HKU Bulletin November 2019 (Vol. 21 No.1)

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE The Human Impact of Migration in Asia BULLETIN THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG NOVEMBER 2019 VOLUME 21 NO.1 A NEW DROUGHT SOLUTION Understanding the Role of Termites in Ecosystem Survival SOS FROM THREATENED SPECIES Putting the Spotlight on Hong Kong’s Illegal Wildlife Trade

CONTENTS COVER STORY RESEARCH Chromosome Stability in the Balance The Art of Bending the Law Street-Level Studies Take the Pulse of Hong Kong Hong Kong’s Role in Wildlife Trafficking Exposed Europe’s Dirty Money Problem Of Mice, Men and Pigs China’s Arctic Ambitions Digital Dentistry Termites’ Role in Sorting out Droughts Catholics in China: A Survival Story 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 People on the Move The Family Effects of Migration A City Fuelled by Migrants Two Takes on China’s Migrant Workers Spycams and Snapshots Capture Workers’ Lives Empowering Domestic Workers with Knowledge 02 04 06 08 10 12 PEOPLE KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE New Graduate School Dean Brings a Sense of Belonging Softening the Blow Turning STEM into STEAM through Music Playing the Long Game 44 38 40 42 TEACHING AND LEARNING Swimming in the Deep End Going for Robotic Gold 34 36 BOOKS A Sliver of Hope for Hong Kong Cults of Fear Mind Your Language 46 48 50 44 14 46 34 06 42

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE Hundreds of millions of Asians migrate to other countries or within their own countries for work. HKU scholars have been studying the impact on families and the workers themselves when they leave their homes and all that is familiar behind; assessing the economic and wider societal impact of migrant labour on Hong Kong and China; and seeking to mitigate some of the more negative effects through a project to empower domestic workers in Hong Kong with knowledge. 03 COVER STORY 02 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019

People typically migrate to provide better lives for themselves and their loved ones. This has complex effects on the children and caregivers left behind, as Dr Lucy Jordan has found. At first glance, the findings on migrant families would overwhelmingly suggest migration does harm. They suffer higher divorce and death rates, for instance, and the children face greater likelihood of being institutionalised. But that portrait tells an incomplete story, says Dr Lucy Jordan of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration. She has been systematically assessing the impact of migration on families and children for over a decade to bring intellectual rigour to policies and support services. “One of the main things I try to beat the drum about is that context matters – the family context, the community, the accessibility to services in the host and origin communities,” she said. “For instance, we can’t say wholeheartedly that migration is why families crumble. The more likely story is that if there are cracks, they may get larger. And higher death rates may be due to poverty in communities that is exacerbated by a lack of care or physical support as adults migrate to jobs elsewhere.” Dr Jordan’s research started in 2007–2010 when she was part of a team looking at the impact of parental migration on families in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Their Child Health and Migrant Parents in South-East Asia (CHAMPSEA) project focussed on two cohorts of children, aged 3–5 years old and 9–11 years old, who have been followed up periodically ever since to track their progress. An early outcome published in 2011, highlighted the complexity of migration. It looked at the impact on children’s psychological well-being based on their age and the duration of time their parent or parents were away, among other factors. “There was a vulnerability among younger children, but less so among the older children,” she said. Tellingly, children in Indonesia showed more vulnerability than those in the Philippines, possibly because of more government and civil society support services for migrant families at the time. Indonesia has since been catching up. Burden of care A different but similarly complex story has been found in Cambodia, where Dr Jordan is now doing a consultancy project for the International Organization of Migration. Elderly grandmothers, upon whom childcare tends to fall when parents migrate, have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, malnutrition and obesity among the migrating families. But the youngest children, under 12 months old, did surprisingly better when they came from migrant families in terms of nutritional intake, weight and development. “We haven’t unpacked all the complex interrelationships, but it may be that caregivers are more willing to give up their own nutritional diversity for the sake of the children,” she said. In any case, the advantages fade by age three. Migration also seemed to result in teenage boys having higher rates of poor nutrition and stunted growth and less resilience than girls. Yet there were no noticeable differences in overall psychological well-being between teenage children of migrant and non-migrant families. China is another complicated case because migrants within the country face the obstacle of thehukou, or household registration, which determines access to things like healthcare and education based on where one is born. Dr Jordan studied the effects of the system on Chinese-African couples and found Chinese parents reluctant to bring their child to their hometown for registration because of the discrimination they may encounter. This means the family cannot access certain services. On the other hand, cross-border children, who have one parent from Hong Kong and the other from Mainland China, have both advantages and disadvantages. Dr Jordan participated in a study that surveyed 2,000 such children, some of whom travelled to Hong Kong every day for school, while others lived in Hong Kong with their parents. Nuance factors “There have been concerns that the kids travelling across the border may be vulnerable because they have this pretty long commute and may be discriminated against, but we haven’t found unilaterally bad outcomes. It depends on the nuance factors – they have bigger homes in Shenzhen and certain aspects of the quality of their lives may be better due to the higher cost of living in Hong Kong,” she said. “So again, context matters. I’m not sure it’s actually migration but other factors that make migration harder to cope with.” Economic status quo (left) versus growing prosperity (right) among households of migrants in the Philippines illustrate the diversity in migration experiences for the family. Dr Lucy Jordan (second from left) leading discussion with local policymakers and representatives from international NGOs based on research study findings. When both parents of children migrate for work, elderly grandmothers may face challenges. THE FAMILY EFFECTS OF MIGRATION The obvious solution is to provide more resources and support for migrants both at the host and origin countries. A better understanding of migrants and their families can also help. Dr Jordan is currently looking at the neglected field of inter-generational transfer of migration in which children of migrant workers become migrant workers themselves. She is going back to the 9–11-year-old cohort from Indonesia and the Philippines, who previously were adamant they would not follow in their parents’ footsteps because of the effects on family life. “These kids are now entering their 20s and we suspect some of them may have now become migrants,” she said. “There is an argument that without structural changes in the origin countries to create labour markets offering more sustainable wages, that kind of migration will keep happening.” Context matters. I’m not sure it’s actually migration but other factors that make migration harder to cope with. DR LUCY JORDAN 05 COVER STORY 04 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019

Hong Kong’s economic success has crested on three waves of immigrants who injected fresh ideas, skills and labour into the city. That story must continue if Hong Kong is to sustain its economy in the coming years, says Professor YC Richard Wong. A CITY FUELLED BY MIGRANTS “Hong Kong has always been a city of immigrants,” says Professor YC Richard Wong, Chair of Economics and Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy, a description that still applies long after revolution and war sent hundreds of thousands of people scurrying into the city. The percentage of first-generation Mainland China immigrants who have arrived since the late 1970s currently totals nearly a quarter of Hong Kong’s population. When their offspring are included, it reaches nearly one third. These immigrants have provided the only source of labour growth in Hong Kong in recent times, particularly immigrant women. Although they are less entrepreneurial than immigrants of the past, they have nonetheless been critical to the city’s economy because of the ageing population. “Without them, we would not have an adequate labour force,” he said. It is a conclusion that could apply to much of Hong Kong’s modern history. Professor Wong has been analysing census data dating to 1921 to track the impact of immigration on Hong Kong’s economic development. He has identified three waves and drawn parallels and comparisons between them to show the impact of each wave. The first wave came before the Second World War, when people could traverse the Mainland border with relative ease. “There was a small local population, but most people were men who came from the Mainland, laboured here and went back to their hometown. The elites among them worked with British companies and set up local stores. That would be the beginning of the city,” he said. Rapid growth with second wave The second wave came in the 1940s and 1950s, after the end of the war and China’s 1949 revolution. From 1945 to 1951, Hong Kong’s population nearly quadrupled from about 600,000 to 2.3 million. “Most of the arrivals came from Guangdong province, while a smaller group were from all over China. These were mostly businessmen and professionals who were sometimes euphemistically lumped together as ‘people from Shanghai’,” he said. “They brought a variety of skills – manufacturing, shipping, movie-making, banking – and they began to do business in Hong Kong with labour from workers who mostly had come from Guangdong province. This created rapid economic growth largely based on exportoriented manufactured goods.” The demography of this group also differed from the first wave. Both men and women came, they were relatively young, and their average family sizes were large. As their children grew into young adults, they boosted Hong Kong’s industrial labour force of the 1960s and 1970s. The third and current wave started with China’s opening in 1978. Initially, there was a rush of 300,000 new immigrants due to Hong Kong’s ‘touch base’ policy that allowed them to stay if they reached the city. The policy ended in 1980 and was followed by a more orderly daily quota for family renewal that started at 75 per day and later increased to 150. This quota has been filled largely through cross-border marriages. “This third wave of immigrants has been heavily dominated by women who have relatively less schooling than the post-war generation. But they have subsequently become important for Hong Kong’s labour force,” Professor Wong said, filling jobs such as security guards, waitresses and gas station attendants, particularly in the New Territories. But many now occupy skilled and professional jobs. China’s opening in 1978 has brought a steady flow of immigrants into Hong Kong. In 1996 they constituted 13.2 per cent of the population, 14.5 per cent of the labour force, and contributed 10.3 per cent of total earned income. By 2016, they were 22.3 per cent of the population, 23.8 per cent of the workforce, and producing 16.5 per cent of total earned income. Part of Hong Kong’s fabric The youthfulness and labour participation rate of recent immigrants set them apart from local residents. Between 1996 and 2016, 43 per cent of recent immigrants were of the prime working age of 25–44 against only 26 per cent of the non-immigrant population. And 55.6 per cent were participating in the labour force, against 51.3 per cent among the rest of the population. “If we had not had a constant stream of recent immigrants, the ratio of elderly to working age population would have been even worse and our economic performance would have been more challenging,” Professor Wong said. He draws comparisons with Japan. In 2015, about 22 per cent of Hong Kong’s working age population was elderly (65 or above). When Japan reached this level in 1995, it coincided with the onset of economic stagnation that has persisted to this day. “The two events are not coincidental but in fact intimately related. Today, Japan’s elderly population is 47 per cent of its working age population. By 2030, Hong Kong will reach this stage.”The answer, he believes, is to continue to look to immigrants to sustain Hong Kong’s labour force and to consider ways of scaling up efforts to attract quality immigrants. And to remember that immigrants are part of Hong Kong’s fabric. “Very often politicians complain about this third wave as competing for public resources. But the important thing to remember is that they are members of a household in which overwhelmingly one of the members is local. They have migrated here for family reunion,” he said. If we had not had a constant stream of recent immigrants, the ratio of elderly to working age population would have been even worse and our economic performance would have been more challenging. PROFESSOR YC RICHARD WONG (Source: Hong Kong By-Census Sample Datasets) Contribution of immigrants from the Mainland arriving after China’s opening 06 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 07 COVER STORY

Government museums dedicated to China’s migrant workers glorify their ‘sacrifices’ for the country’s economic development, while a museum operated by workers focusses on their struggles. Geographer Dr Qian Junxi has been exploring the odd phenomenon of migrant worker museums and what they reveal about this group’s place in Chinese society. Migrant workers have long had a poor image in China. When they started to flood into cities in the 1980s and 1990s to fill factory jobs, they were regarded by both urban residents and official state media as uncivil, disorderly and crime-prone and they were deniedhukou permits that allow access to services and housing. This negativity provoked rising labour unrest and other problems of governance of a population that numbered at least 200 million, which led to a softer approach from the government. This century, the government has romanticised migrant workers in the popular media and provided them with cultural recognition through two state-sponsored rural migrant museums that opened in Shenzhen in 2008 and Guangzhou in 2010. Dr Qian Junxi, Assistant Professor of Geography, and his collaborator Dr Eric Florence of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China have been studying the contents of these museums, as well as another founded by migrants. Their findings suggest the state still has a long way to go in depicting the life of migrant workers as they experience it. “At the centre of the state representation is an East Asian Confucian meritocracy where if you contribute to society’s development and to the economic prosperity of our country, then you have earned our respect. This respect is not because you are a citizen, but because you have proven yourself to be economically useful,” Dr Qian said. State’s preferred models The state museums offer two overlapping and interrelated models of migrant workers. One model is docile and industrious and willing to sacrifice himself or herself for the country’s economic development by working for relatively low economic returns. “This is a glorified image of rural migrant labourers and it does not recognise that their labour should be properly rewarded. Because by talking about a noble cause, you don’t need to be concerned about rights and economic returns,” he said. The other model is the self-driven, entrepreneurial worker who achieves economic success. “This type of worker represents the neoliberal mentality that you take responsibility for your own economic well-being and improvement – there is no collective responsibility of the public sector. But only a very small proportion of rural migrants achieve this success. The vast majority suffer from institutional discrimination and inadequate access to Display of permits and certificates needed for working in the city. Replica of a workshop, but now deprived of labour activities and relations. The entrance of the Museum of Migrant Workers in Guangzhou. TWO TAKES ON CHINA’S MIGRANT WORKERS resources and opportunities and protection of rights. So it is very difficult for migrants to follow the template of those successful figures,” Dr Qian said. The state migrant museums also emphasise the state’s generosity and care towards workers. Various levels of government have given them growing access to services and labour protection, and the living conditions in migrant villages have improved. “However, all these piecemeal modifications tend to obfuscate the fact that thehukou system remains, which is the primary source of rural migrants’ marginality,” he said. As a result, strikes, protests and collective resistance persist, as well as a failure by institutions to protect workers’ rights and welfare. Workers’ perspective These issues are not mentioned in the state museums, but they do have a forum in the worker-led Culture and Arts Museum of Migrant Labours that is tucked away in a temporary structure near Beijing’s main airport. Its displays offer a rebuke to statesponsored narratives. For example, while state museums portray residence permit cards as gateways to the future for rural migrants, the Beijing museum presents them as a burden because of the huge effort required to obtain the necessary documentation to qualify for these cards. The Beijing museum also shows how workers are exploited and oppressed, such as the strict restrictions placed on workers’ time and socialising at Foxconn factories, and how employers refuse to provide adequate protection or even medical assistance for labour-related injuries. “The government tends to portray labour as a way for migrants to achieve mobility, but the migrants have feelings of alienation and of being separated from their support network. They feel subjected to the exploitative mechanisms of a capitalistic economy,” he said. Dr Qian and another collaborator, Quan Gao of Newcastle University, UK, have begun looking at how workers cope with this alienation. In Shenzhen, they discovered many migrants attend Christian churches – of nine churches visited by the scholars, more than 80 per cent of the congregations were migrant workers. “They join for two reasons. One is superficial – they find community there and a social support network. A deeper reason is that they borrow from Christian theologies to make sense of their current situation. They tend to think they are not exploited by capitalism and that their suffering is because they are labouring for God, so they want to better themselves to be better behaved, not quarrel too much and obey the rules,” he said. “We expected these churches to be spaces of resistance, but in fact they turn out to be spaces of co-optation.” The government tends to portray labour as a way for migrants to achieve mobility, but the migrants have feelings of alienation and of being separated from their support network. DR QIAN JUNXI 08 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 09 COVER STORY

SPYCAMS AND SNAPSHOTS CAPTURE WORKERS’ LIVES Professor Maggy Lee Shuk-yi has been investigating the experiences of Filipina domestic workers, from the surveillance they are subjected to before and after they leave their country to the objects that bring meaning to their lives. Several million Filipinas work as overseas domestic workers and are an important source of remittances for their families back home. They also contribute to the economy in places like Hong Kong by facilitating dual-career households. But in the process, the migrant workers must navigate constraints and invasive scrutiny both in their home and destination countries, says Professor Maggy Lee Shuk-yi of the Department of Sociology, who has been researching the social impact of migration. Professor Lee has completed several research projects on Filipina migrant domestic workers, including a recent British Academy-funded project on the surveillance of these workers in Hong Kong, conducted with Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Hull. “These workers are subject to a highly elaborate and formalised system of pre-departure monitoring that requires them to go to great lengths and bear significant financial costs to produce a wide range of documents and files before they are able to travel from the Philippines,” she said. The documents range from authenticated birth and marriage certificates, medical certificates, passports and work visas to voter registration cards, National Bureau of Investigation clearance, local police clearance, local government clearance, baptismal certificates, school or college diplomas, attendance certificates from a pre-departure orientation seminar, overseas employer certificates, and more. The monitoring continues, albeit in a different form, when they reach their destination. Hidden ‘nanny cams’ are particularly intrusive. Professor Lee cited one case where a domestic worker was dancing with her new employer’s young daughter when she received a call from the employer, who was suspicious that the child was being shaken. When the child appeared before the camera laughing and smiling, the employer was assured. But the participant was left feeling uneasy. “She knew there were cameras in the home but that was the first time the employer had acknowledged their presence. It made her think more carefully about how her actions appeared on camera,” Professor Lee said. Counterproductive Workers regard this form of watching as counterproductive compared with face-to- face surveillance, she said. “While the use of cameras is often legitimised in terms of preventing harm and ensuring care, it may have precisely the opposite effects in so far as it undermines the trust necessary for care relationships and constrains rather than ensures or enables the attentiveness necessary for good care.” “This kind of monitoring allows employers to not just monitor at a distance, but to interrupt, direct and interfere with their employees’ work in a continuous and unpredictable manner. The camera is both a focal point of conflict and negotiation, and a device for contesting relations of trust,” she said. Separately, Professor Lee has also been part of a research team trying to show that domestic migrant workers are not simply ‘maids to order’. In collaboration with Goldsmiths University and various NGOs, she was co-investigator on a project about Filipina domestic workers in London and Hong Kong that sought to get the workers themselves to contribute to the discussion about the social impact of migration. Sixty subjects participated in the study in which they were interviewed and shared personal stories and photos that reflected their aspirations, investments and everyday concerns. The collected materials were exhibited in Manila, London and Hong Kong in 2018. One participant who had been working in Hong Kong for 26 years shared laminated wallet photos of her children and husband. “In the photos hidden in people’s pockets, children are always small and partners are always young,” Professor Lee said. “This woman left to work long before the days of smartphones and Skype calls, and she missed the sound of her own children growing up. She said the objects reminded her of her bigger dreams for her children to study and have a better life.” Contrasting experiences Others shared photos of meaningful objects such as a manicure set that helps a migrant earn extra money, carpentry tools sent home to a self-employed husband, documents giving title to property in the Philippines, favourite foods from home, and religious mementos. “Through these images and their narratives, we wanted to raise public awareness about the vital work these migrant workers perform and the relation between migration and development,” she said. The two projects provide an interesting contrast to earlier work by Professor Lee on female transnational professionals who migrated to Hong Kong from the 1980s to the 2000s for career reasons, personal preference, or to accompany their husbands. “Unlike migrant domestic workers, these female expatriates are not necessarily compelled to move for economic reasons and their mobility is subject to fewer formal restrictions and less pervasive scrutiny,” she said. “The two contrasting types of migrants have shown me that we need to rethink our narrow conceptions of migration and how private experiences are shaped by wider patterns and conditions of social life.” Canvases painted by Filipina artists who are currently working as domestic workers in Hong Kong and are part of the Guhit Kulay, a Hong Kong-based domestic worker-led art collective. Sample postcards created by migrant workers during the focus group workshops. She knew there were cameras in the home but that was the first time the employer had acknowledged their presence. It made her think more carefully about how her actions appeared on camera. PROFESSOR MAGGY LEE SHUK-YI 10 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 11 COVER STORY

HKU staff and students are spending their weekends at EmpowerU, an initiative to teach domestic workers about health, legal, financial, career and other matters and inform them of their rights. EMPOWERING DOMESTIC WORKERS WITH KNOWLEDGE The first cohort of students from the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project with HKU student ambassadors. The Domestic Worker Empowerment Project kicked off in 2014 with the participation of HKU students. Students being trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and fire safety by Hong Kong’s Fire Services Department. When Dr Michael Manio of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine’s Emergency Medicine Unit arrived in Hong Kong from the Philippines in 2010 to pursue PhD studies here, he was surprised to stumble across large crowds of Filipinas gathering in public places. “I thought they were homeless. In the Philippines you don’t see groups of women sitting out in the street like that,” he said. As he discovered in discussions with the women, this was just their normal day off. Since they are required to live in with their employers, meeting on the street is often the only place they can have privacy with friends. That situation spurred Dr Manio to make a difference. After completing his PhD in 2014, he proposed the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project (DWEP) – re-branded in 2018 as EmpowerU – to equip the workers with knowledge so they can better care for themselves and their employers and improve their lives. “The inspiration came from talking with the domestic workers. They told me they want to upgrade their skills and improve their work, but how can they do that if no one is teaching them? Here at the University, we have a pool of experts and we’ve tailor-made the curriculum for them,” Dr Manio said. Currently, about 1,000 domestic workers gather every weekend for courses taught on campus by HKU academics (about 15 staff from different Faculties are involved), with support from HKU student interns. Expanded offerings The domestic workers pay a small fee to help cover administrative expenses for a one-year certificate programme that covers health and wellness, the law and their rights, business and financial matters such as saving for the future, recycling and other environmental protection measures, and media studies to enhance skills in photography, story-telling and video editing. Participants are also trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and fire safety by Hong Kong’s Fire Services Department, and they learn computer skills. They can also take optional language courses in Cantonese and Japanese. Most importantly, they are connected to a broad network of NGOs, government bodies and other support services that can help them if they encounter difficulties. Dr Manio’s partners in EmpowerU are David Bishop in the Faculty of Business and Economics and Lindsay Ernst in the Faculty of Law, who also both run Migrasia Global Solutions Ltd, a social enterprise incubator focussed on solutions for people who migrate. With their help, the EmpowerU programme has expanded over the past three years to nine courses, secured external donations such as computers and dress suits that the women can wear to class, and crowd-funded nearly HK$40,000. And the domestic workers are not the only ones learning. The founders also hope student interns will have their eyes opened, too. “We want to involve our students because they will become future employers. It’s a chance for them to understand the lives of domestic workers and learn from them,” Dr Manio said. HKU students gain insights, too Lilaine Kapangyarihan, a third-year Bachelor of Social Sciences student and a Filipina, was raised by domestic helpers and concurred. “Before I came to university, I hadn’t thought of their lives very much,” she said. “I came to EmpowerU to understand the culture more and the situation that domestic helpers are in, and maybe try to help them.” Sheleoni Chung Ho-lam, a fourth-year Bachelor of Social Sciences student, was also raised by a domestic helper with whom she formed a special bond. She expressed sympathies for the difficulty helpers face in overcoming culture and communication in a foreign land, and she was impressed by the dynamism and enthusiasm of EmpowerU’s participants. “I’ve never seen a classroom so vibrant. They never fear asking questions and the classes are more like a conversation between the students and lecturers,” she said. Mr Bishop of the Business Faculty sees great potential for EmpowerU. He would like to see it expand to help not only domestic workers in the region but also refugee asylum seekers and others in need, which could be done by recruiting other university partners and setting up online learning platforms. “My hope is that EmpowerU becomes the go-to learning platform for marginalised and disadvantaged populations across Asia,” he said. Dr Manio, meanwhile, continues to work on making the HKU EmpowerU a success. He turned down tenure-track positions at universities in Korea and the Middle East so he could stay in Hong Kong. “It’s a nice community at EmpowerU, like a family,” he said. “When I meet these domestic workers every weekend, I don’t consider it work. There is passion and commitment and I feel I am doing something worthwhile here in Hong Kong.” They told me they want to upgrade their skills and improve their work, but how can they do that if no one is teaching them? Here at the University, we have a pool of experts and we’ve tailor-made the curriculum for them. DR MICHAEL MANIO 12 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 13 COVER STORY

Errors in chromosome separation can result in an abnormal number of chromosomes and lead to diseases such as cancer. Biologists have now discovered that non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) plays a vital role in maintaining chromosome stability. The groundbreaking research, which revealed that centromeric DNA is used as a template to produce a non-protein coding centromeric RNA essential for chromosome stability, was done by Associate Professor Dr Karen Wing Yee Yuen, who heads HKU’s Chromosome Biology Laboratory, and Post-doctoral Fellow Dr Yick Hin Ling, both from the School of Biological Sciences. “During cell division, the cell must distribute its chromosomes equally and accurately to its daughter cells,” said Dr Ling, first author of the work. “Errors occurring in chromosome segregation can result in cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes, called aneuploidy, which is a hallmark of cancers and may also cause spontaneous abortion or birth defects. Therefore, it is important to understand the regulation of cell division. “Centromere is one of the major elements on a chromosome to regulate the movement of the chromosome during cell division. Our research suggests that mis-regulation of cenRNA [centromeric ribonucleic acid] expression causes centromere malfunction, which results in chromosome instability and aneuploidy.” Their discovery has sparked much interest in scientific circles, partly because non-coding RNA produced from the centromere (cenRNA) has really captured scientists’ attention over the last decade. As cenRNA is present in a very small amount, whether it has meaningful biological functions, or it is simply useless, has been a matter of frequent debate. “Our study has two main discoveries,” explained Dr Ling. “First, cenRNA controls the cell division of budding yeast, one of the simplest forms of eukaryotes in the earth. In recent literature, we know that cenRNA also controls the cell division in animals like mice and humans. Therefore, our findings suggest that the action of cenRNA in cell division remains unchanged throughout evolution. “Second, our work showed that the cenRNA level is tightly regulated. Too much or too little cenRNA affects the stability of the chromosome. It is clear that the cells produce only a minute amount of cenRNA for a reason. In future research, we are very interested in studying the mechanism behind this.” Implications for cancer research Recent studies have shown a link between a high level of cenRNA and breast cancer. In mice, breast cancer can be induced by artificial overexpression of cenRNA in the cells of mammary glands. “The mechanism is unclear, but we think that a high cenRNA level will disrupt the normal function of the centromere, causing aneuploidy and driving cancer formation,” said Dr Ling. “Another study indicated that high cenRNA levels may also promote the formation of an extra centromere on the chromosome. When a chromosome contains Dr Yick Hin Ling (left) and Dr Karen Yuen (right) from the School of Biological Sciences show that too many or too little cenRNA [centromeric ribonucleic acid] will result in cell division error. During cell division, all chromosomes (represented by the blue and red ‘X’ shapes), which have been replicated to two identical sister chromatids and held together at the centromere, first align in the centre of the cell through attachments to spindle microtubules (represented by the iron rods). Subsequently, the identical sister chromatids are each pulled to one side of the cell, ensuring equal chromosome segregation. CHROMOSOME STABILITY IN THE BALANCE two centromeres, it will break during cell division, resulting in chromosome fusion, rearrangement and breakage again, common in tumour cells.” The research team now intends to see if cenRNA can be used as a biomarker in disease diagnosis and/or as a target for cancer therapy. Dr Ling said: “Our first step will be to gain a more thorough understanding of the action of cenRNA spatially and temporally, and how the cenRNA expression is mis-regulated, causing chromosome instability, aneuploidy, and eventually cancer.“ Path to discovery The Chromosome Biology Laboratory began focussing on the regulation of the centromere in 2011 under Dr Yuen’s stewardship. When Dr Ling joined the laboratory in 2013, they began to investigate how cenRNA regulates the yeast centromere. During her PhD, Dr Yuen identified hundreds of genes that would cause chromosome instability in yeast. These genes included human gene homologs with relevance to cancer. “We are excited to see multiple genes that cause cenRNA mis-regulation. We may be able to find a cenRNA-related mechanism that underlines cancer development,” she said. “In humans, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes, and yeast has 16. So in the project, we are actually dealing with 16 different species of cenRNAs. We tried to deplete one particular species of cenRNAs to see what happened to the chromosome from which the cenRNA originated. We found that the chromosome is perfectly fine. That was the moment that we both thought that cenRNA was useless.” Fortunately, however, they did not stop there: Dr Ling spent a year doing complicated yeast genetics to deplete all 16 species of cenRNAs. “We found that the chromosome is unstable only when we manipulate all the cenRNA species,” he said. “We also found a sweet spot of cenRNA level for a chromosome to function normally. Both too much and too little cenRNA are detrimental.” Baker’s yeast, or budding yeast shares 23 per cent of human genes, meaning that yeast is an excellent model organism for studying basic biological processes in which yeast and humans shared, such as cell division and DNA replication. “Yeasts are fast and easy to grow, and we can manipulate their DNAs quite easily, which allows us to do experiments that are difficult to do in humans or mammalians,” said Dr Ling. “We often get our first understanding of fundamental conserved human cell processes via experiments on yeast.” Dr Yuen added: “With simple model organisms like yeast, you can find out the most basic mechanism of how eukaryotic cells work, accurately and efficiently. We can learn a lot about ourselves from these single-cell organisms, with our creativity and imagination in experimental design. “What comes next is that we’ll visualise the localisation dynamics of such cenRNA in live cells within their two-hour cell cycle, and understand their functions using different ‘guilt by association’ approaches.” We are excited to see multiple genes that cause cenRNA [centromeric ribonucleic acid] mis-regulation. We may be able to find a cenRNArelated mechanism that underlines cancer development. DR KAREN YUEN 14 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 15 RESEARCH

American conceptual artist Lowell Darling is practised in the art of bending (but not breaking) rules to the point of absurdity. Faced with onerous demands by US tax authorities to prove he was a ‘for-profit’ artist and not a hobbyist, in order to claim some US$800 in expenses, Darling turned the challenge into a project. He established the fictional Fat City School of Finds Arts and handed out thousands of free MFA and PhD degrees; and he transformed the documentation of his art practice (business records, correspondence, project ideas) into a marketable portfolio – a copy of which is in the special collections division of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Darling also challenged the political system by running for California governor in 1978 on the platform ‘The Inevitable Campaign Slogans and Promises’. His campaign featured a large stuffed hand on a stick (a ‘glad hand’) for shaking people’s hands and an admission that he was selling out to special interests, a proposal to replace taxes with good luck, and an announcement that he would appoint the incumbent candidate Jerry Brown as the governor. Such acts of ‘uncivil obedience’ are the focus of ongoing research by Dr Monica Lee Steinberg, Assistant Professor of American Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. She has been trawling through archives to uncover work by contemporary artists, like Darling, who engage in what she describes as “contentious compliance to expose the flaws of a system”. Unlike civil disobedience, uncivil obedience has received scant attention from fine arts scholars. “Artists like Lowell Darling are taking the letter of the law and looking at how they can work within it while also protesting certain aspects they disagree with,” she said. “US tax law is dense and complicated, and it has always been a point of difficulty for artists to demonstrate they are working ‘for-profit’ and thus eligible to take a deduction for expenses related to their practice. Darling fulfilled, in an unexpected way, the requisite for-profit Protest movements are often associated with civil disobedience. But some protesters pursue ‘uncivil obedience’ – adhering to the rules in such an exaggerated and literal way that it becomes subversive. Art historian Dr Monica Lee Steinberg has been exploring this phenomenon and other ways that artists interact with the law. THE ART OF BENDING THE LAW factors considered by the Inland Revenue Service. He also deconstructed not only a political campaign but the ludicrous things that are very common to campaigning.” Staying within the lines Intellectual property rights are another area that has been the target of artistic uncivil obedience. One well-publicised case was the 2011 project Face to Facebook. Artists Alessandro Ludovico and Paolo Cirio used 250,000 public profiles on Facebook to create a fake dating website, which they uploaded then shut down quickly afterwards. They assiduously documented the ensuing repercussions, which included a letter from Facebook’s legal team that focussed not on privacy violations, but on the artists’ trademark infringement. “What becomes clear in a very public way is that, in the United States, there is little privacy protection for users of social media sites. But Facebook can galvanise intellectual property protections if and when others use the word ‘Facebook’,” she said. “The artists were very careful to stay within the lines of certain laws to highlight a discrepancy between privacy and intellectual property protections.” Dr Steinberg’s interest in uncivil obedience traces back to an earlier project about contemporary artists who create works using fake names. Some, such as Lynn Hershman Leeson and Bruce Conner, even signed contracts using their fictional characters’ names. “I kept thinking, are these contracts even valid? It led me toward the question of what happens at the intersection of art and law from a humanities perspective, which is an understudied area. That’s when I started looking at all these artists who were using law as a medium of expression and found an entire body of work,” she said. In addition to the art of uncivil obedience, Dr Steinberg has also started studying ‘true crime’ representations in art. For example, Mark Lombardi created hand-drawn infographics and diagrams to creatively trace fraud and abuses of power, such as a work illustrating the business connections between former US President George W Bush and Osama bin Laden from 1979 to 1990. Lowell Darling, Elect Darling Governor, 1978. Button pins, diameter: 1¾ in. (4.4 cm), Lowell Darling Papers, box 2, Santa Monica Art Studios, Santa Monica, California. Photograph by Sabine Pearlman. © Lowell Darling Mixed media installation at Public Private exhibition 2013 at Kellen Gallery of The New School, New York. (Courtesy of Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico) As with uncivil obedience, Dr Steinberg’s interest in true crime in art leans towards artworks about taxes, particularly given the labyrinthine nature of US tax law. In fact, she is finding that such complexity abets artistic expression. “The norms that underpin how we apply policies, mandates, and laws are not written down, so the more rules there are on the books, the more opportunities there are to explore those rules in an unexpected and hyperbolic way,” she said. Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico initiated theFace to Facebookproject in which a custom-made software was used to steal one million public profiles from Facebook, filtering them with artificial intelligence for face-recognition software and posting the resulting 250,000 profiles on a dating website. (Courtesy of Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico) The norms that underpin how we apply policies, mandates, and laws are not written down, so the more rules there are on the books, the more opportunities there are to explore those rules in an unexpected and hyperbolic way. DR MONICA LEE STEINBERG 16 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 17 RESEARCH

Public health studies are valuable for understanding population profiles and spotting emerging trends. But in order to be useful, there needs to be quality data – and lots of it. That takes both money and laborious collection work. Fortunately, HKU’s School of Public Health has had admirable success in securing resources for this work that will have benefits for generations to come. The School works on cohort studies that involve thousands of people and use scientific methods to collect and analyse the data. One of their most striking projects has been the Family Cohort Study, conducted as part of a HK$250 million project on health, happiness and family harmony that was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. Half the money was used to collect baseline data from 20,000 households for the cohort study (the other half went to action programmes and participatory research with the community). More than 100 researchers and staff paid two visits to the households between 2009 and 2013. Each member of the household was interviewed using an array of validated questionnaires and each interview took at least one hour. The researchers also brought validated measuring tools to take biometric data such as height and weight. “It was like doing a census,” said Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine and Helen and Francis Zimmern Professor in Population Health, who leads the Family Cohort Study with Dr Michael Ni, Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Health. The Jockey Club funding ended in 2013, but since then the scholars have secured research grants and other funds to continue to monitor this population through telephone surveys. While much of the data is still being teased apart and subject to peer review, they recently identified a trend that was alarming enough for them to go to the media with the results, given the public health implications. Depression trend Their surveys found that the recent anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong coincided with a sharp increase in mental health problems: 9.1 per cent of respondents reported symptoms of probable depression and 4.6 per cent of suicide ideation (in fact, several suicides have been linked to the movement). This increase was significantly higher than the baseline established in 2011, when probable depression was 1.3 per cent among respondents and suicide ideation 1.1 per cent. During 2014’s Occupy Central movement, the figures rose to 5.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively. “When we saw the recent results, we felt a duty to alert society. We truly have a mental health epidemic when one in 10 people are affected,” said Professor Leung. “And they The Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine’s cohort studies, involving tens of thousands of subjects, help scientists understand health and well-being in people’s daily lives. The work also recently flagged the harmful impact on mental health from social movements, such as the recent anti-extradition bill protests. STREET-LEVEL STUDIES TAKE THE PULSE OF HONG KONG were affected regardless of whether they participated in the protests or were part of more aggressive groups, or perhaps took no side. The prevalence of probable depression was higher among both men and women and, most importantly, in all ages above 20 years old. “The surprising thing is that older folks were the most affected, especially those who were less educated, less financially well-off, and men generally. Is this because they are not venting their feelings, or worrying about younger family members? Is it because they have witnessed possible consequences of such large social movements in their own lifetime? We don’t know. All we can do as scientists is to assess, document and report in an open, transparent, robust and dispassionate manner.” ‘In vivo, in situ, in daily life’ Professor Leung also noted that while family conflicts diminished after Occupy Central, symptoms of probable depression continued to increase, affecting 6.1 per cent of respondents in a follow-up survey in 2017. The team is continuing to conduct additional waves of surveys to track the ongoing effects of the recent social movement for their academic research. Professor Leung said these findings illustrate the importance of cohort studies in identifying problems “in vivo, in situ, as people live their lives in their natural environment.” He also leads the ‘Children of 1997’ Birth Cohort Study, tracking 9,000 children born in April and May of that year. He is involved at various levels in the Department of Health The Family Cohort Study research team – (from left) Dr Chang Wing-chung, Clinical Associate Professor of the Department of Psychiatry; Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine and Chair Professor of Public Health Medicine; and Dr Michael Ni, Clinical Assistant Professor of the School of Public Health. Professor Gabriel Leung leads the ‘Children of 1997’ Birth Cohort Study, tracking 9,000 children born in April and May of that year. A party for the participants was held in 2018 to celebrate their 21st birthday. Elderly Health Service Cohort tracking routine health data from 150,000 participants, the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study tracking 30,000 participants aged 55 and over, and the new Born in Guangzhou Cohort Study which aims to recruit 100,000 participants. “Unlike laboratory experiments, the beauty and the headache at once of population research is you cannot control for extraneous factors nearly as well,” he said. “My job is to record observations which you will not see in the laboratory unless you’re looking for them, and to explain the inexplicable so bench scientists can work out the precise mechanisms. The results are real and directly applicable, and they have the greatest impact because they concern saving lives, millions at a time.” When we saw the recent results, we felt a duty to alert society. We truly have a mental health epidemic when one in 10 people are affected. PROFESSOR GABRIEL LEUNG Professor Leung’s portrait by Pan Shiyi Photography 18 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019 19 RESEARCH

A new study reveals that Hong Kong has unwittingly become a strategic hub for the illegal wildlife trade and is contributing to the extinction of many threatened species. Its authors are calling on the government to introduce much stricter legislation – and fast. HONG KONG’S ROLE IN WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING EXPOSED It is perhaps no surprise then that the study found the situation is worsening. Between 2013 and 2017, customs officers seized over HK$560 million in trafficked wildlife, including over 20 metric tonnes of ivory, 43 metric tonnes of pangolin (scales and carcasses), 1,366 metric tonnes of illegal wood and 27 metric tonnes of other endangered species (mainly reptiles). “Those quantities are conservatively estimated to equate to the deaths of over 3,000 elephants, 51 rhinos and 65,000 pangolins,” said Ms Whitfort. “Depending which pangolin species are targeted, (the species vary greatly in maximum size), between 345 and 2,777 animals must be killed to produce one tonne of scales.” Pangolin has become the most trafficked mammal in the world, with around 300 being poached every day. All eight species of pangolin (four Asian and four African) were listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016. Low risk, high profit The low risk of detection and high profit have made the trafficking industry attractive to transnational criminal syndicates who oversee supply to growing markets in Asia. The study cites one case where a person was found guilty of smuggling three pieces of rhino horn into Hong Kong in a chocolate box. The horn was worth more than HK$500,000, yet the man was given a sentence of just four weeks in prison. “This reflects the increasing profit to be made from wildlife smuggling,” said Ms Whitfort. “A vicious circle has been created. As endangered species become rarer, their value on the black market rises, fuelling poaching and driving species closer to extinction. Gram for gram, rhino horn is now more valuable than platinum, and certainly easier to smuggle than drugs, which explains why organised crime is involved.” The contraband is smuggled into Hong Kong via multiple points, with some coming through Hong Kong International Airport – often brought in by ‘mules’ paid by the syndicates – or hidden inside parcels and air consignments. The majority though arrive by sea, smuggled aboard containers. Trading in Extinctionmakes the case that if wildlife crime is to be addressed properly, Hong Kong, as a strategic hub, urgently needs to implement an enhanced enforcement strategy. At present, the study says, Hong Kong courts provide little deterrent. Despite the high value of the trafficked goods, the ecological, social and financial impact of the crimes, the high cost of after care and the suffering of the animals, of 165 prosecutions reviewed between 2013 and 2017, penalties ranged from fines of HK$1,500 to HK$180,000 and from 160 hours community service to eight months in custody – much lower than the maximum penalties permitted. The government has made some moves in the right direction – announcing in 2016 that it would take legislative steps to ban Hong Kong’s domestic ivory trade and in 2018 introducing heavier penalties for the smuggling and illegal trade of endangered species. However, as the study says, this is unlikely to be enough. Ms Whitfort said: “The legislature must go further if Hong Kong is to effectively deter the transnational criminal networks from funding extinction. Wildlife crime is a high profit, organised crime activity. The Hong Kong Government has a responsibility to the international community to counter the city’s role as a key transit point for illegal trade in endangered species by including wildlife crimes in our Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.” Photographers against wildlife crime™ are an international group of award winning photographers who have joined forces to use their powerful and iconic images to help bring an end to the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetime. The group collaborates with writers and journalists worldwide. For details, please visit: Hong Kong’s illegal wildlife trade is increasing in volume, underestimated in value and contributing significantly to the global extinction crisis. These are the conclusions of a recent study co-authored by Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG) and Ms Amanda Whitfort, Associate Professor in HKU’s Faculty of Law. Entitled Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade, the study condemns Hong Kong for playing a central role in such trafficking and reveals the extent of the problem, how this illicit industry works and how the government is failing in its duty to end organised trafficking and thereby endangering rare species further. The crux of the problem, said Ms Whitfort, is that policing of the animal smuggling industry is under-resourced. “Wildlife trafficking is now regarded as the fourth most lucrative black market in the world, after drugs, people and arms, with the annual sums involved globally as high as US$23 billion (HK$179 billion),” she said. Hong Kong’s geographic location, free trade policy and logistical convenience as a gateway to China have meant it has become a hub for illegal wildlife trade, supplying growing demand for wildlife and wildlife products across Asia and particularly in China. “Yet, under Hong Kong law, wildlife smuggling is not included in the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance [OSCO],” said Ms Whitfort, ”which means the authorities do not have the power to prosecute effectively the syndicates and networks that take advantage of Hong Kong’s position as a major trading port.” Sedated and blindfolded, this white rhino was transported from South Africa for release in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, as part of an initiative to restore rhino populations to that country. (Courtesy of Neil Aldridge ©Photographers against wildlife crime™) Two founding members of the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group – Professor Yvonne Sadovy (left) and Ms Amanda Whitfort (right). Gram for gram, rhino horn is now more valuable than platinum, and certainly easier to smuggle than drugs, which explains why organised crime is involved. MS AMANDA WHITFORT 21 RESEARCH 20 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2019