People

Society

A Hong Kong Calligraphy Master

Every corner, wall and even the floor of King Wah Signboards in North Point is covered with the calligraphy of  Au Yeung Cheong. There are also photos of his visitors, both local and from overseas.  It’s a kind of creative mess with ink, plastic boards and paper all over the floor.  The shop has been around for 30 years but recently relocated to Kam Ping Street after the State Theatre building was sold.  The 65-year-old Chinese calligraphy master is well known for his remarkable and unique real script Mr Au Yeung has created more than a thousand signboards in Hong Kong, starting from writing, text carving to installing lightboxes.  He started when he first arrived in Hong Kong in the 1970s and later set up his shop King Wah Signboard. “The real script was created and used by emperors as the official typeface since the Tang Dynasty,” Mr Au Yeung claimed.  He described the strokes as Guan Yu’s blade, clean-cut, awe-inspiring, which is different from the Song Ti font and regular script typeface.  “The Real script shouldn’t look as if they don’t have heads or tails. The characters are tightly structured and as sharp as a knife cutting a watermelon,” he explained. As  Mr Au Yeung demonstrated his calligraphy, he almost threw himself into a trance, savouring the connotation his work seemed to bring him. He then compared his work with the calligraphy of  Wu Zetian, the only empress of China. “Don't you think mine is more beautiful than hers?” he asked.  It might be a common misconception that expensive brushes and ink are needed for the artform. But Mr Au Yeung revealed that his brushes and inks were bought from a hardware store nearby.  “What matters most is the skill you have in handling the brushes and how familiar …

Society

Hong Kong tailor designs light wedding dress on a growing craze

Apart from long trail and princess-like cake wedding gowns, a young local designer -tailor designs and produces simple but sophisticated dresses, known as the “light wedding dress.” Despite the complex and difficult process in producing wedding dresses, Ms Lai dreams to bring the craze of light wedding dress to light and produce aesthetic wedding dresses for each bride.  According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the size of the creative industry has increased by 5.3% steadily since 2018. In spite of the growing industry, Ms Lai has faced hurdles along and questioned the support for the creative industry by the government. 

Society

Mainlanders facing racism in workplace

Mainland migrants in Hong Kong face racism in the recruitment process. Since 1997, there have been 1.5 million mainland Chinese moving to Hong Kong. About 20 percent of Hong Kong's population are migrants from the Chinese mainland. But their cultural background, language, and sometimes education level makes integration into Hong Kong tough.

Politics

My day in Chungking Mansions: Disconnected "country" in Hong Kong

The elevator in this 17-storey behemoth of a building with more than 4,000 residents and hundreds of small businesses, can only hold five people. Waiting for an uncrowded one needs both patience and luck.  After 10 minutes, I give up and enter the stairwell to walk six numbers of flights downstairs. The walls are covered with graffiti. Through the window, I can see nothing but pipes with black stains.  Nearly half a century ago, Chungking Mansions was one of the most upscale buildings in Tsim Sha Tsui. But now, this complex has become a low-priced gathering place for minority groups and asylum seekers.  Before the pandemic, it used to see about 10,000 visitors every day. They come here for authentic food, affordable rooms, drugs, and prostitutes. For decades, some local people have viewed the complex filled with crimes and violence, as another "Kowloon Walled City," which was known for its high density and lawlessness. But fewer visitors amid the pandemic have made this building further disconnected from the outside world. I'm here to spend 24 hours, to get inside the look of this building and its people.  It's 5 pm on Sunday. Outside the stairwell on the ground floor, about 10 Africans are drinking beer and watching football on the television with loud music. I feel nervous in this unfamiliar place with so many corners and aisles, which are like scattered puzzle pieces. So I choose to stand still and look around to figure out the direction.  Luckily, someone is waving at me. I tell him that it is my first-time visit and ask for his advice. This 37-year-old Indian grocery shop owner, Muddassar Ahmed, is keen to give me an introduction. This five-block complex has more than 3 hundred stores. Most are run by African and Indian migrants and …

Society

Hani Halal – The Award-winning business making Hong Kong Halal-conscious

From Halal lollipops to gelatine sheets, Hani Halal's online shop sells anything Halal as the name suggests. With no artificial colours, the shop's fan favourite sweet rose lollipop is hand-decorated for its customers.  In October 2020, the business won an award for its Medjoul dates at the LOHAS Expo cum Vegetarian Food Asia 2020.  The term Halal is an Arabic word that means "permissible." In the context of food, it refers to the dietary requirements of Muslims based on their Islamic faith. Muslims cannot eat pork and have special procedures for the slaughtering of meat, according to their religious rites.  Hani Halal, officially known as 3 Hani Enterprises Limited, started two years ago, in 2018, to bring a viable option for consumers of Halal food. Ms Leung, together with two other partners and the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, the official body for Muslims in Hong Kong, helped make her vision become a reality. "Food is the most easy way to connect with people, especially in Hong Kong. We talk business through food. So, food is something that is easy to connect with people," she said. She added that her business sells products globally, but mainly focuses on Hong Kong and Macau.   The award-winning business has also won a Manpower Development Award for 2020 from the Employment Retraining Board (ERB) for training both Muslims and non-Muslims on the dietary requirements of Halal food. There is a considerable demand for Halal food in Hong Kong, with 65% following a strict halal diet, according to research conducted by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  The city has 300,000 Muslims from various backgrounds, making up 4.6% of the city's population, according to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Home Affairs Bureau. Muslims first came to the city during the British …

Society

Islamic content in textbooks spurs discussion on religious education in Hong Kong

  When Adeel Malik, an English teacher at a local school in Kwai Chung, saw messages on social media linking terrorism with Islam, he was upset. "They are basically explaining a social issue, but then they are connecting [terrorism] to Islam in a way which [the] Islamophobes know best," Mr Malik said. Screenshots of the two books, Journey Through History: New Topic-based Series and the Liberal Studies (LS) Advanced 2020, have been circulating in Muslim WhatsApp groups. The liberal studies book said some Muslims wanted to "safeguard" Islamic doctrines and cultures and they "started wars and attacks" against Western cultures. That ignited discussions on Islamic education among members of the Muslim community in Hong Kong.  More disturbing for Muslims living in Hong Kong was that a history textbook contained false information about Islamic history.   The book, among other things, claimed that Prophet Muhammad's face was shown in several paintings in the 15th century, but were discarded later to prevent idol worship of the Prophet and to focus on Allah [God in Arabic]. That's false, according to Islamic teachings. Islam prohibits drawings of any image of human beings. Raza Nasir Razi, an LS teacher at the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College, is not surprised by what's in the books. During his career as a teacher in Canada, similar misunderstandings of the religion were common in the school curriculum. He found that misunderstanding of Islam to be "universal,"  referring to the common misconceptions of Islam in the West.  "A primary mistake is that the textbook author [said] that Prophet Muhammad is the founder of Islam," Mr Nasir said. "Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was the final prophet and believe in all the prophets mentioned in the Abrahamic faiths." But, Mr Malik is optimistic about the city's effort towards including Islamic education in …

People

Mandy Lee: A Pioneer in Escapism Cooking

Using a finger to make a well in the flour, Mandy Lee poured in the beaten egg yolks. She added water and salt to the mix and aggressively manoeuvred it, kneading and tearing it until a silky dough was formed. She carefully flattened it through a pasta machine and unwaveringly incised it to create uniform strands.  Staring at the finished product in front of her, Ms Lee found her suppressed anger and anguish briefly consoled via the exhaustive pasta-making session. Spellbound by this sensation, she did not leave her apartment until she perfected the tonnarelli recipe two weeks later.  "Without knowing it yet, I became what I would like to call later on – an escapist cook," Ms Lee wrote in her blog Lady and Pups. The Taiwanese-Canadian, 40, moved to Beijing in 2010, where she struggled living under China's communist regime. She began cooking as a form of escapism from the torture of her reality. This later evolved into her writing an "angry food blog" and the cookbook The Art of Escapism Cooking. Ms Lee was born in Taiwan in 1980 and spent her teenage years in Canada. She dropped out of University of British Columbia after a year to pursue art school in New York. Graduating from Parsons School of Design, she then worked at an architecture firm before starting her own dog food business with a friend. Reflecting on her seven and a half years in New York, Ms Lee said the city complemented her personality the most. "I love New York for the kind of city it is and the kind of energy it has and the kind of freedom it provides," she reminisced. However, such a lifestyle was quickly uprooted when her husband had to move to Asia for a job, finding herself living in …

Society

Assault survivors: The inevitable trauma that follows

Divya, 23, sits on the rooftop of the building she lives in and savours the pink and purple sunset Hong Kong has to offer. It's her favourite place in the world, her comfort, like being wrapped up in a big, cosy blanket on a chilly day.  But in that same place more than 10 years ago was where she was sexually assaulted. At the time, she was 12 and her assaulter was 20. He was a relative who stayed under the same roof as her and would touch her inappropriately almost every day until she was 14.  Until one day, while it was happening, she blacked out. She doesn't recall anything apart from waking up and shoving him off her. After that point, family tensions started rising due to unrelated reasons and he was out of her life for good.  To this day Divya, who asked to be identified only by her first name, hasn't mentioned it to anyone in her family for she was terrified of victim-blaming, a prominent yet toxic culture in South Asian households where she was raised. Sexual violence is more likely to occur in patriarchal cultures, research has shown, and victim-blaming, when a woman is blamed for causing the assault because of her clothes or behaviour, is still prevalent. "I was afraid that people would think it was my fault," she said.  31 cases of rape and 414 cases of indecent assault have been reported as of August this year, according to statistics from the Hong Kong Police Force. While it showed a decrease compared to statistics last year, the reality is that many victims of sexual assault do not come forward. One out of seven women will experience sexual violence in Hong Kong, but nine out of ten stay silent in a report conducted …

Society

Hong Kong ethnic minority face racial discrimination when seeking for housing

Malik Omar Zaman, a Pakistani who moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago, has been rejected more than 35 times when seeking a house in Hong Kong. He looked at about 50 apartments before he finally got to rent the current one.  "We found a nice apartment and the agent told us the landlord is not willing to give it to you," said Mr Zaman. Mr Zaman lives in a 350 square meter apartment in Yuen Long, one of the less expensive districts in Hong Kong, with his wife and two daughters.  Mr Zaman is among the 90% of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong who face racial discrimination when looking for a home, according to a survey  by two local NGOs, Hong Kong Unison and Hong Kong Ministry Refugee Group in late 2018. And though Hong Kong’s discrimination law makes this illegal, there is little recourse for rejected tenants who are often forced into illegal sub-divided flats and other substandard housing. There are a total of 583,383 ethnic minorities residing in Hong Kong, constituting 8% of the whole population. This includes Filipinos, Indonesia, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, and Sri-Lankans, according to the 2016 population By-census Thematic Report. Many of the ethnic minorities live in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yuen Long, Sham Shui Po, Tin Shui Wai, and Tuen Mun - where living costs are relatively low and around 40% of them live in a subdivided flat, according to the survey.  According to local ethnic rights advocacy groups, preconception about ethnic minorities and no legal charge for a rejection of tenants based on nationality are reasons for landlords not to lease apartments to ethnic minorities. The race discrimination ordinance in Hong Kong states that in any circumstances if on the ground of the race of that other person, a person treats that …

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 …