Latest Publications

Writing the city and finding one’s identity

Chitralekha Basu at the China Daily newspaper interviews our author Jason Y. Ng.

Ng’s primary focus … is evident from the pages of his last book  — No City for Slow Men: Hong Kong’s Quirks and Quandaries Laid Bare (Blacksmith Books) — published earlier this year. What quirks?  What quandaries? Well, for instance, he writes about losing one’s Hong Kong Identity Card, an existential crisis for anyone coping with the frenetic pace of Hong Kong living, which for him, leads to an even greater identity crisis that confronts some Hong Kong-born Chinese — deciding if they were Hong Konger or Chinese national, and wondering whether the two ought to be treated as mutually exclusive. Eventually, he raises the big question: What about the imminent “sinification” of Hong Kong and what about whether “it might lose its individuality and become just another mainland city”?

Read the full story, Writing the City, at China Daily Asia.

“Has Hong Kong Become Ungovernable?”: Rachel Cartland’s speech at the FCC

Our author Rachel Cartland’s lunch speech at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club a few weeks ago caused a fair amount of controversy, with an article in the next day’s South China Morning Post receiving lots of comments, many of them misconstruing the message in a variety of ways.

In the interest of clarity, below we print the full text of Rachel’s speech. You can alternatively watch the event on video.

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Has Hong Kong Become Ungovernable?

My book Paper Tigress deals mainly with my career as an Administrative Officer in the Hong Kong Government which spanned the years 1972 to 2005. Nowadays, if I want a quick ego boost, I use the next taxi ride that I take as an opportunity to let slip that fact and sit back while the driver tells me how good things where when “you people” were in charge and how bad they are now. There is no doubt that a sort of rosy glow has settled over Hong Kong’s past and dark clouds over its present and future.

Looking back, I think that it was not all so easy. It was much more of “a damn near run thing” as the Duke of Wellington famously described victory at the Battle of Waterloo. There were not a few times when Hong Kong faced serious crises of governance. And now… I think that the situation is the same but different and, yes, unfortunately, overall, worse.

The Hong Kong that I came to in 1972 was a society that had been formed by the community’s reaction to the disturbances of 1967 when China’s Cultural Revolution had spilled over into Hong Kong. Television audiences around the world had seen streams of rioters trooping up the main streets to wave their Little Red Books at the gates of Government House. Hong Kong was written off as ungovernable internationally and indeed by many Hong Kongers who fled or pulled out their investments. The timorous were, of course, proved very wrong. I hesitate to say this here but one sided reporting may have played a part in this misjudgment. The ladies of The Helena May were requested not to take tea on the balcony because their calm presence did not give the right image for the photographs being taken from the US Consulate opposite. People who were here in those days emphasize that quality of cool determination: whether of the Police who squared up to the protesters with a ritual beating of batons on riot shields or in the great crowds of workers who, in the absence of public transport, walked quietly from North Point to Central every day. They also say that somehow from early on they knew that things were going to be “all right”. Perhaps that was the joy of hindsight but that underlying certainty that we could pull through crises of every kind is something that I used to notice and that is certainly missing now.

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The best hike on Southside is the Dragon’s Back

It’s official – the best hike on Hong Kong’s Southside is the Dragon’s Back! That’s according to Southside Magazine readers’ votes. And Theadora Whittington has illustrated it in her children’s book, The Dragon’s Back, newly reprinted.

Read more, and see more of Theadora’s sketches and illustrations, on her blog.

In Conversation: author Rachel Cartland on TVB Pearl

See Paper Tigress author Rachel Cartland talking on TVB Pearl and RTHK Channel 31 tomorrow night.

Time Out have written about the new Hong Kong interview show here.

Here’s the programme blurb:

Coming up on In Conversation tomorrow: the former civil servant who yesterday said Hong Kong has “the most ridiculous political system in the world.”

In Conversation with Rachel Cartland

“When I came here, it was an extraordinarily, genuinely, entrepreneurial place. There really were little people starting up and doing things completely off their own bat. But certainly now, I think we are seeing this issue that the big businessmen now are not innovative, that they are rent seekers.” – Rachel Cartland

This week Stephen Davies is “In Conversation” with former civil servant Rachel Cartland, who – last November – published a memoir of her time in the government.

Ms Cartland came to Hong Kong in 1972 at the age of just 22. She was fresh out of Oxford University and was one of the first two female expatriate administrative officers. It was, in some ways, very much an uphill struggle for a woman in those days, she tells host Stephen Davies, but she had always felt a certain sense of vocation.

“I actually imagined myself, dreamt of myself, in an office with papers. … it all came together like a magic potion, and I found myself doing the thing that I loved most in the world.”

For Executive Producer Gary Pollard and Stephen Davies, there was a reason to talk to Ms Cartland beyond the personal.

“In the forty years she was in the civil service,” says Gary Pollard, “Hong Kong went through massive changes, and civil servants were sometimes on the front line in dealing with them. One of the things we want to explore with this series is the individual as a witness to, and participant in, history.”

During Ms Cartland’s time in the civil service, Hong Kong’s administration evolved. Highlights of her career included opening a social services centre in the now-defunct Kowloon Walled City in 1973, seeing the new towns expand during the 1980s, and establishing the Arts Development Council.

During her career Hong Kong was governed by individuals such as Sir Murray Maclehose, Sir Philip Haddon-Cave (as an Administrator) Sir Edward Youde, Sir David Akers-Jones (as Acting Governor), Sir David Wilson, and Chris Patten. She also witnessed the transition of sovereignty in 1997, and the administrative problems we face now.

“I think it’s absolutely crucial for the question of democracy to be sorted out. I think that Hong Kong has become, I mean, people would say, “ungovernable”, she says “In Conversation”, adding that Hong Kong really does need a “Mandela moment”. But where or who might it come from?

Find out more in RTHK’s “In Conversation” on TVB Pearl, on Thursday 15th May at 7 p.m. Repeated on RTHK DTTV Channel 31 at 10.30 p.m. that same night, and at the same time the following Tuesday.

 

Book launch with egg tarts: No City for Slow Men

Author and blogger Jason Y. Ng has a knack for making the familiar both fascinating and funny. Three years after his bestselling début Hong Kong State of Mind, the razor-sharp observer returns with No City for Slow Men: a collection of 36 essays that examine some of the pressing social, cultural and political issues facing Hong Kong.

It’s not the only thing that’s new: Bookazine has opened its latest bookshop on Lyndhurst Terrace, right beside the Mid-Levels Escalator!

Come and help us celebrate both these events. Join us for wine, egg tarts and a booksigning from 2-4pm on Saturday April 12. Free of charge, all welcome.

Address: Bookazine, Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong. Enquiries: 2970 3999.

Tibet: Roads and Kingdoms

Roads and Kingdoms magazine has published an interview with Laurent Zylberman, photographer of our new book, Tibet, the Last Cry.

“Our stance is that the situation in Tibet is a fixation for many foreigners who know little about it,” he says. “It’s always been portrayed as a black and white situation, someplace where there is no middle road. The usual point of view is ‘bad red Han Chinese’ versus ‘cool yellow hat monks’. Editors want to see more guns and the army beating up monks. Or, they want a nice coffee table book with colorful pictures. Somehow our balanced view was not radical enough for them. That’s why we resorted to a crowd-funding scheme to finance the books.”

Read the full article.

 
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