Fast-paced life never stops, Hong Kong people strive to make a living
Xiujuan Tsang and her husband Buqing Hsu Photo:
A cart just stops at the gate of a paint shop in a busy street with jars of paint on top waiting for decoration workers to pick them up. According to the wife of the shopkeeper, they have been in the business for over 20 years. “All decoration work needs to avoid weekends, especially in the upscale Mid-Levels district where rich people live,” she said, “We’re under strict eyes of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.”
Xiujuan Tsang has turned 50, although her pixie haircut and slender figure makes her look much younger. She would go to Shenzhen with her husband once or twice per month to take a break from hard work. “We like to go there to have some massage and taste Sichuan cuisine,” she said, claiming it’s the best way to shrug off work fatigue.  
Tsang and her husband took over the paint shop from its former owner who emigrated from Hong Kong to another country. “Back then, we knew nothing about the business,” she recalled. Working as a nurse at the time, Tsang could hardly help with the business, although in recent years, she would visit a lot to help out her husband who’s got high blood pressure. In Hong Kong, it is not uncommon for middle-aged or older people to have hypertension considering most locals eat heavy food while leading a stressful life. 
After finishing high school, Tsang tried to build a career out of something. During the first several years, she once did office work, and considered becoming a police woman while goofing around with her friends. Now, she wears T-shirt with Nippon ads, white saddles and purple nail polish. People could hardly tell her real age. “I don’t want stereotypical work, which can easily make me bored. So, even though I obtained credentials to work in hospitals, I still opened a clothing shop with my husband,” she recalled. In her memory, that was a good time, because their hard work led to good sales and fat returns. 
When Tsang’s husband Buqing Hsu took over the paint store over two decades ago, he found people to develop a specific computer “program” to facilitate daily business. According to Tsang, although her husband could come up with such innovative ideas to develop business, he’s kind of temperamental and so sometimes may turn away potential customers. 
After the initial years’ hard work with almost no holidays, the business began to earn profit. Now, the new site for Hsu couple’s paint shop has two floors filled with paint of different brands, equipment and tools. The space left for the couple to sit down and have a rest is merely enough for two seats. “The place is so messed up,” Tsang complained.     
The Hsu couple has just sent their two sons to study abroad. Their elderly son was born in the year 1997 while the younger one is not yet 18 years old. Although her husband had wished for their sons to take over the family business, Tsang believed it’s better for her sons to go abroad. “As long as there is opportunity, they should go out, so they could make the call for their lives in the future,” she said, admitting that this is actually quite different from their original plan.
According to Tsang, her husband had faith in Hong Kong’s return to China at the beginning. When asked if they should emigrate from Hong Kong, he would say things like “we’re all Chinese. So, why would we leave?” Tsang thinks the first several years were good, while in recent years some events have upset people like them. When interviewed the Hsu couple, Hong Kong student leaders including Joshua Wong arrested over the city’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 pleaded guilty to contempt of court. “It is very sad. They should talk over with each other. Now, the society has become this way,” she sighed.    
On the day when Hong Kong returned to China, Buqing Hsu recalled, there was heavy rain. He felt nothing special about the televised handover ceremony except that the daughter of Chris Patten really burst into tears. Tsang said, in the initial years, some people who had emigrated even came back, while these days, it seems more people are thinking about leaving.  
 “Housing prices are rising in a crazy way,” she said. Talking about living in Hong Kong, she sighed that college students are being poorly paid in the city. “There are too many college graduates but fewer job opportunities, not to mention buying homes,” Tsang said, noting although tourism has pushed up the retail industry, the overall economy remains sluggish. Now, fewer mainland Chinese tourists are coming to Hong Kong to shop as most commodities are already available on the mainland.
Tsang worked in hospitals for over 20 years. She notices that a lot of mainland Chinese mothers are now giving birth in Hong Kong. Although medical benefits for local people remain premium, the hospital resources are feeling the pinch. With aging population and downward economy, a growing population would have to rely on Hong Kong’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA). People like the Hsu couple are concerned that their medical benefits may be affected soon.

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