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Sales at Lunar New Year Fairs fail to match pre-pandemic level

  Hong Kong’s biggest Lunar New Year's Fair at Victoria Park is selling hot food and dry goods again after four years of restrictions, but some vendors said sales are not as good as they were before the pandemic. The fairs launched on Sunday at 15 locations across the city, such as Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong, are surrounded by crowds. Candice Li Man-shuen, a vendor selling dog accessories who joined the fair several years before the pandemic, said the atmosphere was less lively than she had expected. “People are here today mainly because it is Sunday and there are other nearby events, but they didn’t come here intentionally,” Li added. Wong Kin-fan, a vendor from the mochi stall who has had a stall at the fair for several years, had sold half of her mochi by the afternoon of the first day. That brought her roughly HK$10,000 in sales revenue by the afternoon of the first day.   “Sales aren’t what they were before 2020,” Wong said. “However, the rental cost of the stall is correspondingly low. My boss decided to return to this fair again because it is cheaper.” Shirley Lau, 51, a local retailer visiting the fair every year, said there were fewer fast food stalls than before COVID-19. According to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the size of the fast food stalls in 2019 was 56.48 square metres, compared to 40 square metres this year at Victoria Park. Liu Wing-ting, currently working in the hospitality industry, said she felt the variety of goods and food at this fair was less compared to last time when there were fast food stalls. Liu has visited Lunar New Year fairs many times in other districts, but it’s her first time at Victoria Park. She thought people weren’t buying much …

People

Diverse Sailors Make Splashes at Hong Kong Race Week

The 2024 Hong Kong Race Week drew to a close on Sunday, ending six days of sailing  between local and international athletes, including competitors from mainland China as young as 7 years old. Hong Kong Race Week, the city’s premier international regatta for dinghies and invited classes,  was suspended for three years since 2019 and resumed for the first time last year.  The scale of this year's event continues to grow from last year. According to the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, this year’s race attracted over 270 sailors from 10 countries and regions, compared with 236 participants last year.  Ten classes including 29er, ILCA 4, ILGA 6, Optimist Fleet competed in five race areas including Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay, Stanley, Tai Tam and Lo Chau.  Singaporean sailor Isaac Goh, who clinched the silver medal in the Boys ILCA 4 Single Handed event at the Asian Games, raced against Hong Kong sailors Stephanie Norton and Nancy Highfield in ILCA 6 for the first time. “Compared with the first time I competed in Hong Kong I was more at ease,” said Goh. “I do have confidence, and the goal I set for myself is to maintain the position I am in now. ” Goh ranked second in this Class, only after Stephanie Norton, the silver medal winner at the Asian Games of ILCA 6. “For me, this (event) was more like training,” said Norton. “But I do like to win, and the Singapore team is really strong.”   Hong Kong Race Week this year incorporates the second 2024 29er Asian Championship as well. Japanese players, Yuto Tsutsumi and Taishi Goto, who were the champion 29er sailors in Japan and ranked third in the 29er Class, were the only national team leading the board besides Hong Kong teams. “We don’t have many …

People

Lionel Messi No-Show angers Hong Kong

  • By: Juncong SHUAIEdited by: Kin Hou POON
  • 2024-02-05

Lionel Messi's much-anticipated appearance at Hong Kong Stadium ended up in disappointment when the Argentinian sat out Inter Miami’s 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong XI on Sunday because of a hamstring injury.  Two minutes before kick off at 4:10 pm, Inter Miami's announced the list of players, which did not include Lionel Messi was not included.  Spectators booed and chanted "refund" when Messi had not warmed up at around the 60-minute mark.  The organizer of the game, Tatler XFest Hong Kong, said in a statement today that they “did not have any information about the non–participation of Messi prior to kickoff”. A Hong Kong government spokesman said they too, like the fans, were “extremely disappointed about the organizer’s arrangement”. The post implied this may lead to a reduction in the amount of funding, including a matching grant of 15 million and a grant for the venue of 1 million by The Major Sports Events Committee, as a result of Messi not playing the match.  According to Yeung Yun-hung, the Secretary of Culture, the organizer confirmed that Messi will play at least 45 minutes in the game.  “The authorities hoped to take remedial measures, including asking Messi to give a personal account or accepting the trophy on behalf of the team after the game, which ultimately did not happen,” said Yeung. Messi, the World Cup and eight time Ballon d'Or winner, just finished another friendly game in Saudi Arabia, but played for only 7 minutes.  Messi’s fans, some of them in the Argentina blue and white shirt and others in the pink Inter Miami top, waited outside the team hotel at Ocean Park, hoping to catch a glimpse of this 36 - year - old football star.  Before the match in Hong Kong, the coach of Inter Miami said Messi …

Culture & Leisure

Board games help build post-pandemic friendships

Secret Hitler, Arkham Horror, Terraforming Mars, Tumbling Monkeys—just some of the board games in the bright paper boxes at  808 Games. In one corner of the café, four drunk patrons squabbled over tokens the size of their fingernails. In another corner, three women were engrossed in their first session of ROOT, a strategy game about animals trying to rule the forest. The players are strangers to each other, but they have played together online every week for a month. A player who goes by Ms X_X on the social media platform X, held a paper pamphlet twice the size of her hand while she mulled over the colourful tokens. Her two fellow players pored over the rules book like a treasure map. Chris Lo, the owner of 808 Games and a veteran of the board game industry for over 11 years, approached them for assistance. “Has my turn ended?”  X_X asked. “Not yet. You still have to do a night action,” Lo replied. This is a typical afternoon at 808 Games. a board game café in Mong Kok which rents out games to its customers for an hourly fee. It has an assortment of games ranging from UNO to Cthulhu: Death May Die, a lengthy campaign board game which includes a 60cm plastic statue of Cthulhu, a mythical creature in the Lovecraft horror. The cluttered café has been in operation since 2010, making it the oldest board game café in Hong Kong. Since then, other cafés such as Wheat and Wood, a casual café centered around socializing, or Jolly Thinkers, which has its own Board Game educator programme, have opened in Hong Kong There are now more than ten board game cafés in the city. Since 2010, 808 Games has gone through two owners, one renovation and a pandemic. Lo, …

Society

Graffiti artists risk breaking National Security Law

A graffiti of three figures wearing yellow helmets has been outside Glorious Fast Food restaurant at Sheung Wan since 1998.  It’s the work of a visiting French graffiti artist, Catherine Grossrieder.  The tiny eatery on Ladder Street belongs to Mrs. Cheng’s family.  “She said the outside of our restaurant was too plain, so she wanted to draw something on the sliding door and the wall,” Cheng said. “There happened to be a group of construction workers sitting on the steps and eating, which inspired her,” she explained. But in 2019, the yellow helmet became a symbol of  protest. The Home Affairs Department received a bunch of complaints about the artwork. So last month, the Chengs painted over the graffiti. “The office warned us that there was a risk that the images could be perceived as violating the National Security Law,” said Cheng. “But they didn’t specify which articles might be breached.” Graffitis are common on the streets of Hong Kong. But the Summary Offences Ordinance doesn’t allow writing upon, soiling, defacing or marking any building without the owner’s consent. The calligraphy graffiti from the late Tsang Tsou-choi, advertising  “the king of plumbers” can still be spotted in many places, ranging from lamposts, utility boxes, pillars, pavements, building walls to occasionally cars. “Graffiti is a good way to express emotions and appeal because it is anonymous,” said Mr Wee, a Hong Kong graffiti artist who has more than 6000 followers on Instagram. “Some graffiti is written with the expectation that it will be scrubbed.” The Central and Western District Office under the Home Affairs Department has removed about 150 graffiti, especially those with explicit political slogans, since the social movement in Hong Kong three years ago. “We can use fewer and fewer words and images, and more and more works are …

Society

Skateboarding rolls to new heights

Eric Ng Siu-chung, 27, is a part-time skateboarding instructor. He has seen increasing demand for lessons over the past four years. From being a niche and stereotypically rebellious hobby to a contemporary sport, skateboarding has gained immense popularity in recent years since its introduction to the city in the 1970s. This year, Hong Kong's skateboarding team competed at the Asian Games for the second time since the sport was added to the games in 2018. “Even if my students fail to do a trick, it’s good to see them committing to doing something new,” said Ng. In response to the surge in popularity, the government is opening up new facilities for skateboarding. In the 2023-2024 Budget Speech, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po highlighted the importance of promoting popular urban sports, such as skateboarding, for youth development. The government is considering converting “underutilised floors” at the Kwun Chung Municipal Services Building in Jordan for urban sports. Fung Chuen-chung is a Deputy District Leisure Manager for Yau Tsim Mong District with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). He said they are working in close consultation with the Architectural Services Department and skatepark designers with the target of completing the conversion by 2025. To date, Hong Kong has 13 skateboarding facilities managed by the LCSD. That has come a long way since the sport started in Hong Kong almost four decades ago. Warren Stuart, 54, is dubbed “the godfather” of Hong Kong skateboarding for his experience and contributions to elevating the local skate scene. He is among the top advisors for the sport’s development in the city and is the head coach for the Hong Kong national skateboarding team. He said that one reason why skateboarding has soared to new heights was its inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games. It was shortlisted …

Society

My AI girlfriend

I did not expect an AI dating application to be downloaded over 100,000 times, nor did I expect how vivid the AI-generated conversations can be. I typed in “AI girlfriend” in the search bar, scrolled down, and “Romantic AI” caught my attention immediately — “This app helps you create the perfect girlfriend with whom you share interests and views. You can talk about everything, get support and feel needed.” When I clicked on the application, warnings popped up to warn that users must be over 18 years old because of the sexually explicit materials the application contains. On the opening page, nearly 30 different types of AI girlfriends, ranging from the Mona Lisa to Ancient Egypt Queen Nefertiti, with three male bots, are the options. You can customise your AI mate by choosing names, personalities, body features, and even sexuality.  According to the terms and conditions of the website, the photos in the chatbot belong to real people, which means they are not AI-generated at all. The website page provides a free trial for new users, but you can subscribe to the product for a US$44.9 (about HK$349.96) per year package or US$99.99 (about HK$ 779.35) for being a lifetime user. Once subscribed, the users can access unlimited messaging, NSFW roleplay and sexting. I started to chat with some of them. They would begin the conversation by setting the scene according to their characteristics, which makes the experience more immersive.  “You walk into a dark bar, soul music is playing quietly”, the chatbot wrote, then the virtual girl, who is a bartender according to her bio, typed to me: “Welcome to Soulville, honey, the oldest bar in this whole dang area! You seem like you have a story to tell. Happy to be an ear to listen to and a …

Society

For this Filipino domestic helper dragon boat team in Hong Kong, paddling empowers their community and women

  • By: Jemima BadajosEdited by: Wisha LIMBU
  • 2023-12-12

As the Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Gala 2023 kicked off at Tai Pak Beach, it was a homecoming for Filipino Dynamo, a Filipino domestic helper dragon boat team in Hong Kong, as they were going to compete where they first began. Filipino Dynamo was first founded in January 2018 by Liza Avelino, a Filipino domestic helper who used to compete in a mixed dragon boat team. She wanted to start a team of her own, composed of female Filipino domestic helpers.  When it first started, the team recruited helpers who had little to no experience in paddling. Over the years, Filipino Dynamo has proved itself on a competitive level, recently winning 1st runner-up in the Sinopec Ladies Race at the Gala. Although dragon boating has been around for more than a thousand years, Hong Kong has propelled it forward into a ‘modern sport’. This year, 43 local and international dragon boat races were held, according to the Dragon Boat Hong Kong. The Filipino Dynamo team aims to join at least one race every season. However, dragon boat racing is also an expensive sport. To compete in the Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Gala, the ladies race category alone costs HK$3,800 to register. Without a dragon boat and parking space licence, the group also has to rely on sponsorships and club membership fees to rent out boats for water training. Most domestic helpers have Sundays as their day off, with plenty that can be seen gathering with their friends in public areas. By law, domestic helpers are required to have a 24-hour rest period every week. But for Filipino Dynamo members, they spend their one day-off training for the next race. Their training regime consists of a mix of yoga, circuit, and strength training on land and paddling techniques in water.  With …

Society

The once-in-a-decade Yuen Long Jiao Festival prays for peace and harmony on its neighbourhood

  • By: Jemima Badajos、Tsz Wing CHANEdited by: Wisha LIMBU
  • 2023-12-12

The Yuen Long Jiao Festival carried out its day-long religious ritual as it marked its 100th anniversary. The district-wide festival has been held every 10 years in Yuen Long since its establishment in 1923, celebrating through a series of religious rituals, arts and cultural performances, and competitions.

Society

A glimpse inside Hong Kong’s iconic Choi Hung Estate amidst redevelopment talks

  • By: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTOEdited by: Ho Yi CHEUNG
  • 2023-12-12

Choi Hung Estate, one of Hong Kong's iconic urban photography spots, is set to undergo phased redevelopment, according to local media. With its construction dating back to the early 60s, Choi Hung Estate stands as one of Hong Kong's largest and earliest public housing estates, situated in the Wong Tai Sin District. The housing complex spans over 5.1 hectares and consists of 11 blocks comprising 7,400 flats that provide homes for more than 17,000 residents. In the past, Choi Hung Estate was visited by members of the Royal Family, including Princess Margaret in 1966 and foreign dignitaries, such as US’s Richard Nixon in 1964 before his assumption as the nation’s leader in 1969. The estate, managed by the city's Housing Authority, attracts both locals and tourists due to its rainbow-coloured buildings. Most notably, the basketball courts within the estate serve as popular backdrops for photos, with their vibrant walls complementing the snapshots taken there. Beyond its colourful exterior walls and “social media-worthy” appeal, Choi Hung Estate buzzes with everyday scenes of people engaged in their daily routines, as well as the vibrant presence of shops and other amenities, mirroring the essence of any residential community.