Research Papers still give me nightmares…..

Kowloon Walled Garden

Kowloon Walled Garden - former den of iniquity. The tenements were known for drugs and prostitution. They were bulldozed in 1993 and turned into a garden.

…well, not really, but I need to write one by July 31st and I’d like to pick a topic by the end of the week. I originally wanted to study the impact that the flight of factory jobs had on Hong Kong and what happened to the population of people that lost them, as well as how Hong Kong adapted. Was very interested in this given it was the same economic trajectory as the US and it was in part a comparative study for myself.

At the same time, it’s not as sociologically oriented as I usually go for. I figure perhaps I can combine a number of topics I’ve been kicking around lately under the heading of how Hong Kong’s hyper-capitalism impacts the society. There are a number of examples I could probably wrap into this that I’ve been wondering about:

A criticism of Hong Kong civil society is that it is non-existent given the focus on consumerism. As long as people can consume, they care little about things like political activism or democracy. This is also a criticism leveled at mainland China and I’ve always been curious to explore it more in depth. An interesting point I overheard at a domestic worker forum yesterday was that it’s difficult to get Hong Kong people to donate to social causes. This is interesting, given a conservative mantra is that the more money you give back to people and the less you mandate goes to government provided social services, the more people will have a sense of “charity” on their own. I have no idea if this is applicable to Hong Kong, but it would be interesting to see.

Hong Kong provides little in the way of social services. I’ve been curious as to whether Hong Kong has a homeless population, as there are few on the streets as one would see in New York. In addition, if there is a homeless population, what is “done” with them? (A la Guiliani’s one way bus tickets out.) Homelessness doesn’t mesh with the ultra modern, high end image Hong Kong is trying to put forth. I’ve seen two people begging in the walkway tunnels, and on both counts, it was extremely disturbing – it looked like both of them had been through fires, as they were seriously deformed. The woman had lost all her fingers, and her face was seriously scarred. The man’s face had been “melted” to the point that most of his features were nearly unrecognizable – all but the eyes. He was outside of IFC, one of the high end malls in Hong Kong Central. It was sickening to see people walk by in designer clothing, only to ignore someone who was so obviously in need.

There is a definite hierarchy in terms of what is of primary importance in Hong Kong. For instance, it seems to be a very environmentally conscious city (in comparison to the United States). At the same time, consumerism and capitalist pursuits come first. So while there are signs everywhere entreating one to be careful about energy use, the stores in Hong Kong throw their doors wide open, allowing the air conditioning to come pouring through at high blast. Can only theorize that this is to entice buyers in, if only to partake in the AC and perhaps purchase something in the process.

I’m also interested in social stratification. As one of the few colonies which did not have people transported to live en mass, Hong Kong seems to be a relatively homogeneous society to someone like me. There is an obvious social hierarchy in terms of those native to Hong Kong versus domestic workers. At the same time, I’m curious as to whether there has been a stratification in which a certain set of Hong Kong people have benefited from the city’s wealth, whereas most of the people may have not.