2021 DSE English Writing Question 7 (Sample)

7. Learning English through Short Stories

You are joining a short story contest organized by a book shop.

  • Write a scary story about a security guard on duty one night,
  • Use the pictures to help you write your story. You can use the pictures in any order.

An Unforgettable Death

Five years before Bob’s retirement, financial crisis broke out and hit the economy very hard. Bob was sacked by his company where he had worked for his whole life. He was devastated because he still had to pay for the rent of his flat and the university tuition fees of his only son. While the job market was very bleak, to his surprise, Bob saw a job advertisement in the newspaper. It read, “A Brave Security Guard Wanted. Guaranteed Good Pay”. Without doubt, Bob immediately applied for the job and had a telephone interview with the security manager. “Do you mind working night shift?” The manager inquired. “No, indeed. Not at all.” Bob replied firmly. “That’s great. You got the job. If anything does happen, just take it easy.” Bob was very grateful.

On his first day of work, Bob found out that it was a top rank high-rise office building that he had to report duty as a security guard. To his amazement, the building had the state-of-the-art security system to detect any unauthorized intrusion and monitor all the entry and exit. The job looked easy and it seemed that the only drawback was that Bob had to do the night shift. At midnight, Bob checked the record system and was pleased that everyone in the building had checked out and left. As soon as Bob started to patrol the building to make sure that he was right, he saw a lady-like shadow walking slowly in the corridor on the 11th floor on the CCTV monitor screen. Suddenly, the alarm bell on the 11th floor set off. Bob immediately went to see what happened. 

When he reached the 11th floor, the alarm bell stopped ringing. It was completely silent. But the office light was going on and off. Bob unlocked the office entrance and entered. Upon entry, he felt a cold breeze blowing against his cheek. He turned left into the office area and saw a long hair lady in a red dress typing very fast with her back to Bob. Bob cleared his throat and said, “Excuse me, Madam, are you the employee of this company?” “Yes.” The lady answered, typing even faster. “Sorry. I would like to have an identity check. Could you show me your company pass?” Bob asked. The lady slowly turned her head around. She did not have five sense organs and her face was covered with dripping blood. Bob let out a cry and fainted. 

The next morning, Bob’s manager came to wake him up. “How are you? Are you alright?” Bob came to his consciousness and screamed. “What happened?” The manager asked with a grin. Bob was so scared that he immediately quit his job.

When Bob arrived home, he went online and searched for the old news about the office building. About a decade ago, a top university student who freshly graduated with distinction worked there for one of the most famous marketing company. Six months later, she jumped to her death from this building. She had left a suicide note and revealed that she committed suicide because of overworking and insistent mental abuse by her manager. Back then, she was only a 21-year-old orphan. 

2021 DSE English Writing Question 6 (Sample)

6. Learning English through Popular Culture

You took part in a social media challenge called ‘The 21-day Gratitude Challenge’. For three weeks, you kept a journal about the things you were thankful for on a daily basis. After completing the challenge, participants are invited to share their experience on the 21-day Gratitude Challenge website. Write a blog post.

  • Explain why you accepted this challenge and what you hoped to achieve. 
  • Reflect on the 21 days and whether taking on this challenge has changed you in any way. 

Gratitude Makes Your Day

This year, the social media platform Instagram had held a local event called ‘The 21-day Gratitude Challenge’. When the event first came out, it swept through Hong Kong city. Hong Kong people were enthusiastic about participating in the challenge because they wanted to create and promote a culture of positivity and gratitude towards their fellow citizens. As one of the Hong Kong citizens, I would also like to take on the challenge to express my deepest gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives and contributed to the city and spread a message of hope around the city.  I hope that, by doing so, more teenagers can be encouraged to choose a positive attitude towards their lives and feel grateful for the good things they are still having in the city.

In the 21 days, I would like to express my gratitude to my fellow Hong Kong citizens and return their goodness by showing kindness, appreciation and support to them. For the first few days, I dedicated a handmade gift to my parents and gave a big hug to my siblings to express my thankfulness to them for giving me life and bringing me up with love and tolerance. The next few days, I went on to thank my friends for always being there for me in spite of my many weaknesses and character flaws by sending them a heartfelt thank-you note, offering them a treat, saying encouragement words to them and keeping them company. 

For the following few days, I expressed my appreciation and gratitude to the community helpers, who are doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, musicians, artists, firemen, social workers, counsellors, postmen, construction workers, bus drivers, hairdressers, trash collectors, for their sacrifices and contributions to Hong Kong city, by giving a compliment to them and showing my admiration for their efforts. What’s more, I went to local shops and eateries and bought some local products to show my thankfulness and support to small local businesses such as café, bookshops, hawkers, groceries stores, street food stalls, wet-market stalls and so on because along with the community helpers, they make our lives easier and better and also promote our well-being. 

In the last few days, I expressed my gratitude to all the people above and returned their goodness by giving back to the underprivileged and disadvantaged in the Hong Kong society. I donated and gave second-hand books and clothes to the charity organisations. Then, I made and wrote encouragement cards to the children in the orphanage. On another day, I volunteered to help children from the grassroots family with their homework, followed by taking a meal to a homeless person.

Having successfully completed “The 21-day Gratitude Challenge”, I have found myself humbled by the gratitude that I expressed day by day. I am able to appreciate the others as well as the surroundings because I have come to the realisation that the contributions and sacrifices made by others should not be taken for granted.  Showing gratitude helps me look at the good and bright side instead of the bad and dark side even in times of adversity. Therefore, I have become a more resilient and contented person instead of a negative and grumpy one. 

2018 DSE English Writing Question 9 (Sample)

9. Learning English through Short Stories

Imagine you are a pet bird in a cage. One day your owner left your bird cage open.

Write a story from the bird’s point of view.

Brave New World

As far as I could remember, I had always been in a cage since my birth. When I was two years old, Mr. and Mrs. Jones adopted me as their pet bird because they thought I could sing well. The Joneses were a good old couple who did not have children. Every morning, they would go to the Chinese restaurant in the neighbourhood, tasting their favourite Jasmine tea and eating dim sum. They would bring me along and show me off to their friends who applauded my charming songs. The couple would be very delighted and I would be very proud of myself. I was then fed with delicious food as a compliment. I was living a comfortable and happy life.

One day, Mr. Jones passed away. Mrs. Jones was full of sorrow and sadness. I couldn’t sing either. “My dear songbird, one day not far from now, I will be gone too and no one is going to look after you. It is time for you to learn to stand on your own feet and fend for yourself,” sighed Mrs. Jones. Then she left the cage wide open. I was too afraid of the outside world to leave the cage which had been my home ever since my birth! I didn’t even know how to fly, not to mention how to live on my own. But on second thought, I came to my senses, “Mrs. Jones is right. One day, I will have to leave this comfort zone and will be all by myself.” Plucking up my courage, I flipped my wings, ready to brave the storm in the whole new world. After several failed attempts, I finally took off and began a flight. I flew against the strong wind in search of a natural habitat where I could feed and rest myself. However, along the way, there were so many high-rise buildings ahead of me that I was flying in a precarious position and almost lost my balance. Suddenly, a large eagle swooped past me and knocked me down. I fell 50 metres down, nearly hit the ground and got injured. Luckily, a sparrow came to my rescue and I survived the fall. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know that it is the territory of the big brother eagle? You would have died! Where is your home?” The sparrow asked me. “I am homeless now. My owner has just abandoned me. I have nowhere to go.” Hearing what I said, the sparrow led me away from all the skyscrapers, up into the wide-open sky and towards the North. “This was the farthest distance I had ever flown!” I thought. “Now, here we are! Mai Po Nature Reserve. This is the homeland and haven for many different kinds of birds and species. We live together in harmony and happiness. Don’t worry. You will have sufficient food to eat here. We all live off the wetland, the grasses and the trees around. Let me introduce you to all my friends.” said the sparrow. 

“Hello, everyone, I am songbird. I was born to be a pet bird living in a cage. My owner has just abandoned me and I have to find a new home. Would you please allow me to stay here?” I pleaded. All the species shook their head and were shocked to hear that I was a pet bird and spent almost all my life in a cage. “Poor you! You must have been much deprived. We will teach you how to be a real bird. Welcome to our family!” said a seabird. 

Each passing day, I was taught how to fly without crashing against the others, how to use my beak to catch small insects for food and most of all, how to enjoy the natural environment. I still sang. But I no longer sang for those who took me for a toy. I now sang for all the spectators who came to appreciate bird-flying and the nature. I had never felt this bliss of freedom and happiness. I was terribly mistaken that a comfortable life in a bird cage was what I wanted. Life with freedom was much more satisfying indeed.

2016 DSE English Writing Question 6 (Sample)

Learning English through Short Stories

One of the planned activities for the Creative Writing Week at your school is a short story writing competition. The theme for this year’s competition is ‘revenge is sweet’. 

Write your story.

Revenge is sweet

Bill, Jim, Beatrice and Jill were a group of big bullies in high school. No one dared to oppose them when they chose to pick on somebody. This time, their target was Sally, a newcomer to the class. Sally was an immigrant, coming from a poor family background. As Sally was not very well-versed in their language, she was quiet and shy. Having no friend in the class, she was always alone. 

Seeing that Sally was defenseless, they were fond of gossiping about her every day. They made fun of her look, her appearance, her clothes, her shy and timid personality. They picked on her whenever there was a chance. 

“Look! She is reading a book! Such a nerd she is,” ridiculed Jim.

“She is living in her own world with lofty thoughts. She is so exceptionally unlike us,” said Beatrice and Jill, giggling with contemptuous eyes. 

“Look at her dirty dress! I wonder where she gets it from!” said Bill mockingly.

Sally overheard what they said and felt intimidated. She hid away at the corner of the class, still looking down on her book.

“Well, let us teach her a lesson, shall we?” Jim suggested.

As soon as Sally went to the washroom, the group took her books from her school bag, tore and ripped the books off and then threw them all into the rubbish bin. When Sally came back to her seat, she found that her books had gone missing. She was both very angry and scared. She went everywhere to look for her books. Finally, she ended up getting back all her shattered and broken pieces of books from the rubbish bin. The group burst into laughter and shouted loudly, “What a pity!”

When Sally got home, her father found out what happened to her daughter. “Maybe it is time I should teach you some martial arts to protect yourself,” said the veteran martial arts master. 

Hardly a month had passed without tricks being played by the group on Sally. This time, the group ran into Sally outside McDonald’s in the district when she was walking out eating an ice-cream. The group stared at her hard and directly challenged Sally to a fight. Jim extended his leg in order to trip her but Sally immediately jumped up and stamped on his feet. Jim was furious and the group was curious of and astonished at how quick Sally was. Then as Bill swiftly moved forward in an attempt to strike her down, Sally was fast enough to grab him and throw him on the ground. They were so scared that they immediately ran away. Smiling in triumph, Sally thought to herself, “The ice-cream couldn’t be sweeter.” After this day, the group no longer bullied Sally any more. 

2016 DSE English Writing Question 9 (Sample)

Learning English through Drama 

As a Form Six student, you are considering educational opportunities after your HKDSE. One option you have selected is the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, as you want to take up an acting career. However, your parents would like you to pursue an academic subject at another institution. 

As the deadline for submitting the application is approaching, write an email to your parents, who are now on an overseas trip, to convince them to support your choice.

Dear Mum and Dad, 

How is your vacation? I hope you enjoy your trip in Scotland. Last time, we had a conversation about my future education. I expressed my wish to study acting at HKAPA. But you objected to my plan and advised me to study medicine at the University of Hong Kong instead. As the deadline for submitting the application to the education institutions is due next week, I would like to reiterate my decision to further my study at HKAPA.

I understand that you are both worried about the stability of the acting career. You said that the acting opportunities are much smaller now than the past because the television and film industry in Hong Kong is dwindling and the competition for the major actress role is unprecedentedly huge. However, times have changed. Unlike the late 20th century when Hong Kong television dramas and soap operas are mainly made and produced by the only TV channel TVB, with the rapid advancement of technology, there are now many worldwide platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Streaming where drama series and films are shown. It means that the entertainment market is still bustling and vibrant. It is possible that Hong Kong drama series and films can gain entry into these global platforms in the near future. Moreover, I intend to take a minor in directing at HKAPA and equip myself with filmmaking, directing and screenwriting skills so that I can make my own short films or short videos at a very low cost and then sell the productions to the producers. With both directing and acting skills, I believe that I am able to develop an amazing career path in the creative industry.  

Dad, I remember you once told me that your parents objected to your plan of becoming a journalist when you were young in light of the inappropriate proportion between salary and workload along with the uncertain political environment in the future. However, you insisted on going to study journalism at the university to follow your dream just because you have strong passion for telling stories. Despite the tough working environment and heavy workload, you have never given up on your dream and keeps reporting important news and covering influential articles in the newspaper industry. Your passion is what keeps you striding forward and conquers.

Do you know I am so proud of you? A persistent and successful Hong Kong journalist. You have set an excellent example for me to pursue my own passion and dream regardless of the difficulties along the way. Haven’t you taught me not to be afraid of obstacles but to have courage to overcome them? My strong passion for acting together with my endeavors will definitely lead me to success in the future.

Do you still remember that I won the best actress in the drama competition in the Hong Kong School Drama Festival two years ago? Isn’t it a proof that I have a real talent in acting? I really hope that I can follow my dream and become what I want to be, just like you Dad.


Your daughter Amy 

2016 DSE English Writing Question 3 (Sample)

Learning English through Workplace Communication

Many Hong Kong graduates complain about the lack of employment opportunities in the city. It has been suggested that graduates who fail to find a job in Hong Kong could look for opportunities in other cities in Asia. Do you support this suggestion?

  • Write an article for your school magazine expressing your views.
  • Give three reasons to support your views. Provide an appropriate title for your article.

Alternative workplace in other Asian cities

In recent years, the unemployment problem of Hong Kong graduates has raised concern in our society. Many Hong Kong graduates complain about the lack of employment opportunities in the city. It is suggested that they could look for jobs in other cities in Asia. In my opinion, it is advisable for them to go to other cities in Asia to look for opportunities. I will explain my perspective in the following arguments.

To start with, working in other Asian cities can help graduates broaden their horizons, gain international perspective and exposure. They can get a hands-on experience about different Asian business cultures and markets. It can deepen their sense and knowledge of how to do business with people from different ethnical and cultural background. Having such an exposure and insight is definitely a competitive edge and attracts decent job opportunities in multinational corporations in Hong Kong as well as in other Asian cities. 

What’s more, we should note that other cities in Asia provide legal ways for Hong Kong graduates who are bored with Hong Kong lifestyle and look for exotic and fascinating working experience. As we all know, they can simply apply for a work visa by taking part in working holiday scheme offered by other countries in Asia such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore to work in their cities. At the same time, Hong Kong teenagers like a fun lifestyle. Some graduates said that working holiday is just like traveling because they can explore and enjoy the culture and lifestyle there when they get off work. Therefore, if Hong Kong graduates want to work hard and play hard, working in other Asian cities is a good choice for them.

In addition, it is worth noting that the culture of other Asian cities is, to a certain extent, similar to that of Hong Kong. As Hong Kong is a culturally diverse city, Hong Kong graduates will find themselves easy to integrate into the culture and lifestyle of these Asian cities. For example, as the people in Singapore and Malaysia speak in English, our Hong Kong graduates who have a good command of English can communicate with them with ease. Hence, they can work in these Asian cities without much difficulty.

In conclusion, it is a good suggestion for Hong Kong graduates to work in other Asian cities to tackle their unemployment problem in Hong Kong. I hope that they would consider the alternative option available.

2016 DSE English Writing Question 8 (Sample)

Learning English through Poems and Songs

A famous songwriter once said, ‘Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power.’

How important is it for you to acknowledge the challenges we face and find ways to cope with them? Write an essay explaining your opinion with relevant examples from your personal experience.

Growing Pains: Break out of the Cage of Fear

There is no denying that we are all faced with different kinds of difficulties and challenges in our life no matter how old we are. It is especially true in the time of adolescence, when teenagers begin to be exposed to challenging circumstances and problems like demanding schoolwork, peer pressure, competition with peers, bullying, stress, to name a few. And, most teenagers are inexperienced in dealing with problems. Many of them would rather avoid or escape from problems without acknowledging their existence because of their inner fear and lack of courage. They are afraid of facing the harsh reality as it might be too daunting and painful. However, I think it is important for us to take up the courage to acknowledge the existence of challenges and find ways to cope with them so that we will grow out of our innocence and become a mature and responsible adult.

When we acknowledge the challenges we face, we begin a journey of knowing about ourselves such as our personality, our strengths and weaknesses, our potential talent so that we will understand ourselves more and live a more fulfilling life. For example, when I was at junior secondary two, I was afraid of disagreeing with others and offending others. I dare not speak my mind even though my real thoughts are different from others. Instead of pretending to follow and agree with others, I would keep my mouth shut and refuse to communicate with others. As a result, silence became my friend and I was isolated by my peers.  As soon as I felt rejected and isolated, I could no longer hide away my own problem. I came to understand my timid and shy personality prevented me from getting along with my peers. Then I started to reconnect with and be open to them about my real thoughts. Surprisingly, they accepted and respected my different opinions. Our friendship was thus established. If I had not been bold enough to face my inner fear and find a solution to my problem, I would not have made any friends and improved my interpersonal and communication skill.  

When we acknowledge the challenges we face, we will learn to face success and failure with a proper attitude and develop a healthy outlook towards life. For instance, when I was at senior secondary five, I got very bad grades in my academic performance and became the last in my class position. I became socially withdrawn from other aspects of life like having fun or playing sports with my friends as I was afraid they would find out my poor academic results and would laugh at me. I skipped school and stayed at home to avoid facing my academic failure. However, after several days of absence from school, I decided to talk to our school’s social worker about my problem. She helped me figure out that failure is just part of our learning process and academic result is not the whole of my life and that, there is still hope that I can do better next time if I do not give up. Suddenly, I realize that it is not the end of my life and there is still a long way to go ahead of me. If I had not learnt to face my fear of failure, I would not have stood any chance of achieving success.

Facing life challenges is like a butterfly struggling to break out of its cocoon. Once, you acknowledge your problems, struggle with them and try to sort out them, a beautiful you will soon come out and become a wonderful person just like a beautiful butterfly.

2017 DSE English Writing Question 9 (Sample)

Learning English through Workplace Communication

It has recently been claimed that in the workplace many Hong Kong fresh university graduates are less hardworking and less willing to face challenges compared to those in the past.

You strongly disagree with this opinion. Write a letter to the editor of Hong Kong Daily disagreeing with this opinion. Support your views with three reasons and /or examples.   

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my disagreement with the recent saying that Hong Kong fresh university graduates are less hardworking and less willing to face challenges in the workplace than those in the past. The opinion is simply lame. Times have changed. Nowadays, Hong Kong fresh university graduates face tough and unfavourable circumstances which means that they have to pay extra efforts at work in return for lower salaries.  By giving three reasons below, I will prove the opinion wrong and unfair. 

Nowadays, in this age of globalization, one of the severe challenges facing fresh graduates is that they have to compete with international counterparts upon entering the workforce. Gone are the days when a university degree was a guarantee to a decent and stable job with high salary. With the increase in the number of universities in Hong Kong, more local university graduates are churned out. They have to work harder and compete with a larger pool of local graduates than those in the past. Despite keen competition among local graduates, Hong Kong university graduates also have to compete with overseas graduates who are favored by the employers because of their fluent English and international exposure. Moreover, after Hong Kong’s handover to China, mainland graduates are preferred by the employers because of their fluent Mandarin and understanding of Chinese business culture. Local graduates pale in comparison with mainland and overseas graduates. Unlike their predecessors, faced with tough and fierce competition, they have to work much harder and learn more skills in order to stay afloat in the workplace.  

In this digital era and social media age, fresh graduates are willing to face the challenge posed by the advancement of technology. They are versatile and able to adapt to the ever-changing pace and demand of the workplace. For example, my friend Sarah, a fresh graduate who is now an office worker, has to know how to use mobile apps like Deliveroo and Foodpanda to order food delivery on time for her bosses and colleagues whenever there is a pop-up lunch meeting. Also, she has to know how to use mobile payment service like PayMe or ApplePay to collect lunch payment from her colleagues. Moreover, they are adept at learning new skills such as building websites, vlogging, making short films and live-streaming videos, marketing and advertising products and services via Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, online teaching via Zoom or Google Meet, using Fintech and so on. These tech skills are highly sought after in the job market. Isn’t it a strong proof that fresh graduates are willing to adapt to the changing demand of the workplace?

In this global era, as business goes international, fresh graduates are required to work long hours and even around the clock to meet their clients’ needs. For example, my friend Cara, a fresh graduate who now works at a multinational corporation, has to work late into the night to make deals with her client on the other side of the world and return early the next morning to report to her boss the progress of her work. Another example is that my friend Joey, a fresh graduate who works at a leading advertising agency, has to work 120 hours’ overtime in a month due to heavy workload. In contrast to the claim, this is a convincing evidence that they are just as diligent as their predecessors.

In the 21st century, expectations placed on fresh graduates are much higher since the workplace has become more demanding and competitive than that in the past. The claim that Hong Kong fresh university graduates are less hardworking and less willing to face challenges is just a stereotype against the young generation. I hope that the above can help set the record straight and appreciate the efforts paid by Hong Kong fresh university graduates.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Wong 

2020 DSE English Writing Question 8 (Sample)

8. Learning English through Short Stories

Sci-Fi magazine is organising a First Chapter Competition. The competition involves writing the first chapter of a story based on the following scenario. A Journalist is sent to investigate a research station in the Arctic after staff begin to mysteriously disappear one by one.

  • You would like to enter the competition.
  • Write the first chapter ONLY of your story.

Mysterious Disappearance

To explore the global climate change issues and conduct respective scientific research, the U.S. has set up a research station in the Arctic region. The research station has run smoothly over the years until recently that researchers are reported to disappear mysteriously one by one without trace. There are many rumours about the disappearance.  The real reason has yet to be found out.

As a New York Times journalist, I have been sent by the Post to investigate the reason behind the disappearance of the researchers in the Arctic. Talking to the indigenous people in the Arctic, I was told that the U.S. researchers are probably assaulted and captured by the Russian military forces hidden inside the Russian submarine. They believe that Russia always suspects that the U.S. attempts to establish a surveillance system in the Arctic to steal sensitive information and intelligence which affects the national security of Russia. Although it is highly believable, the Russian Government has publicly denied the accusation and the U.S. Government has not yet found any evidence to prove the act.

A few indigenous people also reported that they have seen some strange species like aliens appearing in the near far end of the Arctic. They said that these aliens might come from space and find their settlement in the Arctic. They are seen to wear armours and have weapons in their hands. Therefore, no one dares to come near these aliens. It is believed that the U.S. researchers might be arrested by these aliens who attempt to colonize the Arctic region and take captive of those who threaten their rule. However, it has yet to prove the existence of aliens as they have never left any trace for tracking. Likewise, scientists believe that some invasive alien species have developed and found their home in the Arctic region due to climate change. These species are thought to be dangerous in the way that they are lethal in nature. If the researchers try to come near these species and catch them for research, they will become dead immediately. However, there is only little scientific data about these invasive alien species which fail to give a sound conclusion about their deadliness. Even though the species are deadly, the dead bodies of the researchers should have been found. Therefore, this saying seems unfounded.

Some local people made a guess that the U.S. researchers might be swallowed and drowned by the vortex in the middle of the Arctic ocean. The whirl in the sea is powerful and unpredictable. A few years ago, a European tourist who went on an expedition in the Arctic ocean was engulfed by the vortex waters.   Therefore, it is probable that the U.S. researchers are lost in the whirl of the sea. 

There are many predictions about the disappearance of the U.S. researchers. But which one is more convincing? You will find out my further investigation in the following chapters. Let’s see!

2020 DSE English Writing Question 3 (Sample)

3. Learning English through Social Issues

In recent years, the number of small independent stationery shops in Hong Kong has fallen.

  • Write a news report for the Hong Kong Post.
  • Explain this trend and discuss whether independent stationery shops can survive.

The Fate of Independent Stationery Shops

In recent years, there is a growing trend that a number of independent stationery shops have closed down. Due to the continuing increase in rent, they can no longer sustain and survive. The high rental costs push them out of business.  

Cheung Pak, aged 70, is a stationery shopkeeper and has run the business for a long time at the street corner in Kwun Tong. His store is tiny and filled up with stacks of second-hand books despite stationery products. He is going to shut down his stationery shop at the end of this month. “I have run the business for half a century in this district. My small business relies heavily on the community. In the past, many students would come to our store to buy second-hand textbooks, stationery and toys. Nowadays, they go to bookstore chains instead. I can barely compete against the giant.” 

Trouble never comes singly. Despite the fierce competition from the chain store, rent is another major problem.  “Kwun Tong, being one of the oldest district, has been under significant change recently. As the neighbourhood is being turned into shopping malls and commercial complex, the rent has risen sharply. This year, the landlord has asked for HK$30,000 as opposed to HK$20,000 last year. I have bargained with the landlord several times in an attempt to achieve a win-win deal on the rent. However, we fail to come to a satisfactory deal. I can no longer afford such a high rent. Sad to say, only the international luxury brands can afford the asking rent. Many small businesses have already been squeezed out. As the lease is soon going to expire, I decide to close the business for good.”

Despite soaring rents, another major reason why Cheung Pak shut down his business is because of the redevelopment project conducted by the urban renewal authority. Kwun Tong is under the planning of revitalization, which means that the old buildings will be demolished and make way for modern and urban housing estate. “Many small businesses in the district have already been forced to close their doors because of the plan. I will also face the same destiny under the big change. The environment will no longer be the same. There is just no room for survival in the plan. Like Lee Tung Street in Wan Chai, no shops are allowed to survive.”

As the city is changing rapidly, many small businesses like Cheung Pak’s cannot survive the change. “It is hoped that the Government will put itself into our shoes and help preserve the cultural heritage when they are to modernize the old districts.”