Working class people in Hong Kong aspire for a stable society
Ng Lap-Jung  Photo: Sino-US.com
 
When China ceded the island of Hong Kong to the British, there was a village in the flat area of Pok Fu Lam, a valley between Victoria Peak and Mount Kellet. In 1989, the Yip family lived there whose daughter Yip Wan-Yee had later become one of Hong Kong’s most famous movie stars. “I was not yet 30 back then. Because my sister tutored Yip Wan-Yee English, her mother who was a part-time maid introduced me to work as chauffeur,” Ng Lap-Jung recalled.  
 
Now three decades have passed, and people in Hong Kong have become well-off and house maids are now usually people from other Southeast Asian countries. According to Ng, he has worked for many rich families and most of them now are hiring helpers from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. “Mrs. Yip quit her job as maid long ago,” he joked.  
 
When he first took the job 28 years ago, he worked for a lady surnamed Lo with five daughters and a son. Although her husband who was a lawyer had passed away, Mrs. Lo had her own stock trading company to support the family. After they sold a building on the Conduit Road out, their lives became even better. Ng worked as their full-time driver for three years.
 
The Conduit Road usually reminds people of the famous scene in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express, when Faye Wong squatted on an escalator to look up toward Tony Leung’s apartment between Central and Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island. The Conduit Road is at the highest point on Victoria Peak reached by the Central-Mid-levels outdoor escalators, the world’s longest. Heading toward the mountaintop from the road, people could see quite a few private roads leading to luxury real estate hidden in the mountains.   
 
The longest outdoor escalator in the world was put into use in 1993. By the time, Ng had changed to his second employer Geoffrey Ma, who is now the Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. “Job opportunities are brought to people by yuanfen (meaning destiny or luck as conditioned by one’s past), and you should find different ways to get along with different employers” said Ng, who had worked for the famous Hong Kong judge for 14 years. In the driver’s view, older generations of people tend to value friendship more, while he heard one of his peers complain about being fired by younger generations of his employers at a whim. 
 
After that, Ng served several other bosses including the second generation of Kee Wah Bakery. He changed job for the same reason as people in other businesses would do—for a pay raise.
 
Ng had the conversation with Sino-US.com reporter in a local fast food restaurant frequented by blue-collar workers. The noisy environment unsettled the reporter like the rainstorm outside. People would have to talk with each other in raised voice.   
 
Ng was not good at school. So, he started to work at a quite young age. Since his classmate’s father worked in a Chinese restaurant, Ng got to do part time work when he was 13. Before finishing high school, he decided to drop out and become welding apprentice. When ridiculed by his neighbor to be too weak to do the job, he took on the trade for 10 years. “Back then, I felt wronged and acted rashly,” he said.   
 
He worked three years to be paid 400-500 Hong Kong dollars per month as an apprentice before becoming an independent welding worker and being paid 80 Hong Kong dollars per day. “It’s kind of a long-term day labor job, with flexible holidays,” Ng recalled, “It’s also easy to change from one boss to another.”
 
With time passing, aluminum and stainless steel gradually began to dominate the market and led to the decline of the welding industry. So, Ng gave up the business he was in for 10 years and tried to acquire a driver’s license in 1985. “I first drove a van although the business was not profitable and there was no fixed income,” Ng said. He believes that in Hong Kong as long as you work hard, you could survive. “Politics is less important than earning a living,” he said.
       
Compared with forging iron, driving van could earn several hundred Hong Kong dollars every day, although the operating cost was high. Ng remembered getting a task to transport a house of bricks. Although he was paid about 1000 Hong Kong dollars, the job took him five or six hours of extremely hard work. “It’s not easy to make a living because money would not come from nowhere,” he said, noting hard-working people could always earn a living in Hong Kong.
 
Despite the belief, he agreed that the society is now transforming and people like him has the feeling that it is getting harder to make money. Ng doesn’t like to speculate on the issue which seems a little complicated.
 
Those rich families who could afford private drivers would also hire house maids. According to Ng, Hong Kong has hundreds of thousands of foreign workers. “The change is that there are more house maids hailing from Indonesia because they have learned Chinese back home and elderly people could totally rely on their help. Meanwhile, maids from the Philippines would mostly head to Canada because of their good English,” Ng told Sino-US.com    
 
When asked about his feelings about the past two decades after Hong Kong’s return to China, Ng raised his voice, “The protestors occupying the streets had made it impossible for me to work.” In his perspective, most governmental policies could hardly reach him and benefit him, so making a living is more important than politics, “as long as I could make more money and lead a more comfortable life,” Ng said.

Toiling work has used up all his time. Like all people in Hong Kong who strive to make a living, they care more about the city’s stability and prosperity and the job opportunities that would come along with that. “I just hope those politicians would not be too caviling and bring more trouble,” he added.

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