Category Archives: Hong Kong

Is Anyone Surprised?

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I mean, did anyone really think that Beijing was going to allow Hong Kong to have truly open elections?

That doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to be pissed off and to continue to protest. But anyone who was surprised by Sunday’s announcement must be living in an alternate reality.

(I wanted to write more on this but just no time at the moment. I didn’t want to let this pass without at least some sort of comment because it’s huge. It could be a tipping point or a watershed moment or whatever other cliche you want to apply.)

Just one other thing. I don’t get why people get upset about the earlier announcement that any candidate must love their country. Tell me an election anywhere where the candidate gets up and says, “The United States sucks, vote for me!”

It’s just the way in which Beijing defines patriotism. For them it’s unquestioningly following what you are told. Most of the rest of the world sees patriotism as standing up for what’s right.

Anyway, let’s see what rights Beijing takes away next, and how long it takes them to do it.

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If I’m So Smart Part Six

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Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Wow, this is going on far longer than I expected. And it won’t finish with this part either.

1996. I leave Sybase and go to work for Merrill Lynch. Getting the job was easy. I walked into the interview and sitting there with my boss-to-be was a guy I’d worked with just a few months earlier. “I know this guy, he can do the job,” said my friend. And the job was mine.

The job wasn’t that difficult. There was this application being developed for the Operations Department. It was taking too long and the users had lost interest and walked away. I re-engaged them, got the damned thing working and delivered and everyone was happy.

Merrill of course offered a better package than Sybase, especially in terms of rent reimbursement. That 500 square foot flat in Happy Valley was fine for just me, but for me and S it was too damned small. We moved to Mid Levels, a new building with a swimming pool, club house and shuttle bus down to Central. But within six months of moving there, there was construction going on three sides of our building, with those earthshaking pile drivers pounding the area 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. We were just counting the days until we hit 12 months on the lease so we could give two months’ notice and get the hell out of there.

One day we were walking around in Macau. I stopped in front of a hotel to look at the poster for their sauna. “You know, you can get a hand job in there,” she said to me. “What? Come again?” That’s how little I knew at the time. “Go ahead, give it a try.” See, she had this idea that all white guys in Asia cheat on their girlfriends and wives and that I would do it too. She figured as long as I was going to do it, she didn’t want me to lie to her about it. So she told me to go ahead but set some rules – don’t do it too much, don’t do it with anyone I know (only with hookers and sauna girls), tell her every time I do it, and don’t forget about her. Looking back on it now, I should not have gone along with this, but I didn’t know at the time that I would get so far out of control. More on this later, maybe.

Meanwhile, S was unable to find a job and she was getting pissed off. She was bored and every time we did a visa run, they’d give her another month but the questions got tougher and more personal. Finally she’d had enough and gave me an ultimatum – either we get married or she was going back to KL. So we started planning the wedding.

We did the usual Hong Kong thing: pre-wedding photos in a studio, ceremony at City Hall, dim sum lunch at Maxim’s at City Hall, 12 course dinner in a Cantonese seafood restaurant in Mid Levels. My mother flew in from the U.S. and at some point during the dinner, my now-wife pulled her aside and told her, “I know you don’t like me but I’m married to your son now. Anything bad you say about me to him, I’ve asked him to tell me. So let’s just get along, okay?” Or something like that. We were all pretty drunk and used the turntables on the big round tables to play drinking games until closing time for the restaurant. It was a great night.

Back at Merrill, with one successful project under my belt, I was promoted to Assistant Vice President. Someone resigned, I got their job, and suddenly I was in charge of all back office technology in Hong Kong. I was an AVP and I had VP’s reporting to me. So I got promoted to VP, got an office and got a bigger package just when it was the right timing to get the hell out of Mid Levels. We went to Kennedy Road in Wanchai, a great huge flat in an older building. Our flat had a sauna in it. No shit, a small room off the kitchen lined in whatever the hell kind of wood they used for saunas. Flip some switches, turn some valves, sauna. Our landlady, who liked to come to parties at our place, told us that almost every night she and her husband would be sitting in front of the TV and at some point he’d yell out, “I’ll bet that gweilo’s using my sauna right now!” Our landlady was pretty hot. She came to all our parties. And every time, one of my friends would get drunk, get to flirting with her, go a bit too far and discover that she was quite the expert martial artist.

At this point, Merrill also put me in charge of all technology support for all “tier 3″ countries in Asia. At the time, this meant Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India. I managed the set-up for new offices, trade floors and data centers in Manila and Taipei – both of which were completed on time and under budget and worked flawlessly from day one. Then I worked on the tech part of a merger after Merrill bought a bank in Thailand. And I traveled to Jakarta immediately following the anti-Chinese riots so I could sit with my staff there and make sure they were okay; they gave me a tour of the burned out areas because they wanted people to see it and tell the world about it.

So I was traveling constantly. And I was partying constantly. I was infamous in Merrill. It got to the point where guys would come home, tell their wives they had a trip to X, and the first thing the wife would say was, “Is Spike going? If he is, you can’t go.”

I was writing down all of my adventures and, since this was the 90s, I was emailing my tales to a select group of friends. Unfortunately, on one of those trips, my wife got bored, sat down at my computer, and started going through my Sent folder in Outlook. The marriage survived that – and I should have taken that as a sign of how much she loved me, but I was too stupid to realize it at the time. I also deleted everything in Outlook – no back-up. So all of those tales are long gone, except for a few memories.

Anyway, here’s one story I can share. The Thailand project was almost done and my wife had just quit her job. I told her to come to Bangkok with me, that she could spend all day in saunas and shopping and we’d go out every night and then we’d stay through the weekend for sight-seeing.

The first night in town she said to me, “Okay, I want to see what you do every night. Take me to the places you go to.” Gulp. I wasn’t about to do that. So I took her to Patpong and we went into one of those bars where the girls did things with ping pong balls and darts. We sat there for awhile and watched. She turned to me and said, “This is really boring. I can’t believe this is what you do every night.” Well, she had me dead to rights, and I confessed that it wasn’t. “Well, tomorrow night you better take me to where you really go!”

So the second night we went to my then-favorite spot, the Long Gun on Soi Cowboy. We’re sitting there and she says to me, “Some of these girls are really cute.” Duh. “That one over there, she’s not with anyone, call her over, buy her a drink, I want to see how you operate.” Um, no. “If you don’t do it, I will.” And she did. She brought the girl over to our table, ordered a drink for her, put the girl’s hands in my lap, my hands in the girl’s lap. And then she started talking to the girl. She wanted to know what it was like to work there, all the details. My wife could speak a little Thai and they started becoming friends.

Soon, this girl invited all of her friends over to our table. One of the other girls was having a birthday and before we knew it, we had 20 girls, birthday cakes and bottles of champagne. But all 20 of these girls were talking to my wife; they all completely ignored me. “See that guy over there,” my wife said, pointing at me. “That’s my husband. Next time he comes in here, take good care of him!” Oh joy.

The third night, she was sick and didn’t want to go out. I told her we could stay in and just watch TV. She wanted to sleep and told me I should go out, but she gave me two rules: don’t fuck anyone else and when I come back, tell her everything I did. So I went back to the Long Gun.

I walked into the bar and every girl in the bar came running up to me. “Where’s your wife?” “She’s not feeling well, she’s back at the hotel.” And they all ran away. Except for one. We’d spotted her the night before. Her face was so ugly and her body was so bad that we’d named her Optimistic, because the thought that she could earn a living this way with those looks had to be an act of pure optimism. So I let Optimistic sit with me and I bought her a drink. “Let’s go hotel,” she’d say. “Nope, sorry, cannot.”

I got back to the hotel and my wife was sitting up in bed, feeling better. “Now tell me everything you did.” When I got to the part about sitting with Optimistic, she got real quiet. “What’s the matter?” “Okay, let me get this straight. You went to a bar with 50 cute girls and you chose the ugly one.” “Yeah, it was no temptation this way, I thought you’d be happy.” “You went to a bar with 50 cute girls and you chose the ugly one. And you chose me. Are you trying to tell the world you think I’m ugly?” She jumped up on the bed and started beating me and screaming. Each word was punctuated with a punch. “Next! Time! You! Go! In! There! You! Go! With! The! Cute! Ones!”

The happy times would not last. First, I was put on the worst possible project. I was put in charge of Y2K for the entire region. It was a miserable project that no one wanted to be involved in. Plus, I hadn’t realized that as an expat, I couldn’t remain where I was forever. At the end of 1998, my boss came to me and told me he’d done the budget for 1999 and he was moving me to Mumbai. I told him that there was no way my wife would follow me there so I didn’t want to go. He said that I wasn’t in the Hong Kong budget and if I didn’t want to go to Mumbai, I could go back to New York, but I didn’t want that either. So he did an incredible favor for me. The Asian financial crisis was starting to hit, they were laying off hundreds in the region, and he laid me off so that I could get a huge severance package, which included relocation back to the U.S.

Staying in Hong Kong wasn’t an issue. My wife was working steadily and I could have gotten a dependent visa through her. But it was, as I said, the financial crisis. There were no senior jobs to be had in banking IT in Hong Kong, at least none that I could find. I got tired of sitting there every day doing nothing and reading about how in Silicon Valley programmers were getting BMW’s as signing bonuses. So I told my wife that I’d be using my relocation package to go to San Francisco, where I had family and friends and there were presumably jobs to be had.

There was one problem though. She’d gotten very tired of my constant misbehaving. And I did something very, very bad at a party in our flat one night (which I won’t go into now). Just to be clear, the problems weren’t all caused by me. She had issues (it wouldn’t be fair for me to detail them here) that she refused to deal with and that had somewhat distanced me from her. So she said that she wouldn’t be going to the U.S. with me, she was going to stay in Hong Kong. We were splitting up. We divided up our stuff – half to go to the apartment she’d be renting, half to be shipped to the U.S.

I spent my last few nights in Hong Kong in a harbor view room at the Grand Hyatt, very depressed. My last night in town, I went to Ricky & Pinky in Wanchai and got my first tattoo. I just picked something off the wall – a dragon wrapped around a crescent moon.

I’m sitting there getting tattooed and this gorgeous girl walks in with four guys. They sit down and start talking. She comes over to me and says, very sweetly, with an American accent, “Excuse me, where are you from?” “I’m from New York City.” “Well why the fuck don’t you get your fucking tattoo in New York City then motherfucker?”  “Um, er, uh, I live here.” “Oh.” She went back to the four guys, they talked for a bit and left.

The tattoo guy asked me if I wanted any writing to go with the picture. I thought, it’s my last night in Hong Kong, I didn’t know if I’d ever be returning. I told him to write “Hong Kong” in Chinese.

And so, 1999, almost exactly four years from when I first arrived, I got on a plane and left Hong Kong for what I thought would be the final time.

 

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Are They Really This Stupid in China?

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From the SCMP:

The business community must be protected when Hong Kong introduces universal suffrage, which is why the nominating committee and functional constituencies are needed, a mainland legal scholar says.

Wang Zhenmin said the business sector could not be drowned out by the crowd when “one man, one vote” arrives, because their role in keeping Hong Kong prosperous was vital to the city’s future.

So I guess the answer is “yes.”

Because in countries that do have one-person one-vote, businesses are suffering?

Or perhaps because he thinks that people might vote against their own best interests, they might elect a candidate who might cause damage to their employers?

Or is he saying that the best interests of businesses are diametrically opposed to the best interests of people and that those business interests should be protected at the expense of people?

I mean, why the fuck would this dime store shyster law professor think that the best interests of Hong Kong are somehow different from the best interests of Hong Kong people?

My mind, it boggleth.

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Translating Hong Kong

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I’ve been told that Hong Kong slang changes so rapidly that machine translation cannot keep up with the pace of change. I keep encountering these translations when I’m looking at reviews on Open Rice. I don’t put much stock in any of the reviews there – I use Open Rice for addresses and opening hours and usually the photos are enough to tell me what I need to know.

Anyway, when I was in London I had this Swedish cider one night, Kopparberg, and I really liked it. I didn’t think I’d find it back in Hong Kong but sure enough it’s here. They’ve got an ad in this week’s HK Magazine listing the bars that stock it. One is a restaurant in Tai Wo, just 10 minutes away from me. The restaurant name is Loosen. I don’t think I could come up with a worse name for a restaurant if I tried. User ratings total out so far at 3 yummy, 5 OK, and 4 get me out of here. No English language review but several in Chinese. Google translated them for me. Here are some of the reviews, with some bits I’ve put in bold.

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After the first one, such as the left front of spaghetti.

amount Wusuan much, but because the Department of Cream Sauce relations department, the Department for me to talk about Lebanon just good, but if a man should eat Well enough! 
first bite down to taste …. 
@ @ Link salty o both?! 
taste salty, but how many have expected, there are a lot of mushrooms with bacon, and finally I have tan lines food dish …

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This restaurant location is not in the downtown area, unless it is the gall bladder, or are more difficult to find, has opened half a year, always wanted to try - decoration good, very style.

Honestly not clear hand in hand to fight what is not hit big difference, this is a soft cow Hamburg has gravy, hash browns is to the other ingredients and is not due to a folder, dispensable. Postprandial attached coffee produced by the coffee machine, do not fall under the expectation is not bad, a little smell of coffee, it is easy to drink. The price of lunch at Tai Yi injustice, we can say value for money, but not excellent.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Department of Noma it really incredible, the first tease to fight food critic! Not even a fitting beginning to see a mistake, recite try to live it. I have to have four people sitting on a low left unattended for some time over the menu and I have to, to be called the canal until the first carry than I can count, you see new restaurants are considered secondary.After Dixia seats are a few cards GOD Figure attract, and then Dixia prices are Wusuan level. Honestly, the Department of Tai Li stresses eating a grilled meal $ 178 $ 98 food a Spaghetti Wusuan department level. You sell it a price I Do not ask you to take food, but the department should not even hard to eat. I left two to four people called three mature mature generous pork chop a generous eye of a seven day activity Alessandro Carboni spaghetti, after dumping dollars on the side of the side and so on. Waited and waited 20 minutes left Ciwu Duo, etc., began to have a little patience Well. Why is a soup-resistant neither Li Han, I have to pour more than five minutes. Well is preparing to ask the Drainage can be left GOD soup to drink than I lived generous first time, LOADS OF JOY Link canal began to slowly tighten over Lebanon. A soup generous big fine …… Well critical, a generous drink slightly warm near freezing. Count, I waited soup Nuisance baa requirements Haonai finally left on my way La generous entrees.

 It is not a Noma, no longerhuffyhuffyhuffyhuffyhuffysadhuffy

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Well, you get the idea. The idea I get from the reviews is that people are accusing them of serving frozen food. Whether that’s true or not, there are 490 restaurants in Tai Po and those that are serving western food mostly range from acceptable to horrendous. (Backyard Bistro the sole exception in my experience.) At this point even a branch of Ebeneezers would be a step up.

 

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Is CY Leung Stupid or Just Spineless?

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Here comes another rant ….

CY Leung is the third Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Each Chief Executive, appointed by the Chinese government in a sham “election,” serves several official purposes. Unofficially, they would appear to serve the purpose of being a running dog lackey puppet of the government of China. And apparently each one has been given the specific task of making their predecessors look better through their own ineptitude. Tung Chee-Hwa made Chris Patten look good by comparison. Donald Tsang made Tung look good. And now Leung has got people thinking that even if Donald Tsang was a corrupt scumbag, he was better than Leung.

The Chief Executives are not elected to their post by the people of Hong Kong. They do not have to stand for reelection by the people of Hong Kong, therefore they have no obligation to heed the opinions of the people they ostensibly represent.

Leung delivered a speech yesterday that was so full of lies that one can only assume that he is either an idiot or just reads off whatever piece of paper some other idiot in Beijing hands to him without question.

Excerpted from the SCMP:

The Basic Law does not stipulate that the city’s electoral system must meet international norms, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said yesterday, 

One might think that a man in his position would know the Basic Law by heart.

Article 39 
The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 

So what does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have to say?

PART I

Article 1

1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

That’s pretty unambiguous, isn’t it?

By the way, take a look at this part of the Covenant:

PART II

Article 2

1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Hong Kong has legal and institutionalized racism. Ethnic Chinese who wish to become Hong Kong citizens are allowed to retain their prior citizenship, whether it’s from the UK or the US or Equatorial Guinea. Those who are not Chinese have to renounce their present citizenship to become a Hong Kong citizen.

I mention this because of another section of idiot’s Leung’s speech.

Leung said Hong Kong was a unique society in many ways – including granting foreign permanent residents the right to vote.

“If the election in 2017 must fulfil international standards, should we deprive foreigners who are among the 5 million qualified voters … of the right to universal suffrage?” he asked.

First of all, no. There are other countries where permanent residents who are not citizens have the right to vote. Second – define the difference between “citizen” and “permanent resident.” I am a Permanent Resident of Hong Kong. My only home is here. All of my possessions are here. I work here. I pay taxes here. I have unconditional right of abode here for the rest of my life. The one thing I don’t have is a Hong Kong Passport – and that’s because I don’t want to renounce citizenship from the country of my birth. I think there’s a lot more of us who would take the extra step to become a citizen if the laws were not so discriminatory.

Last but not least on the above and really insulting. Definition of foreigner: A person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own. There are plenty of Hong Kong citizens who were not born here. Including Chinese. Granted, this may be a poor choice of words by the person who translated the speech. It’s just a mindless choice of words.

More from the SCMP:

Occupy founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said there was no doubt that the contents of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations treaty signed by Britain, had been carried over by article 39 of the Basic Law.

“Local courts have cited the covenant in many cases when assessing whether our laws meet international norms,” Tai, a law professor, said.

“The Leung I know cannot have such a poor understanding of our law. Otherwise he is deliberately distorting the concepts.”

I don’t think CY Leung is stupid. And actually, he’s probably not spineless either. He’s doing his job, which is to represent and protect the interests of Beijing in Hong Kong. I wish that he could come up with better defences of his bullshit and not insult the intelligence of everyone within earshot. No, he’s not stupid, he’s not spineless, he’s just evil.

You want my opinion? You’ve read this far so I’ll assume you do. Until China’s system of government changes, Hong Kong will never have true universal suffrage. Beijing will make vague attempts at appeasement by giving us the semblance of free elections, but they will always come with strings attached – both to the elections themselves and to those who get “elected.”

Just because I think it will never happen doesn’t mean that we have to keep our mouths shut and accept the situation. It is our duty as citizens (or permanent residents) to speak up against inequity and injustice wherever and whenever it occurs. That is the real definition of patriotism.

Besides, in my opinion the biggest threat to Hong Kong isn’t Beijing. The biggest threat to Hong Kong is the ever-increasing levels of corruption thanks to the mega-real estate companies that really own and run Hong Kong. They are embedded at every level of our government through appointed representatives and bribes. The end result is laws that favor the rights of these corporations and a government that turns a blind eye to the way in which they do business, all at the expense of the majority of the citizens. Break up these cartels and Hong Kong would be a far better place.

This is why these businesses are so vocal in their support of the status quo and so vehemently opposed to protests such as Occupy Central. They know that if Hong Kong really had a truly representative government, their days might be numbered. But actually not. All around the world, mega corporations have more power than governments. The Cheung Kongs and Sun Hung Kais would still rule here; it’s just that their cost of doing business would go up as they would need to bribe more people.

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(UPDATED) 2nd International Hong Kong Tattoo Convention 2014

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I was traveling last year when Hong Kong’s first tattoo convention was held. Fortunately I was home this year for the 2nd International Hong Kong Tattoo Convention 2014 and wasn’t going to miss it. Here’s some shots from the show, a whole lot more can be found over at Spike’s Photos.

Even though I’ve got 8 tattoos myself, I’d never been to a tattoo convention before. This one was everything I would have expected, and I mean that in a good sense. There must have been at least 100 booths representing tattoo studios – mostly from Hong Kong and China, but I also saw a selection from Korea and of course Japan. Given the vogue for Asian style tattoos, I think any American or European tattoo lover would have killed to be here. One Japanese studio had a guy doing tattoos using the traditional stick method. (I’ve got two tatts done by monks in temples in Thailand using stainless steel rods and yes, it’s true, you feel this a hell of a lot more, but you also feel connected to a more ancient tradition.)

Each studio and artist had their portfolios on display and of course lots of people were getting new ink during the convention. Some booths had their prices posted, mostly HK$1,500 per hour. Some studios were also selling t-shirts, posters, stickers, books and even a few small toys.

I talked with several of the artists and grabbed the business cards for all the HK studios. I had to work really hard to not give in to temptation to get something new there and then.

Other rooms had displays from companies that manufacture and distribute tattoo supplies – needles, ink, after-tattoo skin care products, magazines and so on.

Food was represented by Boomshack, from the terrific Austin Fry (he started Brickhouse in Lan Kwai Fong; I know he’s moved on but can’t recall the name of his latest place). He was doing some gourmet burgers but the real deal here was his fried chicken and waffles, so good I brought some home and my wife, who usually says she doesn’t like waffles, scarfed hers down in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay as long as I liked, which meant that I missed the nightly awards ceremonies and, more important to me, the bands. There was a stage sponsored by VANS with more than half a dozen bands appearing daily (different bands each day).

And, yeah, I confess, so many beautiful women I quickly lost count.

The convention was held August 23rd to 25th at Innocentre in Kowloon Tong. I went on Saturday; I really wanted to get back there again on Sunday but it just wasn’t possible.

All in all, this was really a terrific event, everything that I think one of these things ought to be. It’s great to see this as an annual event in Hong Kong and I can’t wait for next year’s convention.

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How Dare They?

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From the SCMP today:

Unmarried couples should not enjoy the same staff benefits as married people, as this would burden small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and go against traditional family values, businesses have told the equality watchdog.

Basically, what they’re doing is attempting to use a so-called moral judgement as a guise for what they really are – fucking cheap.

Nine SME groups, citing financial reasons and moral judgment, voiced opposition yesterday to the idea of employers granting the same medical, housing and other benefits to both married people and de facto couples who lived together.

There were grey areas, they said, pointing to how the government might define couples and whether this would cover both heterosexual and homosexual cohabitation.

Gay marriage isn’t legal in Hong Kong. So not providing this is further discrimination against gays.

“It is difficult to define cohabitation. Does it simply mean two people living together?” said Jimmy Wan Hoi-hung, founding president of Hong Kong Greater China SME Alliance Association.

“We businessmen need to calculate costs. This increases uncertainties.”

That’s the standard Hong Kong argument. “We can’t do it because it’s hard.” And it’s also the Hong Kong standard of being against something without really understanding it. And it’s also the Hong Kong standard of putting businesses before people.

What should have been a review of anti-discrimination laws turned into a chorus of complaints that the commission had failed to reach out to small firms and consider their difficulties.

But a commission spokeswoman said the proposal was intended only to provide protection from discrimination for de facto couples who were “in committed relationships similar to a marriage but [who] do not wish to become married”.

Any such protection would be bound by a clear definition of what constituted that relationship, she added. Hong Kong has yet to draw up a clear definition of a de facto relationship, but under Australian laws, it refers to a pair living together on a genuine domestic basis.

Factors taken into consideration include the duration of the relationship, common residence and degree of financial dependence. Australia initially covered only heterosexual relationships, but added protection for same-sex relationships last year.

Ah Hong Kong, forward into the past.

BTW, time for another “Shut the fuck up Jackie Chan.” His kid got busted for pot in Beijing. Chan is all over the media apologizing and saying how ashamed he is. If the man had even one ball, what he should be saying is, “Marijuana is harmless and has been proven to have numerous medical benefits. While other countries in the world are now legalizing this or reducing penalties down to the equivalent of a parking ticket, China remains in the dark ages. Shame on China. I’m so embarrassed by the Chinese government and I stand by my son who did nothing wrong.”

As if.

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Hong Kong – Can It Get Any Weirder?

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So the deal as you all should know by now is that there is this group called Occupy Central With Love and Peace. Their deal is that should they decide that the preparations for the 2017 elections in Hong Kong are not truly democratic, they will stage a protest that will possibly bring Hong Kong’s Central district to a standstill.

They’ve been talking about this for more than 18 months now and every Beijing loyalist and card-carrying member of the Communist party has been predicting the destruction of Hong Kong if this takes place.  The walls (and the banks) will come tumbling down! No more foreign investment! Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky, rivers and seas boiling, earthquakes, volcanos, the dead rising from their graves, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … you get the idea.

So this group of brainiacs decided that the best way to protest this coming protest would be … to stage a protest! And so yesterday we had the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (sigh) staging a protest march from Victoria Park to Central.

As the New York Times and other sources have noted, it would appear that many of the participants of yesterday’s march were mainland Chinese.

Typical was Kitty Lai, an investment adviser wearing an orange T-shirt and a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations, a group that represents people from the coastal province across from Taiwan. 

“We want everything to be stable,” Ms. Lai, 50, said in Mandarin Chinese. “We want everybody to live harmoniously.”

Many participants brought along their Indonesian and Filipino domestic helpers, who also donned the T-shirts and hats, with some given Chinese flags to wave.

“Hong Kong people desire peace. They’re not afraid of speaking out, and the silent majority has spoken,” Robert Chow, a spokesman for the alliance, said in an interview. “Why should they follow Occupy Central and try to hold Hong Kong hostage? If they really want universal suffrage, negotiate with Beijing. Negotiate with the government.”

That phrase “silent majority” has irritated me since the days when Nixon and Agnew used it to try to defend the Vietnam War. “The protesters may be against it but there’s a silent majority who love it!” or something to that effect. How does a “silent majority” speak, anyway?  And how does one negotiate with a totalitarian government bent on maintaining control at any cost?

After the demonstrators had left, the detritus of protests, including posters, water bottles and flags, was strewed across the park, in contrast to the aftermath of pro-democracy rallies, when volunteers patrolled the ground, cleaning up everything, including wax from candle drippings.

You’d think all those rich people who’d brought their maids along would get them to do a bit of cleaning up afterwards. But nooooo ……

From the SCMP:

Clans that hailed from all corners of the mainland made up a crucial part of the turnout. Their origins were on full display – T-shirts of the same colour to depict a certain hometown and banners held high proclaiming the same.

Some had their fill at sponsored dim sum lunches in restaurants before setting off from nearby Victoria Park.

But under the gruelling sun, some abandoned their mission to oppose Occupy just 500 metres into the march, near Sogo department store.

The clans were not the only ones putting up united fronts; dozens of South Asian protesters were dressed in red T-shirts – curiously – carrying the logo of the Federation of Hong Kong Shenzhen Associations. They refused to say if they were members of the federation or had been paid to take part. “We are tourists,” a man said.

Yesterday’s rally proved lucrative, at least for Causeway Bay restaurants. At Cheers in Windsor House, 30 tables were reserved by the Hong Kong Hubei Fraternity and An Kwei Clans Association to treat protesters before the march started. In the same building, all of King’s Cuisine and several more tables in Choi Fuk Royal Banquet were taken up by the Hong Kong Hakka Association. About 30 protesters were decked out in blue T-shirts with the logo of Ying Wah Construction Group.

A woman with another company said her mainland employer had mobilised staff. “I join the July 1 pro-democracy rally every year. I would not have joined [this march] if there was no pressure,” she said.

The SCMP also live-blogged the march.

“Keep your Hong Kong and China flags as souvenirs, don’t throw them away,” organisers tell marchers at the finishing point.

Why would patriots need to be reminded not to throw away their country’s flag?

4.20pm: One woman taking part told the Post that she had only joined the march after direct pressure from her seniors at work. The woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said she was from Hong Kong but some of her colleagues had travelled from Shenzhen. “I would not have joined if there was no pressure,” she said, adding that she normally took part in Hong Kong’s July 1 demonstration.

4pm: Some minor confrontations have been reported between marchers and Occupy Central supporters. One marcher threw a tray of 24 eggs at members of People Power, who support the Occupy movement, but the eggs hit a woman police officer, according to reports.

3.55pm: The march is rather a lacklustre affair, according to Post reporters on the ground. Marchers are plodding along, shielding themselves from the sun with umbrellas, while there is no chanting of slogans or creative costumes often seen during Hong Kong demonstrations. “Whistles blown half-heartedly can be heard from time to time but most people look indifferent. It seems like a march without a soul,” reports Nectar Gan.

No one was arrested for the egg-throwing incident, a clear indication of the police turning the other cheek when it politically suits them.

Also a clear indication of how stupid the police look is their estimation of 118,000 marchers in this event, as opposed to their estimate of just 98,000 for this year’s July 1st protest. Comparing overhead photos of the two events, as many have been doing on Facebook, shows the truth pretty clearly – that July 1st’s march had many times more participants than yesterday’s dog and pony show.

march

So there you have it. A protest to protest a protest. Made up of people bussed in from across the border with the promise of a free meal and people coerced by their employers. And the icing on the cake is the lying by the police.

I wonder when someone will stage a march to protest the real rulers of Hong Kong – Cheung Kong, Sun Hung Kai, New World, etc.

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Asia’s World City #1,247

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thisassholeagain

The above image is from Liar Town USA, a pretty consistently amusing web site.

parentsguide

The above image is not from Liar Town, it’s a photo of a book that’s currently stocked in Hong Kong’s Public Library. Asia’s World City indeed.

Meanwhile, it’s reported that 400 of the first 492 flats put on sale in Cheung Kong’s new Mont Vert project in Tai Po sold on the first day despite a “no viewing” policy. Cheung Kong reports that they had to use a ballot system as more than 10,000 people had registered as prospective buyers, and that 150 flats were sold in the first hour.

The development has flats ranging in size from studios to three bedroom apartments. The average studio apartment is 195 square feet and selling for HK2 million, or roughly US$260,000.  An executive director at Cheung Kong said this is a “stunning low price.”  Later there will be studio apartments for sale that measure just 177 square feet.  Larger flats, a whopping 932 square feet, on higher floors, are selling for over HK$10 million. That’s US$1.3 million for a 3 bedroom shoebox in Tai Po.

This place is near the Tai Po Industrial Estate, which means a bus ride to the closest MTR station, or a bus ride into central Tai Po to get another bus to get to Kowloon or HK (pretty much what I deal with every day.) So it’s not as if they’re exactly “convenient,” except possibly if one has a job in the Industrial Estate.

They’re claiming that the majority of the sales are to people who live in the area, with 75% of the buyers getting these for “self-use”.  Apparently when one buys a three bedroom apartment, one gets a special deal on buying an adjacent studio apartment.

In vaguely related news, a few days ago the SCMP had this report:

Forty per cent of Hongkongers would consider leaving the city when they retire, believing they would be financially better off elsewhere, a survey has found.

Respondents gave an average rating of 5.5 out of 10 to the question of whether they were confident their life would be satisfactory in retirement. That was down from a rating of 6.1 two years ago.

And 40 per cent said they had considered retiring elsewhere. Of those, 27 per cent would consider mainland China, while 21 per cent were contemplating a move to Taiwan. Australia, Canada and Britain were also on the list.

The average estimate of cash needed to support themselves in retirement was HK$16,600 per month – and a total of HK$3.9 million to cover their old age once they stopped working. That was up from about HK$10,000 a month in the last survey, while the total estimate was similar.

Jeanne Sau, senior vice-president of MassMutual Asia, said: “It was surprising to see the significant increase in the estimate … It shows that they are really worried about the impact of inflation on their future lives.”

She said HK$3.9 million was a significant underestimate, and the company had calculated that someone retiring at 60 would need HK$7 million to support themselves if they lived another 20 years, taking into account annual inflation of about 3 per cent.

But the 74-year-old chairman of the Association of Senior Citizens, Mak Hon-kai, disputed those figures, saying he spends just HK$5,000 a month. “Of course, that means we live a very simple life, maybe eating out at McDonald’s,” Mak said.

That’s a good plan. Eat at McDonald’s so you will need less money because you’ll undoubtedly die sooner.

jack-white_gamedayr

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I’m Not Lovin’ It

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Years and years ago I used to eat at American fast food chains pretty regularly. And why not?  Or so I thought at the time.

Cheap, fast, tasty enough, and easy to deal with in places where English isn’t spoken. But reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation pretty much put an end to that habit.  I will sometimes still go for a fast food burger but I try to limit it to once or twice a month. I still visit McDonald’s pretty often, but that’s because when I’m coming home from work and get off the bus near Tai Po Market, McD’s is one place where I can run in and use the toilet with no questions asked. I’ll also confess a liking for the McD’s branches that have a McCafe coffee shop inside – open 24 hours, cheaper than *$ and oddly enough the best western style cakes in Tai Po.

The abuses of the fast food industry in the United States are well documented, but what about in China? One can only logically assume that the food sourcing and processing in China is no better than it is in the U.S. and very possibly it could be orders of magnitude worse.  These days I favor cha chaan tengs for a quick, cheap meal. I realize that they’re probably not sourcing Australian wagyu grass-fed beef for their beef hor fun and I hope they’re not using some chemical meat tenderizer or loading the sauce up with MSG, but most places probably are. Every day we pick the compromises we are most able to live with.

(I’ve got a funny story about the quality of McDonald’s beef that goes back to my days in advertising, back in the 1970s, can’t recall if I ever wrote about that story here.)

At any rate, we now have the latest food scandal in China. And again, it is a reminder of how corrupt and greedy some people can be. I don’t want to paint a nation of 1.5 billion people with the corruption brush, because that would be a gross exaggeration, but it does seem that these things – where people running companies make decisions that knowingly put peoples’ lives at risk in exchange for a little extra profit – occur more frequently in China than anywhere else. (Yes, I know, General Motors.)

So here’s the thing, in case you haven’t read it elsewhere. There is a food processing company in Shanghai called Shanghai Husi Food Company. They are 50% owned by an American company. They took expired beef and chicken and repackaged it, changing the expiration dates to make it appear that the meat was still fresh, and then sold it to fast food chains in China and Hong Kong.

HK McDonald’s is one of their customers. So are Starbucks, KFC and Burger King.  And apparently this is not a one time occurrence – this was standard operating procedure at this company and has been going on for years.  The company maintained multiple sets of records to help them perpetuate this dangerous fraud. (I suppose one might argue that if it’s been going on for years and no one has died from it, it’s not that big a deal? Yes, it is that big a deal. It’s a level of risk that is unnecessary and unacceptable to any rational person.)

McD’s in HK has reportedly removed all of the menu items that were made with food sourced from Husi. Last night as I passed one Tai Po branch of McD, I saw they had large red signs in their windows – all Chinese-only – that were probably informing customers of this. (I guess they didn’t bother to post English versions of the sign because they don’t care about their white or brown customers.)

Here’s a few McD’s facts courtesy of the SCMP:

  • There are currently 239 branches in Hong Kong employing more than 15,000 people.
  • The first HK McD opened in 1975 on Paterson Street in Causeway Bay. The 3,000 square foot restaurant paid $64,500 a month in rent.
  • In 1992, 7 of the 10 busiest McD’s in the world were in Hong Kong.

Old joke:

A retired American comes to Hong Kong as a tourist. He’s booked everything first class. He’s met at the airport by his tour guide, who says to him, “Welcome to Hong Kong Mr. Smith. I imagine you’re tired after your long flight. I’ll take you to your hotel where you can take a shower and relax for a bit before we get started.”

But the tourist says, “No! I’ve waited my whole life to come to Hong Kong. I love Chinese people. I love Chinese food. I want to get out there and start experiencing Hong Kong right away. I don’t want to go to the hotel yet. I want you to take me to the most popular restaurant in Hong Kong!”

So the tour guide shrugs his shoulders and takes him to McDonalds.

Unrelated HK food items:

The first location of the Press Room, the one on Hollywood Road, has now closed after the landlord reportedly sought to increase their rent by 500%. Because why should the landlord continue to make a reasonable profit from a successful business that has been there for years and probably always paid their bills on time?

The same group operates The Pawn in Wanchai, which has now closed. Reports differ as to whether this is going to be just a renovation or if it will re-open with a new name and concept (but still managed by the same group).

The SCMP quotes food critic Walter Kei (whoever he is, a quick Google on his name turns up a press release from The Link calling him “a renowned gourmet traveller and wine taster.”)

Food critic Walter Kei said the proliferation of trendy restaurants was another problem.

“There are too many restaurants in the market,” he said. This led to cut-throat competition and drove up staff costs.

Kei said that with high rents and labour costs, the only cost that could be cut was food.

This was compromising quality but consumers didn’t know because food writers and critics weren’t telling them. “The so-called food reviews are only to promote new places, not the quality of the content,” he said.

“Writers are afraid of offending restaurants.”

As a result, Kei said, people had higher tolerance of bad ingredients and bad food sourcing.

He’s probably correct. HK culture cares about size of portions and price and not so much about taste, while the great majority of HK food bloggers who write in English only review places that give them free meals.

Restaurateur and critic Lau Kin-wai said he shut the doors of his famous Yellow Door Kitchen a couple of months ago more because of staff issues than rent.

“I can’t hire someone to wash dishes even with HK$10,000 a month,” he said.

I suspect there’s a little bit more to it than that. Now that my wife is working as a waitress, I’m getting to hear directly about how shittily some restaurant owners and managers treat their staff.

 

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