Lai See

Capturing the full ugliness of a one-size-fits-all approach

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 5:26am

We await with interest to discover the most popular brand of waste to be found on Hong Kong's beaches. This wheeze was dreamt up by Designing Hong Kong and follows a three-month exercise in which volunteers collected and sorted waste found on beaches by brand label. The winner will be announced by Living Lamma and Designing Hong Kong this morning.

Lantau's Living Islands Movement is also fed up with the ugliness that it feels is being perpetrated on the island both by slovenly and lazy people piling up rubbish, and by insensitive government architecture and lack of planning. We are assured there is no shortage of subjects, arising out of the government's one-size-fits-all approach. So standard designs for urban areas, where space is at a premium, are transplanted to the islands where space demands are less intensive.

These buildings are distinctive for their brutish insensitivity to their surroundings. Examples abound, including the Mui Wo Centre, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's three-storey rubbish collection depot, and poorly designed rain shelters.

In addition, there is the interesting situation whereby small village houses are given planning permission with no road access and no parking, resulting in unnecessary and unsightly informal parking arrangements.

The movement has organised a photography competition, with prizes for pictures depicting both the ugliness and the beauty of the island. The competition, which closes on April 12, is open to amateurs and professionals, and there's a special section for under 18s. Even if you don't win a prize, your efforts will not be in vain, since the photographs will be exhibited and used to name and shame government agencies responsible for ugliness.


One country, 1-1/2 systems

Deng Xiaoping promised Hong Kong 50 years of "one country, two systems" after the 1997 handover. Many people have fretted that this has worked somewhat imperfectly and that it is increasingly becoming more like "one country, one-and-a-half systems".

There was more scope for paranoia on this while listening to outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao give his work report at the opening yesterday of the National People's Congress. Towards the end of his speech he thanked, among others, Hong Kong. But those listening to the BBC's transmission were startled to hear the commentary refer not to the special administrative region, as we are officially called, but to "the Hong Kong special economic zone". We're assuming this was a translation problem rather than a subtle change in policy.


On becoming somebody

It's that time of year again when business on the mainland takes a back seat. This is not because of post-Lunar New Year languor but because politics has taken over for this week and next with the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress. So anybody who is anybody is in Beijing.

But those lower down the pecking order at state-owned industries with aspirations to be somebody in the years to come can also get in on the act. They don't go to Beijing, but different groups at the provincial and city levels hire hotel facilities and watch it on TV. In such ways are the paths of future advancement opened up.

This is normally the time of extensive gift giving but given this is officially frowned on currently, it is expected to be more muted this year than previously. But cynics expect that once officials are in position it should begin to proliferate again in April.


Golf course politics

We learn from the Financial Tim es' man in Beijing that since the government's total ban on the construction of golf courses since 2004, the number of courses has almost quadrupled.

This was by way of explaining that the men at the centre are not as omnipotent as they might seem to the outside world. They are often reluctant to impose their will on the periphery except at moments of crisis such as the Sars epidemic.

Otherwise, well-intentioned laws and regulations are frequently unenforced unless it happens to "align with the interests of cadres at the lower levels of state power".