Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Crime in the City
Since arriving in Hong Kong I've had cautionary comments/warnings from several folks who've never been here about this being a "very dangerous city." Though the extent of my exposure to any crime has been quite minimal and entirely due to my own stupidity ("Does the phrase 'Rolled by a Wan Chai hooker?' mean anything to you, Mr. Mitchell?") I've really felt very safe. But this week alone our paper has reported three crime stories that have had me wondering if perhaps I've been a little too glib. Here's an excerpt from the most recent:
Twelve illegal hawkers who claimed to be from three different triad gangs were arrested yesterday for allegedly selling lunch boxes to construction workers at the Disney theme park construction site on Lantau Island...Authorities seized two metal bars, a hammer and two false vehicle licences. No one was injured during the operation.
This, of course, brings to mind the old school days cliche of the bully shaking down kids down for their lunch money, but in this case it's the opposite. "Lunch boxes" in Hong Kong-speak aren't the plastic or metal ones decorated with cartoon characters that we used to tote to school. They are "box lunches" and these nefarious characters were forcing Disney laborers to eat them...or else!
Public toilets are well-known breeding grounds for crime and Hong Kong is no exception. To whit, this story which featured a color photo of vigilant Hong Kong Chief Inspector Sandra Chui showing a toilet door gate that would-be thieves were thwarted in their efforts to steal:
Police have stepped up patrols of West Kowlooon public toilets follwing a rise in the theft of water taps,, metal gates and drain and manhole covers.
Chief Inspector Sandra Chui said ... there has been a dreamtic increase in such incidents since the start of the year. ...An electric fan worth HK$500 (US$64.10) also went missing at the Ho Man Tin Service Reservoir. There were four thefts in April that resulted in the loss of several water taps and an electric fan. In May, thieves again struck at the Ho Man Tin Service Reservoir toilet, making off with a HK$50 (US$6.40) tissue holder.

Another reason why it's wise to carry a spare packet of tissues with you at all times here. You never know when someone might bust into the loo while you're at your business and demand the toilet paper holder or your life!
And here's the other story that had me questioning my sanity for heedlessly risking my personal safety in a foreign clime:
A cricket tournament in Mong Kok was abandoned yesterday, but no bats, balls or wickets were involved.
Police seized more than 150 insects -- all of them crickets -- and arrested 115 men for forcing the insects to fight to the death and profiting on the results.
In a bizarre twist, the tournament took place in a building that also contains a cricket lovers' association. In the first arrests of their kind in at least a decade, police seized around HK$8,000 in cash, a wooden bucket -- the venue for the fights -- and small baskets housing the crickets.

Animal cruelty for sport? It's not exactly bear baiting or even pit bull or cock fighting, but I can see the concern. But a "cricket lovers' assocation"? Well, maybe. Just as long as it's a safe, consensual relationship based on mutual trust.

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