Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Second Dream Comes True

Excited. Overwhelmed. Somewhat frenzied. Simply overjoyed.

All because I just received the admission notification in writing. From this September I will become a full-time student again, but even better still, a full-time student in history. The papers in my hands simply smell better than usual.

I can't really remember when this dream first came to mind and how long I have been waiting for the right time to make it come true. The excitement and overwhelming happiness just reminds me of how I felt when I received the undergraduate admission slip pretty much the same time 19 years ago. Perhaps this is something only comparable to getting the jackpot of Mark Six, which is of course so much more out of reach for its sheer dependence on pure luck.

I owe my family and friends a heartfelt gratitude for their support that eventually reinforced my confidence to take this bold decision. Perhaps I may sound like someone grabbing a Oscar Academy Award, but this is certainly a remarkable milestone in the course of my life.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Urgent Call for Heritage Conservation Policy

While the Urban Renewal Authority's proposal to preserve all 12 old tenements on Wing Lee Street in response to strong public calls following the success of the award-winning Echoes of the Rainbow is largely welcomed, it essentially exposes an urgent need for a long-term and sustainable heritage conservation policy in Hong Kong.

Again, the local media have regrettably missed the shot at the heart of the issue. Whether the URA has been given enormous pressure to reverse its decision in a Government conspiracy to defuse a potential blow to the administration is far from what really matters to the people of Hong Kong. The key question is how heritage conservation should be planned and implemented to make the best out of the limited supply of public resources.

Any sensible citizen should not forget that despite the handsome financial reserve on which the Hong Kong Government sits, the local community is still haunted by a lot of social problems to which urgent attention and resolution is required. Are we willing to take up the financial burden of heritage conservation now and for ever? How much public resources should be devoted to this good cause? How do we know whether any conservation proposal deserves the valuable public resources that should have been allocated elsewhere? By what benchmark and standard do we measure the effectiveness of our decision?

This is why, I believe, developing the best approach of sustainable heritage conservation in Hong Kong should start with establishing some basic but important criteria and guidelines for heritage conservation. Ideally, these criteria and guidelines should be worked out with rigorous consultation and engagement with the local community. In addition to the so-called cultured chatterers who often dominate if hijack the public affairs discourse of Hong Kong, the local residents must be consulted in a fair, open and thorough manner. In many cases private properties are put into question and the landlords and tenants must be allowed to make themselves clearly heard.

One major problem exposed in the Wing Lee Street saga is that the minority views of landlords and tenants are overshadowed if completely ignored during the public discourse. Media coverage has been focused on those who support conservation. What about those who do not? After the URA's reversion of its position, many are inevitably sympathetic towards those landlords and tenants who have already sold their homes to the URA, looking forward to a handsome compensation with which they can afford a significant improvement in living standards. What can be done to ensure their interests are taken care of? Is there any leeway to compromise between the two diverging views? To avoid any further recurrence of such a difficult position that only leads to confusion and polarisation, therefore, consultation with the residents should have taken place before any conservation or redevelopment plans are drawn.

Those conservation activists who have jumped on the bandwagon calling for the conservation of the old tenements on Wing Lee Street should be blamed for blindly pushing ahead their agenda at the expense of the interest of residents, who may only be a minority. While conservation is generally positive, it must not be forgotten that whether something is good or bad is ultimately defined by its impact for the people. What should be basic and universal is the respect for people, especially those who are directly affected by the issue in question. What is the point of conserving Wing Lee Street if this is little more than a reluctant give-in of the Government to populist public pressure? Why should we make the landlords and tenants pay for the costly conservation when local and overseas visitors will only disturb their quiet life and cause inconvenience, nuisance and even pollution?

Whatever the URA's final proposal on the conservation of Wing Lee Street, it is time for both the Government and the local community at large to take a step back and think carefully about our commitment to conservation. It is a long-term commitment that will affect not only ourselves but also the generations to come.

偷去了,偷不了……

昨天去看早場的《歲月神偷》。散場後,眼淚仍然止不住,足足哭了一個鐘頭。

平心而論,《歲月神偷》故事情節相當老套,也沒有甚麼驚人的技法,讓人目眩神馳。但這部電影能夠吸引柏林影展評審和觀眾的青睞,應該是因為每一個鏡頭,也洋溢著導演對親人的思念、對童年的懷緬、對純真質樸的人際關係的嚮往。至於促成了永利街的民居永久保留,那才是真正的無心插柳。

其實我不知道自己為甚麼會哭得那麼厲害。也許是因為導演對無憂無慮的童年、對小時候那個民風純樸的老香港的懷念,令我深感共鳴。現在本土意識抬頭,「香港人」是很多人引以為榮的身分;只要聽到說話有鄉音的人,總會覺得他們是「新移民」,頗有非我族類的意味。其實,我們「七十後」的上一代,誰不是新移民呢?真正在香港土生土長的,又有多少呢?

戲裡谷德昭客串的裁縫師傅是上海人,滿口儂來儂去的上海話,可是從來沒有街坊因為他不會說廣東話而歧視他。伯父的理髮店來了一個說國語的北方師傅,只是給人在背後喚作「lau sung」(以前香港人給不諳粵語的外省人取的諢號),連「清朝人」的奶奶也不會不跟他說話。哥哥是英文中學的高材生,不諳英語的街坊請他看政府的告票,他也不會推三阻四,瞧不起人。如果歲月真的偷去了甚麼,那大概就是我們曾經有過的包容和開放。那時候,不需要平等機會委員會,也不需要反歧視法例,更不需要用公帑拍廣告來呼籲大家包容。只因為同是天涯淪落人,那時候的人可能都相信,大家應該相濡以沫,一起盡力活下去。

戲裡描寫夫妻之間不言而喻的親暱、兄弟之間的友愛、弟弟對哥哥的思念,看似尋常,其實舉重若輕,最能打動人心。不過在嘩眾取寵、感官刺激當道的今天,甚麼事情也要明確表態,「畫公仔畫出腸」才能讓人明白,太坦白又落得傷害人家弱小心靈的罪名;到底不靠言語、只要用心感受的真摯感情,還能引起多少人的共鳴?如果歲月真的偷去了甚麼,那可能就是我們用心不用口的含蓄蘊藉。

很喜歡爸爸給媽媽造新皮鞋那一段--老實木訥的鞋匠爸爸從來不會談情說愛,但是他給媽媽造鞋,從選料、設計到縫製,都花了不少心思。例如用小羊皮造鞋裡,穿起來柔軟舒適;鞋面的飾花下面開了一個小洞,給媽媽的「雞眼」透透氣,好讓她走路時不會痛。爸爸連夜典當了結婚戒指給兒子治病,他那粗糙邋遢的左手,無名指上留下了一圈幾乎劃破皮肉的深刻印痕,媽媽看到了,慢慢伸手握住爸爸沒戴戒指的左手。這些細節看似尋常瑣碎,但夫妻之間溫暖深厚的感情卻令人低迴再三。倒是颱風襲港那一場戲,看來煽情得過了分,有點為賦新詞的況味;以慢鏡來表現櫥窗爆破、皮鞋四散飛揚,更是可笑。但是這場戲,也提醒了住在鋼筋森林的人,颱風其實不是放假的藉口,而是可怕的天災。

看《歲月神偷》,總不免感嘆香港社會變遷之快,已經到了六親不認的地步。易安居士說過:「物是人非事事休,欲語淚先流。」睹物思人,已是令人神傷;香港卻連「物是」也成為奢侈。在老人癡呆症來襲之前,我們已經失去了多少記憶、多少本來應該有的互相尊重和關懷?只希望歲月偷不去我們善良的本質,可以重尋失落了的互相尊重、仁愛和包容。