Hong Kongers blitz gov't with social media tool

20 Aug 2015

Hong Kong residents walk carefully during the hot humid summer months. We must battle foot traffic, narrow sidewalks, topography, and even sometimes the dreaded Duck-Footed Selfie Addict. But there's an additional hazard, the constant dripping of water from unrestrained air-con units. That's right: due to someone's inconsiderate (and illegal) actions that allow drips from their air-con units or dehumidifiers to fall directly on the sidewalk, pedestrians must duck and dodge water droplets even in fair weather.

It's hardly new: the blog ViewHK reports on campaigner Mary Mulvihill, who's spent over 20 years trying to get authorities to address the problem: "This looks like something from the dark ages or a third-world village somewhere," said Mulvihill in an August 6 blog-post, standing in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui district. "On one side the tourists have the dripping air conditioners and when they escape from all the dripping air cons they fall over the buckets and everything on the street," she said.

Hardly the image of "Asia's World City": Hong Kong's official slogan.

Where's the government action?

Why doesn't Hong Kong's Food and Hygiene Department crack down on these scofflaws? Because it's far simpler to issue edicts, like the "Scheme of Participation by Property Management Agents in Tackling Dripping Air-conditioners" issued on May 5.

The FEHD bravely declared: "To tackle the problem of dripping air-conditioners, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has implemented a scheme in certain private housing estates since 2005 to solicit participation from respective property management agents (PMAs) in handling complaints on dripping air-conditioners during summer season. Staff of participating PMAs, while performing routine management duties in the estate, will help to identify the source of dripping and advise the occupier concerned to rectify the problem. If such effort of the PMA cannot resolve the complaint, FEHD will intervene by taking up the case for follow-up action."

This is followed by an underwhelming list of buildings – for starters, a total of ONE building is named for the entire Mongkok district (generally regarded as the world most densely populated). And the FEHD's track record is similarly anemic, as Coconuts Hong Kong reports: "According to figures from the FEHD, of the 20,000 complaints lodged in 2012, only 631 nuisance notices were handed out."

But as we learned during the "Arab Spring" of 2011, social media can force change even in hide-bound government departments. Local activists have begun a "drop the drip" campaign based on Instagram: the idea is to snap a mobile phone photo and upload it, where the info is then sent on to the FEHD for (hopefully) action.

In true Hong Kong fashion, the DTD "website" is merely a Facebook page, but so what:

"Sick of being dripped on by leaking air conditioners? So are we!", says the page. "That's why we've come up with a way to report them that doesn't involve having to spend time on the phone waiting for the Food and Hygiene Department to pick up...Next time you see a drip, take a picture or video at the scene of the crime and post it on Instagram with #dropthedrip and your location and we'll report to the Food and Hygiene Department on your behalf."

"Add a street address and make sure your location settings are turned on, and we’ll report it for you," says the page.

Perhaps if the FEHD receives enough complaints with complete evidence attached, we'll see "follow-up action" as promised on their site. Until then...Hong Kongers, duck and cover!

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