Getting Acquainted with Hong Kong
By “Awake!” correspondent in Hong Kong
BY November 1972 Hong Kong received, with red-carpet welcome, its one millionth visitor for that year. It was the first time, in any one year, that the number of visitors to this British colony topped the million mark.
The majority of visitors arrive by one of the scores of daily international flights at the Kai Tak Airport. Many others arrive by freighters and passenger ships, which are either tied to a buoy or drawn alongside the modern Ocean Terminal at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, the gateway to the tourist districts.
If one’s ship arrives at night, one will be treated to an aurora of colorful commercial lights emanating from both sides of the harbor. He may also see what appear to be lighted centipedes moving on the water. These, in reality, are the passenger ferries. But the lights reflecting from their windows, as they creep back and forth between the island and the mainland, cause them to resemble lighted, multilegged crawling creatures.
The Most Interesting Aspect
Many foreigners come here for a visit and yet never “see” Hong Kong. How is that?
After arrival, they are driven directly to their hotel in the tourist district and then spend their entire stay shopping in the same general area. Thus they never see anything more Oriental than souvenirs, faces, and Chinese writing. However, by far the most interesting aspect of Hong Kong is the people and their way of life.
Behind the veneer of Hong Kong’s impersonal commercial enterprise are industrious, self-reliant, and customarily friendly and well-mannered Chinese people. The majority at one time or another emigrated from China, or were born to parents who came from there. The older generations brought with them the warm, trustful personality of the country-folk, which most of them were. They may have lived in small villages where there was mutual concern and friendship, and where crime was practically unknown. Yet, unfortunately, there has been a change in people.
Moral Breakdown, and Its Effects
Sex crimes and violence, almost unheard of just ten years ago, have become commonplace.
Before the increase in crime and consequent distrust, it was quite common for a caller to be automatically invited into a Chinese home for a cup of tea. Sadly, however, now most persons look out through burglar-proof iron gates or door peepholes before admitting only those persons with whom they are acquainted. Although the crime rate here is below that of some places in the world, distrust and fear affect almost all who walk the streets.
Also, the traditional close family ties are breaking down as younger family members now have their own money and frequently do as they please. Often parents, who were too poor to go to school when they were young, are looked down upon by their educated children. The Chinese family circle thus has not escaped the breakdown experienced in other lands.
Taking a Look Around
A visitor does not have to book one of the commercial tours in order to get acquainted with Hong Kong. Almost all transport, whether ferry, bus or tram, starts at a terminal on one end of the route and travels to a terminal at the other end. Thus one can board one of these means of transport, travel to the terminal, look around in that area, and then return by the same transport to one’s starting point, without getting lost.
The tram or streetcar on Hong Kong island costs only 20 Hong Kong cents, or about 3-1/2 American cents, for a trip from one end of the island to the other end. If one rides on the top deck of the double-decker tram, one is afforded a leisurely view of life here. One can see the housewife do her daily shopping, ships being unloaded, rickshaws in use, seafood shops, and old and new residential housing. The bus routes on the Kowloon peninsula often wind up at one of the huge government housing estates, where a brief walk causes one to appreciate that the only way left to build in Hong Kong is up.
Now, how about taking a look at the city from another angle? A trip up to Victoria Peak, a mountain on Hong Kong island, affords a grand panoramic view of the colony. And the ride up is breathtaking, for the maximum grade of the tram ride is 45 degrees, reputed to be the steepest in the world.
The harbor itself is fascinating, and the best way to get a view of life among the “boat people” is to get out on the water. Most of these hardy people make their living either by fishing or oystering, or by using their junks to unload the ships that arrive daily. However, the number of people living on the water is steadily dwindling as the government is resettling more and more of them on land. This pleases the younger generation who find work there more attractive, profitable and less laborious.
Connections with the Mainland
The New Territories is an area that spreads out behind Kowloon on the mainland of China. It was leased to the British government by China in 1898, increasing the colony’s area to somewhat more than that of New York city.
Rural life here, in some respects, has not changed for hundreds of years. Farmers can be seen watering their garden patches by means of two sprinkler buckets balanced at each end of a thick bamboo pole over their shoulders. Deftly they water two rows of vegetables at the same time! Ever present here too is the water buffalo, tractor of the Orient.
Last year over 3,000 persons were allowed to leave China and cross the border to live in the Colony. In addition, over 6,000 refugees illegally escaped by various means and crossed onto British territory, where they are usually allowed to stay. Nevertheless, Hong Kong and China generally enjoy good relations.
This is shown by the fact that thousands of Hong Kong residents are permitted to travel regularly to and from China. Also, over 15,000,000,000 gallons of water a year and large supplies of food, upon which Hong Kong depends, constantly come from China. Commerce is uninhibited, and the Communist department stores in the Colony do a landslide business.
Food and Shopping
Anyone who likes to eat will find Hong Kong a place to delight the palate. There seems to be an endless stream of different dishes that one can sample. There are restaurants specializing in food from almost every province of China. Peking duck, beggar’s chicken, dried mushrooms, squid with celery, fried bean curd with pork, or fried milk, are just a few of the interesting dishes.
Chinese people are very hospitable and will go to great expense, even when they can ill afford to do so, to entertain guests and friends. They customarily take their guests to a restaurant, not considering their home and home cooking good enough. Actually, though, most housewives are excellent cooks, and the home atmosphere is much more relaxed than that of a restaurant.
There are no special taboos in dining etiquette. Usually the food will be served on a round table seating about ten persons, each person having his own bowl of rice. The soong, the main dish, is placed in the center of the table and all reach for their own portion at will, picking up the bite-size pieces with their chopsticks and eating them along with the rice. It is a delight to all if Western visitors give the use of chopsticks a sporting try. One may think starvation will set in before something reaches one’s mouth, but perseverance pays off and one will soon get the knack of handling this Oriental fork.
Attitude Toward Religion
It might appear that Christendom’s religions are a moving force here in view of the many schools, hospitals and social clubs that are church-connected. However, for most people religion is only a means to an end. If a church school is nearby, and not too expensive, then the family is quite happy for their children to join that religion in order to get an education. Also, many join a church because “my neighbors did.”
A big drawing card of the churches is their social activities and various forms of financial aid. It is strongly intimated to members that once they are baptized, they may not leave the church without losing material benefits such as housing, school-education benefits, welfare and even burial. Thus the churches, in effect, buy converts.
The Catholic and Protestant schools have really failed to build up the faith of their students in the true God or his Word the Bible. Rather, they tear down faith. To illustrate this, a religious book for use in Protestant schools says that the Genesis account of creation is myth, and that it was written by uninformed, superstitious Jews who had no knowledge of science.
Well, then, are Buddhism and ancestor worship the big things in the Oriental family here? Not usually. Generally most Buddhists and ancestor worshipers burn incense and make offerings for good luck and prosperity. However, this type of worship is performed with only a selfish end in view. The younger generations are getting more and more away from this traditional worship, leaving it to older members of the family. Instead, they use their time either for pleasure-seeking or for making money.
Why does not religion appeal more to the people of Hong Kong? One observant cartoonist aptly explained it: “Hong Kong is a money-splendored thing.” And it is true, all forms of moneymaking are patronized, whether it be the stock market, or horse racing and other forms of gambling, both legal and illegal. People have come to feel that money and gold are the only real security. A Chinese idiom well sums up the philosophy many have regarding the relationship of religion and money: “Chin haw toong sun,” which means, “Money can buy gods.”
There are, however, a number of people, mostly younger ones, who can see the vanity of blind pursuit of riches and who want something more lasting and satisfying. (Eccl. 5:10; 7:12) Such ones are being helped by the more than 250 of Jehovah’s witnesses in Hong Kong to learn of the Creator and his purposes. Many of these interested persons will be among those attending the “Divine Victory” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hong Kong, August 8 to 12. This assembly at the Grantham College in Kowloon will also be an attraction for hundreds of visitors who come to get acquainted with Hong Kong.