Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lesson 8 - Hong Kong Lifestyle: Let's talk it through

"Eight lessons for Government Self-study and Improvement:
How to be a good Secretary for Development"
The final worksheet in the series, to be published on 28th June 2008 by the neighbourhood group of Hing Wah St, Sham Shui Po on the 111th day after sitting down to dinner with Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Secretary for Development responsible for the 'Four Rs'

Revitalisation &
pReservation of Hong Kong.

This worksheet documents the dinner conversation and asks some of the questions which remain unaddressed. The worksheets are downloadable here in Chinese and English. (Click to enlarge). The kaifong has printed copies to send to Sydney for the Australian "Mao to Now" exhibition, so that people can take them home from the opening of the show.

In March 2008, the kaifong participated in a 'daydreaming workshop' in March at the garage, run by a visiting dutch artist, Elena Simons, a social inventor and founder of Wonder. One of the dreams they aligned on was to become a world-famous community, and they are very happy to be sending their work in an international exhibition.

Notes on policy and rights:

The URA states that residents and property owners have the right to object to development of their area:
People affected by URA development schemes and development projects have the right to object under the Town Planning Ordinance or URA Ordinance. Objectors are also allowed to appeal against Government decisions on development projects.

The Hong Kong Housing Society acquires the land for the Urban Renewal Authority. Both the organisations come under the Development Bureau. According to the Housing Society:
If the tenant refuses to accept our cash compensation or rehousing offer and/or fails to sign surrender agreement, the Housing Society will recover vacant possession of the affected premises in accordance with the prevailing law.

This statement is one of the tactics referred to in the conversation, brought up as a threat when the residents ask too many questions of the Housing Society.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Artist Statement for 'Mao to Now' exhibition

A local community, or kaifong, is a work of art created from a web of stories. We belong to our community and belong to our community's stories. We create community stories, community stories create us.

In 2004, a close-knit community of residents and shop keepers in Sham Shui Po learned that their block was targeted for demolition and high-end redevelopment by the Urban Renewal Authority.
Sham Shui Po is an old district of Kowloon in Hong Kong, a shopping area famous for fabrics, electronics and repair shops. Residents and shopkeepers were given the options of taking public housing in different districts of Hong Kong, of leaving with compensation, or for some, leaving with no compensation. The residents found it difficult to communicate to the government departments that what they wanted was to preserve their community: the neighbours they had lived and worked with all their lives. Many government officials assumed, and reported to the media, that the residents were being difficult in order to bargain for more money.

The neighbourhood kaifong began a series of creative actions to share with the rest of Hong Kong what they value about their lives. This work is a website that documents these actions. It brings together many people's work in translating, glossing, documenting and responding to an extraordinary, generous, authentic and humorous series of grass-roots art actions. There have been guided tours of the rooftops, an exhibition of stories in comic-book style and an anti-hunger-strike (twenty-four days of dinner party). The kai fong's sharply funny series of eight primary-school style 'Worksheets for Government Self-Study and Improvement' was published in the highly-regarded Chinese newspaper, Ming Pao.

This kaifong's actions contribute to the next district targeted by the Urban Renewal Authority in the same way that protest groups from previous redevelopment areas, like the Star Ferry and Wedding Card Street, have contributed to theirs. One day, Hong Kong government policy will reflect the values and the strengths of the people it represents.

As this exhibition goes up in Sydney, the Sham Shui Po block is coming down in Hong Kong.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

How to be a good Secretary for Development Lesson 7: Hong Kong Lifestyle: An Inclusive and Harmonious Society

Eight lessons for Government Self-study and Improvement
How to be a good Secretary for Development

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tai Shan Company and Sydney Exhibition

Here is the translated postcard of the Tai Shan shop owner. The whole set of 18 postcards is here, now in both English and Chinese.

This blog and the community projects will be part of the "From Mao to Now" exhibiton on Chinese and Australian Artists in Sydney's
Newington Armory Gallery at Sydney Olympic Park
, opening on 28th June and running through July and August 2008. Yay!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eight lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor: How to be a good Secretary for Development

While having dinner together night after night and waiting for the arrival of Ms Lam, Secretary of Development, the residents group created eight lessons which they believe will improve the competence of the Department of Development, who administer the Urban Renewal Scheme. The previous six blogs contain the first six worksheets, which have been delivered to Ms Lam. All of the worksheets so far have also been published in the Chinese press. The 7th was published yesterday.

Thankyou to Marsha for doing the translations.

Lesson 1: Be People Oriented - Neighbours’ Stories

[Green time stamp]
Waiting for Secretary at Dinner
the 18th day

8 lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor How to be a good Secretary for Development
Lesson 1: People Oriented - Residents' Stories

Note: The Development Bureau is responsible for urban redevelopments that uphold the principles of “Being People Oriented” and “Keeping social network and local characteristics”.

1. The “People” in “People Oriented” stands for?

1._______, 2.________, 3.________, 4._______

Hints: a. developers, b. neighbours, c. government officials, d. citizens, e. tourists, f. others

2. If the “People” in “People Oriented” stands for neighbours in the redevelopment district, have you considered their voices?

Mr Lai (age 63): I started to be an electrician from 1959, and have business in SSP in this small store for 30 years. I love this place. I live upstairs, my family members can help me in the store while I am out. The store is small but I can feed my family. The proprietor is willing to rent it to me in a lower price. I always help the elderly to repair their electrical appliances for free, it doesn’t matter, we are old neighbours!

Ms Chu (age 49): My grandfather bought this little stair-side store in forty something years ago, and now it is passed to me and my brothers. Neighbours from the upstairs are pleased because we can act as guards. The store opens 24hrs and we had put a lot of efforts in showing hundreds of types of publications in such a small space. We are friends with our neighbours, we always chat when we are free.

3. Let’s think: From the above, do you think that the residents lives are of a good quality*? Why?
*To maintain good living quality is the main theme of Development Bureau in 2007-2008
Ans: Yes__ No__ (Please tick)
I think this because____________

4. Let’s think: From the above stories, please state the local characteristics of SSP.

5. Let’s think: If were is no redevelopment, do you think that the lives of the above neighbours would continue in a sustainable way? Why?
Ans: Yes__ No__ (Please tick)
I think this because____________

Lesson 2: People Oriented - Neighbours’ Rights

[green time stamp]
Waiting for Secretary at Dinner
the 19th day

8 lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor
How to be a good Secretary for Development
Lesson 2: People Oriented - Neighbours’ Rights

Check: The Urban Revitalization and Redevelopment Guidelines stated that, during redevelopment, the Government should consider the needs and interests of different stakeholders, and should not sacrifice any parties’ legal rights.

1. Neighbours’ Obligations include:
- serving the community
- concerning government policies
- stating their opinions
- communicating with the Government

Let’s think: Did the SSP neighbours fail to do any of the above? Please state below.

2. Ah Keng (work and live in his garage): The government had never told me that redevelopment is for improving my life. I don’t want any solatium, I just want to stay here to live and work. But the government said there is no choice without any explanation.

Let’s think: According to the above case, what kind of his rights are being damaged? Please tick.
Ans: Right to maintain his life and work__
Right to know government policies__
Right to be involved in making government policies__
Right to choose his way of living__

3. Aunt Leung: I can’t understand the government documents

Let’s think: Compare the below examples, which one is easier for the neighbours to understand? Please tick.
Government’s compensation booklet__
Compensation booklet redesigned by the neighbours__

Lesson 3: Cultural Property- Not Cultural Heritage

8 lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor:
How to be a good Secretary for Development
Waiting for Secretary at Dinner, the 22nd day
Lesson 3: Cultural Property, not Cultural Heritage

[English version is still at draft stage on 29/6/08]

Note: According to the 2007-08 policy address, the Hong Kong Government aims to preserve and promote our intangible cultural heritage.
This worksheet distinguishes between living cultural property and 'preserved' cultural heritage: artifacts, monuments and antiquities.

The residents assert that there is a cultural heritage in Hong Kong which does not come under the definitions of the Antiquities and Monuments Office, in fact, although they live in buildings, they are not buildings at all. The Development Bureau has also launched its own Heritage Office and website. The Development Bureau still only refers to old buildings in it's initiatives in response to the policy address. As you can see in the Secretary's circular argument in Worksheet 8, the Bureau only assesses the cultural value of buildings which are listed (by the AMO) as having cultural value.

Even for those listed sites, the Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment criteria document states that:
Built heritage, sites and landscapes are to be in favour of preservation unless it can be shown that there is a need for a particular development which is of paramount importance and outweighs the significance of the heritage feature.
(3.1 Mitigation)

Lesson 4:Cultural Property- Community’s Mutual Relationships

[Green time stamp]
Waiting for Secretary's Solutions
the 23rd day

8 lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngorHow to be a good Secretary for Development
Lesson : Cultural Property- Community’s Mutual Relationships

Note: In its policy address, the government asserted that the progress of a society is measured not just in terms of per capita income, but also in interpersonal relationships.

(Diagram on how the neighbours in SSP renewal district help each other)

1. What kind of activities would the neighbours do in their daily life in the garage which they invited the Secretary of Development to come and have dinner? Please circle them.

_Live _work _entertainment _policy discussions _hold banquets _nursery _gathering _solving troubles _sharing worries _exchanging news _planning worksheets

2. Which of the below redevelopment methods can preseve the above mentioned neighbourhood network? Please tick.
_ Resident-participated planning (e.g. Wan Chai and SSP neighbours’ plan)
_ Redevelop in stages, residents can move back (e.g. Prosperous Garden)
_ Keep both buildings and people (e.g. Blue House)
_ Remove both buildings and neighbours, build high-rises (e.g. Government’s approach)

Lesson 5: How to be a good Secretary for Development

Eight Worksheets for Government Self-study and Improvement
How to be a good Secretary for Development: Lesson 5
Conservation vs Development: A False Dichotomy

When dealing with protesters over the destruction of Queen's Pier in Central, Government spokespeople said that the protesters were simply 'against development' and that we need to have a balance between conservation and development. This worksheet addresses that 'dichotomy', between looking after what we have and moving forward.

Here, for fun, is an article from the Guardian, a London newspaper, about the rising value of the 'flat over a shop' in inner city communities.
Living above a shop used to be seen as slumming it - but not any more.
The 'flat over' was seen as a safe haven for people moving to big cities since it first became common in Victorian times. It was traditionally large (the first ones were for the shop-owners themselves), always at the heart of communities, secure and near public transport.
Graham Norwood
The Observer, Sunday May 25, 2003

Lesson 6: Development Directions: Public Participation

[in green time stamp:]
Waiting for Secretary
for to offer her
promised solution:
the 43rd day
8 lessons for Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor
"How to be a good Secretary for Development"
Lesson 6: Development Directions - Public Participation

Note: According to the government website, the Secretary of Development has pledged to work with the general public in taking forward the mission and the work of the Development Bureau.

[the cartoon citizens are saying:]
• I don’t understand the government policy, how can I participate? • I have to work, I don’t know where to the information about the government policy! • I know how to grow plants, but I am illiterate, how can my opinion be heard? • I didn't know the government had organized any public consultation meeting! • The government did not invite me to the public consultation meetings, and would not let me in!• In the public consultation, I raised my hand for a long time, but got no chance to speak! • The government just recorded part of my opinion. • The government officials said they just come to listen, but would not say anything. • I have shared my views but I don’t know how the government will respond. • Who will put our ideas into practice?

Discussion questions:
1. With a citizen-participation two-way communication model, can the above questions be resolved? How?
2. Besides planning development policy, the government could also invite the public to be involved in:
(Please tick appropriate boxes)
_ carrying out the policy planned by public involvement
_ follow up how policity is carried out
_ estimating and evaluating the outcomes
_ recommending improvements
_ organizing a dinner for communication between citizens and government officials
_ other

Saturday, March 22, 2008

let me explain through interpretive puppet show

The sham shui po residents prepare to argue their case using shadow puppets (video by vartivist). The whole puppet show is on the Chinese blog.

The first half of the show tells stories of the residents' everyday-lives, showing their neighbourhood relationships and their love for the community.

The second half of the show presents the neighbours’ wished-for outcome from the government and the renewal policy. They wish that the tiger and the pilot (symbolizing the government and the officials) would listen to them and understand them, that they would stop to tearing down their community, and that the district would develop into a world famous and wonderful repair centre (something for which Sham Shui Po very well known).

An update on the project of inviting the Secretary for development to tea. The politician, Mrs Lam, has now written to say she is very busy, but she has sent a car around with staff to take photos of the location.

Here is another article from the newspaper Apple Daily from the 10th March 08. The reporters interview some of the residents about their life in Sham Shui Po.

And here is the latest article, from HKET, 20 March 08. This report documents one of the nights as the neighbours wait for Mrs Lam to come and join them for dinner. The reporter said that s/he was touched by the neighbours: how they prepared the food, how they practiced chatting with Mrs Lam, how they care for each other…
[thanks to Marsha Lui for summarising and translating]

And finally, here are all the postcards telling the story of 18 shopkeepers and their families who have become the social core of the block under threat. The first one has been translated into English by fabulous Zoe Yuen in Shanghai.

The postcards are written in Cantonese, recording the verbatim language of the shopkeepers. (Written text in Hong Kong is usually rendered in a formal 'written Chinese style' with a grammar and vocabulary that does not sound the way people speak).