Sunday, 31 August 2014

Occupy Central Begins

Thousands of Occupy Central supporters gathered at Tamar this evening
This evening there are thousands of people gathered at Tamar in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters protesting the National People's Congress Standing Committee's decision on how Hong Kong will vote for its next chief executive in 2017.

Beijing revealed its true colours today -- and it is either terrified of the pro-democracy camp, or keen to show its iron fist with its decision on so-called election reforms.

As I blogged about it on Thursday, the framework is as expected -- there will be a 1,200 nominating committee -- that will be appointed by Beijing -- to choose two to three candidates, who must get at least 50 per cent of the vote. How that will work with three candidates was not spelled out, so basically it is a two-horse race.

The only thing different is that over 5 million people will be eligible to vote, but for a candidate Beijing has decided will "love the country and love Hong Kong", though China's definition of "love" is not spelled out.

"After having lied to Hong Kong people for so many years, it finally revealed itself today," said Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator. "Hong Kong people are right to feel betrayed. It's certain now that the central government will be effectively appointing Hong Kong's chief executive."

Which is why the Occupy Central camp has descended on Tamar to demonstrate its disappointment and anger at Beijing for not even considering what pan-democrats have to say. What was the point of the last-minute talks in Shenzhen last week then?

Silly me -- the central government doesn't make concessions to anyone. It is a dictatorship machine intent on ruling as it pleases.

Is it really afraid that if it gives Hong Kong people the right to nominate candidates that other Chinese cities will be clamouring for it too? Hong Kong is a special administrative region and everyone knows that.

What about showing Taiwan that the mainland is a responsible power that will live up to its promises made in the Joint Declaration in 1984? Obviously Beijing doesn't seem to care what Taiwan thinks anymore as President Ma Yingjeou is practically kowtowing to the mainland.

Where does this leave Hong Kong? There are fewer and fewer options now, which is why Occupy Central is ready to implement its plan of civil disobedience. Did they know it would come to this? Regardless it has done a good job of mobilizing people together, young and old to make their voices heard.

A nominating committee of 1,200 pro-Beijing people does not represent 7.2 million Hong Kong people. What is the point of voting? Then Beijing will say that Hong Kong doesn't care about democracy, one man, one vote, so why have universal suffrage?

This is a terrible fate Hong Kong has been handed. This year has been the most decisive yet in realizing it is fast-becoming another Chinese city.

In the process the mainland is killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Is it short-sighted or more concerned about control?

We shall see in the coming weeks and months.

The school year may be starting tomorrow, but tensions in the city will continue to escalate.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Jazzing Up The Venetian

Arturo Sandoval (second from left) with his trusty trumpet in hand
A few weeks ago a friend who works in Macau asked me if I wanted to attend a jazz concert. I'm always game when it's jazz -- I don't know much about it but love listening to it live -- so she bought an extra ticket for me.

Turns out the artist is Arturo Sandoval, a 10-time Grammy Award winner. Not only is he a trumpeter, but also a pianist and composer.

The 64-year-old was born in Artemisa, Cuba and picked up classical trumpet when he was 12. But then he was soon influenced by jazz artists Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie.

It wasn't until 1977 did Sandoval meet Gillespie, who promptly took the Cuban under his wing and became his mentor. They played in concerts in Europe, Cuba and featured him in The United Nations Orchestra.

While touring with Gillespie in Spain in 1990, Sandoval defected to the United States and later became a naturalized citizen in 1999.

Sandoval's energetic music got audiences tapping their feet
Sandoval became the subject of a TV film in 2000 called For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, with Andy Garcia starring as Sandoval.

And in 2013, US President Barack Obama awarded Sandoval the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It was pretty amazing to see him in person in Macau, at the Venetian Theatre -- in the second row! The last time I was there was for one of the last shows of Zaia... the large auditorium space was much too big for a jazz concert, and wasn't completely filled either.

Sandoval hinted that he and the band had just been to Taipei the night before and were blown away by the reception. So he wondered what Macau would be like, and hinted that the audience's response to tonight's concert would determine if he would come back here.

So we tried our best to make him feel welcome, though his talent and those of his band members were so impressive we clapped a lot in appreciation.

Not being a jazz aficionado I can't tell you all the songs he played, but he felt very comfortable on stage, walking back and forth, picking up one trumpet, then another, or going to his keyboard to bang out a few chords.

But it was his ability to manipulate his voice which was amazing. He and Bobby McFerrin should have a voice-off to see who can do the better special effects. Sandoval imitated a tuba which was amazing, and would "sing" gobbledygook which was fun too. He didn't care what you thought -- he was having fun on stage.

He sang a gorgeous rendition of Dear Diz (Everyday I Think of You) that was tender and delicate, and his own interpretations of A Night in Tunisia, and The Lady is a Tramp that got a standing ovation.

The saxophonist was technically brilliant, a young guy with glasses, shirt, tie and vest, musically jousting with Sandoval, who wore a black T-shirt and slacks and rubbed his large tummy a lot.

However after a while the saxophonist was predictable, doing similar moves, while the pianist was very serious, another young guy, but knew exactly when to show off, or play in the background, was flamboyant in parts, but also delicate in others. There was also a drummer and guitarist/bassist, and a percussion guy mostly on the bongo drums.

After almost two hours, the concert was over, including the encore, to which many stood up clapping. Will Sandoval come back again? Hard to say, but we were thrilled to have a jazz legend play for us!

Arturo Sandoval Quintet
The Venetian Theatre

Friday, 29 August 2014

Paying the Price for Taking a Stand

Next Media's Jimmy Lai seems to know what he's up against
A witch hunt is under way with the Independent Commission Against Corruption raiding the home of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, Next Media's chief, who is a China critic and has funded pro-democracy activities and politicians.

They arrived around 7am to his Kowloon Tong home, and the ICAC also searched the homes of Lai's assistant Mark Simon, and Labour Party legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who admitted receiving HK$1.5 million from Lai.

Lai told Next Media management he was prepared for the raid. "There's a price to pay for taking a stand," he said.

Lee said anti-graft officers took bank statements from his home, while Simon reported five officers searched his home.

"The timing is not uncoincidental," he said. "If you wanted to cool things down, this is the last thing you would do."

An ICAC spokesman said it began its investigation after receiving corruption complaints accusing certain lawmakers of accepting advantages in breach of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

He added the agency acted impartially and without any political consideration.

Last month it was revealed that in leaked records Lai had donated millions of dollars to pan-democrats. Five pan-democratic lawmakers including Lee were accused of failing to declare the donations in the legislature.

Lee said the ICAC wanted to investigate the relationship between Lai's donations and a Legco debate on January 21 about editorial independence.

It was then that Lee mentioned reports that Standard Chartered Bank had pulled ads from local newspapers -- not mentioning Apple Daily by name -- apparently due to pressure from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, according to minutes of the meeting.

Another pro-democracy website called House News which was shut down in July, reported in January that Leung and his allies had pressed banks, including Standard Chartered, to pull ads from Apple Daily.

However, former ICAC chief investigator Stephen Char Shik-ngor, now a barrister, doubted if a "valid or logical" case could be made over any link to Lee's speech.

While the lawmakers may be technically faulted for not declaring Lai's donations, what is wrong with him doing that?

What about investigating the anti-Occupy Central movement? Where did they get all their funds to hold such a long signature campaign and two weekends ago be able to shut off the streets from Victoria Park to Chater Garden for the entire Sunday?

Oh yes -- and how much money was spent luring participants to join the anti-Occupy Central march because they got free meals and some received HK$300 in cash...

Sounds like something fishy is going on -- particularly on the eve of Occupy Central kicking off...


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Occupy Central Starts Sunday

Follow Benny Tai's mantra this Sunday.... and the Sunday after that...
Occupy Central is going to kick off its civil disobedience campaign on Sunday, after Beijing officially lays down its framework for political reform.

So far China has decided that there will be two to three candidates, and they must get at least 50 percent support from the 1,200-member nominating committee in order to run for chief executive.

Isn't that what we basically have already? How is that considered political reform?

Some people blame the Occupy movement for pushing Beijing's buttons, scaring it with the prospect of mass chaos in Central.

In the meantime co-organizer Benny Tai Yiu-ting says the protests will be "continuous and long-term", in that they will be held weekly, and promises it will be peaceful and rational.

"If the campaign begins to lose control or violent acts occur, I will stand at the front of the crowd to stop them," the legal academic said.

Uh huh. Sounds very naive.

He also plans to shave his head as a symbol of sacrificing himself for the cause.

How is that a sacrifice?

"Civil disobedience campaigns require a continuous and long-term effort to arouse people's awareness of democracy," Tai says. "We don't expect an instant change after the Occupy movement, but we will begin with small sacrifices such as shaving my head. I believe change will come when the demands reach a critical point."

Will change really come?

The campaign has been completely vilified by the pro-Beijing/anti-Occupy Central camp, but Tai doesn't think Occupy Central has caused the Chinese government to change its mind, that it would have always come up with this current proposed result anyway.

It's hard to say whether that is true or not, but the threat of civil disobedience was meant to show Hong Kong people are not going to take this passively, that they want to have a choice of who will be the next chief executive, and the nomination of the candidates cannot be controlled by only 1,200 people in a city whose population is over 7 million.

What happens in Beijing on Sunday -- though it's pretty much sewn up -- will determine how many show up in Central. Will the momentum last? Depends if Beijing puts its foot in its mouth again...




Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

A feel-good story about family, food, love and cultural clashes
Last night YTSL and I saw the preview for The Hundred-Foot Journey, a romance produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Once you see her name attached to a project, you know it's going to be a feel-good movie.

It's about the Kadam family who used to run a successful restaurant in India, with son Hassan possessing culinary talent in his younger years. However, the family faced persecution, resulting in the destruction of their restaurant and the death of his mother.

Papa Kadam battles things out with Madame Mallory (left)
The father, daughter, her husband and two children along with Hassan flee to Europe and chance upon a small town in France. They are befriended by a young woman named Marguerite who introduces them to delicious local food.

Papa Kadam decides the family will set up shop there, buying an old farm house to establish their restaurant, Maison Mumbai.

But it just so happens that it's right across the street -- 100 feet -- from Madame Mallory's one Michelin-starred restaurant -- and Marguerite works as the sous chef there.

Academy Award-winning Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory, an arrogant, sophisticated and sharp businesswoman who is determined to get her second star, and this instantly creates a rivalry between the two restaurants that at times is hilarious.

A relationship blooms between Marguerite and Hassan
Om Puri, a seasoned Indian actor is Papa Kadam, and he is a great match of wits for Mirren, while, Manish Dayal is a handsome Hassan, who gives the impression of a passionate chef, and Charlotte Le Bon is the amiable Marguerite.

Overall the film is a fun, and at times the dialogue is hilarious. It stretches at 122 minutes -- which drags on at the end and is actually predictable.

But if you love food and watching it being made, The Hundred-Foot Journey's for you. Just be sure to eat beforehand!


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Quote of the Day: Don't Insult the Chinese!

Billionaire Clive Palmer has apologized to the Chinese, but the damage is done
Oh Clive... do you have to learn the hard way?

Earlier this month Australian tycoon Clive Palmer called the Chinese "bastards" who "want to take over this country" in a televised rant.

He added the Chinese government are "mongrels" who "shoot their own people".

Beijing was obviously not amused by Palmer's tirade as Chinese state media said "Canberra must be taught a lesson".

And despite his enormous wealth made from coal, Palmer's had to eat his words and say sorry today.

"I most sincerely apologize for any insult to Chinese people caused by any of the language I used during my appearance on the ABC television program Q&A," he wrote in a letter to China's ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu.

"I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater peace and understanding in the future."

However it seemed the damage had been done.

"Ambassador Ma stressed that the Chinese people are never to be insulted," the embassy said in a statement to AFP. "Any remarks attacking or slandering China would not gain support and were doomed for failure."

The billionaire is probably used to having things his way all the time, but when you deal with a country with over US$4 trillion in assets, you don't dare insult 1.3 billion people.

However, in the same statement the embassy adds: "The healthy and stable development of China-Australia relations is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and cannot be overturned by any individual."

So there is some hope yet for Australia to redeem itself, but it certainly won't have an equal position at the table...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Picture of the Day: Spreading Half Truths

Have you seen these posters around the city?
The Hong Kong government has put up these posters in bus shelters around the city.

On top of a black and white photograph showing the backs of lots of people marching -- would this be from the July 1 rally? -- it says: "Wanna change? You can have universal suffrage in 2017! Your Vote. Don't cast it away."

In the bottom right corner there are the words: "Let's seize the opportunity to achieve universal suffrage".

We don't dispute this at all -- in fact we are hungering for the opportunity to be able to cast one man, one vote in 2017.

The biggest hurdle is being given the opportunity to nominate who goes on the ballot.

So far Beijing refuses to budge on this issue, insisting all candidates must "love the country" and "love Hong Kong". And now it's saying that nominees must get 50 percent support from the nomination committee.

That means it's a two-horse race, which is basically what we have now.

But pro-democracy activists are talking of getting rid of the nomination committee altogether and some are suggesting that if candidates can get at least 8 percent of support, then they should be able to run for chief executive.

The Chinese government either refuses to see what pro-democracy groups trying to push for, and/or is now pulling the "threats to national security" card.

Either way it's not listening to us.

This week is the start of the National People's Congress Standing Committee meetings that will decide on how Hong Kong will vote for the next CE.

And their decision will determine if Central will be occupied or not.

In the meantime this ad on bus shelters is so misleading and only tells half the story!


Sunday, 24 August 2014

MTR: Caring for Life's Journeys?

Two pictures of the dog and MTR staff's attempts to get it off the tracks
Yesterday hundreds of people showed up to mourn the death of a stray dog that was hit by a train from Shenzhen on Wednesday.

The mourners dressed in black and congregated at the Sheung Shui MTR station where the dog was first sighted, and then like a funeral procession, headed to Fanling station where the canine was found dead.

Many people were upset when they heard about the pathetic attempts by the MTR staff to get the dog off the tracks. A video clip shows two men wearing orange vests trying to coax the animal out of the way, but did not make any attempt to catch it and lift it up onto the platform.

Another picture shows a staff member holding a chair down by the dog. Did he think it was going to jump onto it?

Hundreds of angry protestors came out to mourn the dog
Those who angrily complained felt the MTR should have stopped the incoming train and alerted the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation department, who might have shot the animal with a tranquillizer dart and then removed the animal safely.

In a news report, Leung Chi-sing, an MTR train driver and district councillor said staff lacked training in dealing with animals and didn't have the proper tools to catch animals.

One would think the staff, particularly those at stations in the New Territories, would be trained to deal with these situations, as the tracks are open and anybody or anything could wander into this area.

But apparently the MTR Corporation does not have an extensive crisis management plan, from how to communicate with customers when there are mechanical or technical failures, to rescuing a stray dog from the tracks.

However look at it another way -- if the MTR staff did halt the trains to get the dog off the tracks by getting a qualified animal handler who would then shoot a tranquillizer dart and then remove the animal, how long would that have taken? Would commuters waiting in other stations along the line be sympathetic about the efforts to save a dog?

It's hard to say, but worth considering. That said, the MTR has had so many man-made problems in the last few months, a stray dog would have been the easiest to solve.

Following this incident those people who showed up for the funeral procession might have wished they could have boycotted the MTR, but they probably need to use it to get around. Which may explain why the company doesn't seem to care -- it knows most people don't have much choice and need to use this public transport system to get around relatively quickly.

So much for the MTR's tagline, "Caring for life's journeys"...




Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hong Kong's Anger Erupts from a Bus

I caught the no. 104 bus to get back home from Jordan and it was a very smooth ride -- up until we were about to cross Water Street to reach the Chiu Kwong Street stop in Sai Ying Pun.

This stretch of road is a relatively steep hill, and in front of the bus was a truck that carries gas cannisters, what YTSL lovingly calls "gas bombs". It didn't seem to move, and so the bus driver began honking his horn -- actually he leaned on it and wouldn't let up.

When the truck still didn't move and it was another red light, a man from the passenger side of the truck came out and got onto the bus and began berating the bus driver. The two quickly got into a heated argument and both decided separately to call the police to file a report.

It just happened that a policeman on a motorcycle passed by but didn't offer much assistance and sped off. Meanwhile the bus driver refused to let us off the bus. And so we were basically held hostage there as we saw these two exchange a war of words that included lots of swearing.

The driver of the gas truck then got on board too and the bus driver promptly shut the door behind him so he couldn't get off either. There was yet another face-off and it was really heated.

Most people on the bus just tried to stay out the fray and keep quiet or play with their phones, hoping the incident will end soon.

But we waited for about 15 minutes until the traffic warden finally arrived and asked for the two men on the gas truck to come with him and give their statements. The bus driver still didn't let us go and asked for witnesses to come forward and give their names and phone numbers. No one spoke up.

Finally the traffic warden came back and asked the driver for his details and then soon afterwards both vehicles were allowed to move to the Chiu Kwong Street stop and park there, and we could finally get off. The driver also flagged his colleague to let us on the bus and finish our journey.

There lots of simmering tension in the city and small things, like the vehicle in front of you not moving can spark a hot-headed dispute. Is this what Hong Kong has come to? Are we all stressed out and looking to pick a fight with someone so that we can use that as an excuse to let off some steam?

There's over 7 million people living in this city and rents are sky-high while our wages are not keeping up with inflation. The latest figures showing it will take people 14 years to come up with money for a flat, compared to five years in 2002.

Then there is the constant debate about the minimum wage that doesn't seem to be enough for anyone to live on, and that results in people living in sub-divided flats that are horrible environments to live in and actually give them a sense of despair as well as poor health.

Did I mention the stress from so many mainlanders coming to Hong Kong? They are everywhere clogging up streets, buying up items we can't afford or snapping up basics we need.

The other day when I was waiting for the next MTR train, several mainlanders asked a supervisor on the platform how to get to Admiralty station. Instead of verbally telling them to go downstairs to the next platform, he actually held a sign that said "下层".

Perhaps these supervisors have to say this so many times a day that they actually made a sign to save their breath. In the time I waited for the train he must have held it up four times.

It also makes one wonder what other questions they come across everyday...

The tycoons who own almost all the utilities, supermarkets, shopping malls, and real estate continue to screw us for every cent we have and yet the government hardly does much to make this less blatant.

And now we're hearing how a former no. 2 official in the Hong Kong government borrowed tens of millions of dollars from two tycoon brothers to satisfy his penchant for the finer things in life even though he was spending way beyond his means so he could feel like he belonged in the billionaire club. Not.

The deep divisions between the rich and the poor are becoming starker and the general public don't feel like the government is on its side as well. Oh did we mention there's also the conflict between what Hong Kong people want and what the Chinese government wants?

With no resolution in sight, it seems tensions are still going to bubble beneath the surface and we're probably going to see more arguments sparked on the street...

Hold on, because it's going to be a tempestuous ride...



Friday, 22 August 2014

Picture of the Day: Bird's Eye View

A beautiful reflection of the sunset and looking towards Kennedy Town
When Felix, the Philippe Starck restaurant and bar opened in 1994 on the top floor of the Peninsula, the bathrooms were all the rage, particularly the men's where they could relieve themselves with a floor-to-ceiling view of Kowloon.

Whenever there were no men in the washroom, women could steal a quick look at the panoramic landscape.

Another bathroom that gives a nice view is that of Cafe Gray Deluxe on the 49th floor of The Upper House in Admiralty.

While the view may not be as stunning, it is an interesting angle on the city looking towards Wan Chai and beyond.

But perhaps the view that's tough to beat is that of the washrooms on the 103rd floor of The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Past the sinks and washrooms is a small alcove area complete with comfortable seating where patrons can admire the view looking westwards towards Kennedy Town and beyond.

But it's not always like this. Most of the time the hotel, on top of the International Commerce Centre tower is surrounded by clouds. Last week I was up there for a lunch and there was barely anything to see as it was Amber rain storm warning.

So we paused for a moment and enjoyed watching the boats go by in Victoria Harbour, and the sun, as it slowly settled down into the horizon...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Ghost Bride

Would you mind being married to a ghost?
"Are you afraid of ghosts?" a Malaysian-born Singaporean friend asked me a few weeks ago.

Shen then proceeded to tell me about a novel by Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo called Ghost Bride and when I next saw my friend she passed the book on to me.

I don't usually read much fiction these days -- perhaps too engrossed with current affairs and read magazines and newspapers both print and online.

So it was interesting reading Ghost Bride and being transported back to colonial Malaya in the late 1800s, where people used rickshaws to get around and those who were more enlightened wore western clothes and were educated overseas.

Li Lan is a teenage girl born in Malacca, and raised by her amah who also looked after her mother, who died when Li Lan was young. Her father was scholarly, but didn't have a head for the family business. After a series of deals gone sour, he turned his attention to opium and frittered away the family fortune.

Author Yangsze Choo, fourth-generation Malaysian Chinese
And as a result, some debts need to be repaid and the father asks his daughter if she would be a ghost bride to the wealthy Lim family, whose son and heir Lim Tian Ching recently died.

When Li Lan visits the Lim household for the first time, she falls for Lim Tian Ching's cousin Tian Bai, and then the battle for affections begin -- even the ghost of her husband-to-be haunts her heart.

In writing the story, the author used the premise of ghost marriages which were usually made between two deceased people with both families recognizing the the marriage, but there were also cases where a living person married someone who was dead.

These were usually cases where the betrothed person died, or giving the woman the rank of wife to a concubine who had produced an heir. And then there were situations where a girl, like Li Lan, entered a household to become a widow for a man who died without a wife or descendants.

Ghost Bride is a fantasy story that interweaves Chinese superstition around ghosts, the lifestyle of Straits-born Chinese at the time, as well as a lot of imagination about what the underworld would be like.

Choo puts all these details together in a well written tale that, to be honest, at times were predictable, but was told in such a way that you had to keep reading to find out what happened next.

It's a fun read and though I enjoyed the novel, luckily I haven't been haunted by these ghosts yet...






Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Fiery End of the Ghost Festival

The very large paper robe for non-earthly beings
Last night was the last day of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

In the past few weeks people have been setting up makeshift shrines along the side of the road, giving food offerings like chicken, pork, apples and oranges along with incense to give to spirits wandering around.

Paper stages filled with Chinese opera performers on the robe
It is believed during Ghost Month that the gates of hell open up and hungry ghosts come up and seek food and entertainment. And so apart from the food left for them along the streets, temporary buildings are set up made of bamboo but elaborately and brightly decorated so that the spirits can enjoy Chinese opera.

Dragging out Yan Wang -- check out his blue fist!
Many also burn hell money as well as "gold ingots" to in the hopes that the wandering spirits don't give them trouble by giving them enough money to live in the afterlife, which is believed to be very similar to the world us mortals live in, with everything from clothes to wear to officials to bribe.

I happened to have dinner with relatives at PMQ and I wandered up towards Staunton Street where a temporary building made of bamboo featured a large, fantastic looking paper robe fit for a non-human emperor.

The details of this colourful robe were amazing, featuring little pavillions with people inside them, and lots of fish along it.

This robe was in the centre of the temporary bamboo structure, while off to the far left side were Buddhists in yellow chanting prayers, and then next section had various offerings like pomelo and oranges. And then to the far right was a giant statue made of papier mache and bamboo.

After beating him they carry him to be burnt
Doing some research on Wikipedia, I think it matches the description of Yan Wang (閻王), the god of death and ruler of the underworld.

The face is described as menacing and from what I saw, this towering figure pretty much fit the bill with what looked like a dark blue face, mean eyes and his arms raised.

After the chanting was done, everyone was watching as people carefully removed the Yan Wang figure from the bamboo structure. Once they did that, they immediately started beating it with poles, and after several good whacks, they carried it to where hell money was being burnt to send this "god" to the underworld.

The robe with "gold" ingots hanging above
If it wasn't raining, the figure would have probably caught fire very quickly, so there was no pyrotechnic display.

I'd never seen the formal end of the Hungry Ghost Festival, so I'm glad I was able to catch it!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jackie Chan's Guanxi Put to the Test

Jackie Chan (right) has flown to Beijing to deal with Jacyee's drug charges
Poor Jackie Chan. He's tried so hard to accumulate as much good guanxi as possible with the motherland, even being the unofficial spokesperson for China by sticking up for the Communist regime, much to the chagrin of Hong Kongers.

But news broke that his son Jaycee Chan, 32, was arrested for drug charges along with Taiwanese actor Ko Chen-tung, 23 last Thursday in Beijing.

Both tested positive for marijuana and admitted using the drug, and 100 grams of weed was found in Chan's home.

Jaycee with actor Ko Chen-tung tested positive for weed
China Central Television broadcast footage of the police searching Jaycee's home, with the actor's face pixelated, showing police where he stashed the marijuana. The police claimed the acted on a tip off from the public.

Chan is accused of accommodating drug users, a charge if convicted can lead to a sentence of up to three years in prison -- a far greater charge than drug consumption, of which Ko is accused of. Two other people detained were accused of selling drugs.

This latest arrest comes as part of an anti-drug crackdown after Chinese President Xi Jinping said in June that illegal drugs must be eradicated and offenders be severely punished.

It seems Chan and Ko were made as examples, as Jackie Chan was named an anti-drug ambassador in 2009 and Ko was part of an anti-drug campaign two years ago.

Earlier today Ko was shown in CCTV tearfully apologizing to his family and fans. "I feel very regretful, very sorry to all the people who supported me... I've been a very bad example, I've made a very big mistake, said the star of You Are the Apple of My Eye.

In the meantime Jackie Chan has flown to Beijing in the hopes of helping his son deal with the drug charges, though it seems Jaycee has admitted guilt.

The older Chan has invested in property, land and the film industry in China, as well as promoted mainland Chinese charities, but it looks like all his good deeds and investments weren't enough to save his kid from such an embarrassing incident.

Which is why we say poor Jackie. All his money and fame aren't going to be enough to wriggle his son out of this well-publicized incident...

Monday, 18 August 2014

Warehouse Dining

The interior of Factory 99 Grill filled with customers on a Friday evening
My relatives who live in Tokwawan had told me about a restaurant in Kwun Tong that's located in a warehouse. They showed me pictures of a massive hamburger that two grown men had to share.

And so they decided to take me there last Friday evening so I could check it out.

The barbecue back ribs
It's near APM Mall and we walked along a few side streets before we arrived at Factory 99 Grill and walked up two flights of stairs to get there.

Inside it was a cavernous place -- probably a former factory space -- and it was filled with diners and the semi open kitchen at the back. There isn't much ambience as the floors are concrete and quite noisy. Even though we made a reservation we still had to wait about 15 minutes and so we perused the menu.

It's all western food here and very reasonably priced. We decided to take advantage of the set menu meals, all of which ranged from HK$169-HK$229 each and included mushroom toast, cream of mushroom soup, mains and a dessert.

We sat right by the kitchen so we could see the staff heating up mini loaves of rosemary bread, ladling out the soup (which the serving staff then dumped dried chopped parsley on top), and scooping mushrooms onto the small pieces of toast.

New Zealand lamb chops pan-fried medium rare
We preferred the mushrooms over the toast, while the soup was too creamy for me, but most locals would think this one was good, not too rich.

One of the mains was US barbecue back ribs and it was very tender, probably because they boiled the meat first before baking it with the sauce. Needless to say it was very meaty and we cleaned off the bones.

The pan-fried New Zealand lamb chops were cooked medium rare as requested and were quite large portions -- lamb chops on steroids?! It came with delicious fries, carrots and peas.

Meanwhile the squid ink spaghetti was a very black dish, completely infusing the pasta with the black ink flavour. It came with several scallops that were slightly overcooked.

I thought dessert was Movenpick ice cream but instead turned out to be ramekins of creme brulee that didn't quite have enough of an egg custard flavour, but sufficiently passed because of the price.

Very dark-looking squid ink spaghetti
We won't be rushing back here again, but it is value for money. Many families came here as well as young people on dates or get-togethers with friends. What's also interesting is that the place is open on Saturday for lunch but not for dinner, as it caters to the working hours of the people in the area who are mostly in factories and warehouses.

Factory 99 Grill
Flat A, 1/F, How Ming Factory
99 How Ming Street
Kwun Tong
2345 8333


Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Patriotic March

The scene looking at the marchers finishing the route around 4.15pm
Today the anti-Occupy Central movement occupied the streets of Hong Kong from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Chater Garden in Central.

Police estimate 111,800 marchers attended this time, compared to 98,600 for July 1.

Then how is it that today's march ended at 6.30pm and past 10pm on July 1?

Obviously someone tallied the numbers wrong...

In any event, the march today screwed up my plans to hit the gym in the early afternoon. I should have gotten off the bus at Douglas Street, just before Landmark, thinking there would be a closer stop, but I was wrong. I took the bus all the way to Immigration Tower in Wan Chai and had to fight the Food Expo crowds going to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to get to the MTR to return to Central.

As I crossed the overpass, it seemed like I had seen the last bit of the marchers and thought it was funny that the march ended so quickly because there didn't seem to be anyone behind the group that was approaching Southorn Playground.

And when I got to Central, the head of the march hadn't arrived yet.

The marchers seemed to go past the Chater Garden finish...
However, after I finished my swim over an hour later, there were still lots of people marching -- obviously in drips and drabs.

There was talk of many being coerced into participating, lured by the prospect of having a work day off or some kind of monetary reward (perhaps funded by an entity based in Western), or people, many elderly, were bussed in to make it easier for them to get to the starting point.

Anti-Occupy Central co-founder Robert Chow Yung must be extremely pleased with the turnout, despite having only 900 people showing up to run the same route earlier in the morning. They were hoping for 10,000...

Some people who were interviewed for the march said they didn't want Occupy Central to happen because they worried about violence, which indicated the propaganda against the movement has effectively brain washed people.

No matter what side you are on, we all want a peaceful resolution of how universal suffrage will be implemented in 2017. Who said the Occupy Central people were planning to be violent? Civil disobedience does not equal violence.

It's interesting the Occupy Central camp hasn't done much to clear up this serious piece of misinformation, and they were exposed as being naive by leaks of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's emails who donated money to their cause.

In the meantime, it's not surprising but disappointing to see Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has signed the anti-Occupy Central petition, along with Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man, Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim, and Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.

Leung made sure the media covered his public signing the petition and when reporters asked about him taking sides, he said: "There is no neutrality in it. There is no 'middle area' between breaking the law and not breaking the law".

So the ball is now back in Occupy Central's court, though it's interesting to note senior Beijing officials will meet all 70 Hong Kong lawmakers in Shenzhen next week for a last-ditch attempt at resolving electoral reforms for the 2017 election of the next chief executive.

Even though many people have been out of Hong Kong for the holidays, the city has been anything but quiet these days...


Saturday, 16 August 2014

The KFC Challenge

Here's the neon sign inside the restaurant. Where's the chicken?!
Earlier this year, the rage for KFC -- Korean Fried Chicken -- ignited in Hong Kong thanks to a Korean drama called My Love from Another Star where the main character loves eating this dish.

The main event! Sweet and chilli sauce, and original
Soon afterwards KFC places sprung up in Hong Kong, particularly in Tsim Sha Tsui. The first place to start the trend was Chicken Hof & Soju Bar on Kimberley Road, followed by wannabes like Fairyland Korean Chicken.

A few months ago, YTSL, her mother and I wanted to check out Chicken Hof & Soju and began to line up -- across the road on a pedestrian island -- only to give up when we saw the line hardly moving and our stomachs growling.

So we headed down the road to Fairyland and thought it would be a shorter wait, which turned out to be about half an hour. While we got to sit on stools inside the restaurant entrance, it was annoying to have to close the door because people didn't bother to slide the door properly to avoid the air conditioning from evaporating into the humid air outside.

When we finally sat down we were ravenous and despite the large portions, we managed to polish off a half portion of spicy and sweet fried chicken, half portion of original flavour and a large bowl of salad.

Noodles on the left with a spicy sauce of snails
The original flavour was dull and dry, which is why we preferred the one with the thick sauce. Overall it was OK, not that impressive, which made us wonder how much better Chicken Hof & Soju would be.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when YTSL came across the second location of Chicken Hof & Soju in between Causeway Bay and Wan Chai. We had to go!

And together with another friend with a hankering for KFC we headed over there at 2pm when it supposedly opened, but when we got there at 2.10pm, it still wasn't open, though some staff were waiting around too.

However it was definitely worth the wait. Here we also ordered the half portion of original flavour and half sweet and chilli sauce, but boy were they infinitely better than Fairyland!

The original flavour one was crispy on the outside, hardly oily, and inside was tender and flavourful. The spicy sweet sauce of the other one was pretty intense, so I preferred the former.

We also ordered spicy sauce with snails mixed with noodles. It was interesting making our own ratio of noodles to sauce that featured chives with cucumbers and thick, meaty snail pieces.

Strange Cajun chicken salad...
Perhaps a bit of overkill was the Cajun chicken salad that was hardly Cajun. There weren't just cabbage leaves in the salad, but underneath there were slices of kiwi and apples as well as raisins and cherry tomatoes! Strange combination.

And because this new location still doesn't have a liquor license YTSL ran out to get some beer which perfectly complemented our big chicken feast.

Portions here were smaller than Fairyland, but we were definitely full by the end of it!

In the end the bill came to HK$517 ($66.70) for three and we all had to have a nap afterwards to digest our memorable meal.

Chicken Hof & Soju Bar
Shop C, G/F, 405-419 Lockhart Road
Wan Chai
2176 4598


Friday, 15 August 2014

Fact of the Day: Starving for a Home

People desperately save money so that they can own a shoebox in the sky
Quality of life in Hong Kong has gotten progressively worse for the average person living in the city.

In the latest quality of life index released by Chinese University, it will take 14 years to save for a flat -- as long as you don't eat.

For last year, the housing affordability ratio was at -4.91, down from -3.49 the year before, the lowest in 12 years since the index was first compiled.

"When we conducted our first survey in 2002, a typical household would need only five years' saving to buy a 400 square foot flat in Kowloon," said Terence Chong Tai-leung, associate professor at the university's department of economics.

"Now they would have to stop eating and live [on the streets] for 14 years to save enough money for a flat."

The housing affordability ratio first dropped into negative territory in 2010 at -0.85.

Before people used to joke about having to eat instant noodles everyday for years in order to afford a flat, but apparently now you have to starve for a home...


Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Shadow of Himself

One can only imagine what it was like for Gao to live in inhumane conditions
It's devastating to read a news story in which recently released human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been so affected by his prison term that he cannot speak coherent sentences and his health is poor due to malnutrition.

Gao's international lawyer Jared Gensher described the former prisoner as "emotionless", "basically unintelligible" and had lost his teeth. He was only allowed to eat a daily ration of a piece of cabbage and a slice of bread which caused him to lose 20kg, according to US-based advocacy group Freedom Now.

The group added he was confined in his small cell, with very little light and was deprived of human contact until his release. It is believed he was regularly tortured.

Freedom Now said Gao's wife, Geng He, had spoken to her husband and was "completely devastated" by what had happened to him.

"The only thing I feared more than him being killed was his suffering relentless and horrific torture and being kept alive," she was quoted as saying.

Seems her worst fears did come true.

She is now trying to urge the Chinese government to allow Gao to go to the United States to receive treatment there and be reunited with his children.

But the chances of Beijing listening to her and conceding to her demands are probably impossible.

Gensher says Gao has been "in an incredibly bad way".

"He is able to say a few words here and there and answering questions in a few words, describing what he went through. But he is not capable of holding any conversation and there are many occasions where he's just literally just muttering to himself."

After three years, the Chinese government has reduced an intelligent, determined, pragmatic man into a completely broken one.

Beijing has destroyed a productive human being because he did not serve its interests.

Can the government be charged with killing a human spirit?

At this point one also wonders how Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is faring. Is he being destroyed as we speak?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This morning Kowloon disappeared in the clouds and rain!
Rain has been the story here for the past 24 hours and everyone has a wet weather story to tell.

Yesterday around 6.45pm the rain started pouring down and while I was safely ensconced in a large bus travelling from work to Sheung Wan, I would have to get out into the dreaded downpour and walk to a restaurant in between Central and Sheung Wan.

Just running from the bus to shelter a few steps away and my shoes were already filled with water. Only later did I realize the Red Rainstorm warning was up.

I then got into the Sheung Wan MTR station and tried to avoid more water by using the underground passageway to get to Queen's Road Central. But then there was no more cover -- and it made me realize how unfriendly some buildings are in Hong Kong in not offering some kind of shelter or efficient passageway when there are terrible weather conditions.

I didn't have a large umbrella either, but I was already better off than some people (ie men) who were completely soaked or had to wait a long time for the rain to pass.

Eventually I made it to the restaurant but not without looking like a drowned rat. I even had to take my shoes off and empty them of water. When I sat down, I had to ask for an extra dinner napkin to dry off a bit and also cover my legs from getting cold.

Meanwhile my dining companion was stuck in Causeway Bay and decided to take a bus but it stopped in Wan Chai without moving for 10 minutes and then she texted me, "Prison break!" and ran for the MTR.

In weather conditions like these, you just have to brave the crowds and head underground because you're pretty much guaranteed you'll get somewhere relatively fast.

She eventually showed up 45 minutes late, but in one piece.

We had a fun time, but then I had to wear my cold, soaked shoes back home. To save them I stuffed them with newspaper and wrapped them in the newsprint too to soak up the moisture it had accumulated. The shoes were still a bit damp this morning and I changed the newspaper in the shoes...

Today I was smart and wore a pair of fake Crocs and brought a pair of shoes to change into. However, I did get pretty wet despite having a large umbrella too, again because of Red Rainstorm warning.

The rain was relentless all afternoon and only later in the evening was the Amber Rainstorm warning lowered and thunderstorm warning at 10.30pm.

We've been having strange weather these days considering Hong Kong hasn't been directly affected by a typhoon yet this year. The Hong Kong Observatory is forecasting heavy showers and thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow morning, it seems clear now, but things can change within minutes.

We appreciate the smart phone app the observatory has developed, texting us with the latest weather warnings we need to know about, but they seem like only bits of information and not the overall picture of what the rest of the day may look like.

Or perhaps the meteorologists don't even know?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Run to Central

The anti-Occupy Central group wants movement devotees to run on Sunday
The anti-Occupy Central campaign is still collecting signatures and as of Monday has 1.1 million of them.

But the organizers of this group doesn't think that's enough and public marches are needed.

"We need to walk the walk for peace. We need to move along the road toward universal suffrage with concerted efforts," explained Connie Wong Wai-ching, president of Kowloon Federation of Associations and one of the coordinators of the rallies.

They are now putting together a "Run and Sweat Please -- Run to Central" that will take place thus Sunday.

Participants can start at 7.30am that day for a non-competitive race, or join the conventional march at 3pm.

Both routes start at Victoria Park and follow the 3.2 kilometre tram line to end at Chater Garden.

Sound familiar to the one held in July 1?

But in this case, organizers are not allowing any other participants with other political messages to join in the event.

While organizers are hoping for 10,000 to show up, there are estimates there could be as many as 60,000 taking part.

It's amusing to see the anti-Occupy Central camp so fitness oriented... how many people will they get out on the streets on Sunday?

The organizers are touting it as "Peace and Democracy Day". It sounds so PRC and we wouldn't be surprised if they were footing the bill for the event too.

The battle for the hearts and minds of Hong Kong people continues...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Picture of the Day: Fake Pandas

How do these pandas in Shanghai...
Last year it was the Rubber Duck that captivated Hong Kong last summer and then China had to do one (or many) better by creating its own versions. The one in Beijing for instance had to be bigger than the one in Hong Kong...

And then this year it's the pandas. There were 1,600 pandas that invaded the city last month, a project presented by WWF to bring to attention there are only 1,600 pandas left in the wild.

... compare to these ones that visited Hong Kong recently?
Now that the cute black and white creatures have left (presumably on the Cathay Pacific flight that they arrived on), Shanghai has decided to copy Hong Kong again.

One thousand toy pandas with various facial expressions were placed the steps of the Shanghai World Financial Centre for a promotional event.

While they attracted onlookers with cameras, these pandas are hardly as cute as those created by French artist Paulo Grangeon.

Just another sad commentary of how the mainland strives to be cool, and yet it can only think of copying what's already been done before...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Japanese Italian

A large portion of tuna over cold pasta which was delicious
Last night YTSL and I checked out a restaurant we'd heard about called Sagrantino.

It's opened by a Japanese chef who cooks Italian food called Takashi Yasuda and practically every night after he closes the restaurant he heads over to Lan Kwai Fong to have his own meal and sake at Sake Bar Ginn.

Yasuda is an expert when it comes to Italian cuisine, and earlier this year took a month off to travel around Italy and learn more dishes. Apparently he's completely fluent in Italian too.

Yellow tail carpaccio was on the bland side
However, YTSL wasn't sure about this place -- she looked up on Open Rice that most reviews gave the restaurant thumbs down. But over a month ago I met a Japanese magazine editor here who said one of her favourite places was Sagrantino, because of the interesting combination of Italian cuisine with Japanese ingredients.

So we decided to give it a shot and on a Saturday evening it wasn't too full, but already bustling. Behind our table was a group of Japanese, who were regulars as Takashi went out to check out on them.

The menu looked interesting, with the typical beef carpaccio, pasta a la vongole, caprese salad, lasagne and tiramisu.

But there were some other intriguing items like octopus salad, pasta with soft shell crab in garlic, and pasta with a cream-based sauce of avocado and egg.

For starters we split the yellow tail carpaccio (HK$118) that came garnished with finely diced peppers and salad leaves. It looked good, but taste-wise was quite bland. The slices of fish were very thick for carpaccio, but perhaps this was the Japanese style? We weren't quite sure.

But our skepticism was put to rest with our mains. I ordered the zuke cold pasta (HK$128), featuring al dente angel hair pasta with thick cubes of soy-sauce marinated tuna topped with slices of dried seaweed.

Spaghetti with a creamy sea urchin sauce
It was really refreshing and filling! We had read in the online reviews that the portions here were small, but this was quite large. However it tasted so good, I kept eating it and eating it...

YTSL asked for the echino (HK$148), spaghetti with a creamy sea urchin sauce. A taste of it revealed a strong prevalence of cheese, but strong hints of uni which made the dish very umami flavoured. This dish too was very rich, though YTSL plowed through the pasta too, savouring each bite with a glass of prosecco.

Staff are friendly and polite, and Takashi came by to check on us, perhaps nervous about what we thought of his food.

Around 9pm a waitress came by to tell us the kitchen was taking last orders. So early? On a Saturday night? We jokingly wondered of Yasuda wanted to close up shop earlier and enjoy the rest of the evening over to Sake Bar Ginn?

I'd be game to try some of his other dishes to see what they tasted like, but we don't know when we'll hit this place again in the near future...

Sagrantino
5/F, The Loop
33 Wellington Street
Central
2521 5188


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Ponyo is much larger than her thousands of sisters...
This afternoon YTSL took me to see her all-time favourite Japanese anime character in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. She loves this little red-haired girl/goldfish because she is feisty and proactive, which you can clearly see in the film.

The animation is all hand drawn and has a theme of under the sea and in the opening scenes there's no dialogue except for graceful jellyfish floating up, schools of fish swimming along.

And then we finally see Ponyo as a goldfish trying to escape the sea world she lives in, controlled by her mad-cap scientist father, Fujimoto, who hates how man has destroyed the planet and he creates some powerful potions in the hopes of bringing back the sea to its original state.

The two kids are thrilled to have ham with instant noodles
Meanwhile through fate, Ponyo meets a five-year-old boy Sosuke who lives by the sea with his mother Lisa and father who is a captain.

For Ponyo it's love at first sight and is determined to become human. She inadvertently creates a mess in her father's laboratory and unleashes the glowing potions that create humungous fish and tsunamis that directly impact Sosuke and his community.

The animation here is fantastic -- the reactions of the characters are very human -- even though you know they are cartoons, they are drawn with sensitivity, playfulness and lots of expression.

For example there are some cute scenes where Ponyo interacts with Sosuke, as well as when she learns what humans do.

Lisa is also an interesting character, very strong and independent, and definitely speaks her mind when she gets mad at her husband. Strangely, Sosuke calls his mother Lisa, and father Koichi, but it is seen as normal.

The fantastic world under the sea filled with jellyfish
Another strong female character is Ponyo's mother, Grandmamare, who seems like a goddess of the sea, decorated in rubies and has long flowing locks. Fujimoto resorts to having to contact her to control Ponyo because he doesn't have enough power to discipline her himself.

Not only is feminism a recurring theme in his movies, but also man's relationship with nature, thanks to director Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. He has no qualms injecting his own opinions into his anime. In the opening scenes there's a ship dredging up the sea bed and it is scooping up all kinds of garbage into its net that people have thrown into the ocean.

The world under the sea is an amazing sight, particularly the scenes where the entire town is flooded and Sosuke and Ponyo travel on his toy boat to find Lisa. Along the way the water is so clear they can see the different fish swimming below them.

The adult issues tie up nicely with Miyazaki's main story of the love between Ponyo and Sosuke that proves amor vincit omnia -- love conquers all.




Friday, 8 August 2014

Fact of the Day: Hong Kong's Most Expensive Real Estate

The homes at 12 Kellett Road on The Peak -- who will buy the first one?
Looking for a place to live? Hong Kong's most expensive real estate to date has come on the market.

It's the 12 houses at Twelve Peaks on 12 Mount Kellett Road on The Peak for a record HK$175,735 ($22,672) per square foot. The first house, No. 1 is the most expensive, selling for HK$819.1 million.

"The decoration cost of No. 1 is nearly equivalent to 10 percent of the selling price. It will probably be the most expensive house in the world per square foot if it fetches that amount," says Victor Lui Ting, deputy managing director at Sun Hung Kai Properties, the company selling the dozen homes.

On paper, it doesn't seem like Hong Kong's economy has any problems, does it?


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Cautious Freedom

Free at last -- but how much freedom with Gao Zhisheng really have?
We are thrilled to hear activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng was released earlier today after three years in jail in Shaya, in remote northwest China.

His brother went to pick him up and then travel to Urumqi with minders following them. They went to Gao's sister-in-law's home and it was there that the lawyer was able to call his wife in San Francisco and speak to her for the first time in four years.

"I spoke to Gao Zhisheng, I spoke to him," his wife Geng He said, her voice filled with emotion. "I ask him how his health was, and all he was able to say was, 'My teeth are in bad shape,'" she said.

Geng could hear unfamiliar voices in the room, and deduced they were minders. Her sister told her that half a dozen of Gao's teeth were loose and he had to tear his prison servings of steamed buns into tiny pieces in order to eat.

"Can you imagine the kind of ill treatment he was facing in there?" she asked.

His release was a stark change from the two visits from relatives he was allowed in three years, while his wife and two children fled China in 2009 and were accepted as refugees in the US.

What did Gao do to deserve this horrific treatment?

Previously he was a leading human rights lawyer, self-taught and praised by the Chinese government. But then he began defending the rights of Falun Gong members and farmers with land disputes which Beijing frowned upon. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

This isn't the first time Gao was jailed. He was convicted of subversion in 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison. Three years later he was released on probation, and then disappeared a few times.

The last time he was released he recounted in graphic detail to the media how he was physically tortured, kept awake, beaten, his genitals prodded and violated. Soon afterwards he was disappeared again... and then it was later revealed he was in this remote prison for violating the terms of his probation, according to Xinhua.

"Among all the rights lawyers, he has endured the most suffering and we are happy that he was able to come out today," said Beijing rights lawyer Li Fangping. "But we feel very pessimistic about the days ahead. In the past, he was always in either illegal detention or being tortured. We are very worried about whether he will be able to regain full freedom."

We worry too about what will happen to Gao. But more importantly what is his mental state after all he has been through? Has he completely given up the fight to preserve his sanity or is he still the fiery advocate? Will Gao be able to see his family again?

There are too many questions and hopefully they will be answered with time.

Nevertheless, the constant stream on Twitter about his release proves Gao has not been forgotten. We hope he is feeling our love and support from around the world.