Are we so spoiled and helpless in Hong Kong that we need to be warned about hot and cold weather?

Yonden Lhatoo asks if Hong Kong people, himself included, are over-pampered and spoon-fed too much by the government

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:41am

Is it just me or are we Hongkongers the most mollycoddled population in the world?

I mean where else, when the temperature rises above 30 degrees Celsius, does the government have to issue a “very hot weather” warning?

We had a series of such warnings last week when the maximum temperature recorded at the Hong Kong Observatory topped 34 degrees, the highest so far this year. The warnings were issued along with the official gems of wisdom that accompany such announcements of public interest.

“When engaged in outdoor work or activities, drink plenty of water and avoid over exertion”, in case you really didn’t know. “Wear clothing made of suitable materials (for example, cotton) that is loose-fitting and light-coloured.”

And here’s some astute advice to top it off: “People staying indoors without air-conditioning should keep windows open as far as possible to ensure that there is adequate ventilation.” Gee, thank you Captain Obvious – they may be too poor to afford air-conditioning, but they’re not stupid.

If you have a sense of entitlement to all this pampering and over-protection, spare a thought for what’s happening in southern Pakistan, where hundreds of people have been killed in a heat wave this summer, with temperatures soaring up to 45 degrees. A similar heat wave killed nearly 1,700 in neighbouring India last month.

Back in Hong Kong, it’s the same in winter, when the mercury starts hovering around 10 degrees. Then we get a cold weather warning and another set of instructions from the government on how to survive such Arctic conditions.

“People are advised to put on warm clothes,” the Observatory of the Obvious says. “You must also ensure adequate indoor ventilation” – because suffocation by stupidity seems to be a common problem in our city, summer or winter. For those of us who have to step outside into a freezing 12 degrees, “If you must go out, please avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds.” Those icy blasts sweeping through Mong Kok and chilling us to the marrow are no laughing matter.

For someone like me who originally hails from the Himalayas, where winter temperatures regularly plunge well below zero degrees, the cold weather warnings here used to be a joke. Now, after “surviving” more than 20 winters in this town, I have to admit I’ve become just as spoiled as the rest of my fellow Hong Kong citizens.

The last time I went on a camping trip in my hometown, my brothers unrolled their mattresses and sleeping bags just like we used to in the old days. I was the exception because my mother had packed a heavy-duty mattress, double quilt, and neck-support pillow in the Land Rover for me. “Poor chap, he’s from Hong Kong now,” my mum told my incredulous brothers. My metamorphosis was complete – from rugged mountain boy to delicate, super-spoiled city slicker.

So back in Hong Kong, I bring out my collection of long woollen overcoats just like everyone else in December, although I’m still self-conscious enough to draw the line at woollen caps with ear flaps and fur-lined mittens – and you know I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen plenty of those around, along with the tourists in t-shirts laughing at us.

I’ll probably get some flak for this, but I really think we should introduce some sort of compulsory military service in Hong Kong to toughen everyone up. Singapore does it, and so does Taiwan.

For people like myself, who are a bit long in the tooth to fall in the youth conscription demographic, a bootcamp-style refresher course should suffice. I’m up for it, and perhaps I can salvage some credibility in my brothers’ eyes after that last camping trip.

In the meantime, how about this sweltering summer, huh? It’s almost unbearable at 30 degrees. I’d go swimming every day to cool off, but this perturbing government missive has put me off public pools forever.

“Swimmers are advised to use the toilet before swimming and they should never urinate or defecate in the pools. They should leave the water immediately and use the toilet if they have to vomit.”

Go figure.