Interview online at Apple Daily

Filed in Hong Kong, PressTags: ,

A few months ago, I did an interview with people from Apple Daily for their online education site. Little did I know that it would become quite an extensive interview and writeup, even getting some banner time in the main Apple Daily site.

Overall, the interview is pretty good. The one thing I am disappointed with is the sound recording. Some of the interview was recorded indoors at my friend's coffee shop Prestigio (she also serves fair dinkum home made Malaysian, Singaporean, Western etc food) in Sai Kung. Some of it was recorded outside the restaurant. Because of the noise from passing traffic, I voluntarily increased the volume of my voice with the intent of guaranteeing a recording that the reporters could take home and hear without difficulty.

The problem? It brought out one of the errors in my Cantonese abilities. Whenever I speak louder, the pitch of my voice naturally goes up too. When speaking English, this isn't a problem. When speaking Cantonese where pitch and tones are everything, it's a big no-no. The result is that my non-Cantonese foreigner accent becomes very pronounced, so much so that even I am embarrassed to listen to it. If I'm conscious of it, I can force the pitch back down while maintaining the volume which I've learned to do when filming at TVB. During the interview though, I was more concerned with the content of what I was saying than the accuracy of my Cantonese so it completely slipped my mind.

Douglas; a friend who I have the good fortune to know personally, and whose intelligence frequently humbles me; commented about my remarks regarding middle class people in Hong Kong, how they are not satisfied with their lives or conditions and how many of them have decided to not have babies. I've checked the transcript and audio recording on the interview site and it certainly sounds like I said that. However, I wouldn't say that, at least not the way it has been reported. I wouldn't say that because my wife and I are in exactly the same circumstance as many other middle class (sandwich class?) Hong Kong citizens.

The fact is that life here in Hong Kong is extremely difficult for many of its middle class citizens. We; meaning the middle class citizens; work hard not to get rich, but simply to make enough to pay our mortgages, taxes and eat. With any luck, we'll have some left over to maintain our car or occasionally repaint our flat. Most of our outings take us to the local cinemas and our wardrobes contain nothing special. It's therefore no wonder that many of today's middle class citizens have decided not to have babies. It would be too great an economical burden for most of us. (For those of you living outside of Hong Kong, good schools here in Hong Kong are not free and they're most definitely not cheap, and the expense begins when or before the infant hits the ripe age of just 2 years old.)

Douglas made a good point. It's the midle class people that keep the economy going, or at least keep the government's coffers full. On the other hand, the lower class people get handouts from the government. In many cases, these handouts are absolutely necessary. There are a lot of people here in Hong Kong living on just HKD2,000 a month. Remember for a moment that my wife and I spend more than that just to feed our 'kids' and you'll understand how impossibly difficult it must be for those lower class people to survive in the expensive city that Hong Kong is. The government handouts are therefore absolutely necessary. For these people, the government also provides housing, and there is of course free public schooling, although the final grades of secondary school are not free (please correct me on this if I'm wrong). With these provisions and if you're more concerned with procreating and continuing your family blood line than with the quality of the education your children will get from the free public shools, then it makes sense to have babies. Hence, many lower class citizens continue to have children and bring them up while many middle class citizens decide to do otherwise.

While in Indonesia last year, I couldn't help but observe that family life was a major part of life (i.e., people spend a lot of time with their families), and families were frequently quite large, especially in the poorer areas of the country. I can't help but wonder if technology and 'modern' life styles are anti-family.

But the one thing that keeps repeating in my mind every time I think about how poorer people tend to have larger families is a line from the Christian bible:
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth
. That's truly something to ponder.

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8 Responses to “Interview online at Apple Daily”
  1. 河國榮 says:

    (transferred from another entry. original date: 2006/05/27 22:35:31 +08:00)

    Douglas,

    I don't remember saying that, and I don't think it's selfish for the current generation to not procreate and create a next generation. maybe I said it wrong (you know my Cantonese is so-so ;-) or you mis-understood me. which part of the interview was it in?

  2. 杜格拉斯 says:

    (transferred from another entry. original date: 2006/05/28 19:21:57 +08:00)

    轉上面條link

    " 珍 惜 人 , 香 港 有 很 多 從 事 勞 力 工 作 的 人 其 實 為 香 港 作 出很 大 的 貢 獻 , 讓 市 民 享 受 舒 適 的 生 活 , 但 卻 沒 有 得 到 太 多 重 視 。 不 少 中 產 的 香 港 人擁 有 很 多 , 過 著 很 好 的 生 活 , 但 都 不 感 到 滿 足 , 不 願 生 育 小 孩 。 而 那 些 勞 力 工 作 者可 能 工 作 辛 苦 得 多 , 收 入 相 對 少 , 他 們 卻 勇 於 生 育 , 培 育 未 來 的 香 港 人 , 他 們 其 實是 香 港 的 無 名 英 雄。"

    其實中產唔係真係咁好睇,香港政府將月入二萬幾蚊o既家庭定為中產,如果要交稅,供樓,交通,我相信一個負責任o既,願意同香港政府共渡時艱,接受金融風暴後o既減薪,加稅o既中產,可能俾一個住公屋,享受綜援o既所謂草根承受更大o既生活壓力!購買力可能還要差。

    其實呢o個係一個幾大o既topic,或者以後有機會,大家可以再交流。

    註﹕你o的中文差?你唔好講笑啦 :>

  3. sapphire says:

    (transferred from another entry. original date: 2006/05/29 05:57:04 +08:00)

    河生,

    有無考慮過下次接受訪問時,帶備私家錄音機,免得事後.......(哈哈!)

  4. stephen says:

    Speaking of the Bible...I did a search on http://bibleresources.bible.com/keywordsearchresults.php?multiplemethod=all&numpageresults=25&select=searchBible&keyword=be+fruitful&Submit.x=0&Submit.y=0&version=31 and there is a total of 31 entries found on "fruitful." Just on Genesis alone, there's 13 entries related to "fruitful" out of the 31 entries. Genesis had the majority of entries and just in Genesis' entries, 12 out of 13 entries of "fruitful" was related to creating multitude of generations upon generations to fill the earth. This is God's plan. So, yes, the meek will inherit the earth...but how will the meek inherit it if they don't pro- or create their next generations?

  5. 杜格拉斯 says:

    哈哈,你太抬舉我喇,我邊有你講咁有智慧,係蠢人一個就真。

    其實我都想講吓香港政府o既扶貧政策,我諗大多數香港人都唔介意去幫有真正需要o既人,問題係呢個咁神性o既任務應該由政府做定係民間團體做呢?我記得係八十年代,民間團體好多,一般人都好慷慨,什麼東華籌款,每年都二三千萬,百萬行更係國際知名。唔知點解,自從有民選議員之後,議員開始要收集政治本錢,只好向政府攞著數,要政府派錢,但係政府做福利,行政費用高,效率低,遠遠比不上民間團體o既熱誠同成效,人家動輒可以找好幾萬學生買旗,上千義工做家訪,同社署高官打份工心態好唔同。

    政府o既錢都不過係同立稅人攞,福利支出大o左,唯有減少資助民間團體,民間團體辦唔落去,政府唯有揹埋佢o個份,做成惡性循環。

    加上無知議員o既推動,香港巳經變成逃學拍丸金腰帶,讀書打工無屍骸o既社會,我鍾意用鼓勵貧窮去形容政府o既福利政策,因為呃綜緩o既高忠強夫婦同二十六歲o既年青綜緩戶只係冰山一角。邊個要攞著數,只要找個議員吵吵鬧鬧就如願以賞。

    香港政府如果再向中產開刀的話,我諗下一輪o既人才流失會好快出現,緊接工業北移o既服務北移巳經默默咁萌芽,只待中國金融同法制開放o既灌溉,到時香港只會留低有錢人,草根同老人。地產經濟好似高息同高油價咁蠶食香港o既經濟活力,加上無方向感同短視o既香港政府,香港都係唔會有乜起色。

    P.S.你o地中文真係唔差,不過英文就肯家荒廢o左,係embarrassed,唔係ambarrassed。:>

  6. Carmen says:

    Hi Greg,

    HK students just have free education until F.3 (or grade 9) and then we have to pay school fee, the higher the grade you reach, the higher the fee as well. However, for those who're in need, the government still provides subsidies for them, either in the form of 50% or 100% grant. So as a person who's been a student for about 22 years in HK, I still think the education system in HK is quite fair even for the poor and free public schools are not necessarily worse than those expensive international ones. However, I also agree that the expenditure on education keeps increasing and that's really a worry for the middle-class.

  7. 杜格拉斯 says:

    Hi Carmen,

    其實香港教育存在好多問題,唔係fair或者唔fairo既問題,政府每年動用不量公幣攪教育,但係每年都有兩萬人會考完全零分,有o的人話係英語教學令學生失去上課o既興趣,但係邊o個都知,香港所謂o既英語教學都半中半英,問題係教育界跟本留唔到人才。整個八九十年代,香港經濟急速起飛,到處都係機會,八九十年代畢業o既大學生,好多都唔願意投身教育界,結果好多唔夠班o既人去o左教書。如果你有睇過港台訪問o的教師,佢o地o的英文真係赫死人,點做人之患呀?

    加上李局長o既急於求成,一連串o既改革,葯石亂投,一項措施未見成效就開另一項,令教師o既正職變為副業。另外,硬把五級o既學生縮為三級,結果學校不能因材施教,教師光是花在課堂秩序巳經不勝其煩,試問四十分鐘一堂的課可以留多少給學生? 一連串改革,朝令夕改,試問一般都受過高深教育o既中產階層又點會願意讓自己o既下一代成為白老鼠呢?

    結果有能力o既中產會選擇國際學校或直資學校,好似陳主教為o左保護天主教學校o既質素,不惜放棄辦學權都唔願意跟隨政府本末倒置o既教育政策便可知一二了。

    其實香港出生率下降係一個好自然o既現象,一齊生物都只會係春天先會繁衍,好多植物都唔會係乾旱o既日子開花結果,所以香港出生率下降即係預視o左香港中產對香港有幾大信心。

  8. Hugo says:

    Hi Greg,
    I happened to read your interview with Apple Daily the other day. It is really inspirational I have got to say. I went to New Zealand alone 7 years ago. I have encountered many of the challenges and dilemmas you mentioned in the interview. Your spirit and attitude towards life have cheered me up. Thank you. :)

    Hugh