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和解中的各種契機 | The Opportunities of Reconciliation
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 10:17am on 23rd October 2019


圖片說明:

攝於8月11日深水埗,示威行動中沒有圍欄的道路和三角形路障,提醒了我們有機會重新設計香港街道(圖片由作者提供)
Caption:
Fenceless road and triangular barricade during protest action, Sham Shui Po, 11 August 2019. An opportunity for redesigning Hong Kong’s streets (Photo: John Batten)



(Please scroll down for English version)


經過人命傷亡、拘捕逾1,000人、暴力不斷升級,還有關閉機場等對香港經濟產生的重挫後,政府終於在上星期撤回了備受爭議,令香港陷入現時政治危機的逃犯條例修訂草案。然而,示威者的不滿範圍早已擴大,政府上下與警方的行為、相關政策與做法均引起了不少非議。這正是調查與改革的好機會,政府也應聆聽公眾人士的不滿,認真推行改變。當然,早已在《基本法》訂立的終極改革,則是實現立法會普選。但此時此刻,我們可以探討一些較易實現的改變。

香港在過去150年經歷了無數起跌,但城市的地理位置,令其策略地成為通往廣東與南中國海的門戶,讓它總可從逆境中反彈過來。雖然是老生常談,但卻真實不過:香港往往能在危險中找到機遇。在記憶中,此說可由韓戰與越戰時期印證。在內地政治動盪的時代,香港一直都擔演著避難所,而自內地1980年代後開始經濟改革以來,香港更繼續成為招商引資的中介,除了融資,更提供業務諮詢,為內地的財務交易賦予合法性。在一片示威聲中還有現時最重要的,是香港乃中國境內唯一一個擁有法治和言論自由的地方。

過去幾個月以來,我有很多晚都會在示威結束,即示威者和警察都已離去後,空無一人的香港街道上散步。街上可以看到衝突後留下的㾗跡:路障、石頭、被倒放的垃圾桶、巴士站標誌、塗鴉、水樽、催淚彈罐,還有被棄置的汽油彈。示威之後的晚上,整個城市靜得可怕,感覺就像鉛華盡洗,準備絕處重生一樣。

當香港與其政治混亂平定下來,便是市區復修/市容設計的大好機會,可以在我城復原與各方和解之中發揮一定作用。香港的市區可說飽受推殘,不少地方都建滿了不堪入目的石屎建築,這些建築物的設計從未以人為本,更沒有為居民提供舒適享受生活和閒暇的機會。我們可以由街道的重新構想開始。例如,香港長期以來都希望在某些街道試行步行區,卻一直只聞樓梯響。中環、尖沙咀、佐敦、荃灣、觀塘和旺角有不少地點,都是推行翻天覆地改造的不二之選,當局大可以禁止車輛進入,再以適合行人的區域取代。憑藉想像力,引入這些行人道便可不對車輛或交通構成過份不便。事實上,車輛的需要素來都得到過份地照顧,這是由來已久之事。我們必須確保行人專用區只有少量活動進行,而不會被嘈吵的街頭藝人或商販(絕大部份是電訊公司)覇佔。

示威者運用了很多想像力,以迅雷不及掩耳的速度拆開香港隨處可見,用來分隔街道的鋼鐵圍欄:在每個示威現場,被拆下來的圍欄很快地分為三個一組,再以索帶重新組裝,成為三角型的物體,然後被拖到馬路上成為路障。每場示威後,路政署都沒有重裝這些鋼鐵圍欄,恐怕它們重裝沒多久後,便再次在接蹱而來的示威中被拆下製成新路障,結果,現時有很多路段都變成沒有圍欄。這種設計的圍欄一直以來都難看非常,它們都是在英國政府於1997年離開後的數個月後才首次出現。這是一個絕佳的機會,讓我們重新構想路旁屏障的模樣。我們可以大幅減少圍欄的數量,設計一些更佳、更色彩繽紛的替代方案,在保護行人與車輛之餘,也方便途人更容易在路面上橫過街道。配合街道景觀,加上樹木、綠色植物和座位,這些醜陋的圍欄可以化身綠色的固定裝置,提供相同的安全作用。

示威者的不滿聲音之中,還包括香港已失去和正在失去本身的文化。自1997年以來,城中街道的身份特徵經常受到政府的清掃威脅。香港獨有的霓虹招牌素來都是我城璀璨繁華的象徵,但數量已降至寥寥可數的地步。我們現在有機會重新引入霓虹燈招牌和燈飾,重建香港街道應有的身份,政府可以為工商機構提供津貼,用以在樓宇穩妥地重建霓虹燈,以及支付後續的維修開支。只消這樣,香港的身份特徵便可以「活化」起來!

在九龍灣被示威者攻擊的智慧燈柱可說是敲響了醒覺的警號。香港是一個極度安全的城市,實在不太需要無謂的監視。儘管「智慧城市」的口號頗具吸引力,但不受控制而且通常都是暗中進㣔的監視,例如是引入「方便」的線上支付、無現金交易、保安攝錄和人臉識別,卻會做成侵犯私隱。隨著人臉識別技術和監視成為內地和世界各地的規範,香港有機會在保障個人私穩方面佔據領導地位。加強法律保障個人私隱,配合在安裝人臉識別和其他入侵式科技上制訂嚴謹協定,可以讓香港成為保障個人資料的先鋒。在科技的洪流中,技術很容易被黑客、立心不良的公司和極權政府濫用,舊式的郵遞信件、支票和現金支付,在保持通訊和支付方式上仍然擔任重要角色。

香港在邁向最終全城和解期間,有著多不勝數的改革機會。現在就開始進行吧!


原文刊於《明報周刊》,2019年9月13日



The Opportunities of Reconciliation

by John Batten


After deaths and the arrest of over 1,000 people, escalating violence and major disruptions to Hong Kong’s economy, including closure of the airport, the government finally withdrew the controversial extradition legislation that precipitated Hong Kong’s current political crisis last week. However, protesters’ grievances have widened and whole areas of government and police behavior and their policies and practices are now under scrutiny. This is an opportunity for investigation and reform – and the government should embrace public dissatisfaction to implement changes. The ultimate reform, as outlined in the Basic Law, is achieving universal suffrage in the Legislative Council – but in the meantime, we can explore easier-to-achieve changes.

Hong Kong has experienced countless ups-and-downs over the last 150 years, but its geographical position and strategic gateway to Guangdong and the South China Sea has ensured that it bounces back. It is a cliché, but true: Hong Kong sees opportunities during times of crisis. In living memory, this has been demonstrated during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The city has been a place of refuge during the mainland’s political upheavals, and, since the mainland’s post-1980s economic reforms the city continues to be a conduit for raising investment capital, offering business advice and bestowing legitimacy on mainland financial dealings. Importantly, and at issue during the protests, is that Hong Kong is the only place in China with the rule of law and freedom of expression.

Over the last months, I have spent many nights walking Hong Kong’s empty streets after the protests have ended and protesters and police – both - have gone. There are remnants of conflict: barricades, stones, upturned rubbish-bins, bus-stop signs, graffiti, water bottles, tear gas canisters and abandoned Molotov cocktails. At night, post-protests, the city is eerily quiet and has a stripped-back, ready-to-transform feel about it.

Once the city and its political mess settles, there is an urban rehabilitation/landscape design opportunity that could be a component in the city’s healing and reconciliation. Many of our urban areas are blighted by concrete ugliness and not designed to be people-centred, nor give comfort and leisure opportunities for residents.  We can start with re-envisioning our streets. For example, the city has long toyed with pedestrianizing some streets, but little has happened. Parts of Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Mong Kok are perfect for a radical makeover by banning cars and replacing them with people-friendly zones. With imagination, such pedestrian streets could be introduced without causing undue inconvenience to cars and traffic, whose needs have for too long been unduly catered to. We must ensure that pedestrian zones have a modicum of activity, without being monopolized by noisy street performers or commercial (predominantly telecom companies) vendors.

Imagination has been utilized by protesters with their quick-fire dismantling of the steel street dividing fences seen throughout Hong Kong – at every protest site these are quickly re-assembled as triangular barricades using plastic ties holding the three sides together. They are then dragged into position to block roads. After each protest, the Highways Department has not replaced these steel fences, in fear that they would again soon be dismantled to create new barricades at subsequent protests - so lengths of roadway are now currently fenceless. These fences were always ugly and first appeared in the months after the British administration left in 1997. This is a wonderful opportunity to re-envision our roadside barriers. We can greatly reduce the number of fences and design better and colourful alternatives that protect pedestrians from cars but also allow streets to be more easily crossed at ground-level. Combined with street landscaping with trees, greenery and seating – these ugly fences can be replaced by green fixtures serving the same safety functions.

One of the protesters’ grievances is that Hong Kong has lost, and is losing, much of its own culture. Since 1997, the city’s street identity has been under constant threat by government clean-ups. Hong Kong’s distinctive neon signage, so emblematic of the city’s vibrancy, has been reduced to isolated signs. There is now an opportunity to reclaim Hong Kong’s street identity by reintroducing neon signage and lighting, safely secured to buildings, by offering government subsidies to businesses and organisations for their reconstruction and on-going maintenance costs. In a stroke, Hong Kong’s identity can be ‘revitalised’!

The so-called smart lighting that was attacked by protesters in Kowloon Bay is a wake-up call. Hong Kong is an incredibly safe city and there is little need for unnecessary surveillance. Being a “smart city” is an attractive catchphrase, but uncontrolled and often insidious surveillance by introducing ‘convenient’ online payments, cashless transactions, security cameras, and facial recognition allows the abuse of privacy. As facial recognition technology and surveillance becomes the norm on the mainland and around the world, Hong Kong has an opportunity to be a leader in protecting people’s privacy. Stronger laws protecting individual privacy and protocols for the installation of facial recognition and other intrusive technology can make the city a leader in protecting private information. Old fashioned posted letters, cheques and cash payments still have an important role in maintaining communication and payment options alongside a flood of technology that can easily be compromised to the advantage of an online hacker, bad companies or an authoritarian government.

Opportunities abound during Hong Kong’s eventual reconciliation. There is so much opportunity to reform. Let’s start!


This opinion piece was originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 13 September 2019. Translated from the original English by Aulina Chan.



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