hopeless about the spectacle's first cancellation ever. "A lot of customers and residents from Tai Hang still came to support us [despite we did it differently this year]," said the 74-year-old Fire Dragon Commander in Chief and Organizer proudly with a twinge of sadness in his voice. Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is held during Mid-Autumn Festival every year. The tradition was legended to drive away diseases. Yet, the Tai Hang Residents' Welfare Association announced in early September that the annual ritual would be cancelled this year in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures.  Chan Tak-fai has been the Fire Dragon Commander in Chief for over four decades.  "I was told that it was my passion towards Fire Dragon Dance that made me chosen as the Commander in Chief," said the 74-year-old. Since the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance was first held in 1880, the annual ritual was only cancelled once during the Japanese Occupation in December 1941 to August 1945.  Even during the SARS pandemic in 2003, it was held as usual. "The Dance was performed earlier than it usually was in mid-May that year, hoping to drive away the SARS," Mr Chan added.   The Dance that year was seen as effective in driving away the SARS pandemic.  As stated by the World Health Organization, Hong Kong has removed from the list of SARS affected areas on June 23 that year as there were no new cases for 20 consecutive days.   Yet, so far, there is not any scientific proof that the Tai …

Society

The New Norm: An Online World

Since COVID-19, the pandemic has altered the way that we leave the comfort of our homes and socialise with one another. Seeing different faces on what were once the crowded streets of Hong Kong are a thing of the past. Instead, we see masked faces at half-empty restaurants and meet people through our computer screens. With the implementation of social distancing measures, schools, businesses and even fitness industries have interacted digitally instead, adapting to this new norm of an online world. More and more businesses are adjusting to a permanent work-from-home state. Tech giant Microsoft initially announced that it would not open its offices till at least January 2021, but later stated that it will allow its employees to permanently work remotely, even post-pandemic.  A booming app during the pandemic, Zoom, has been crucial in allowing such arrangements to thrive. Founded in 2011, the software company has specifically gained fame this year for its accessibility in areas such as school classes or business events. In the first quarter of 2020, Zoom's revenue skyrocketed to HK$2.96 billion (US$382.2 million) and its customer growth has risen by 378% from a year earlier.  But, people are adapting differently to this new virtual phenomenon.  Schools and classrooms, once filled with the sound of students chit-chatting while teachers tried to pass their knowledge onto them, are now empty. Instead, students wake up, grab their laptops, punch in a meeting number and passcode, and take their classes for the rest of the day in the confinement of their own homes. "I need to stay up really late for my classes till three or four in the morning, it's overwhelming," says Michelle Kwong, a student enrolled at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She chose to stay back in Hong Kong and take all her classes online because …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: HK government to introduce cash allowance for low-income families

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted new public housing schemes for residents with plans to provide low-income families currently waiting in line for public rental housing with cash allowance over a prolonged period. In the live broadcast, Mrs Lam hopes that the new schemes will "get Hong Kong out of the impasse and restore people's confidence as soon as possible."  To meet the demand of about 301,000 public housing units, the government plans to use 330 identified hectares of land required based on the Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2020 to implement 316,000 flats within the next 10 years.  Locations involved the Tung Chung reclamation side, the agricultural and brownfields sides in new development areas such as Kwu Tong North, Fanling North. Other suggested areas include nine sites at Kai Tak and Anderson Road Quarry, and parts of Fanling Golf Course will also be used for public housing development.  "It is the prime time to create more land for housing," she said. Ms Leung, who has been in line for public rental housing for four years, rated the policy address one out of 10. "She [Carrie Lam] did introduce new public housing, but it seems that the majority would be sold in the market rather than being rented, which would have zero impact on shortening the waiting time for public rental housing," Leung said. Currently, the waiting time for public rental housing averages at 5.6 years, which has increased by 0.1 years compared to June this year. As of September, there are about 156,400 general applications for public rental housing and about 103,600 non-elderly one-person applications.  A new cash subsidy will roll out for people waiting for public rental housing. In the trial scheme, applicants with two or more persons, and elderly one-person applicants not living in …

Society

Mixed-mode art exhibition lights up Hong Kong cultural service in post-pandemic age

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: WANG Yichun、Summer LiEdited by: Han Xu、Cassie Zhang
  • 2020-11-21

In face of the declining visits due to the public gathering restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong cultural sectors seek innovative solutions by delivering online/offline art programmes to the audience.  The Fest Box program, launched for free by the Leisure and Cultural Service Department on Nov. 1, enables the public to enjoy and immerse in various cultural programmes by simply clicking on the programme's website at home. "The online world allows us to explore more possibilities," said Addy Wong Ngan-ping, Senior Media Coordinator of Muse Fest HK in a promotion video of the Fest Box. Facilitated with advanced online technologies, the team was able to create a chance for global audiences to appreciate artworks at any time. The Fest Box is not the pioneer of the virtual exhibition in the arts industry. Statistics from HK01 show that since the implementation of the restrictive policies amid COVID-19, 94.9% of art performances, festivals, and venues have been cancelled or postponed during the first quarter of 2020. As a result, many local art exhibitions, art festivals, and venues have switched to online mode. From March 18 to 25, Art Basel Hong Kong, one of the local signature activities that were originally cancelled due to the epidemic, set up the "Online Viewing Rooms." The initial form was so welcomed by the public that online visitors increased by three times to 250,000 compared with the previous offline ones, according to the statistics of HK01. As the LCSD announced on October 28, the limit on the number of visitors in each facility of LCSD museums, performance venues, and parks was relaxed from 50% to 75% starting from Oct. 30. In response, some art service providers started to organise both online and offline cultural activities. The Hong Kong Space Museum presented the "Univers/e" virtual reality exhibition …

Society

Hong Kong celebrates 'Once In a Blue Moon' Halloween amid COVID-19

Traditionally, Halloween has been a festival for people to dress up as different characters and go trick-or-treating. But, the Halloween of 2020 has been a different one: Hong Kong is celebrating the festival under COVID-19, along with a 'blue moon'. The blue moon phenomenon, which refers to the second full moon in the same calendar month, is also the origin of the English phrase 'once in a blue moon'. The first blue moon appeared during the Mid-Autumn festival in early October.  "We are excited to see what everybody is talking about, and also looking forward to seeing it [the blue moon]," said Alex Nathan, 45, who came to the West Kowloon Cultural District to take part in Halloween activities such as face painting. Mr. Nathan also brought four other children to the District, with all of them dressed up as different characters, including a vampire and ballerina.   "The blue moon is making the day more special," said Will Mok To-Wing, 31, and Rebecca Cho Miu-Kwan, 24. Mr. Mok and Ms. Cho decorated their gathering venue with outdoor chairs and pumpkin lanterns, while also sharing food with their friends. Under the blue moon were a group of adults and children dressed as the hit Japanese game character Mario, which were bought from an online shopping platform for less than HK$500.  "We wanted to dress up at a low cost and with clothes that can have different recognizable colours, so we chose Mario," said Cuby Lau Pui-Yu, 32, who put on a green Mario costume, along with her former classmates and their children. Apart from the costumes, Mr. Nathan, Mr. Mok, Ms. Cho, and Ms. Lau also carried face masks and hand sanitizers in their bags, with the pandemic still looming large in the city.  Due to COVID-19 and unstable weather in …

Society

Halloween brings large crowds to Lan Kwai Fong amid COVID-19

Hundreds dressed in costumes gathered at Lan Kwai Fong for a night of partying on Halloween, with packed streets and long queues accumulating for bars and nightclubs, amid the city's on-again, off-again social distancing measures.  "We can't take off our masks at all, take proper photos or completely enjoy ourselves," said Sparsh Goyal, 20, a university student in Hong Kong who came to celebrate Halloween with her friends, while having to sanitize her hands frequently to enforce self-hygiene and remain safe. Up until Friday, bars, restaurants, and clubs were only allowed to operate at a half-full capacity, with a maximum of four people per table allowed at restaurants, two at bars, and a required midnight closing time.  On Friday, the government announced it would ease measures with the limit of people at restaurants raised from four to six and from two to four at bars. Clubs and bars were also allowed to operate at a 75% capacity till 2am, a two-hour increase for party-goers.  Police took extensive measures to ensure crowd control. Signs were hung at every corner to guide people through designated entrances and exits, as well as to make sure they were following social distancing measures. Some were not so worried about the risk of contracting the disease even while being present amongst such a large crowd. "There is not a big chance of catching COVID while just walking around [Lan Kwai Fong]," said Chan Yu-Hon, 34, who said it was his first time celebrating Halloween at the city's prime party street. Most bars and clubs followed anti-epidemic measures such as temperature checks upon entry and providing hand sanitizing gel.  "It's kind of surprising and unusual to see this many people together now," said Aidan Cheung, 23, referring to the large crowds. Since the start of the pandemic, …

Culture & Leisure

A fancy walk leads locals to meet ethnic minorities' neighbours

Arabic signs, Islamic symbol on restaurant signboard, grocery store filled with spices line along Kwai Chung’s Ping Lai Path, a community surrounded by industrial buildings. The local cultural tour group led by the guide, Minhas Rashad, an inhabitant of South-Asia speaking fluent Cantonese, shows visitors an ordinary day of the South Asian and the Chinese residents live and gather in the area - a feature the community is notorious for. "Hong Kong is a wonderful city for travelling. For tourists, Hong Kong might be a city with Buddhist temples, Cha Chaan Teng, natural scenery on islands," said Minhas Rashad. "However, for us, it is not the full story."  Having lived in Hong Kong for more than 30 years, Mr Rashad thinks a warm-hearted community is important, however, Hong Kong people are more self-conscious and too busy that they barely pay attention, care and communicate with neighbours. "Now, the situation has changed," Mr Rashad said. "This is not a typical cultural tour as usual. Unlike Chungking Mansions, Ping Lai Path is way beyond tourist attraction," said Fikiyo Yiu, an officer from Hong Kong S.K.H. Lady MacLehose Centre who organizes this community project for ethnic minorities uniquely. The tour is operated by a community centre called Kung Yung Koon, that welcomes visitors to get a glimpse of the South Asian immigration history and living culture by exploring in Kwai Chung district. It is one of the projects of 'Our community of Love & Mutuality: Nurturing Cultural Diversity & Community Legacy in Kwai Chung'.  "As to enhance cultural sensitivity in Hong Kong, our project targets residents who live nearby the tour instead of foreign tourists," said Ms Yiu. Ms Yiu thinks the tour is a starting point for Hong Kong people, especially those living nearby to contact South Asians eating and living culture.  …

Society

Art exhibition disCONNECT HK takes over tenement building to reflect on COVID-19

Fourteen artists will showcase their works in an exhibition about connection, belonging, isolation, and the role of technology under the pandemic by taking over a restored 1950s Hong Kong historic tenement building. Local non-profit arts organisation, HKwalls is collaborating with Schoeni Projects, a contemporary art project based in Hong Kong and London to launch disCONNECT HK from October 11 to November 29, featuring artists from Hong Kong, the UK, Germany, Italy, Iran, Portugal, and Spain.  "Everyone needs a bit of art and everyone is craving it, especially when we are having such a hard time now," said Jason Dembski, 39, founder of HKwalls.  Organisers decided to hold disCONNECT HK at a rehabilitated tenement building to inherit most of disCONNECT LDN, the original project which took place at an 1850s Victorian townhouse in South West London from July to August this year.  The three-floor exhibition in Causeway Bay is open to the public for free, but appointments have to be made online in advance. To further allow the public to access the exhibition, HKwalls is also offering a 3D virtual tour at Hysan Place, which enables visitors to revisit disCONNECT LDN digitally. Despite the exhibition situated in the centre of the city, it has not been capturing much attention.  "When we invite visitors to the 3D tour,  people usually hesitate," said Hui Wai-sze, 28, an assistant curator from the Schoeni Projects.  Ms Hui believes that education in Hong Kong has a huge impact on how people view art, in particular, street art. “A lot of us were educated that street art is not as presentable as other forms of art, and is not a proper medium to express our feelings and thoughts,” she added.  She hopes through holding more family-friendly arts events like disCONNECT HK, the general public could have a …

Culture & Leisure

Dark tourism in Chernobyl

Still remember Chernobyl where the nuclear disaster happened more than 30 years ago? Nowadays, Chernobyl has become one of the main tourist attractions in Ukraine. Watch and know more about dark tourism.

Culture & Leisure

Cultural differences you may face in St. Petersburg

"Rude" maybe tourist's impression towards people in St. Petersburg, Russia, but there may be an underlying misunderstanding behind the image. St. Petersburg is always considered a must-visit city in Russia, no matter for international or domestic travellers. Being the second-largest city in Russia, the area consists of canals and world-famous spots such as the Winter Palace, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and Peter and Paul Fortress.  St. Petersburg remains attractive to tourists, but there are some factors pushing international visitors away. Russians rarely speak English. The majority of middle-aged and older people do not understand the language. According to a survey done by Romir research holding, 30% of the Russians can speak English to a certain degree, and only 3% of the interviewees claimed to be a fluent speaker. The low English speaking rate leads to a rough time for those visitors who do not speak Russian. No one can answer their questions if they face obstacles during their journey, resulting in an unpleasant travel experience. Хао Yu-Fei, a 20-years-old tourist from China, believed that language is the problem travellers face. As English is not widely-used among Russians, they cannot communicate fluently with the tourists.  "When locals answer questions with simple English and do everything in a rush, travellers get an impression that Russians are impolite and rude. We understand that being straightforward may be a characteristic of Russian, but some people might have hard feelings towards that," Xao said. Xao also noticed that no matter what ethnicity people appear to be, Russians always intend to start the conversation using the Russian language. "In Russia, many people with an Asian face can speak Russain. The locals are used to it, thus feel natural to communicate in the Russian language with foreigners." Tourists may feel insecure when facing an unfamiliar language during travelling. …