Battle for pier impresses mainland blogger

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2007, 12:00am

Many mainlanders making their first trip to Hong Kong head straight for Disneyland or the Big Buddha. Prominent blogger Zhou Shuguang was more impressed by Queen's Pier - in particular the enthusiasm of activists trying to save it from demolition.

'Queen's Pier is an interesting place and should be preserved. It is a battlefield of civil disobedience,' said Zhou. 'Hongkongers deserve our respect because of their enthusiasm.'

He was referring to a group of protesters who formed an alliance, dubbed Local Action, to try to stop the dismantling of Queen's Pier to make way for the Central-Wan Chai bypass. Members are camping out at the landmark, which the government may rebuild afterwards.

Zhou, 26, a vegetable seller and the son of Hunanese peasants, wrote extensively in his blog in April about the fate of a two-storey 'nail house' sitting stubbornly in the middle of a building site in Chongqing .

While the mainstream media were forced to ignore the story, Zhou went there to get a first-hand report. He uploaded about 30 articles, pictures and video clips to his blog about the owner's resistance. The blog attracted more than 37,000 visitors a day at its peak.

Zhou has become the most popular blogger on the mainland. His name has even appeared in Time magazine.

He came to Hong Kong on the eve of the handover's anniversary to gain first-hand experience of urban renewal projects and the standoff at Queen's Pier. 'On July 1, I saw people were standing here to see the fireworks over Victoria Harbour. Some of them were dancing and singing. The policemen at the back were negotiating with the protesters. It was a spectacular scene.'

Asked to compare reports of the nail house and Queen's Pier, Zhou said: 'Both stories touch upon the issue of the occupation of public space, yet the differences are the people's response.

'Hongkongers will vehemently fight for it, but the mainlanders didn't take any action.'

Zhou calls himself a network engineer. He went to Guangdong in 2001 and worked there for five years. He later returned to Hunan and began selling vegetables. He now wants to merge his internet skills and perspective in his business.

'I sell vegetables but I want to make a difference. I want to sell them differently. Unlike other sellers, I have expertise in the internet and computer information and I can do it with a better perspective.'

His special perspective on things is clear in the way he observes the design of stairs in the Wan Chai wet market.

'The edges are smooth, which makes cleaning, especially brushing, of the stairs easier,' he said. 'This design shows the interests of the cleaners have been taken into consideration. It is a symbol of public engagement in the design process.

'On the mainland, almost every decision is generated from a top-down approach. You can't find this kind of caring design. The degree of people's participation is a key indicator of a good system.'