Mr Democracy

A written constitution for the UK (made in China)

  • Welcome to Mr Democracy, the story of a British artist who set off to get a written constitution for the UK made.
    Understanding the changing balance of power in the world, and with a nod to Britain’s ‘democratic’ ventures across the world, he chose to get it written in China, and ship it back to the UK.
    Read more under 'about' and in the many blog entries.

Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

Challenge Anneka/Bond Hong Kong

Posted by mrdemocracy on 15,09,2008

I’m now on BA flight BA0032 Hong Kong London Heathrow. The novelty of flying never really wears off on me, I actually love it, the high class pretence, the mini food, the thousands of stories and that are airports. Actually, the place where I was staying in Hong Kong, Mirador Mansions (and neighbouring Chungking Mansions on my last stop over) are like dirty messy airports, with a racial mix which really is like a deck of shuffled cards. Every time you stepped in the lift there were people from every corner…Ghana, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Liverpool… The place has a terrible reputation apparently, with gruesome stories about attacks in the lifts in the early hours. I didn’t feel unsafe.

After Huang Pu, there was not too much too tidy up regarding the toy production and shipping, just exhibition stuff. I had another altercation with the shipping agent unfortunately. Marco explained that actually there is no charge for the frieght in China, its all charged at the destination, hence why it seemed so cheap. He reckoned the final price should have been around half of what I was paying, but I had already seen the quote and handed the goods over, so it was a bit late to haggle now…but worth a try. The shiping agent begged to differ, that it wasn’t worth a try, and after a telephone call in a noisy restaurant, the next email suggested we shouldn’t use them again. Although I had made lots of questions about different quotes (which wastes their time), in the end she had made things stressful by managing to not coordinate a quote which tallied at both ends until late the night before the goods were delivered, after a 6 hour wait in their office, which is pretty bad.

I took a train down to Shenzhen, the city built rather unsubtly on the border with Hong Kong. I say unsubtly because it’s mission is to take Hong Kong as a blueprint for making money. It is literally on the border with Hong Kong – you can walk over the border in the train station and get right on the MTR, Hong Kong’s metro. I was talking with Adrian Wong, and friend in Hong Kong, about capitalism in Hong Kong. In theory Hong Kong practises one of the purest forms of laissez faire free market capitalism of anywhere in the world, yet it has decent free-at-delivery health care, excellent public transport and much social housing (though perhaps not so good). Tax is Hong Kong is negligible, though not at tax-haven rates. This can be afforded because the Hong Kong government acts like a business, letting but never selling the most expensive of all commodities, land. But this struck me as a deviation from the Neo Liberalism developed by Thatcher and Reagon – they sold off everything the state owned for a fraction of what it was worth (something the German government is also planning to do), referred to as selling of the family silver.

Shenzhen is a city of superlatives. As China’s first SEZ (Special Economic Zone) it was here that China experimented with capitalism, or ‘socialism with chinese characteristics’ as they call it. Shenzhen is part of the Pearl River Delta – a collection of cities which make up the biggest manufacturing base in the world.  Shenzhen developed from a fishing village, with a population in 1979 of just 20000, its population has grown to 14million, just 2 million of whom have a permanent address. Funnily enough, in the OCAT there was an exhibition of films made in a factory, this time CCTV type footage above each workers table, coupled with an installation of factory sewing machines in the huge gallery. It could be difficult to fill that space its huge.

My mission in Hong Kong was also to shoot video in a port, although I was able to record more than I’d thought possible in Huang Pu. Asking around hadn’t produced too many suggestions, so I went down to the container base to see what I could see. Its possible to see quite a bit just from the perimeter fence actually, but there were a couple of buildings with trucks whizzing through them (like multi-story car parks) which looked like they should have had better vantage points, although on apporoaching them, I did have a sinking feeling I wasn’t meant to be there, and would have to James Bond-like smuggle myself in. The trick is trying to look like you know where you’re going, or at least what you’re looking for, in place you’ve never entered before. I wandered down some concrete corridors, but all the men leaving had saftey helmuts and hi-vis tabards, so that wasn’t going to work – about turn. I checked the lifts – on the 7th floor there was a canteen, and a 7-11 – that must be kind of public, right? I couldn’t actually order anything because you needed to pay with a card of some sort, so I strolled straight over to a window seat. The workers in there didn’t seem to care, so I slipped my camera out and wedged it against the window, but the windows still weren’t to clear. I had a brainwave – the toilets, they should have a window I can open, and shut myself in, and they did. I had the shock of my life when I heard the door shut and the lights go out, and screamed ‘hello’. Thank goodness someone was still there, who still seemed not to care. The next day I took metro and taxi round Kowloon and Hong Kong island looking for vantage points. I say I took a taxi, a taxi driver persuaded me in broken English that he knew a place with great views of the container base, which it would have been, had it not been obstructed by trees. I didn’t feel completely cheated, but it was a waste of 50HK$ and an hour and a half. The container base is amazing, its just like children’s building blocks, but 100 times the size and the blocks are delivered all over the world; and somewhere in there were my 1000 toys with the new constitution, on their way home.


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Hong Kong

Posted by mrdemocracy on 24,07,2008

You can’t visit HK without reflecting on our relationship and history with this corner of the world, the stamps of colonialism are still fresh, the handover (UK term) or reunification (Chinese term) was in 1997. British passport holders get a 6 month visa stamp, no-one else does. What do Hong Kongers get in the UK I wonder? Hong Kong is now under Beijings eye, but enjoys a great deal of freedom, Beijing doesn’t want to damafe the cash cow. Having said this, I think its Chinese freedom – do and say whatever you want, just don’t criticise the government.

The agent the British Council had recommended did seem to be the best, a badly singposted scruffy 2nd floor office, (as opposed to the ubiquitous China Travel Services, the Chinese government run visa agency). I visited 3 times that day, each with a different amount of hair. The first as I left Germany, unkempt beard and scruffy long hair, the second time clean shaven, (hair tied back for the photo) and the third with the shaving extended to the top of my head, albeit only a number 4. I think I made their day.

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