KGV's Elly Hung tackles HK's inequality and "cold comforts" in winning short story

KGV's Elly Hung tackles HK's inequality and "cold comforts" in winning short story

The winner of Young Post’s Winter 2015 Short Story competition explains how problems that have a solid impact on the author naturally lead to powerful writing


Elly Hung's theme - cold comfort - helps explore income disparity in the city.
Photo: Hung Fan-chi

“Inspiration can come in all shapes and forms,” says Elly Hung, winner of Young Post’s Winter 2015 Story competition, “So draw inspiration from whatever you experience in life.”

Fourteen-year-old Elly Hung from King George V School has always liked words with dual meanings, so when she saw the theme “cold comfort”; she took to it like duck to water.

“Cold comforts could be interpreted as comfort sought for when it is literally or metaphorically cold, or the idiom ‘cold comforts’ could mean comforts that don’t really help a bad situation,” says Elly. “Normally, when we envision the word ‘comfort’, we think of warm and fuzzy things, so I thought ‘cold comfort’ sounded somewhat ironic.”

Elly’s winning story gives readers a new perspective on Hong Kong’s income disparity through a future dystopian city where people are labelled by colours and literally wear their identity on their sleeves. She says, “Hong Kong is known as ‘Asia’s World City’ and is considered one of the three most important financial cities on the continent, yet the income disparity is the widest among all developed countries. More than 100,000 households are living in inadequate housings such as caged homes or subdivided apartments,” says Elly, who addresses the serious social problem through her writing by making drastic contrasts between identities of different people.

Surprisingly, Elly didn’t have to do too much research on the topic. “I knew most of the information already thanks to my Global Perspectives and Geography lessons,” she tells Young Post.

In Elly's winning story, the futuristic world has citizens who have lost the meaning of kindness, and social divides are worse than ever

Most of the information is accessible to the public, which means all the more reason for people to pay more attention to this growing problem. Elderly workers pushing old trolleys loaded with cardboard is a common sight in Hong Kong, yet many people walk by them every day without giving them a second thought.

“Most people tend to ignore things they deem irrelevant to their lives, or are simply oblivious to their surroundings, and offer each other ‘cold comforts’ whether knowingly or not,” Elly comments.

“Hong Kong shares the same GDP per capita with most Western countries, yet our minimum wage is only about a third of theirs, and it is estimated that the poverty rate among those aged 65 or older is at a whooping 40 per cent,” she explains. The huge percentage reflects the magnitude of the social problem, and Elly encourages Hongkongers to do whatever they can to help the needy. “Income disparity is a huge problem, and it’s not something that can be fixed overnight. Every little step counts,” she says.

The fast-paced lifestyle we rush through in Hong Kong means we forget to observe the small things that happen around us, and that is exactly what Elly advises aspiring writers to think about.

“The little things can be fascinating and thought-provoking if only you take the time and effort to observe more. Once you notice something, you could jot it down, and it might help you think of ideas when you need one,” Elly advises.

Writers are a lot of things, but Elly believes that it takes imagination and perseverance to come out on top with a solid and creative plot.

“One of my hobbies is writing poems with one of my friends on different topics. Although I don’t have a specific career path in mind, I still hope to improve my writing through reading and writing a greater variety of genres and text types to get a better grasp of different writing styles and techniques.”

Despite having won the competition, Elly remains humble, saying: “I didn’t even expect to come anywhere near making the finals, let alone come out the winner.”

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
HK’s inequality is inspiration


To post comments please
register or