Society & Politics

Somewhere over the rainbow - How an 8-year-old boy experience China's education gulf

Every morning at 8:30, the muddy ocher-coloured cottage is blasted with young voices reading aloud textbook passages, so loud that it can be heard across the cement-levelled playground far from the school gate. There are three classrooms in the cottage with no lights but a rickety ceiling fan each. Drawings are repeatedly glued on and ripped off a section of the wall framed with red rice paper. On top, it wrote sloppily "In Celebration of the June First International Children's Day". This is where the eight-year-old Huang Wei-biao goes to school every day with his 22 young schoolmates, a village in the rural area of the East Guangxi province. The nearest town is 45 minutes of serpentine car ride away. One can tell Huang is a diligent student as he reads his textbook with his finger precisely pointing at each word when he pronounces it. One can tell Huang is an assiduous child as the veins of his neck appear every time he utters a word. One can tell Huang is an eager learner as each page of his textbook is torn and curled at the corners. Yet no matter how earnest or smart a student Huang is, he is just one the 13.8 million village primary students in China who are probably receiving education of lower quality than students who study in the urban parts of China. Village schools lack facilities and professionally trained teachers. Pupils do not have classes in other areas such as arts and physical education, let alone school outings. In comparison, the XinXing primary school in the same prefectural city has a multi-story building with a sports ground. There are more than 40 teachers and most of them have received tertiary education. Children's' parents can also find better working opportunities close by and not have …


Sugar blow your own figures

  • 2017-04-23

While the local craftmanship slowly dies out, a lady still refuses to let go of sugar-blowing, which is a part of many's childhood. Chung Choi Wan, 60, is one of the remaining three craftsmen in Hong Kong who knows how to blow sugar-coated figurine, also known as sugar- blown figure, classified as one of the Hong Kong's intangible cultural heritage according to the Hong Kong In- tangible Cultural Heritage Database. Making such figurine requires a high degree of patience and it is easy to fail during the making process. Until now, there isn't any license issued by the government to ensure the right of sugar-blowing hawkers, which becomes one of the potential obstacles for such craftsmanship to exists throughout the century, said Chung. Sugar-coated figurine have over 300 years of history and made of maltose that has been treated with secret formulas. Chung said that she could not reveal the special treatment for maltose as it can only pass on to her apprentice according to traditional rules. Craftsman can change maltose into different shapes by bare hands and using simple tools like toothpicks to carve out the pattern of animal fur. Chung can made maltose into animal shapes such as dolphin and swan. The technique of blowing a large ball shape from a droplet-like maltose is to blow it instantly when the maltose is still hot enough to change its shape. "When the maltose ball is in dumpling size, blow it slowly until it change to the size of an egg", said Chung. "Blowing ball, laughing more" is Chung's slogan, which also written in front of her movable cart. Spread- ing the joy around is why Chung starts to learn this traditional art. The colorful coatings of the figures can easily attract eyeballs. She recalled that once a four-person family …


The Man Dances with Fire and Knife

  • 2017-04-11

by Erica Chin and Kobie Li When we talk about circuses, what pops into your head? A large tent with red and yellow stripes? Or clowns who juggle? Although Hong Kong Circus has neither, Chris Leung, the chairman shows his passion for performing arts through fire knife dance. Unlike most of the circus performers, Chris knew nothing about the circus at his early age. "I had never imagined myself to be a performer when I was working as a dresser in the backstage," he said. Chris worked with his wife, Margaret, a dancer of the circus in the theme park. He had no idea to perform on the grand stage before his interest in fire knife dance sparked. The immense interest towards this mysterious and danger art is triggered after Chris watched fire knife dance performance by chance for the first time. "I was amazed by how they control fire, the so-called ‘symbol of danger', so smoothly and easily," he said. Chris then started to practice the dance by using artists' baton during spare and lunch time. Later, he went to Hawaii twice for competition and to learn fire knife dance from a Tahiti fire knife master, Joseph Cadousteau. The road for him to learn was not smooth at the beginning. Chris recalled that it's not easy for him to pick up a new skill at the age of 20. "Many people, even some of my family members said that I am too old for it and it is too dangerous to learn fire knife dance." However, the objection from parents did not discourage him. The scars on his body marked the hard work he paid to practices and the spirit of never give up. Things began to change after years of efforts, circus started to gain popularity. His family members …


Getting Away from Petty People

  • 2017-03-16

Did 2016 go well for you? If not, consider hiring a ‘petty person beater' to beat away the bad luck.


Local entrepreneur make taking nice profile-picture a business

  • 2016-12-15

Mandy Cheng presents new possibilities to a traditional market by Emily Xu The bustling Mong Kok district is a shopping paradise. Argyle Centre is one of the most popular shopping centres there. Among the array of shops lies a unique photo studio. Fresh Studio, famous for shooting good-looking profile pictures for your passport photos and icons, was opened recently by 28-year-old Ms Mandy Cheng Ming-wai. "Like many people, I find my passport photos ugly, which inspired me to open this shop," said Ms Cheng. Her studio provides all-in-one services including makeup, clothing, photography and editing. As an entrepreneur, she described herself as ambitious, cautious and organised. "I have been brainstorming to start my business for a long time and considered it as a necessity of my life," she said. Although she had the plan for a long time, she waited for a suitable time to open the shop. She spent hours preparing. "I think working for yourself can give you a great sense of achievement and it is everlasting. Moreover, I want a more challenging life," she said. However, the expensive rent in Hong Kong and the lack of sufficient deposit stopped her until Argyle Centre introduced its zero rental plan. The plan is designed for people with creative ideas and can rent a shop for three months without paying rent. Ms Cheng handed in her proposal in July. After a successful interview in early August, she resigned from her previous job. The shop was finally opened in late August. "Nearly all the customers have been satisfied with their photo," she added. "Although I am busier than before and have had little time to rest, I really enjoy the moments. I am getting a lot of satisfactions from my business." Ms Joanna Tsoi, a customer of Flash Studio, said her …


Beating all odds with positivity

  • 2016-11-11

The positive life led by the ordeal dealer by Celia Lai At the age of 67, Stephen Char Shik-ngor is still wearing different hats: a barrister at law, a mediator, a columnist. Straddling different fields, he is renowned for being an activist in the frontier of health protection. Having an abscess on his bottom lip because of sweltering, the grey-haired man laughed about his hectic but happy life. "I can take a break when I am taking the train," Mr Char said with a smile creasing his face. The wrinkles marked his ups and downs. Nicknamed the "expert of ordeals", he had experienced family loss, cancer and two divorces. However the misery in his life has never beaten him. "Life is a combination of sorrow and happiness. One has to accept the fact of life," he said. Liver cancer became a watershed in his life. In sight of no helping hand to turn to while he was suffering from the disease, the survivor set up the first organization for liver cancer sufferers in Hong Kong, during the year of 1994. Besides providing medical and spiritual support, the organization was running for liver transplants. He was crowned one of the top ten fighters of regeneration, for his contribution in 1998. For the sake of patients' rights, the cancer fighter even confronted the Hospital Authority (HA) himself, in 2003. To fight for the rights while minimising the adverse effects, Mr Char resigned from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), where he had worked for 28 years. He negotiated with an HA official who wanted to close down the liver transplant centre in Prince of Wales Hospital due to a fiscal deficit after SARS. "Meanwhile there was a generous businessman offering HKD$40 million to continue the transplant centre. Yet, HA asked me about …


A rise of local prosthetic makeup

Special effect makeup artist Gary Chan seeks ways to support artists in Hong Kong by Connie Fong and Susan Gao A sweaty-stocky meat deliveryman dismembers the corpse of a 16-year-old female prostitute, tearing the skin from her face. The signature bloody scene appeared in the award-winning local crime movie "Port of Call". 26-year-old Gary Chan Ka-wai was in charge of special makeup effects. Dubbed "the little king" in the field, Mr Chan says he wants to be more than just a makeup artist. He hopes to improve the art industry and society through his work. "I was lucky that I got lots of opportunities," said Mr Chan. He wants to create more opportunities for others. As Mr Chan participated in many local art competitions, he found out that many of the rules and judges in those competitions were not professional or qualified. So, he decided to organise one himself. At the moment, Mr Chan is organising a face-painting competition for local artists. Mr Chan said its aim is to support local artists, since filmmakers nowadays usually prefer hiring foreigners. "The moon seems fuller in foreign lands," he said. Many production companies either simply edit the script and stories to eliminate the need for special makeup or find foreign makeup artists if they have enough budgets. Mr Chan implores production companies to hire locally - and to respect local artists by giving them a budget to work with. "Don't think that we're beggars," he told The Young Reporter. Although many skilled artists have emerged in Hong Kong, the major problem in the prosthetic makeup industry is still a shortage of talent, he added. It takes at least a year to train a qualified special makeup artist, but many people do not have that patience, he said. After a couple of weeks …


Connecting with Tattoos

"The ink may be skin deep, but the accent is deeper." By Connie Fong and Cecilia Wong Jayers Ko is not your typical tattoo artist. "The ink may be skin-deep, but the accent is bone-deep." she said. For her, tattoos are more than just decorations. It is an art of self-expression.She believes the message in a tattoo goes beyond space and time constraints to connect with people. Ms Ko's first tattoo was a little blue star on her left wrist. "What it is, graphically, doesn't matter; but it's the placement that matters a lot. It is somewhere obvious to me," she said. It reminds her to move on from hard times. "I needed something eternal to calm me down," she said. The idea of getting a tattoo popped into her mind when she was 19. She was going through a tough time. She had to take up the responsibility of taking care of her brother. Later, she was ditched by her boyfriend whom she was madly in love with at that time. She went into a random tattoo shop in Thailand, picked a random picture and a random tattoo artist to edge the blue star on to her skin. That marked marking her start to a new life. "My mum asked me if I was a prostitute when she saw the tattoo," Ms Ko said. Her parents were against her becoming a tattoo artist. But after getting her first tattoo, she studied psychology and searched for information about tattoos online. She tried but failed to get an apprenticeship. With no background in art, Ms Ko started working on her portfolio by doing paintings on paper. She then sent an email to a traditional tattooist requesting an apprenticeship. "I guess it's my passion that touched him," she said. "Apprenticeship is a …


Bobsy Gaia: 25 years of Ecopreneurship in Hong Kong

The story of an entrepreneur and his eco-friendly businesses By Celia Lai and Crystal Tai Wearing a man bun and a long grey beard, Bobsy Gaia almost has the look of a Taoist priest from Chinese mythology. The "ecopreneur" was born in Lebanon and has been pioneering socially responsible business in Hong Kong since 1992. He is the co-founder of several vegetarian restaurants, including "MANA! Fast Slow Food". Just like its owner, "MANA! Fast Slow Food" is vibrant yet relaxing. The furniture is made of recycled materials and the menu is on a chalk board. The restaurant regularly promotes eco friendly campaigns. For example, "World Water Day" was written in delightful colours on March 22 on the board to remind people to conserve water. Mindful of the environment, Bobsy is on a mission to educate consumers to "eat like it matters". His restaurant serves organic produce. Bobsy became an "ecopreneur" when he started to promote social responsibility in business in 1989. He was a fashion designer at the time, but came up with the idea in a moment of despair. "I was financially broke at that time in Bangkok. At the same time, many profound changes were happening in the world such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War," said Bobsy, "there were also Nelson Mandela, mass protests over the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest and women fighting for equality. These movements showed the awakening of human power. It was speaking to me. I suddenly realized there was something bigger than me going on," he said. The awakening, Bobsy thought, was a game change in man's perception of the world. That is similar to the realisation that the Earth is round and not flat. "The people in this humanitarian movement are amazingly creative …


Changing the Meaning of Blindness

  • 2016-06-24

  by Nicki Wong Chong Chan-yau lost his sight when he was six years old. As a result, his childhood was one of tragedy, dependency, hopelessness and even superstition. But technology has redefined the way the world see Mr Chong, or more appropriately, how Mr Chong sees the world. He can surf the internet and use a cell phone just as well as any sighted person, with the help of a Braille note taker. Mr Chong  is the director of EL Education, president of the Hong Kong Blind Union, chairman of Carbon Care Asia, founder and chairman of Dialogue in the Dark Hong Kong. "I can go anywhere, play football and chess, study, and do all sorts of things that a sighted person can do ," said the 60-year-old. He is eager to improve society for people who are marginalized in order to maximise their potential.. "The loss of sight became my characteristic, not a limitation," Mr Chong said. He believes his optimistic personality saves him from feeling tragic. "Hong Kong has a lot of facilities for the disabled,for example,  audible traffic light signals, "said Mr Chong. But he doesn't want to take it granted when it comes to travelling alone. "Accessibility is a matter of interaction between people and their environment," he said. Mr. Chong has tried to prove that blind people can navigate the city without special facilities.   Back in the 80s, Mr Chong asked the traffic department to install audible signals road crossing, , but the department  said it was "too dangerous" for  blind people to cross the road on their own. But we weren't victims. We were actually the problem solvers," said Mr Chong. He believes visually impaired people should be treated just like everyone else. He approaches the problem from the point of view of …