We have Labour Day and the Birthday of the Buddha coming up with Saturday and Sunday sandwiched between, so that we can expect some outflow of holiday makers and a corresponding inflow of tourists mainly from the Mainland during this so-called golden week. But already, and rather sadly, the media has roundly reported that Mainland tourists would boycott the golden week or would have toddlers peeing in public places to annoy Hong Kong people, in defiance of some recent media reports on such incidences. Meanwhile, our commerce minister has urged people to stop finger pointing, but to exercise tolerance and understanding instead.
Watching local news can sometimes give one a somewhat less than objective if not biased view on Hong Kong in general and Hong Kong life in particular. Recent media reports apparently are dominated by news on two items which somehow eclipsed coverage on the political reform debate, public consultation on which has reached the final week of the five months earmarked for the exercise. The first is the Court hearing on Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the Indonesian domestic helper who was allegedly beaten and physically abused by her former employer, and denied pay and holidays. The second related to reports on mud-slinging and finger pointing between locals and Mainlanders over toddlers of Mainland visitors peeing and defecating in public places.
On the Court hearing, Erwiana has since been named by Time as amongst the 100 most influential people. She was described by Somaly Mam in the Special Time Issue as “the migrant worker who fought back.” Time cited that “Mam is an antitrafficking activist and a co-founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation.” Not only that, Time has slotted the citation between Harvey Weinstein’s write up on Robert Redford who was described as Godfather of indie film, and Barack Obama’s write up on Pope Francis. Hong Kong has once again become famous for the wrong reasons. Now, Time’s Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs has said that “the Time 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms.” She also added that “while power in certain, influence is subtle,” and that “power is a tool, influence is a skill.” By placing Erwiana alongside with Hillary Clinton, Edward Snowden, Robert Redford, Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Xi Jinping and others, some people could be led to believe that the migrant worker can wield similar if not the same influence as Xi Jinping or Pope Francis, or that she would possess similar skills of the rest of the 99 on the list. It certainly boggles the mind; and while I can understand why the local media has played up reports on the Court hearing, I hope Hong Kong can learn from the saga and the processes by which her case had come to light.
Turning to the stories of the toddlers, I was plainly dumbfounded by the media reports. How could such stories hit headlines? What was on people’s mind? Years ago when drunken foreigners created a scene in Lan Kwai Fong or Central, even to the extent of peeing at street corners, which had indeed caused strong stench of urine in places at times, the average Hong Kong people would laugh off the matter, show understanding and would not take issue with the offenders. When dogs in the mid-levels left droppings on streets and the handlers or owners failed to clean up the mess left behind, people would complain to the local councilors and the police or write to the papers, and the matters would not escalate further. Toddlers answering to the call of nature as and when the calls arise cannot be a more natural process, and very few level headed individual would take issue with that. What we are seeing is something extraordinary and could reflect a change in people’s attitude and mindset towards foreigners or a lowering in their threshold of tolerance towards outsiders, which again could be food for thoughts. Perhaps the most dangerous consequence was the generalization approach adopted by some and fanned by some media practitioners.
Tolerance and understanding are important cornerstones for harmony in a community. Rotary’s founder Paul Harris often spoke of the virtue and had appealed for Rotarians to be tolerant of each other’s difference in order to achieve international peace and world understanding. Barrack Obama spoke of Pope Francis in the citation for the Time 100 as a rare leader who makes us want to e better people. He went on to say this, “Pope Francis reminds us in ways that words alone cannot that no matter our station in life, we are bound by moral obligation to one another. His example challenges us to live out those obligations through work – to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and promote peace; to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and open new doors of opportunity and visions of possibility for everyone. His message of love and inclusion, his regard for “the least of these,” distills the essence of Jesus’ teachings and is a tonic for a cynical age. May we heed his humble example.”
While I was writing this, an email came in from a very good friend with a chain letter to circulate a request from Pope Francis. My friend had prefaced her message that she would normally not circulate chain letters, but for Pope Francis. I say “Ditto” and here is the message –
Weep not for what you have lost. Fight for what you have.
Weep not for what is deed, fight for what was born in you.
Weep not for the one who abandoned you, fight for who is in you.
Weep not for those who hate you, fight for those who want you.
Weep not for your past, fight for your present struggle.
Weep not for your suffering, fight for your happiness.
With things that are happening to us, we begin to learn that nothing is impossible to solve, just move forward.
THE HOLY FATHER MAKES A REQUEST FOR PRAYERS THAT GOD PROTECTS HIM AND GIVES HIM FORCES TO MEET THIS DIFFICULT TASK. SO BE IT!
Our goal is to reach ten million Hail Mary’s for Pope Francis. This campaign started today. Send this message to all Catholic friends or even to those who like him. We pray for the Holy Father that the Heavenly Mother intercedes for him and protects him in his ministry: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you amongst women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Do not forget to forward this message to as many friends as possible. We want to reach ten million Hail Mary’s. Pope Francis insists that we pray for him.
[End of Message]
I would sign off on this note. I hope you pray for Pope Francis too and I hope to talk to you again soon.