Thursday, September 09, 2004


The men of Chungking and the domestic helpers are a natural match. Ironically, they generally pair off according to a Muslim/Christian religious divide - Pakistanis with Indonesians and Philippinos with Africans.

The complication, however, is visible on any Sunday walk in Kowloon Park (or anywhere near Star Ferry). The men of Chungking are greatly outnumbered, resulting in a phenomena which has become known as collecting.

For some, collecting is a choice, possibly reflective of acceptance of polygamy in their country of origin. These men have usually come to Hong Kong to do business and for them collecting means expenditure. The amount of girlfriends collected at any one time is representative of financial capacity.

For others, collecting is a method of survival. Many men pay large amounts of money to agents who promise to bring them to Hong Kong and put them in well paid work. When they realise that they are stuck in Hong Kong with limited options, collecting is often the easiet ways of earning money to live. The more girlfriends collected the greater the income. The same often goes for asylum seekers who have to wait months or years in Hong Kong without being allowed to work.

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