Harbour View: Hong Kong is filthy

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Hong Kong is filthy and getting worse. I’m not talking about Hui-Kwok, Timothy Tong, UGL deals, murderous bankers and worse filling our headlines (but I will).

I’m talking about the garbage I need to step around outside Wellcome on fairly upscale Robinson Road every morning where the school children wait for the bus. I can only imagine what other, more grassroots, districts are like.

This morning in Sheung Wan, a BMW pulled up at a light next to me and the older driver threw a bottle and plastic bag out the window. I’m still spry enough to get over a guardrail, retrieve the trash and place it under the driver’s windshield wiper, much to his displeasure, before he could drive off. Two days ago, it was a 50 or 60-something taxi driver outside my home. It’s a daily occurrence in my life. The lap sap chung is alive and well in Hong Kong – and invariably older.

Perhaps younger people are better at hiding it or have the minimal sense of shame to hide their littering, but this behaviour I witness daily is one of careless disregard for rubbishing our home and it is invariably older persons.

When the tide goes out…

There was a prediction years ago that minimum wage would result in a more litter strewn city as we started to lay off the people who cleaned up after us. When I came to Hong Kong in the 1990’s, I, like many new arrivals, marveled at how clean the city was (fragrance of the harbour notwithstanding). I bought into the idea that the ‘lap sap chung’ campaign of the 1970’s had transformed us into a city of persons who kept the city clean by cleaning up after ourselves. But now, as round-the-clock cleaners become a thing of the past, our garbage is piling up. Anyone out of the house before 8am in this city can expect to step gingerly past detritus spread with abandon by careless citizens. The situation is aggravated by delivery services that create rubbish in the wake of their activities on public shared sidewalks, leaving a daily mess behind, like my local grocer (Wellcome) and many newspaper distributors.

One area this is not the case is the Occupied zone in Admiralty. Young people there have created their own garbage collection and recycling efforts, organised by apparently no one. When HT reporters ask who organised them, garbage collectors invariably answer ‘no one. I just thought I should.” Saturday past was ‘clean-up day’ in Occupy Central.

Swimming naked

Given this, it casts the concerns of young people in a new light. As school children, they are taught to respect the Basic Law and not to litter and to recycle. My daughter is 8 years old, in a local school and getting the message daily. It’s all on the agenda.

As they get older, they get Liberal Studies. Some are now questioning its value, first for giving students ideas and lately, more subtly, for distracting them from Literature History. The effect, it seems is that our younger generations have picked up a few values that older generations espouse, but don’t seem to live by. As parent, I am ofttimes guilty of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Hong Kong, apparently shares my affliction.
The Umbrella Movement is driven by the tide going out and our swimmers being shown naked (apologies to Warren Buffet). The faults in the foundations of a clean society have have shown some bits of Hong Kong many would have preferred stay hidden. Think of the ICAC’s Timothy Tong travails, our much-vaunted bureaucracy’s disgraced Rafael Hui and our police debacle in the video-taped abuse of bound and prostrate Ken Tsang. Perception is changing as Hong Kong slowly loses ground in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index year after year. Many young people in the Occupied zone believe it to be the influence of Beijing and democracy a bulwark against mainland driven corruption.