Space discovered on Hong Kong Island

The red arrows on this panorama of Kowloon seen from Hong Kong’s Western waterfront yesterday indicate the tops of old 11-storey housing blocks. Before Kai Tak airport closed in 1998, few of the buildings in this scene would have exceeded this height level…


To add to the nostalgia, I took a tram yesterday and recalled a time when the fare was 60 cents.

And that, I’d like to think, is enough flashbacks from a bygone era for a while. But it is not to be. Today’s South China Morning Post has a letter from Hilton Cheong-Leen. (Whaddya mean, who? Wikipedia has a brief bio, and this SCMP profile from 2003 fleshes it out: a pioneer of Hong Kong electoral politics in a colonial time when people knew their place.) As a mark of respect to the 94-year-old, the paper gives him pride of place. In essence, he welcomes the formation of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s new think-tank and hopes that it can do good and positive things, though sadly he does not offer specifics…


The emphasis seems to be on convincing the community that all is well, rather than daring to consider the possibility that things are in fact massively screwed up and need fixing.

SCMP-ChildCareAn obvious example that things have gone wrong is the way that despite an increase in floor space – as seen in the Kowloon skyline – simple housing has become unaffordable to most of the younger generation. (Incidentally, the government is going to plan childcare facilities into future public housing projects. With the middle class able to afford only private-sector apartments of 200 sq ft or less, maybe public housing tenants will in future be the only people in Hong Kong able to have children.)

Then again – what lack of space? I took my photo of Kowloon from a sprawling and largely empty waterfront spot: Western Public Cargo Working Area. It is illegal to ‘loiter’ here, but you can jog (if you must), stroll, admire the view, fish, bring kids to cycle round, or (discreetly) sort of hang out…


It has lots of rusty pipes, grimy palates, scrap metal and other industrial-era stuff you don’t see up-close every day on Hong Kong Island…


And of course it’s where our supplies of gutter oil are landed…


Locals who know about the place like it so much they are against turning it into a real waterfront promenade with seats, ice-creams and dangerous trees. (In all fairness to paleo-establishment survivors like Hilton Cheong-Leen, it is amazing how hard to please Hong Kong people have become since the days when they were grateful to be assembling plastic flowers all night in their shacks.)

As if the Public Cargo Working Area weren’t perfection enough, it has two entrances – so you can go in one end and leave at the other, just where you expect a fenced perimeter to force you back, which is how the parks-designers would arrange it. Just outside, across the street, you’re back in the usual overcrowding and congestion of Kennedy Town. A ground-floor shop has been ElegantEnsuitesub-divided into tiny business premises selling home-made fashion, pet toys and other suitably small items. One is a property agency, offering a (comparatively large) 100-sq-ft ‘elegant ensuite’. What happens when you sub-divide a sub-divided apartment, I guess. A bargain, apparently, at HK$7,800 a month.

So many contradictions. Maybe Hilton’s idea for a ‘mass campaign to repair social division’, being ‘a timely project to initiate at an early date’, would ‘stimulate more meeting of minds and consensus building within our polarised community’ and make everything right.

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12 Responses to Space discovered on Hong Kong Island

  1. Joe Blow says:

    I have always wondered what Hilton is doing in To Kwa Wan. Is there an old people’s home for forgotten ex-politicians ?

    Ah, grimy palates: that’s what you get when you drink cheap plonk from Park’n’Shop.

  2. Stephen says:

    Ah nostalgia – it ain’t what it used to be ! Except in Hong Kong it is. Old Hilton is nostalgic for Tung ? But we tried this from ’97 to ’05 and it was bad, very bad, half a million on the street bad. A familiar jobbing author even wrote a book chronicling how bad. Tung Mark II surrounded by odious tycoons will not fix nor will bad Government infomercials.

    What may help, to quote the basic law, is “a broadly representative nominating committee”, that serves to promote democracy not stifle it. Of course those pining for nostalgia realise, but are afraid to say so, that the all-knowing, wise and benevolent CCP will not allow the nominating committee to be broadly representative and years of political inertia and large demonstrations will follow. Just like old times – Tung will be so proud.

  3. Scotty Dotty says:

    Anyone who things Tung is an answer to anything must be senile.

    Wait, Hilton, he’s in his nineties. Penny drops!

  4. Cassowary says:

    Well of course, Tung and his think tank will attempt to steer the conversation away from the piffling trifles of what’s wrong with the government, the rentier economy, the cost of housing, the air pollution, the lack of retirement protection, the simultaneously cut-throat and sub-par education system, and the brainless bureaucracy, and towards the most important issue of all: what’s wrong with the youth?

    Seriously, what’s wrong with kids these days? Then they can convene conferences of esteemed wizened grey-haired geriatric ones to waggle their chins and say things like, “If these kids had been properly instructed in Love of the Motherland, none of this would have ever happened. Why doesn’t anybody respect their elders these days? Bunch of useless entitled hipsters! Bah humbug. Get off my lawn!”

    Thus satisfied, they will all go home and yell at their grand-kids. And all will be well again in the Big Lychee.

  5. Incredulous says:

    I am sick and tired of these retarded, geriatric has-beens and their bloody think-tanks. Fill the tanks with water and drown the lot of them! We need new blood and new ideas – not go back to the bad old ways. Of course the media led by the SCUM Post and TVB(ullshit)are lapping this up!

  6. Hills says:

    The only Hilton I trust, is Paris.

  7. Knownot says:

    I’m sitting in the Cargo Bay
    Sitting all the sunny day
    Watching the ferries go
    And I watch them coming to and fro.

    I left my home in England
    Heading out to old Hong Kong
    Now there’s nothing to hope for
    And everything’s going wrong.

    Looks like nothing’s gonna change
    Everything still remains the same
    I’ve gotta do what the others tell me to
    So I guess I’ll remain the same.

    Sitting here tapping my phone
    And the politics won’t leave me alone
    Sitting in my rented home
    Wasting time.

  8. Scotty Dotty says:

    *round of applause for Knownot*

  9. Joe Blow says:

    Otis Redding and Wilson Picket, R & B mainstays of Hong Kong hotel bands for the past 50 years.

    Any good hotel bands that you know of ?

  10. inspired says:

    hear hear for Knownot, contender for best comment ever

  11. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    The main function of the Western Cargo Area is for dog walking. Hands off.

  12. Laguna Lurker says:

    Good stuff, Knownot!

    Speaking of nostalgia, I enjoyed the “loitering in a public cago working area without a satisfactory account of himself” sign. Intended, no doubt, to discourage pilferage.

    It reminded me of a time many years ago when I was a young police prosecutor reading through the criminal record of an elderly opium addict. Among his many previous convictions for petty offences was one from the early 1930s for “Loitering in the Vicinity of the Government Rice Godown in Possession of an Empty Bucket”. For this he had been sentenced to “five strokes of the cane and placement in the custody of his uncle”.

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