Brave Pong's one-man battle with big business

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 November, 2010, 12:00am

Pong Yat-ming is taking a one-man stand against the property tycoons and big corporations.

The determined 37-year-old has stopped taking public transport and travels everywhere on his bicycle.

He buys from small shops instead of supermarkets and handwashes his clothes.

Pong decided last month he would do his own little bit to break the domination of the financial giants who have control over food, transport and the retail chains.

'Property developers eliminate the existence of many small shops.

'There are fewer and fewer choices for us and every mall looks the same. People lose their character in such a society,' he said.

Now he hopes his year-long protest will persuade the public that they too can play a part in breaking the domination of big business.

A month after he started, he has saved HK$300 on transport, which he spent on a book and a kite.

But it is not as easy as it appears. He has to avoid the busy traffic on roads and buying from grocery stores and smaller shops has proved to be a challenge for the Hongkonger, who is used to shopping late.

Chains are open until late but not small outlets, he said. He also has to fight a constant battle to stop himself from falling into his old patterns.

'It's most important to break the habit. Today when I saw a Maxim's I wanted to go inside. But then I turned to a cha chaan teng (a traditional local restaurant) instead.'

If there is anything which makes the oddjobber more adventurous than others, it would be his numerous encounters with people from different backgrounds.

Instead of buying a flat, Pong uses his income as a freelance English teacher on budget travel and hosting others at his home in Jordan.

A member of the Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing, two programmes which match travellers with hosts who provide free accommodation, Pong welcomes a guest into his home every week.

And during a nine-month trip to South America last year, he spent half the time staying on hosts' couches.

It offered him the chance to meet people who are fighting their causes in unconventional ways.

One of them was a campaigner for the Voice of Conscience Movement in Colombia, which is pushing a 'nobody' to stand in the presidential election.

'Their aim is not to make the candidate a president, but to spread the message that voices of common people should be heard,' Pong said.

The Mapuche, a group of indigenous inhabitants of Chile and Argentina who fight to preserve their culture and land, also impressed him with their persistence.

'A Mapuche protester was killed by the police in Santiago, but others print his face on posters. One could have fallen, but not all, they say.'

From protests against the demolition of Star Ferry Pier in Central to the campaign demanding the preservation of Choi Yuen Chuen village, Pong said more people have joined local civic movements but they are still learning.

About 300 comments flooded his blog a month after he started his boycott and he is hopeful that more people will support small business.

'It's like shifting to another TV channel,' he said. 'Habits can change, but it takes time.'