Clara Mak – SCMP | Updated on Nov 08, 2008
Like a lot of people living in Hong Kong, Magic Boy director Adam Wong Sau-ping suffers bouts of hay fever. But instead of just blowing his nose into an endless number of hankies, he chose to address the issue of air pollution, which he believes triggers the reaction.
His concerns are probably justified. A recent Greenpeace report states that frequent exposure to air pollution can lower resistance to respiratory diseases and also increase chances of developing conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
Greenpeace added that the Hong Kong government’s Air Pollution Index, its daily measure of air quality in the city, doesn’t quite reflect the reality. The index has been neither reviewed nor updated in the past two decades to match the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, so Greenpeace has launched its own “Real Air Pollution Index”.
Meanwhile, Wong (pictured) filmed a short video to help promote the Greenpeace campaign. The 33-year-old recruited a group of children, whom he shot undertaking various activities around the city.
“At the beginning of the video, these 10 lovely children went out after they were reassured by the weather report that the air quality on the day was suitable for them to do outdoor activities,” he says. “So, they went out taking deep breaths in Kwun Tong, running in Sha Tin, blowing balloons in Central, playing music with a pianica and singing on the Tsing Ma Bridge.
“But by the end, you will hear these children coughing and wheezing because the current index just simply does not reflect the true air quality level here. We are using a standard that is some 20 years behind and far below the WHO standard,” Wong says.
Living in the busy district of Mong Kok, Wong has developed ways of dealing with air pollution. He takes a few steps back when he waits to cross the road to avoid breathing in fumes and he rinses his mouth with water when he gets home to prevent a sore throat.
Air pollution, he says, is as serious as the recent Chinese milk powder scare. “It’s like telling a child the milk he drinks is contaminated with melamine. The difference is if you don’t drink the milk every day or eat a large quantity of White Rabbit candies in one go, you probably won’t develop a kidney stone or die. However, you can’t choose not to breathe even though the air is polluted. It’s just scary.”
Wong tries to protect the environment by using fewer plastic bags and recycling plastic bottles. He says he was heavily influenced by Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s films which often touch on environmental subjects.
“One of his films, Nausicaa of The Valley Of The Wind , talks about the friendship between an insect and a human. The eyes of the bug go red when it is angry and turn blue when the people are being friendly to it. It taught me the relationship between nature and human beings and how the two should live together peacefully.
“Besides, we are not here to conquer the world,” he says.
To watch Wong’s video and to learn more about the Real Air Pollution campaign, visit www.greenpeace.org/china.