2013年1月30日 星期三

Biography - Kwok Shin King

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, 19.9.1927. Family of Hakka origin, from TaiPo village in Canton Province, China. Family engaged in textile manufacturing and became reasonably well-off .

Primary and secondary schooling in Indonesia , university education in Shanghai 東吳大學 , a private university funded by the Americans. Studied in the Faculty of Law, but graduation was disrupted by the Communist Takeover .

Joined the underground Patriotic Students' Movement while in university, he was a good writer and was made sub-editor of the underground Student's Magazine .

After Liberation joined the Communist Party and was sent to North Kora as an interpreter in the interrogation of captured American GIs

After the Korean war was sent to work as Senior Official in the Chinese Embassy in Calcutta, India.

In 1957 was persecuted for alleged bourgeoisie ideology and sent into exile to Inner Mongolia , 2 years later was sent to a re-education labour camp in the North-West of China, and subsequently sentanced to death by firing squad in 1963 .

Parents in Indonesia organised signature petition of Indonesian Chinese which they sent by convoy to Premier Chow En Lai who personally signed his release papers, was then allowed to come to HK

Attempt to immigrate to Canada after coming to HK was quashed by the CIA who monitored his every movement for the first 10 years he was in HK

Did odd jobs in HK including watchman at construction site, finally landed a job through church and family connections as "assistant manager" of an import-export firm until retirement. Earnings came mainly from commission , so had to moonlight at different jobs including copy manuscripts by hand in order to make enough money to send children to study abroad .

Immigrated to the US before 1997 because of fear of further political persecution , also because of the traditional Chinese thinking that the aged must live with the son.

Personal life
Father was a good looking young man and very popular with the Shanghai girls from rich families back then, but he took no notice of any of them. After Liberation he met mother at a communal work camp but they were seperated soon after as they were posted to different places . They kept in touch by letter, met again after a year at another communal camp, then got married . My parents believed their union was by fate, so they named me 'Yuen 緣'

Father was baptized at the Swatow Baptist Church in Hong Kong in 1965, I believe due to a need for " church connections" for work .

Father was the most filial son, his lifelong regret was not haven't been able to see his parents when they fell ill and not been able to visit their graves after their death because he was banned from visiting Indonesia on account of his past association with Communism. After his older brothers gambled away the family fortune and he learnt that his parents were sick , even as our family at that time was living from hand to mouth, he still scrimped together sums of money to send them so they could have "precious medicinal food". In the early days we moved home almost every year in search of cheaper rent, grandparents' pictures were the only constant items in our shifting existence, staring impassively down from the wall of each new abode.

Father was the 3rd of 5 children , 4 boys and a girl. The sibling he loved most was his youngest brother who died in his early 20s, presumably (my diagnoses) from meningitis. The story was he followed father to study in China, he was a brilliant student and did very well in school, but one day after a game of football he complained of headache, developed a fever and 24 hours later he was dead. Father once said wistfully that had he lived the family might still have kept its fourtune.

Father was in his 40s when my brother was born , to a Hakka having a son was a big deal and it gave him a tremendous boost of energy. With a son he could at last hold his head up and crush the snide remarks of his mother-in-law. Because of the expanded family we were eligible to apply for company lodgings, and for the first time we had a flat with a sitting room instead of having the whole family living on top of each other in a single room. We were happy for a time - it didn't matter that the flat had moldy walls (which we covered with thick brown wrapping papers), being one of those buildings built with salt water which caused such a scandal in HK in the 1960s ; we didn't care the company boss only rented us the unit because it had no market value, or that we were on the 7th floor with no lift . Pitiful as it was, it was a step-up . Father named my brother 'precious jade'.

Father did quite a bit of travelling after retirement but the trips he treasured most were trips to China, re-visiting places of his past and meeting old acquaintances again. He kept in touch with the 'same surname village brothers' in his ancestral village in Tai Po, China, and asked that I sent them money in support of local publications in his home village. I sent the village US $1,000 and got his and mother's name engraved on the wall of the village hall. Father had wanted to visit China again when he turned 80, a sort of 'Last Goodbye' trip; it came to nothing because mother refused to accompany him, and he would not go anywhere without mother. Not even to the grocery store .

Poverty never sat well with father, he was ashamed and disappointed that he's achieved so little in life inspite of great potentials and an early illustrious career, and he's hyper-sensitive that people might look down on him, these were some of the reasons he shunned his rich friends from university years. Father was a scholar, he had a hard time fitting in the business world of HK. On the eve of my leaving for England for studies he lamented, " After a lifetime of toil I've nothing to show, unlike other men who have money and gold. My riches and gold are my children " This was why he was devastated while visiting England years later by a turn of events: he looked in the Clinic in Manchester where his doctor daughter worked and from the glass-door saw her chatting with the nurses at the reception desk, but as he approached she abruptly turned her back at him then walked quickly away, pretended that she never saw him - he was convinced it's because in his shabby coat and awful skull cap he looked like an old Chinese beggar, and there's no way the daughter risked losing face with her English colleagues. What made this harder to bear was this was the one of all his children he truly loved. Mother told me she and father were both aggrieved and shocked when they were handed a bill for gas and car rental after the daughter and son-in-law took them round some English Stately Homes during another visit . " I've already taken time from work to accompany you," the daughter told them, " that's more than gracious already "

The internment by the Chinese Communist broke father utterly. The one distinct memory of my childhood was woken up in the night by father's screams : in his recurrent nightmare he was back in the camp. His personality changed, for the rest of his life he was timid, suspicious, paranoid and reclusive . Understandably my politics and outspokenness
was a cause of worry for him .

The years of want made Father thrifty to a fault . He loathed throwing anything away, including food, and suffered occasional bouts of diarrhoea as a result. When I sent him the tailor-made silk quilt coat he wanted, he was so afraid it'd get dirty he requested a coarse cotton cover specially made to envelope it, and would only wear the coat as a compos. It's no good arguing with him that I could always have another new coat made for him, or that the whole point of a silk coat is the feel of silk on the skin. Father believed British wool the best wool in the world, so I had several pairs of trousers made for him out of the finest British wool I could find, to use as everyday wear as he always felt the cold keenly. Problem was he would still wear the worn out old trousers over pyjama bottoms to keep warm while he's at home, and saved the good clothes for going out and for occasions.

Mother was a wonderful cook but father was a man of simple taste. When we were kids, on the days my mother (who's a nurse) worked shift, father would make his famous clear soup with just water and ' tung tsoi', but out of the 2-3 signature dishes that he regularly made, the one I liked best was "sliced potato stir-fried with sliced potato". His favourite dishes were steamed eggplant and steamed beancurds, though from time to time he still hankered after the Hakka 'mui tsoi' , and Indonesian prawn crackers which he insisted must be bought from the Indonesia Restaurant in TsimSaiTsui, the only Indonesian restaurant in HK he approved .

An avid reader, father read everything he could lay his hand on . Everytime I visited the US I'd bring him a stack of HK Chinese newspapers which would keep him busy for days. He found the HK Chinese newspapers in the US too expensive and opted for the cheaper local papers, but he missed the HK papers . His favourite book was " The Dream of the Red Chambers " He had plans to do a thesis on the book after retirement which never materialised .

The long hours of work took a toll on father's health, he had multiple episodes of haemoptysis in mid-life which turned out to be bronchiectasis . His lungs remained delicate and the cleaner air in Pleasant Hill suited him . Father had hypertension and gout for years, but what plagued him most in later life was degeneration of the knees. Unfortunately he never really trusted western medicine and had his own system as to how the medication should be taken ; on top he also had this idiosyncratic theory on diet which he swore by, none of which helped his condition . Even as he was diagnosed to have colon cancer, renal failure and the accompanying anaemia, he stubbornly held his own counsel and resisted treatment every step of the way .

The last few years of his life father became very interested in Buddhism, and would follow a TV program of Buddhist teachings by a Taiwanese monk every day. I could be wrong but he did not appear to have gained much enlightenment .

Finally, however unwilling , father went on a journey without mother ; 4:40 AM , Thursday , 24 Jan 2013 , San Francisco time.

Survived by wife, 3 children and 3 grandchildren

Work stress in CU

From the unique position of simultaneously a Unionist and a Medical Physician, I note with growing alarm the steep rise in the number of CU staff presented to the Health Clinic with work- related stress symptoms over the past few years. While it could be argued I might be seeing a bigger share of sickness related to work because of the natural patient selection of doctors they believe would be sympathetic to their plight, but for me this has always been the case for as long as I've worked in CU, so the actual increase in number is real and is worrying .

The complaints range from physical symptoms of easy fatigue, headaches, dizziness, palpitations, upset stomachs and irritable bowel syndrome, muscle aches and impaired immune system leading to frequent infections , to psychological symptoms of poor concentration, short temper, negative thoughts, insomnia, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, mood swings, burnouts and even thoughts of suicide . Work stress not only leads to poor health but increases accidents and injuries, frequent absenteeism and high turnover rates . Staff under undue stress are more liable to make wrong decisions, and develop poor relationship with their colleagues which in turn generates more stress. Many patients have problem maintaining work-life-family balance, and feel guilty because their low moods are affecting their family .

The stressors as far as I could see fall into several categories :

1) Workload issues .
Many OA and general clerks have complained : 20 years ago when they first started work in CU there's just one of them to serve the whole department, now the department has grown multi-fold, but there's still just one of them to carry out all the work. One OA's afraid to take annual leave because the whole week's waste-baskets from the whole building would await her return. For the same reason many cannot afford to take sick leave however unwell they might be.
Another frequent complaint : because of the high turnover of staff, many long serving permanent staff end up doing the bulk of the work in the department because they know the ropes, thereby greatly increasing their workload. Unfair distribution of workload and lazy slackers who unload their share of work on their colleagues are all stressors. At the other end of the scale under-workload also generates stress. One general clerk with an excellent track record had all her usual work details removed from her after a new supervisor was appointed, which she believes to be a prelude to redundancy as there'd be nothing to enter in her appraisal at the end of the year. Under-utilize and deny a person from exercising her/his potential leads to low self-esteem and low job satisfaction.

2) Long working hours.
Many staff have complained they almost never get out of the office before 7 or 8 PM. Some even have to work till 11PM some nights.

3) Common Complaints on Management.
A) Lack of support and ambiguous management style:
The supervisor's dismissive and unhelpful when the staff requests instructions, then the staff's reprimanded for not doing exactly how the supervisor wants. " If I ask for instruction as what to do I'm told off for lack of initiation, if I don't ask I'm yelled at for not having asked and being disrespectful . I just can't do anything right but I can't read the mind of the supervisor."

B) Lack of appreciation from supervisors:
" We only hear criticisms when things are not going well, but never praises when things are swimmimg "" We do the work, they take the credit "

C) Autocratic management style:
Lack of control in the discharge of duties is a stressor for the front-line staff. " The supervisor expects me to drop whatever I was doing to do her bide, then yells at me for not having finished what I was initially working on!" " Everything's top priority and has a tight deadline, but it's humanly impossible to do everything all at once. If they could explain more about the work then maybe I can prioritise "

D) Micro-management style:
" I'm stressed out! All day long the supervisor follows me everywhere and wipe her finger over everything I've just cleaned. Doesn't she has anything else to do ? I can't take it anymore "

E) Unfair and hostile treatment from supervisors :
Grievances abound and too numerous and diverse to enumerate, suffice to say there's enough staff on anxiolytics and antidepressants for this to be taken seriously.

F) Poor communication within the department :
The Heads of departments are frequently unaware of the problems of the junior staff either because they're away a lot or because the supervisors, in order to appear competent, hide problems from them. As one Clerk said, "When I talked to my supervisor about work stress she said there's no work stress, of course she has no work stress because she dumps all the work on ME ! The Head knows nothing about this ."

4) Interpersonal conflicts .
Wherever there're people there's inevitably interpersonal conflicts, unfortunately CU's a hot bed of gossip-mongering and the system's opaque enough and loose enough for personal and work issues to be enmeshed , and personal issues taken out at work .

5) Job insecurity .
Contract terms has created a lot of tension between contract and permanent staff, supervisors on contract have been known to take out their frustration on permanent staff. Lack of job security and worries about redundancy is of course anxiety-provoking .

6) Insufficient resources at the frontline .
CU is a classic case of too many generals and too few foot soldiers.

7) Performance appraisal system still needs a lot of improvement as it continuous to cause distress among staff.

8) Bullying in the workplace is still an on-going problem.

9) Staff personal issues :
Unrealistic expectation of reward, over-estimation of own ability , co-existing family, financial and relationship problems , low resilient or pessimistic personality type all pre-disposes to work stress .

Suggestions for Organisational Management of work stress :

1) CU has to create an organisational culture that values each individual employee as a crucial component and asset, and enforces management actions to be in line with such value . Too often one hears " I'm just a small potato, my position is low, my views don't matter. " or "During meetings I'd keep quiet, the seniors've already decided everything and just want me to rubber stamp the meeting anyway "Empowerment is the first step to stress management, and all staff should be made to feel an important stakeholder of the University whatever post they may hold .

2) Training for managers and supervisors on stress recognition, and appropriate techniques for handling internal conflicts and complaints as early as possible. Not to forget managers and supervisors can suffer work stress too . In fact one of the reasons behind writing his article was the realisation that the supervisor and a junior staff of one department're both seeing me for depression ! Which makes me think either there's something very wrong with the department or with CU .

3) Clearly defined roles and responsibilities of each job, so at last there won't be anymore clerk I washing the crockery and qualified technicians taking out the garbish .

4) Provide sufficient resources, appropriate workload and flexible work flow, this can only happen when there's open and effective communication and information sharing within the department .

5) Sufficient communication channels ( hotlines or suggestion boxes ) between staff, the department and the University management, afterall employees often know the needs the best .

6) Promote team building and team spirit as a policy for all departments .

7) Strengthen social support networks in the workplace and provide fitness facilities . A word : CUSA has long been frustrated by the lack of venue to host recreational activities for staff !

8) Appropriate training for staff to deal with advancing technology in the workplace and generate opportunities for career development if possible .

9) Set up Occupational Health Policy and conduct periodic Occupational Health Studies . This is in line with the Healthy University Campus Concept .

10) Conduct regular Stress Audits to all employees.

11) Regular review of overtime pattern.

12) Reasonable and transparent merit and demerit system so there's no innuendoes and second- guessings .

13) Organise talks on Stress Management.

Let's hope the New Year will bring new hope and better working environment to all colleagues in CU !

( This article was published in the CUSA newsletter, 23 edition, feb 2013 )