Hong Kong: A Heartless and Soulless City with No Memory

The following is a collection of newspaper articles and personal essays on the awakening of Hong Kong’s soullessness.

A Heartless City from 2012.6.1 Singtao Daily

Hong Kong is becoming more and more heartless.

My mother lives in a public housing estate in Quarrybay. Her daily life and shopping rely on a supermarket and Hong Kong-style cafes nearby. However, there are some changes in this lifestyle. Traditional Hong Kong-style cafes on Tsat Tsz Mui Road (*Seven Sisters Road literally) were closed down one after one due to redevelopment of old buildings. The style of the supermarket suddenly changed from affordable to high class. Housewives of public housing, like my mother, don’t even know how to pronounce its name and have to endure high food prices. She has to walk down a few more blocks in order to shop in a more affordable supermarket. Hong Kong-style cafes are replaced by a Gwailo coffee chain around the corner that sells a cup of coffee for $20-30. Walk down one more block, there is an expensive Cantonese roasted meat restaurant which is notorious for its expensive price and small portion. Another choice is an expensive Japanese restaurant. Tell grandpas and grannies to eat raw shrimps.

In recent years, I can only see that every district looks more and more like Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui. The grass roots can’t afford to eat in restaurants. The government has no vision, no plan and no heart. The society becomes cold. Businesses have to earn the maximum profits, even small coins in your pocket. A city with no human touch, no matter how dazzling how internationalized she is, has no value. Under the Lion Rock, only a soulless body remains.

A netizen took video of the soon-to-be demolished Kut Cheong Mansion, the old building mentioned in the article.

marksmak01: North Point Kut Cheong Mansion is about to be demolished. Let’s engrave this moment in our memory. 2012.6

Kut Cheong Cafe, which was a block away from Tsat Tsz Mui Road, was closed down on April 25 2012 due to demolition of Kut Cheong Mansion. It is also an important icon in Hong Kong cinema as it is featured in Wong Kar Wai’s “Fallen Angel”.

The highest rated comment from the source

Neverster: This is the side effect of individual visit scheme. Large number of tourists leads to large number of high class stores. Shopping malls serve tourists primarily. Locals have no places to go. Is Hong Kong, which was once proud of her tourism, ready to change?

Casper Chan’s story via Hong Kong Good Store

I have to record these through pictures.

My home is located near this store. Therefore, I walk past it every day. I remember that I bought a pair of dancing shoes from there when I was a student. At that time, all of my classmates bought dancing shoes from there as well. As time went by, I hadn’t bought from there, nor had I chat with the eldery owner.

Suddenly one day, she moved all the goods to the street. The gate is locked and full of rental advertisements. I stood still. I couldn’t believe my own eyes – and then I cried. I naively imagined that she would be there forever and extend her head out of her dimly lit small store everyday. However, I am wrong. I feel regret. Why didn’t I buy more stuffs from her? I wear socks every day, why didn’t I buy from there? If we had bought more from there, could she be able to pay rising rent? I can’t accept what have happened in front of my eyes. She lost her 30 years of hard work…

Small shops and Hong Kong-style cafes, which have characteristics of Hong Kong local culture, are very important to our next generation. Can you imagine what will Hong Kong look like if there are only chain stores? We must remind our next generation to treasure and defend these small stores, and tell them if you give up what you own now, you won’t have choices in the future. Don’t let these things happen and then regret.

The story of the elderly owner from 1154 issue of the Next Magazine via Baby Kingdom (2012.4.19)

Sister Jade (70 years old) has been selling stockings in Causeway Bay for 50 years – from being a hawker to a store owner and selling skin coloured stockings to trendy ones. Even Hilary Tsui (*the wife of Cantopop singer Eason Chan) has to buy stockings from Sister Jade when she does her styling. Sister Jade’s store “The Violet Silk” in Pak Sha Road was forced to close down because of 100% rent increase. 30 years later, Sister Jade becomes a hawker again.

“I have been selling stockings in Causeway Bay Pak Sha Road for 50 years. I had been selling stockings from a pushcart for the first 20 years. The business was going well and therefore I rented a store nearby. In the twinkling of an eye, it had been 30 years. Stockings raised my five children to adulthood. The rent was increased by an annual increments of $5000 or $10,000. This time, the rent was increased from $85,000 to $150,000. I can’t really afford to pay the rent. Brother Kar-ying (*Law Kar-ying, an acting legend) is the godson of the owner, and Ah Sister (*Lisa Wang, also an acting legend and the wife of Law Kar-ying) is my customer. Brother Kar-ying immediately helped with negotiations between me and the owner. A 10% discount was still $138,000. Tell me how to pay this amount? Since April 1st, I have reverted to be a hawker. Don’t underestimate me just because I am a hunchbacked granny. Actually, I am very trendy. In the past, I went to Japan in person to make purchases. Ah Tsui (Hilary Tsui) praises my taste and always buys stockings from here. Kwan Chi-lam (*an actress) also visited here. I also have many model customers, but I don’t know their names.

Artistic directors of fashion and advertising industries always come here. Once, a male artistic director bought lots of skin coloured stockings. I saw him carrying a big black bag and laughed at him, “Hey, beware of police body search!” I love joking with my customers. Don’t tell me to retire, unless you want me to die. Now, the roadside stall has to be set up in the morning and dismantled in the evening. I can only move and replenish goods from my home in Lee Garden Road with my husband. Now the wood pushcart is still being made. I can only set up a roadside stall in front of this cake store. Luckily, my friend Uncle Dat is really helpful. He has a hawker license. Everyday, he and I look after the stall. In the past, there were many small businesses in Pak Sha Road. These days, they are all replaced by big chains. You see the store next door. Originally, it was a small boutique. Later, it is rented by Yu Yan Sang (*a Chinese medicine chain). I don’t blame owners for increasing rents since others can pay them. However, it is the fault of Mainland Chinese. They are ********. They only buy watches, jewellery, gold and dried seafood. Only jewellery stores, watch stores and dried seafood stores remain in Causeway Bay.”

Poem My Impression of Sheung Shui by Elle Lam (*The following is not a full translation of the poem and stanzas are grouped into paragraphs for easy reading.)

I have lived in Sheung Shui ever since I was born.

My home is opposite to Tin Ping Shan Tsuen. Originally, there were large meadows and farmland. However, I don’t know since when construction waste has appeared nearby. A school was strangely built in the centre of farmland. Students inside all speak Mandarin.

There was a kindergarten on the ground floor of my block. Later, it had been closed down for several years because it failed to recruit sufficient number of students. In recent years, it reopened. Everyday, a big bus carries students from over the border. Of course, they speak Mandarin as well.

In my impression, there was a stationary store in Metropolis Plaza. It was called “Amelia’s”. It was the place I went when I had nothing to do after school during S1. I bought some useless stuffs from there and then went home. Now it becomes Fortress (*an electronic store).

Also in my impression, there was a stationery store in Choi Yuen Estate that sold toys at very cheap prices. However, a year before, it was forced to close down because of the Link REIT. Today, there is no stationary store in Choi Yuen. Last time, I had to go to Ching Ho Estate just to buy an eraser.

When I was young, Landmark North had Tom Lee Music and Commercial Press bookstore. I went to play piano and read books when I was free. However, rents of Landmark North become more and more expensive. There are more and more jewellery and electronic stores. Stores I had been visiting since childhood were closed down one after one. Tom Lee Music and Commercial Press bookstore were moved to the same street. However, Tom Lee was closed down several months ago. I wish that Commercial Press bookstore could continue. Otherwise, Sheung Shui has no bookstore at all.

Originally, there were lots of small stores and restaurants near Sheung Shui old market. However, in recent years, they were all closed down. Pharmacies, cosmetic stores, jewellery stores and electronic stores replaced them one after one. Actually, residents of Sheung Shui do have basic needs. However, there are some difficulties in buying daily necessity products in Sheung Shui. If one has a newborn, one must not live here. Because you can never buy infant formula.

I don’t know since when Sheung Shui has became a heaven for smugglers. Outside of Sheung Shui station, there are always over hundreds of smugglers distributing and packaging goods. There are even more smugglers in the industrial area one block away…

I don’t know since when Sheung Shui has became very crowded. For many times, when I go home, I almost can’t get off the train as I am always being pushed back into the compartment by smugglers who are trying to board.

I don’t know since when everyone I have met head-on speak Mandarin when I stepped inside malls of Sheung Shui. Every store I go I only hear Mandarin. If you don’t tell me, I think I were inside Louhu Commercial City. Really.

I don’t know since when the first sentence every staff of every store in every mall speak has been in Mandarin. Actually, I speak Cantonese.

I don’t know where has my childhood Sheung Shui gone. I only know that nowadays Sheung Shui is very very strange.

I don’t know if Sheung Shui really needs dozens of jewellery stores, electronics stores, sports warehouse, several dozen pharmacies and countless of Mannings and Watsons (*both are health and beauty retails).  However, I have had enough.

I don’t know if the need of Mainland tourists was included when Sheung Shui was designed. However, I feel that Sheung Shui is very crowded.

This place makes me suffer.

Smugglers on the platform of Sheung Shui Stations

One of the closed toy and stationary stores in Choi Yuen Estate is Leun Hop Hing Toys. It was shut down in the end of August 2009 after more than 25 years in business as the Link REIT increased the rent to an unaffordable level.

Interview of CY Leung on 2012.6.19

Relax restrictions and let Mainland self-drive tour to come to Hong Kong

The following song 囍帖街 Wedding Card Street is one of the rare successful Cantopop in the late 2000’s. Its theme is based on the redevelopment controversy of Lee Tung Street, which is an important milestone to Hong Kong social activism and local identity. Defeatism in this song is so strong that it drew criticism. Recently, netizens reanalysed meanings of its lyrics and made a new video.

A piece of criticism from “Indifference and Pathos – Brief Analysis of Local Awareness in ‘Wedding Card Street‘ ” (*This is not a full translation)

The let go attitude that “Wedding Card Street” encourages may comfort our melancholy towards political powerlessness. However, when bulldozers destroy our home again and again, exacerbate housing prices, eliminate small business and introduce big chains, where else can we flee? At this moment, we should get out of stuck-in-the-mud collective self-pity, abandon indifferent and problem avoiding attitude of the previous generation, and face problems with proactive and optimistic attitude. That is the way to get rid of melancholy. That is the right way to “conserve” Hong Kong.

Photo Source: Next Media via Old Hong Kong Lover

11 thoughts on “Hong Kong: A Heartless and Soulless City with No Memory

  1. its very emotive, but lets get real shall we? These students study hard, get into a good university and then go off to wealthier areas around HongKong island to buy an apartment or go overseas, they’re not going to stick around in Sheung Shui anyway are they? So why do they even care what happens to it? Sheng Shui area does not cater for well educated professional middle class people.

    1. With all due respect, bbc zeitgeist, not everyone gets a chance to live wherever they want, thanks to soaring property prices which have gone beyond the roof. nor does everyone get a chance to pursue further education for various reasons. My nanny is a true Hongkonger, born and raised here. She comes from a low income household, and her family happen to live in a Sheung Shui public housing estate and I certainly can understand her frustrations about going to a govt clinic in that area, for instance, only to find that its filled with mainlanders and their babies, who also have access to our healthcare because they were born here. I can also understand her concerns about finding school places for HK children living in the area. But unfortunately the govt has failed to address this problem, which a lot of HKers face, and the government has no balls to resolve this at all

  2. Hong Kong is a society of money. When you go to the Peak, HK looks alive on the outside; but then you go into a shopping mall inside a skyscraper and you realise HK is dead.

  3. Hong Kong has it’s own flag.

    Speaks it’s own official language.

    Has it’s own passport.

    Has it’s own currency

    Has it’s own governments

    Has it’s own laws

    Has it’s own culture but are now SUFFERING FROM AN MAINLAND INVASION.

      1. 2047 = Nothing, and I mean literally, NOTHING can stop China from destroying Hong Kong. The Basic Law makes no mentions what happens after 50 years. It makes no mention of what powers China will have, what China can do to Hong Kong, and etc. Basically, the Basic Laws give Beijing a chance to have unlimited power over Hong Kong after 50 years. China can do whatever it wants to Hong Kong after 2047.

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