Why the time has come for Hong Kong's first Chiu Chow Festival

September 24, 2015 16:17
Chrissie Chau (L) will be among the celebrity guests at the Chiu Chow Festival next month. In the business sector, Tencent's Pony Ma (R) also belongs to the club, but it's not known if he'll make an appearance at the Hong Kong event. Photos

What do model Chrissie Chau (周秀娜), former Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk and Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man have in common?

Just like local tycoon Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠) and Tencent chairman Pony Ma Huateng (馬化騰), they all have their roots in Chaozhou, or Chiu Chow (潮州), an eastern Guangdong city that is known for its unity, beef balls and Kung Fu Tea.

To showcase the proudest culture of Chiu Chow Loun ("Ga Gi Nang", meaning one of us) in their dialects, the first ever Hong Kong Chiu Chow Festival will be organized next month after China's "golden week" holiday.

The event, which will take place at Chater Garden from October 8 to 12, will be sponsored by the Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organizations.

With a budget of HK$3.5 million, the organizers hope to attract over 60,000 people, especially the youth, for the five-day event.

"Many local youngsters have not seen the really traditional food," says the Federation's secretary Andrew Cheng King-hoi.

As part of promotional activities, people are encouraged to take selfies at the venue and submit the snapshots for a chance to win some prizes, including a trendy smartphone. 

Celebration of different unique cultures in Hong Kong will not only enrich the city's tourism offerings, it can also help the locals to rediscover their roots or strengthen family ties.

Given this, it's no surprise that many Chiu Chow celebrities have shown support for the event.

On Wednesday, it was announced that former teen model Chrissie Chau and HA chief Anthony Wu will share recollections and memories of their childhood in Chiu Chow.

That will be followed by a kitchen show on Chiu Chow cuisine, with Food and Health Secretary Ko Wing-man and his deputy Professor Sophie Chan – whose family also has its origins in Chaozhou -- taking part.

It is said that Chiu Chow people like their spice, as much as they do the sweet snack food. 

There will be delicious spiced goose, beef balls and fish balls, and also plenty of desserts such as water chestnut soup, green bean soup and tangyuan – all good for this autumn season.

And the meals can be rounded up with Kung Fu Tea, which the organizers plan to give 2,000 free cups each day.

Apart from tea, the festival will showcase some folk arts such as paper cutting and wood sculpture – with masters invited from across the border, according to Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngor (林建岳), himself a Chiu Chow man.

The power of Chiu Chow has been expanding in Hong Kong. Among government officials, we can count Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Home Affairs Bureau Under-secretary Florence Hui Hiu-fai as part of the club.

In political circles, we have lawmaker Lam Tai-fai and former legislator Chim Poon-chung in the Chiu Chow group. Among performing artists and actors, we have Sammy Cheng (鄭秀文) and Miriam Yeung (楊千嬅).

As for wealthy Chiu Chow people living in the mainland, we have Pony Ma, who cashed out over HK$3 billion this week by disposing some shares in Tencent. (Ma must consider himself lucky for listing his firm in Hong Kong, as an A-share sale would probably have made President Xi Jinping unhappy).

And we can't also help mentioning Gome shareholder Wong Kwong-yu, who was once China's richest man but is now languishing in jail.

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EJ Insight writer