Wet markets offer a way out of tycoon-controlled price gouging supermarkets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 9:06pm

In his article on Hong Kong’s wet markets (“What the dismal state of our wet markets tells about government monopolies”, December 14), Stephen Vines spoke of their bad points, such as lavatory-style tiling, harsh strip lighting and bad odour.

Admittedly, the local wet markets are notorious for their less-than-ideal hygiene conditions, slippery floors and noisy environment.

The stench of the venues and ear-splitting shouts drive tourists away, and local youngsters – used to air-conditioned malls and supermarkets – have no desire to visit a wet market. Yet, do they really deserve the bad reputation many have bestowed upon them?

A recent 12-episode infotainment show called Bazaar Carnivals, which was broadcast on TVB Jade, might provide the answer. This show featured four hosts visiting different wet markets in the city and included their interviews with vendors.

The series offered viewers knowledge about and a history of the wet markets, the daily operation of the stalls, and sellers’ personal accounts of interesting experiences. For instance, viewers learned about how certain skills such as producing dried shrimps were passed down from generation to generation, and about the relationship between apprentices and masters.

The wet market is a place where friendships are formed and family members unite; it is a place where prices are haggled over and deals made; where bonds are forged and conflicts resolved.

Every single trip to the wet market is a friendly reminder that aside from the tycoon-controlled money-grubbing supermarkets throughout Hong Kong, there is still an oasis of affordable food items available for those living a hand-to-mouth existence.

The modernised, air-conditioned wet markets might offer a more pleasant shopping experience and further convenience, but the traditional ones have a unique local flavour and nostalgia. The stalls in these markets provide not only affordable ingredients and food items for the grass roots, but also warmth and humanity.

I, for one, refuse to witness the demise of the wet markets in the name of development and revitalisation. Nor do I want to tell kids in the future that the wet markets are just part of the collective memory of Hong Kong people.

I hope I can take them to these places, where they can learn the importance of work ethic, human interaction and the art of negotiation.

Instead of marginalising wet markets, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department should come up with ways to preserve, protect and promote them.

Jason Tang, Tin Shui Wai