4th Place Matters?

The SCMP today has an article headlined, “City’s a hit with expats for its friendliness, global survey finds.”  And the lead paragraph tells us that that in this HSBC-commissioned survey, “Hong Kong is among the friendliest places in the world for expatriates, who generally find life in the city easy and entertaining, according to the findings of a global survey.”

But the next paragraph informs us that Hong Kong ranks only 4th in the Asia Pacific region.  Australia, Thailand and Singapore all placed higher.   World-wide, Hong Kong came in at 10th out of 26 possible locations (Canada was first, Qatar was last).  So we’re in the middle of the range, not exactly something to shout to the rafters about.   Hong Kong ranked highly as a place where it’s easy to socialize and make friends and as a place where the commute to work is relatively short.  According to the survey, most expats who come here and choose to remain do so because of career prospects or “life-style related.”

The areas in which Hong Kong scored especially low won’t come as a surprise to anyone who lives here – quality of accommodations and working hours.  And 23 percent said that their health has worsened since moving here.

A tangentially related article kicks off with unusual bluntness for the SCMP:  “Hong Kong’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are double the world average and it is one of the world’s most advanced economies. But it refuses to come out from under China’s umbrella as a developing country – with its more lenient emission standards – as nations meet to set new targets to combat climate change.”

I could be wrong, I often am, but I firmly believe that the non-elected Hong Kong government continues to put the interests of Big Business ahead of the interests of its citizens.  The government’s refusal to act more decisively on pollution, a situation that is intensifying and worsening on an almost daily basis, proves this to me.  While many countries have realized that going green can generate new industries and jobs, Hong Kong seems to have both feet firmly planted in the notion that stricter, enforceable controls on pollution will take a heavy toll on the six companies that really run Hong Kong and therefore cannot be seriously considered.  Instead we get nonsense like the plastic bag levy – which only applies to certain types of shops, not all, and which many have found ways to circumvent.  There is no requirement or plan for our power-generating plants to move to cleaner fuels.  There is no requirement or plan for the buses and trucks, which are in fact the great majority of the road traffic, to cut emissions.

That last sentence?  That’s because as you know, a couple of weeks ago I was in New York City.  And every day as I looked at the window, I noted that every city bus had banners proclaiming them to be hybrid vehicles and less polluting.  I also noticed that on most days, in the city itself, the sky was bluer and clearer than we ever get to see in Hong Kong any more.

At any rate, Stanley So Pui-kin of Oxfam says, “Hong Kong is a relatively wealthy place. The government should not hide behind the shadow of China. It should set up an emission reduction target voluntarily, like reducing emissions 40 per cent by 2020.”  And Prentice Koo Wai-muk of Greenpeace says, “[Hong Kong] is taking advantage of staying behind the Chinese government.  It seems to believe that those who tackle climate change early have to pay, but actually it is those who start late that will have to pay more. We’ve got to act soon to grab economic opportunities because of climate change.”  And William Yu Yuen-ping of the WWF says, “President Hu Jintao announced this year that carbon intensity, which is more comprehensive in terms of emission reduction, was to replace energy intensity. It is a significant change. I think the Hong Kong government should change accordingly.”

But is Lord Donald Tsang listening?  Of course not.  Tsang has never shown any interest in being a statesman, in doing something for the greater good.  He’s gone in three years and thinks that his legacy consists of putting up huge expensive buildings and bridges that no sensible person either wants or needs but that will have little bronze plaques with his name on them for future generations to see.   But what he doesn’t realize is that those generations will see those colossal wastes of money and resources and will wonder why the people of Hong Kong let him get away with it.

Too harsh an assessment?  I’m sure many of you think so.  And I could be wrong.  I often am.  But this time, I don’t think so.

Dumping a Load

Today was a day of heavy duty air pollution in Hong Kong, near-record highs.  I can personally attest to that because walking in TST, my eyes were all teary and blurry, something that rarely happens to me.   How lovely that our government consistently denies the gravity of the situation (presumably because it might scare away investment dollars)(a new slogan:  Hong Kong:  Invest Here, We Always Put Big Business Before People!).  As a result, we are years away from a comprehensive solution instead of these point by point reactive mini-measures.

The old trucks on the road in Hong Kong pollute more than just the air.  Take a look at this one:

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See what it says on the side there?  “Grease and septic tank disposal services.”

And how do they dispose of it?

DSC_4160 Yeah, that’s right.  Find a quiet street to park on, like Ashley Road. And then just dump whatever’s in your tank into the street.  It might have been just water, it might have been something else, but whatever it was – this truck just pulled up, stopped, opened up their tanks, let it pour into the street and when empty, pulled away again.

And with that, let’s hand the mike over to Mr. Raymond Douglas Davies.  Take it away, Ray!

I look out my window, but I can’t see the sky
‘Cos the air pollution is
fogging up my eyes
I want to get out of this city alive
And make like an ape man

Shamrock Irish Pub

I don’t go to Tsim Sha Tsui willingly very often but I will go there to support a friend.   And the team behind Doghouse, one of my current favorite watering holes in Wanchai, is now managing a new bar, The Shamrock Irish Pub on Ashley Road in TST, so I had to go.

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No photos of the inside or of the food but they did a great job renovating this space and it was a really comfortable spot to pass some time this afternoon with a friend.  The menu there in large part replicates the menu from Doghouse, with an extra page of Irish pub grub added on.  I went for the beef and Guinness pie and it was damned tasty.  Big chunks of beef, potato, carrot and onion and the sauce (do you call it sauce when it’s in a pie?  gravy?  I’m American, we don’t know from meat pies) was really nice.

Ashley Road’s an interesting little street.  Centrally located but quieter than the surrounding streets (because it’s a dead end), there are now four bars there – Ned Kelly’s, Mes Amis, the new InTime (0pened by a friend of a friend, will go back to check it out soon) and Shamrock.  Plus there must be at least 20 restaurants here – old stalwarts like Jimmy’s and La Taverna, chains including Pizza Express, Ebeneezers and Subway, and a fistful of local places.

TST’s actually a pain in the ass for me to get to.  So I’m not sure how often I’d make this a destination.  But if you happen to be in the area and want a meal or a drink, definitely check out Shamrock and the other spots.   I think it’s a definite step up from Knutsford Terrace.