MN.28.11.1996. Hong Kong Special Looking Forward

Found this interesting montage while searching for something else. It's a show we did from Hong Kong looking ahead to how the Special Administrative Region would change when HK was handed back to the Chinese in July 1997. It's interesting as Chris Patten is currently chairman of the BBC Trust. That quote at the start of the programme is rather appropriate in the UK at the moment.

Between now and July 1st 1997, an estimated 8000 journalists will be passing through Hong Kong examining basically the same story. In January 1841, China and Britain signed a Convention which ceded Hong Kong island to Britain, a year later Kowloon was ceded too and in 1898 the land north of the Kowloon peninsula was leased by the British from the Chinese. Now that lease is coming to an end. As sovereignty of the whole of this area changes from British to Chinese, what will happen to life in Hong Kong as it becomes a special administrative territory. Around 2000 Dutch speaking families are part of the international community living here, most of them working in the banking or electronics sector. 

We've been talking to them as well as to Chinese and English speakers to find out what they think will happen. The answer is the same. China has pledged to preserve Hong Kong's capitalist economy, currency and freemarket policies until the year 2047. But with economy booming in the Peoples Republic of China, home to 1.2 billion people, its no wonder some doubt whether the government in Beijing really needs or cares about the long term fate of 6.3 million packed into the tiny space called Hong Kong. And since the public media is government controlled, many feel than any changes will first be heard over the airwaves. Hong Kong's governor, Chris Patten, stressed this during the recent meeting of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

Radio TV Hong Kong puts out a continuous relay of BBC WS in English on 675 kHz.

The majority speak of the residents speak Cantonese. Next year, though RTHK will start programmes in a new language

The name Hong Kong comes from the Cantonese which means "fragrant harbour". Its not so fragrant these days, more rather choppy as hundreds of boats criss-cross across Victoria Harbour between the island of Hong Kong and the mainland tip of Kowloon. The Star Ferry charges 2 Hong Kong Dollars to cross from one side to the other. That means the upperdeck trip costs a mere 28 US cents. It's one of the cheapest rides in the world. It also allows you to escape for a few minutes from the continuous traffic and watch the high-rise skyline. The travel brochures encourage you to shop till you drop and the shops in both Kowloon and Hong Kong island stay open until 10 at night. Shop windows bulge with famous name fashions, electronics and photo goods. Tourists from Europe comment that Hong Kong's relatively expensive. But depends what you're looking for. Shifty looking characters on many street corners near Nathan Road near Tsim Sha Tsui hiss at foreigners in loud whispers. Copy watches, fake clothing? And if you're willing to disappear up three flights of stairs into a dimly-lit backroom, you too can bargain for a fully functional Rolex-looking watch for less than 80 dollars. Its backed by a lifetime money-back guarantee. If you value your life, you won't try and claim your money back. Police in Kowloon at least at currently cracking down on the counterfeits.

But if you take a few stops north on the super efficient underground railway, the MTR, get off at Sham Shui Po. The high rise buildings are the same. But the shop and street signs are only in Cantonese and there are fewer Western faces. Passengers splurge from the high-speed escalators onto the pavement. Across the road, the Golden Arcade has a scruffy sign about the Internet which is flapping in the upward breeze generated by the humid air and exhaust fumes. Inside are three vast floors of computer and video hardware. A sign strongly discourages you to take photographs. Once your eyes adjust to the off-white fluorescent bulbs, you find stand after stand of software. It looks genuine. But its a copy. Often the CD-ROM covers are empty. If you decide to purchase just about all the Internet publishing software available on one CD-ROM, expect to pay 7 dollars, to watch the stall holder call someone on a mobile phone and 20 minutes later someone else taps you on the shoulder and shoves a wafer thin plastic bag at you. Inside, there's a shiny CD with the software you wanted. Further inside, someone is selling software manuals. A sign claims they're original. A man standing in a tiny shop front tries to tempt us to step inside and buy a multi-media PC. It looks like it might work. But is what you see anything like what you get? For there's such a fine line between fake and genuine. Even with bargaining, the real hardware is still expensive by most standards. The illegal software of course costs a few cents to mass produce. Most of it is coming from factories across the border in China. Will the tide really stop in 1997? Making money seems to be more important that authors rights. The packaging often turns out to be more impressive than the contents. The video CD of the latest Walt Disney block buster is the result of someone taking a consumer video into a cinema and filming the screen from his backrow seat. That maybe the hunchback of notre dame shuffling across the TV screen. Its difficult to tell after a videos been copied so many time. And the soundtrack is muffled by the sound of someone munching popcorn and giggling in Cantonese. Short-wave portables from Philips, Grundig and Sangean are easy to find in Hong Kong. Shop salesmen know what they're talking about too. Three hours drive from Hong Kong into Ghanghou province of China, you'll find the joint venture factories making many of the budget portables. China may have diplomatic problems with Taiwan. But more than 10,000 Taiwanese are running factories in Southern China and exporting the products out of the peoples republic. They'd like to exploit the vast domestic Chinese market too. But that's more difficult and means finding more influential friends. 


Direct download: MN.28.11.1996.HongKong.mp3
Category:Media Network Archives -- posted at: 11:49pm CEST
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