‘Boo’, ‘nano’ and ‘DQ’ – eight of the catchiest terms from Hong Kong news headlines in 2017
The words and phrases reflect the hot topics, turmoil and typhoons that captured the attention of Hongkongers this year
Hong Kong weathered several storms – both literal and figurative – this year with the city struck by a super typhoon and a series of political crises.
Four more elected lawmakers were cast out of office, joining the two stripped of their seats in an oath-taking saga last year, while a new cabinet led by chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took office and pushed ahead with a controversial plan to grant mainland authorities jurisdiction over an area of the upcoming West Kowloon Terminus for the cross-border high speed rail.
Politically, frequent filibustering in the Legislative Council chamber and the jailing of over a dozen activists, including student leader Joshua Wong, deepened the political divide between the pro-establishment bloc and pan-democrats.
Economically, despite robust growth in retail and the private sector over the past months, many Hong Kong residents still struggled to achieve home ownership, with some living in substandard conditions like subdivided flats and “nano flats”.
The Post picks eight words and phrases that reflect the hot topics, turmoil and typhoons that captured the attention of Hongkongers in 2017.
Hato, Pakhar, Merbok, Roke and Khanum – do these names ring a bell? They were the five typhoons that prompted the Hong Kong Observatory to issue a No 8 warning signal and above, with Hato getting a No 10 warning signal – the highest in the city’s storm warning system.
Over two weeks between the end of August and early September, three major typhoons battered Hong Kong, with Super Typhoon Hato, the biggest storm in five years, leaving the city flooded and paralysed. Ten people were killed in the casino hub of Macau.
Locally, economic losses were estimated at HK$4 billion to HK$8 billion given stock market, business, offices and school closures, as well as hundreds of flight cancellations, according to multiple market analysts.
Director of the Hong Kong Observatory Shu Chi-ming said the strength of Hato was comparable with another signal 10 super typhoon Wanda, which hit the city in 1962 and left 130 people dead and 72,000 homeless.
“Hong Kong was really lucky this time,” Shun said. “The strongest wind did not hit squarely and just brushed past the city. If Hato had been three or four kilometres closer, the situation would have been completely different.”
The super typhoon reignited discussions about the impact of global climate change on coastal territories like Hong Kong.
DQ is an initialism for disqualification, commonly used in Cantonese conversations. For the first time in history, elected lawmakers were disqualified from the city’s Legislative Council. And there were six of them, representing three geographical constituencies and one functional constituency.
Lawmakers for geographical constituencies are directly elected by Hongkongers, while those for functional constituencies are voted in by a limited electorate drawn from the industries the specific constituency represents.
The pan-democrats were ousted for taking their oaths of office after the September 2016 Legislative Council elections in ways a court later ruled invalid. Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang used the word “Chee-nah”, a derogatory term referring to China, in their oaths.
That later triggered an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative body. The interpretation, which has the power to override any judgment by the Hong Kong courts, was seen by the law profession as a blow to the rule of law. Leung and Yau later lost their appeal to retain their seats at the Court of Final Appeal in August.
The other four ousted legislators were Lau Siu-lai, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim.
3. CY 2.0
Soon after former chief executive Leung Chun-ying announced he would not seek re-election late last year, his government’s No 2 official, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who had said she was not interested in the top job, made a U-turn and threw her hat in the ring alongside former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.
During the election, Lam was labelled “CY 2.0” as critics said she was too close to her former boss,whose popularity rating plunged to an all-time low of 36.2 points out of 100 by the end of his term, according to a poll by the University of Hong Kong.
For example, when Lam declared her election bid, she said she would continue “the governance ideologies” of Leung’s administration.
During a televised debate, Tsang accused Lam of failing to heal divisions in society and called her “Divided 2.0”.
If conventional sport trains the muscles, then e-sports – or electronic sports – can be said to be training for the brain. This April, e-sports was included in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China as an official medal event.
Locally, the government jumped on the e-sports bandwagon by sponsoring the city’s first major e-sports festival in August, drawing 50,000 players and visitors.
The craze of playing video games professionally, most commonly League of Legends, or LOL, has caught on around the world with the sector projected to grow at a robust rate of 6.6 per cent and reach US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) locally by 2021, according to accounting firm PwC.
Whether it is e-sport players, commentators or game developers, the burgeoning industry has spawned new career options for youngsters, in line with chief executive Carrie Lam’s pledge to boost innovation and the technology sector during her term in office.
5. Nano flats
Flats smaller than 200 sq ft, also known as studio flats, became increasingly popular in the past year as a result of Hong Kong’s skyrocketing property prices and land shortage. Government figures showed that “nano flats”, often inhabited by young individuals or households of two, mushroomed around urban districts such as Wan Chai, Central and Western and Sham Shui Po.
The government also forecast that nearly half of all flats completed next year would be smaller than 400 sq ft.
But smaller flats do not necessarily come with smaller price tags. The average price per square foot of second-hand flats smaller than 400 sq ft (37 square metres) transacted this year hit HK$13,836 (US$1,768), 9.3 per cent higher than the HK$12,654 per sq ft price of larger homes, according to Land Registry data compiled by the Post.
Reflecting pockets of anti-mainland sentiment in the city, local fans repeatedly booed and jeered China’s national anthem during international football tournaments in the city, causing the Hong Kong Football Association to be fined several times.
Some Hong Kong football supporters also turned their backs and held up banners with anti-mainland slogans when March of the Volunteers was played at an Asian Cup qualifying match against Lebanon in November.
The Hong Kong Football Association was fined HK$23,455 (US$3,000) by the Asian Football Confederation as a result. It was previously fined twice by Fifa, the global football governing body, for booing incidents at two 2015 World Cup qualifying matches.
Mainlanders and Beijing officials were furious with the fans. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee imposed a national anthem law on Hong Kong by inserting it into its mini-constitution in November, which means Hong Kong is obliged to enact a local law that criminalises acts that disrespect the national anthem, such as booing.
Tsang, who was up against Lam in the chief executive contest, famously said Hong Kong needed a “respite”, or in Cantonese yau yeung, during his election campaign. The “respite” was meant to heal the rifts in society following the 79-day Occupy movement, a series of civil disobedience protests in the name of greater democracy.
However, pro-Beijing loyalist Regina Ip Lau Shuk-yee, who eventually failed to secure enough nominations to enter the chief executive race, criticised that Tsang was hea, a trendy Cantonese term meaning slack, in doing his job as the city’s financial chief. The term hea, which had not been in fashion in recent years, was made popular again following Ip’s remarks.
“Quorum please”, or dim yun sou in Cantonese, was probably one of the most heard phrases in the Legco chamber as pro-democracy lawmakers filibustered consistently in an attempt to block some controversial motions this year.
In one particular week when Legco started debating the joint checkpoint for the cross-border high-speed rail link, also known as co-location, pan-democrats made in total 39 quorum calls, which took up more than eight hours. The non-binding motion was passed in the end.
In one debate, opposition lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick resorted to an unprecedented tactic by invoking an obscure clause in the rule book to force an additional debate on removing members of the press and public from the chamber.
But opportunities for filibustering were reduced after the legislature earlier this month passed 24 amendments to the rule book including lowering the quorum requirement from 35 to 20 lawmakers for some weekly meetings. The pro-establishment bloc expects the changes will bring down filibustering from now on.