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The Coldest Night

Ayub walks into a freezing cold store after putting on his cotton-padded coat and hair restraint. Every day from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day, Ayub works in this gigantic refrigerator with temperature below 4℃ where he packs crushed ice cubes into bags for sales. Such a frigid, hermetic and dark environment is ordinary in the eyes of Ayub, as he just wants to earn more money in support of his family.
Ayub is a Hong Kong resident of Pakistani descent. He has lived in Hong Kong for over two decades and has worked in many fields. Before he came to Hong Kong, Ayub used to work in Kuwait as an assistant building surveyor but warfare drove him back to his country. Then he married his wife who was born in Hong Kong, and eventually ended up living in Hong Kong.
When he first arrived, language barrier, unable to pursue further studies and inapplicable skills were the problems that followed. Ayub has worked as a construction site labourer, a carpet salesperson, etc. He has encountered situations where he needed to rely on friends’ supports when he was unemployed. Now, if one asks what kind of job Ayub wants, his answer would undoubtedly be “The toughest job with the highest pay.” The Muslim culture puts on his shoulders the absolute responsibility to support his wife and children, and he willingly takes on all the expenses of the other six family members along with the tuition fees of his five children all for his motto - “A true man never goes back on his words. Marriage and children come with the responsibility of family-rearing that one shall never elude.” These words come with unwavering credibility from Ayub’s mouth as he is a living example of such belief.
However, as a member of an ethnic minority, it is difficult to feed a family in a competitive place like Hong Kong. Shaoib, Ayub’s fellow countryman, is a university graduate in his early twenties with great command of oral English. He has also experienced the agony brought about by language and cultural barriers, which put ethnic minorities in predicament in the course of job-seeking. He is now working in a labour institution where he works at night to serve South Asians. Shaoib points out that the inability to read and write Chinese is equal to death sentence to South Asian job seekers, because they cannot understand any job advertisement, fill in any application form, nor take any test for artisan licences.
Ayub devoted himself in job-seeking with no avail, and the Labour Department was unable to help. Eventually, he has taken the night job in an ice-making plant referred by LI Ka-shu, a social worker from the same labour institution where Shaoib works for.
Working all night long has disturbed Ayub’s circadian rhythm. Every day after his heavy physical work, Ayub can only get three to four hours of sleep. However, Ayub knows that many of his fellow countrymen tend to work on nigh shift because they can find another part-time job at day, so as to pay the family bills. Ayub has already worked in the ice-making plant for two years, and his diligent and conscientious manner has gained the trust of his manager, Simon. Simon was doubtful about South Asian workers, but he has gradually developed recognition of such inter-cultural co-operation and has hired a few South Asian workers referred by Ayub afterward.
Nonetheless, as Ayub puts his shoulder to the wheel, the job has slowly taken a toll on Ayub as he grows older and a daytime job now suits him better. With the continuous attempt of Shaoib and Ka-shu, Ayub had finally found a job as a baggage handler at the airport. However, Ayub made the decision to turn down the job offer after three days of training. Although it was a daytime job, working in the apron area was more than toilsome for him. Moreover, the working hours were too long with long commute and low salary.
Ayub finds his way back to the cold night. Same as many other billowing members of ethnic minorities in this city, he is waiting for his prosperous dawn to come.
Producer: Hung Ka-wing

Midnight Workers 2016

  • Video
  • English
  • Lifestyle
  • Completed

Late at night while most office workers and employees are lying comfortably in bed, sleeping and recuperating, so as to prepare for the coming day; a group of midnight workers are setting off their journeys in the dim light of night, and rendering services to the community.

Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city that runs around the clock, and under the glittering light of this sleepless city, there are nightwalkers and those who work all night long for living, such as employees at container terminals and airports, taxi drivers, disciplined services staff, convenient store staff, waiters of 24-hour restaurants, and warehouse-keepers, security guards, cleaning workers and road maintenance workers working night shifts. We can see some of these jobs around us; yet, some of them are distant from us and unseen by many. However, when the sky is lighted up by the sunlight, these workers also walk off. Some of what they have achieved through their endeavours over the night dissipates with the shades of night, but some remain for us to enjoy in this bustling city during the day.

After all, this nocturnal lifestyle runs counter to the ordinary work-and-rest lifestyle, and the hardship from it is thus conceivable. For example, when everyone is gluing themselves in their warm beds in cold rainy nights, you have to work in cold weather with full attention, and this must be an upsetting experience; or your family and spouse work at day with routine completely different from yours, which leads to absence of mutual care, communication and solicitude, and this has to bring torment and loneliness.

For the group of workers specialises in midnight works, do they work under duress, or do they find amusement in such works? Are they the ones who are forgotten by the sun, or are they dream chasers who pursue their dreams along with the night? Are works toilsome every night or do pleasant surprises pop up once in a while? The nine episodes of “Midnight workers” will walk into the shades of night with you and explore the sorrows and joys of midnight workers.
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