The D&O Diary’s Asia Pacific travels continued this past week in Hong Kong for meetings and to participate in the PLUS Hong Kong Professional Liability Symposium. Early September is late in Hong Kong’s monsoon season, which meant that conditions were generally hot and steamy throughout my visit. It also meant periodic drenching downpours that discouraged any idea of outdoor activities. Despite the less than ideal weather conditions, I did manage to get a little bit of a look around while I was in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is such an interesting city. First of all, it is huge, in ways that can at times be overwhelming. Hong Kong is a bit smaller geographically than Los Angles (426 square miles for H.K. compared to 502 square miles for L.A.), but with a population of 7.2 million, Hong Kong’s has nearly twice the number of people as L.A. (3.9 million). Hong Kong is also topographically complicated, encompassing islands, bays, peninsulas, mountains, valleys, and steep hillsides. Because so much of the land in Hong Kong is not habitable, the built-up areas support a massive population density. As a consequence, if you are going to visit Hong Kong, you had better be comfortable in crowds, because there are crowds everywhere – on the sidewalk, on the subway, in the streets and hills.
Hong Kong is a modern city, with many of the features and attributes you might find in any large Western city. But just the same, Hong Kong is definitely an Asian city. Just adjacent to the central business district, there are crowded market streets with vendors selling fresh fish, spices and herbs, freshly butchered meat, and an endless variety of dumplings and rolls. On the streets near my hotel, the people in the crowds that thronged the sidewalks were almost all Asian. Many of the storefront signs were exclusively in Chinese (though some contained an occasional English word, such as “fun” or “sexy” or “awesome.”) The signage and announcements on the crowded, incredibly clean, mercifully air-conditioned, and remarkably efficient subway system were in both Chinese and English. I found that most shopkeepers and taxi drivers spoke enough English for me to be able to function.
While I was in Hong Kong, I again noticed something I had also observed during my prior visit to the city as well. On Sunday afternoon, there were innumerable small groups of women gathered throughout park areas and in other public places. Many were seated on flattened cardboard mats, and most seemed to be sharing picnic lunches, arranging each other’s hair, or listening to music. It turns out that these gatherings represent something of an institution in Hong Kong, and reflect migrant make-up of the city’s domestic worker population. Their employers are required by law to allow their domestic employees, most of whom are from Indonesia or the Philippines, twelve hours off on Sundays. The women, who cannot afford to, say, go to the movies or to meet at a restaurant, meet their friends from their home communities. With no other place to gather, the women (and they are all almost all women) gather in small groups wherever they can find an open public space. There are an estimated 200,000 domestic guest workers in Hong Kong, so it comes as no surprise that the public spaces are crowded with these groups of women.
One morning before the first of the day’s meetings, I journeyed out on the Hong Kong subway to the New Territories, a bit of the Chinese mainland that was annexed to the original Hong Kong colony in the late 19th century. The New Territories are not as densely packed as is Hong Kong Island, although it is definitely still an urban area. I traveled about 30 minutes on the West Rail line, to the Tin Shui Wai stop, hoping to see the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, which the guidebook had recommended as a well-preserved slice of pre-colonial Hong Kong. I found that when I arrived at the destination subway stop that there was no sign-posting to the Trail, so I had to rely on Google maps to make my way. I have to say I was right at the edge of my comfort zone wandering through some scruffy industrial neighborhoods and unmarked alleyways entirely lacking English-language signs. I eventually found the Trail and the restored buildings, many of which were preserved by the powerful local Tang clan. The most interesting part of the trip was simply taking a big step away from the crowded street scenes on Hong Kong Island, and walking through some back alleys in a completely different part of the territory. When I described my journey to one of my local hosts he was surprised that I had ranged so far afield (apparently I was just a short distance away from the Chinese border).
The primary purpose of my visit was to participate in the PLUS Symposium, which was held at the Hong Kong Football Club. The event was well-attended and a great success, and I congratulate the local committee for the excellent program. In addition to delivering the keynote address, I moderated a panel on the advent of class action litigation in Thailand. It was an honor to be invited to be a part of this event and a pleasure to be able to meet so many industry colleagues from the Hong Kong market. It was also great to learn that so many people in Hong Kong follow The D&O Diary. I would like to thank the local committee for inviting me to be a part of this great event.
The reception after the educational session was very enjoyable, as well. I was pleased that so many of the attendees stayed to meet and talk at the reception. I was fortunate to be able to meet and talk with many of the attendees. In this picture, I am standing (from left to right) with Karen Chong of XL Catlin in Hong Kong; Margaret Lung of Swiss Re in Hong Kong; Raymond Yau of Swiss Re in Hong Kong; and Kathy Mak of Dual Underwriting Agency in Hong Kong.
In this picture, I am standing with the other members of the panel: to my right, David Ho of AIG in Hong Kong; and to my left, Aaron Le Marquer of the Tilleke & Gibbins law firm in Bangkok and Peter Shelford of the DLA Piper law firm’s Bangkok office.
Not everyone at the event was from Hong Kong; some attendees had traveled some distance to attend the event. In this picture, I am standing with Frank Wang of Gen Re, who traveled from Shanghai to attend the event.
Here I am pictured with Vivian Chow of AIG in Hong Kong, along with Jacky Chan of Swiss Re in Hong Kong.
I would like to thank the local committee for inviting me to be a part of this great event. Hong Kong is a fascinating place, with a rich local culture, an interesting history, a remarkable topography, and a lot of great food.
More Pictures of Hong Kong: