10 ways to boycott the Hong Kong oligopoly http://www.cnngo.com/hong-kong/life/pong-yat-ming-714945
Pong Yat Ming is staging a one-man campaign against corporate conglomerates. Here’s how he’s doing it
By Derrick Chang 30 November, 2010
A Hong Kong man has decided to take a stand against Hong Kong real estate conglomerates. Pong Yat Ming has sworn not to patronize businesses that are owned by the conglomerates for one year.
It’s harder than it sounds. Just a month into his vow, the 37-year-old teacher says “it hasn’t been easy," and he realizes that most other people “wouldn’t be able to do some of the things [he] is doing."
Pong is nevertheless sticking to his word. By changing his consumption habits, he hopes to bring awareness to anti-competition practices he says have been taken up by the conglomerates to the detriment of Hong Kong society.
Pong’s boycott was inspired by Alice Poon’s book, “Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong." The book exposes the handful of wealthy individuals and companies that stifle competition in a city percieved to have one of the freest economies in the world.
After following Pong through one of his typical days, we were surprised by how deeply major companies penetrate into our lives.
Pong gave us the following tips for consuming with a positive social impact. For more details on his daily adventures, follow Pong’s blog.
1. Make shopping more social
Pong believes that “Hong Kong youth have been taught to believe that wet markets are unsanitary and that the best place to do their grocery shopping is at the two major supermarkets: Wellcome and Park ‘N’ Shop."
Instead, Pong suggests removing ourselves from our comfort zone of sanitized supermarkets and diving into the wet market experience.
Not only are the prices better and produce fresher, Pong enjoys the social aspect of visiting stalls and exchanging banter with the vendors. He gets great cooking tips, too.
2. Health for you and for the community
Hong Kongers instinctively head to Watson’s and Manning’s for personal health and beauty products. Pong says these large corporations with ties to real estate conglomerates practice predatory purchasing, effectively killing off small family-owned pharmacies.
“I wanted to buy some muscle relaxing patches for my grandmother and I went to my local pharmacy," Pong says. “They told me they don’t carry it, because the supplier was forbidden to sell to other retail outlets, they could only sell to Mannings.”
3. Stop the bus
All bus companies in Hong Kong are now owned by large corporations. In the past decade, when Hong Kong was mired in multiple recessions, there was no bus fare discount relief.
Now that good economic times have returned, the Kowloon Motorbus Company among others are applying for fare increases.
“I have started biking in the urban areas of the city," says Pong. “Around my home in Jordan it is very dangerous since the streets were not designed to accommodate bicycling and I have to plan my routes carefully. I wouldn’t recommend it to others.”
If they can’t bike, Pong hopes people take the MTR, which is at least partially owned by the Hong Kong government, and minibuses that are owned by smaller companies.
4. Think before you talk
“We are all concerned with the fees and reception quality when we choose our mobile phone and internet providers, but I think we should also think about who controls these telecommunications providers,” says Pong.
Most of the Hong Kong telecommunications providers are owned and operated by the real estate conglomerates. Only two are not: Hong Kong Broadband for Internet and Peoples for mobile phone services.
5. Essentially water
Many of us drop into 7-Eleven to hydrate with Bonaqua or Watson’s water bottles. Instead, we can be environmentally friendly and save money by bringing a water bottle with us wherever we go.
We value convenience, but Pong says that isn’t sustainable from an economic and environmental standpoint.
“I like to collect bottles and cans I use or come across and save them in a big bag until I’ve got 500," he says. “Then I put the bag outside of my apartment building and and leave it for the old local residents who collect recyclables to find. They can collect $50 for the deposit and I’m happy to make someone’s day.”
6. Save time, spend time
Hong Kong is a big, busy city with all kinds of things that compete for our precious time. Pong suggests that “instead of reading your Facebook page for the tenth time of the day, or perusing the latest online shopping websites, why not use the time saved to do some shopping at the wet market, cook dinner, wash your clothes by hand or volunteer at a charity with friends?”
Readjusting our lifestyles and proper time management are important for a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
7. Clothes surprise
Large Hong Kong clothing retailers like Giordano and Bossini often dictate to customers what the season’s fashions are.
Before you step into their shop you already know what they will have in stock. They often bully suppliers into producing uninspiring clothing and turn suppliers against each other for the lowest costs.
Pong prefers to shop at small, family-run outlets that offer brand names at substantially lower prices and have greater variety. Since they get their stock from factories that produce many kinds of clothing on a regular basis, the styles change depending on what their suppliers offer them.
“I enjoy going to small shops to see what the latest clothes and accessories they have on offer," says Pong. “Isn’t it fun to walk into a shop and be surprised at the random great stuff you find?”
8. We do not have to own a home
While owning a home is a worthwhile goal, Pong feels that many young Hong Kong people forgo their youth to slave away at jobs they can’t stand to save money for a large down payment on a home.
In the process, they forgo entrepreneurial risks and healthier more balanced lifestyles in the name of owning their own home.
Would life be that much worse as a renter? There’d be no pressure to save for down payment; money could be used for hobbies, travel and self-improvement activities that would make for a happier and healthier society.
“I enjoy traveling around the world," says Pong. “I go on short trips a few times a year and go away for six to twelve months every few years to meet friends I’ve made through couchsurfing, and learn more about the outside world.”
9. Fix it
When our gadgets break down, we often instinctively throw them away and buy a new one. Instead, Pong advises bringing such items to a local shop to see if they can be fixed. We might even try reparing items ourselves. This helps not only our wallets, but the environment.
“New is not always better, but this is not the message that large corporations want to be shared. Consumption often just benefits big business, not the individual.”
10. Christmas cheer
With Christmas only a few weeks away, the shopping malls will encourage people to shop and take photos of their garish displays. Will people stop to think about what they are buying and where they shop?
“Why not try to shop at social enterprises that practice fair trade pricing policies or support products that were designed by fellow Hong Kongers?” Pong asks.
Pong recommends the Design Gallery, a shop run by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council that showcases 100 percent Hong Kong designed products.