My Hong Kongese Dream

From Denmark to Estonia

Month: April 2015

Safety of journalists is no longer guaranteed

Journalist

Safety of journalists is the foundation of press freedom.


Freedom isn’t free. At least some journalists have to risk their lives to get the news.

Journalists haven’t been protected much in spite of being the first person to access the news sources. Some were exiled, imprisoned, and even killed. There were 61 journalists killed and 221 jailed around the world in 2014, along with 404 forced into exile since 2009, according to Committee to Protect Journalists. 

Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization, stated in a report that only 1 out of 7 people around the globe  can enjoy free press. As the lives of journalists were threatened, they would not be entire free to interview people and get into the heart of story, thereby limiting public’s right to access to information.

“Global press freedom fell to its lowest level in over a decade in 2013,” pointed out by Freedom House in the report, indicating press freedom is threatened in different parts of the world.

In Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, the 79-day Occupy Movement has underlined how little the police force has protected journalists from being hurt, some of them even imposed hatred against the journalists who photographed their unlawful actions during the movement.

 Throughout the movement, there were at least 24 journalists being attacked by either police or pro-government protesters, referring to recent report released by PEN American Center, a literary and human rights organisation.

“Our media doesn’t seem to realize press freedom and freedom of expression are suffering a slow death, like a frog being slowly boiled alive,” the PEN America report stated, showing media organizations are being suppressed and threatened by government, or even other terrorist organizations, such as the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State Militants.

In spite of no death report on attacking Hong Kong journalists, the press freedom has been largely deteriorated as their safety while reporting news is questionable.

Less than a month after the occupation in Hong Kong, another deadly gun attack took place in France on 7 January 2015, killing 8 journalists who worked at a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack put an alarm bell to journalists all over the world—press freedom isn’t truly free.

 As the debate on whether the content of this cartoon magazine is appropriate continues, chances are, if not obvious, the sense of fear is imposing to journalists all over the world. Some say it is the magazine insulting to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, therefore the journalists deserved to be killed under gunfire; some defend the journalists’ right to press freely as their safety should be guaranteed under any circumstance.

But the truth is journalists are killed constantly in reality, under the “protection” of Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The saddest tone of a fallen Hong Kongese dream

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The Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX) in Seoul, Republic of Korea 


The 24th Session of Harvard World Model United Nations has ended without much surprising results. There were tears behind triumph, but there were also heart-warming stories behind failure.

I had a second of fancying myself to be recognized by the chairs and ran on the stage to get the diplomacy award, yet I fell so hard to break my Hong Kongese dream not because of my incapability to be the best but of fatigue accumulated before attending the conference.

Having prepared for one of the most difficult committees among all for a month, I was still confused by the nature of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in coordinating short-term financial issues across the world. Upon my misconception and exhaustion, I had a glimpse of my bad performance in the conference while watching the award distribution during the closing ceremony.

After hearing all the expected representative countries without mentioning any countries started with ‘V’, my heart was wretched in spite of the fact that I know there was only a small chance for me to get anything from the stage because of my unsatisfactory performance. I left the ceremony secretly without noticing any other beloved delegates from the same committee, and yet, the ceremony continued as usual.

Then I left myself alone at the bus station, waiving at the buses as if they would sympathise my feelings. I had a mixed feeling while leaving Seoul—it was the greatest joy of life to work with dozens of intelligent minds from different countries, yet I was ashamed of not achieving my own goals after making those false promises. In Incheon International Airport, I grabbed a sandwich and reviewed what I’ve learnt throughout the 7-day trip with much sentiments.

Being a time-conscious student, I have always been arriving on time except the committee sessions. I was late for 3 days out of 4 days. While there is no excuse of being late, delegates from Stanford Hotel have to take about an hour by railway. I could have taken the shuttle bus and get there right before the conference starts, yet I like to take risks and reach new people in the city, so I made my decision without having much regrets.

Even so, I must confess I was distracted by social events which in turns to insufficient sleep. Deeply rooted in Asian culture, I wasn’t really a party animal and probably this is the reason why I partied very hard during the events. I only slept for 2-3 hours on average along with some inefficient preparation works.

But written is better than spoken. At the end of the day, no matter how good your speeches were, only one passed draft resolution would count as this is why we have a marathon-like conference to discuss possible alternatives for the existing problematic international bodies under United Nations.

And I realized that how much cowardice I demonstrated as I didn’t raise motions frequently. Despite of delivering a couple of satisfactory speeches, I was too conservative to raise motions since I feared to say anything wrong.

I could have chosen to be a single delegate and discuss topics that I’m really familiar with, so that I would make my friends and fellows proud of me; I could have stressed less on overloading the details of  committee in order to get a better mind to make a better decision. But I could have been much more depressed and disappointed if I attended the one in London.

Yet, most of the delegates recognized me as the most colorful delegate with the funniest speech, which is the greatest reward of among all human beings—mutual respect.

Students learnt to be diplomatic as the struggle among different social issues go on

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(photo courtesy of Vaishali Gir)

In a highly competitive city like Hong Kong, students care about their studies, social lives and committee affairs without spending much time on discussing global issues, but some are making changes by participating different positions in Hong Kong Model United Nations Conference.

With the split of political views along with cultural identities blurred, there has also been a norm of not freely expressing one’s thoughts inside and outside the conference.

Problems that Hong Kong students encountered

Hong Kong Model United Nations Club(HKMUNC) Secretary General Umair Marwat stressed that the local students tend to do things simply because their friends ask them to do. ‘They are subject to peer pressure without knowing what they are really doing,’ he said.

The peer pressure issue has shown in the conference, according to Vaishali Gir, the official photographer who went through all 3 committees in the 4-day conference.

‘I don’t believe all delegates have the same stance and  agree with everything as they are from different countries in the committee,’ Vaishali commented.

She also said if there is no contradiction between representatives of different countries, there will be no debate on the floor.

Conflicts between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students

In a recent election of student union at Hong Kong University(HKU), the long-lasting conflict between locals and mainlanders has bursted out as it is believed that some mainland students of the proposed cabinet are members of the Party’s Youth League and Young Pioneers.

‘It’s the first time for Hong Kong students and mainland students to talk peacefully,’ said Season Ho, the president of Hong Kong Model United Nations Club(HKMUNC), who believes the conference provided a platform for both sides to understand more about each other.

Reiterating the word ‘peaceful’ for several times during the interview, Season said that she has no intention to deliberately invite the students from mainland universities but to invite all universities in Hong Kong. 

Rebecca Sophie, a Venezuela-born German who is currently on an exchange at Hong Kong University(HKU), also feels that there is an obvious conflict between Hong Kong students and their mainland counterparts. She said that both parties are lack of communication and they are excluding each other.

According to Rebecca, in the eyes of the non-locals, Hong Kong students ‘don’t do with their arrogance’, but at the same time, the locals would reject the claim by saying ‘this is our culture.’

Putting the China-Hong Kong conflict aside, the political spectrum is polarized on the issue of genuine democracy inside and outside the Legislative Council, according to the HKMUNC president.

Season refers to the unsolved political issues in Hong Kong as not facing political reality since the demand of ‘universal suffrage’ may be an unrealistic slogan shouted out by tens of thousands of Hong Kong people.

She also points out that the pro-democracy netizens are simply not listening to the voices of the others, emphasizing the importance of negotiation skills which can be learnt from Model United Nations.

Diplomatic skills

In Model United Nations, delegates may motion a moderated or unmoderated caucus to discuss a specific topic in a formal or informal setting respectively. As Season states, through different forms of debate, delegates would be able to build up their negotiation and public speaking skills.

The Secretary General said that knowing how to speak but not just what to speak is the fundamentals of being a diplomat, adding that a good diplomat has to make deals with the others long before the conference starts. He referred it as ‘backdoor diplomacy’.

Ralph Summers, the youngest 15-year-old participant who represents Italy in the conference, said that he learnt how to reach a common ground in spite of having different thoughts with the others. ‘I learnt to talk about things that can be compromised,’ he said.

Solving problems

The delegates of Model United Nations Conference are required to submit their own position papers, followed by a working paper with their bloc mates along with a draft resolution which will be vote at the very end of the conference.

‘The unique feature of HKMUN is that there is a big group of people exchanging ideas,’ Rebecca said. She add that students dared to talk because they participate voluntarily.

As the representative of Mexico in Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) in the conference, Rebecca praised the local delegates as responsive. She also said that the locals spoke with the context and ‘fought so hard for every single minute before and after the conference’.

Umair also pointed out that local delegates are working so hard but they didn’t get a mentorship to do the right thing, as if what he has observed in the conference. ‘Hong Kong schools are training donkeys, they study a lot without applying what they have learnt already,’

There are 3 committees simulated in the conference, including Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee (SOCHUM) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The End of Old Kwun Tong

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Emptied, locked, guarded—several centuries-old residential buildings are taking their very last breath in Yue Man Square, Kwun Tong, as the Kwun Tong Town Centre Redevelopment Plan has started since 2008.

The Urban Renewal Authority announced the Redevelopment Plan in 1998, which has an estimated number of 5,000 local residents and hawkers affected within 53,5000 square metres of redevelopment area surrounded by Hong Ling Road, Kwun Tong Road, Hip Wo Street and Mut Wa Street.

While the authority claims the plan would improve housing conditions for Kwun Tong residents and solve old problems such as decayed buildings, leaking sewage and noise pollution, chances are, without preserving any of the historical buildings, the affected elderly will lose their community network after being rehoused, and some of unlicensed hawkers could no longer maintain their normal lives after Fu Yan Street is being completely cleared for redevelopment.

Having waited more than 20 years, some of the licensed hawkers from Hip Wo Street are finally settled in Tong Yan Street Temporary Market, but those hawkers from Fu Yan Street do not have such luck.

“We are working as much as we can before this site is cleared,” a hawker who worked more than 3 decades in Fu Yan Street said, showing her frustration towards the redevelopment.

On the ground floor of an old building in Yue Man Square, Mr Leung, a historical watch and clock repair shop owner, showed his calmness over the possibility of ending his work life due to the redevelopment. He said, “Just cross the bridge when one comes to it.”

Climbing up to the rooftop of the metal-sheet house in Yue Man Square, the whole picture of reconstruction is crystal clear—a luxuriously built 39-storey complex standing above any building in Kwun Tong district. Named as Park Metropolitan, the new residential building in Yue Wa Street does not welcome the root-class as its average price is $20,000 per square foot, which is a double of Kwun Tong residents’ median monthly income, according to 2011 Population Census.