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Society

Catalonia's brewing independence

Spain has a new prime minister this week. Pedro Sanchez defeated his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence. Rajoy is embroiled in a corruption scandal. Although Basque and Catalan nationalist parties voted in favour of Sanchez, it is unclear whether they will support his government. Sanchez, like Rajoy, will likely have to contend with Catalonia’s continuing fight to split from Spain. Walk past any major street in Barcelona and you will notice row upon row of flags fluttering from balconies. In Catalonia, the Senyera estelada, is a symbol of independence. Some of these yellow and red striped ensigns with a lone white star have been there for so long that the stripes have been bleached almost pink and white by the sun. But the newer polemic symbol of Catalonia’s quest to split from Spain are the yellow ribbons. These too are all over Barcelona: spray painted on pavements, tied to railings and lampposts, some of them, giant displays outside residential building stretching several storeys high. Yellow ribbons have become more common since last October when pro-independence parties claimed that most people in Catalonia chose independence from Spain in a referendum. Liz Castro is an American writer and publisher living in Barcelona. In May 2015, she was elected national secretary of the Catalan National Assembly, a grassroot movement for Catalan independence and Ms. Castro is currently chairwoman of the Assembly’s international committee. She has been writing about Catalonia’s fight for independence for years and is also an activist in the Catalan independence movement. Following last year’s referendum, Ms. Castro wrote The Street Will Always Be Ours. Ms. Castro said that Spain is actively suppressing the Catalan economy by not funding the infrastructure that the region needs. "Catalonia represents 16% of the population but Spain only allocates ten or …

Society

Virtual Healing

Researchers at the University of Barcelona have found virtual reality to be a useful tool in psychology   Virtual reality may be the buzzword in journalism and entertainment. But for a team of psychologists and computer scientists at the University of Barcelona, these are just new applications for tools that they have been researching on for some time. The Experimental Virtual Environments Lab (EVENT Lab) at the Department of Psychobiology of the University of Barcelona focuses on immersive and embodiment experiences. Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University College London and the University of Derby help participants learn through compassion. They use avatars and computer science gaming technology to teach empathy. For example, a user can be embodied in a black avatar to experience racial discrimination, or an adult in the body of a child to empathise how it feels when parents are harsh. "We found that adults who experience the kind mother gain trust," Mel Slater, the director of EVENTS Lab explained, "but when they meet the harsh mother first followed by the kind one a week later, they tend not to trust her." To experience embodiment, the participant has to put on a black bodysuit. Sensor pompoms on the garment allow the computer to track the person's movement so that the programme can react accordingly. The signals are picked up by sensors mounted on the walls of the pitch black lab. A virtual reality headset then allows the user to immerse in the altered world. "Parents who go through the experience tend to become more empathetic toward their children afterwards," said Domna Banakou, a researcher at the lab. "Racial discrimination also tends to decrease after white people experience what it is like to be black," added Banakou. These virtual reality experiments have taken Mel Slater and his …

Politics

29 years since Tiananmen massacre: dozens went for an "alternative" vigil while 115,000 gathered at Victoria Park

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine Li、Ezra CheungEdited by: Holly Chik、Angie Chan
  • 2018-06-05

While 115,000 people gathered at Victoria Park for the 29th time to memorialise the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, some 150 people participated in an "alternative" vigil outside the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday. This June 4th Tiananmen Square candlelight vigil took place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui in front of the Freedom Fighter statue on Monday evening. It aimed to serve English-language speakers in Hong Kong, said organisers Michael Mo Kwan-tai and Danny Chan Tsz-chun. It was the first June 4th vigil in Hong Kong that was conducted entirely in English. "We want to hold this event at an international standard, to show the people of Hong Kong that we have not forgotten," said Mr. Mo, who was also an Amnesty International Hong Kong campaigner previously. This alternative vigil focused on raising international awareness and supporting "the souls who fought for freedom beyond our borders". The organisers urged the international society to investigate into the June 4th Incident. Mr. Mo read aloud poems written by Liu Xia, widow of dissident Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. He also paid tribute to Su Changlan, Chinese women's rights activist who supported the 2014 Umbrella Movement and "the hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists still facing jail terms, surveillance and harassment on a daily basis". Regarding the fact that many still question whether it is helpful or necessary for this alternative vigil to be held, Mr. Mo felt that the operational goals of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China increasingly dissuaded younger people from attending the candlelight vigil at Victoria Park, a conundrum which could be solved with an alternative vigil. "I can actually feel that there are more young faces here," Mr. Mo said. "The turnout number is also …

Real Madrid soccer training school – A dream for young talents

  • 2018-06-04

Real Madrid defeated Liverpool in last Saturday's UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine. The Spanish division A team has won the crown 13 times in 63 years, and Liverpool only five times. This was the second time the two teams met in the European Cup Final in 37 years. Might Real Madrid's change in its strategy on team building explain its success in recent years? Before 2007, Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, used Galácticos to boost the league's performance. That is, they built the teams with superstar players hired from all over the world. Critics said the commercial approach drew attention but failed to prepare players, leading to unsatisfactory league results. The departure of David Beckham marked the end of the Galácticos era. Since 2007, Real Madrid has put its focus on nurturing young talents. That's reflected in its multi-million investment in Ciudad de Real Madrid, the world's largest soccer training school. Located in Valdebebas Park in Madrid, the school covers an area of 1,200,000 square metres, including dressing rooms, gymnasiums, classrooms, conference rooms, a hydrotherapy pool and medical centres. There are 10 grass football pitches with a capacity for more than 11,000 spectators. According to a spokesman for the school, more than 3,000 boys from across the European Union vie for a position at Ciudad de Real Madrid every year. The youngest is only six years old. Most of them are from across Spain since parents from outside the country are unlikely to be able to accompany their children in the Spanish capital during their training. It is many boy's dreams to get into Real Madrid but not everyone has the chance to make their dreams come true. "Of the 3,000 boys who apply to the school, only 44 are selected every year," he said. The …

Society

Death in the afternoon in Madrid

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Nadia Lam、Erin ChanEdited by: Holly Chik、Angie Chan、Michelle Ng
  • 2018-05-24

There are many styles of bullfighting around the world, but in Spain, death is inevitable for the beast. At around 6:30 p.m on a Sunday evening, about 20,000 people packed into Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, a bullfighting ring in Madrid. Music started blaring from speakers around the circular spectator stands. A lone bull entered the arena. It stood quietly at the centre, seemingly at a loss. Several men then joined the beast in the ring, waving pieces of red cape known as muleta. The waving enraged the animal and soon it charged and rushed at the moving fabric. In came the matador, mounted on the back of a white horse. With a lance in his right hand, the matador started to irritate the bull by chasing it around the arena. The horse galloped to avoid being jabbed by the bull's fierce horns and after minutes of this teasing and dancing, the matador then stabbed the bull with the spear. This was just the start of the bull's suffering. The process continued until five of six lances had pierced the back of the bull's neck. It continued to charge as blood oozed from its wounds. The agony came with one sharp jab of a sword vertically into the top of its spine. The bull fell. The audience cheered and waved pieces of white cloth to show their appreciation towards the bullfighter. That was round one. The next bull, equally confused as the first then came into the ring. Its only defence against the matador's provocation was its horns. During one of the rounds, the bull simply would not be provoked. It escaped and ran into the aisle between the spectators' area and the arena, which raised a clamour among the audience. The matadors didn't give up and after the …

Society

The United Nations headquarters of pickpocketing victims

It is a place where you can meet friends from around the world, who share a truly memorable experience on your journey – it is a place you definitely do NOT want to visit in Spain. At the National Police, district Madrid-Centro, a red sign reads "SATE" near the entrance. "SATE" means "Foreign Tourist Assistance Service". Follow it and you enter a  room full of people sitting in front of a blank wall. They are all victims of pickpocketing in Spain. I found myself a seat. There were 20 people this particular afternoon in May. The tourist season in Madrid has only just started. Everybody in the room looked blank and empty, just like their wallets. Five minutes later, an officer invited me to another room. He handed me a phone. There was a police officer on the line. "Tell me what happened," he said. "This afternoon I was going around Plaza Mayor with my friends. My wallet got stolen," I explained. The wallet was in a zipped up bag by my side. I had no idea how it got stolen. Perhaps just one lapsed moment was enough for a skilful thief to open my bag, spot the wallet, and snap it way – just a matter of seconds. It was day one of our trip. I had 250 Euros ($2,300) in my wallet, along with my bank card, credit card, and the key for my hotel room. Fortunately, there was no suspicious spending record on my credit card before I called to cut the service. After my account of what happened, I was told to return to the room of victims to wait for the official statement report. I asked how long would it take. "Hmm... usually a while," the officer muttered. Everyone in the room had a ticket …

Culture & Leisure

The journey of enlightenment

In almost 25 years, the Tian Tan Buddha, the biggest outdoor seated bronze statue of Gautama Buddha on Lantau Island, has become one of the most visited places in Hong Kong.

Health & Environment

Hong Kong's zero waste community leaders addressed the importance of switching to waste-free events

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tomiris UrstembayevaEdited by: Yolanda Gao、Sammi Chan
  • 2018-05-07

Dozens of events as talks, concerts, games are held every day in Hong Kong and most of them result in tonnes of waste including plastic cups, plates, and cutleries because event organisers provide their attendees with everything from tissues to single-use pens and notebooks. Although "green events" are recently becoming popular, event hosts usually sort the waste and provide recycling bins only. It is not effective because most of the event participants don’t rinse or empty plastic containers before throwing them to waste-separation bins. Aigul Safiullina, a co-founder of Zero Waste Life, a non-governmental organisation aimed to promote and educate sustainable lifestyle by coaching and providing public with useful sources, thinks that the general public, especially event hosts should embrace a more responsible lifestyle by not only sorting the waste from events and providing recycling bins, but also taking a step further to plan the event ahead and reduce the source of waste. "There are only three types of recyclable plastics, by offering recycling bins is not enough and unreasonable," she said during the talk, "Taking small steps to achieve a zero-waste life in Hong Kong" conducted by the panel of Hong Kong’s zero-waste community leaders, last Wednesday. Paola Cortese, a certified Climate Reality Leader suggested the ways to organise a sustainable event. She said that waste reduction can be achieved through smart planning at the start which would promote a waste-free lifestyle and raise the awareness of Hong Kong’s waste problem. "Small steps could start from reusing banners and decorations. Instead of buying, it would be more environmentally friendly to borrow or to loan them," said Ms. Cortese. She also suggested using e-invitations instead of printed cards. Even though the e-invitation cards or tickets are used by the majority of event organisers, attendees are usually asked to print them …

Society

Filipino President makes move to improve relations with China

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine Li、Rachel YeoEdited by: Raphael Blet、Michelle Ng
  • 2018-04-13

More than 2,000 members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong gathered in Kai Tak Cruise Terminal to meet the Filipino President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the evening of April 12th, where he expressed his intentions on strengthening Filipino-Chinese relations and continuing to combat criminal activities. "Just like my grandfather, we are of Chinese descent. In Hong Kong especially there is a lot of Chinese descent Filipinos, so this is part of destiny." said Duterte. According to the Census and Statistics Department, there are around 222,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, with more than 355 Filipino community organizations registered with the Philippine Consulate General, the ties run deep between the Philippines and Hong Kong. "China has being very good to us. As a matter of fact, among other things amounting to billions, I got a grant of 500 million yuan (around $625 billion) which would be about 4 billion pesos." said Duterte. He revealed that the grant from China will be used on hospitals and improving the situation in Marawi, an Islamic city in Mindanao province which was occupied by terrorists in 2017. After battling the terrorists and implementing martial law, the government besieged the city. He assured the Filipinos in Hong Kong not to worry about their country because it is doing well, while he pledges to create more work opportunities for them so that they no longer have to become domestic helpers in the future, but professionals with careers. He also made the first official apology over the Manila hostage incident in 2010 which caused eight people from Hong Kong to lose their lives, although the incident did not occur under his presidency. "There has been no official apologies regarding the August 2010 incident. May I address myself to the Chinese people. From the bottom of my heart, in behalf of …

Culture & Leisure

Lacking writers and readers: the critical art writing industry is in dilemma

The critical art writing industry is always considered as something obscure and profound by the general public. It has become hard to stick solely to the art industry in the commercial society to which we live in nowadays. Compared to other financial and economic-related jobs, things related to art are the minority. Asked about the writing ecology, Elaine Ng, Editor and Publisher of ArtAsiaPacific in Hong Kong, stated that finding professional art writers is "super challenging". "I would say that in terms of a career choice in Hong Kong, it’s not even an option," Ms.Ng said. Ms.Ng also suggested that it’s difficult to be critical in some Asian countries like the Philippines because of cultural reasons. Keith Wallace, Editor-in-Chief of Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, also pointed out that some of the younger writers have a language problem whilst writing, which need to be fixed and improved upon. And he also emphasized the quality and professionalism of writers who write exhibition reviews. "They think they are writing to a professor, and you really have to change that language," Mr. Wallace said, "and I think the other point is if you are making a negative or a questioning comment, it has to be qualified in some way, and it can’t be just a personal opinion and a generalisation." Mr. Wallace added. The common language used in the art industry nowadays is English, and according to Mr. Wallace, the translations sometimes can be quite difficult. Due to globalization, the unification of language can also be a new problem for some local artists, who are only familiar with their own mother language. Denial Sehin Ho, Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Ran Dian, which is a magazine that aims to promote contemporary art in China, and publish in both English and Chinese, brought up a previous …