Saturday, 31 August 2013

Fashion Forward?

French fashion brand Celine has this interesting look for winter 2013.

For people in Hong Kong and China, the patten is reminiscent of those large vinyl bags used for transporting stuff around town and across the border.

And now it's used in high fashion, albeit in jacquard check.

Is the label paying homage to the millions of garment factory workers in China? Or is it a pattern designer Phoebe Philo thinks is retro cool?

In any event we wonder if any taitai would dare to wear this coat in Hong Kong...

We think Ai Weiwei should create his own version...

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Next Fall Guy

Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai wearing Chinese official casual uniforms
For the past week, all the talk has been about Bo Xilai's trial.

And while we are waiting for the verdict, one of his biggest supporters is being taken down by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Former security chief Zhou Yongkang, 70, is being investigated for corruption, making him the highest-ranking official to be targeted for graft.

Over a year ago there were rumours Zhou would fall, but with the transition of power and Xi needing time to amass his authority, it was only a matter of time before Zhou, one of the nine who used to be on the Standing Committee would be put in his place.

It was Zhou who ardently defended Bo when Gu Kailai was accused of murdering Briton Neil Heywood, and that Bo may have tried to protect her from investigation.

This raised eyebrows at the time, but being such a senior person, perhaps Zhou was not someone to be messed with.

After all it was he who was responsible for reforming the police force and then took over the party's political and legislative committees, responsible for China's courts, police, paramilitary, and domestic state security and spying agencies.

Is there anyone left to stand up and defend Zhou?
However, Zhou's insistence on saving Bo -- with the added rumour of wanting to use him in a political coup -- got Zhou into trouble and an investigation into his dealings, particularly in the oil industry already began over a year ago.

But it was only now after Xi apparently got the blessing of Zhou's mentor, former President Jiang Zemin, that this investigation is now out in the open.

The political manoeuvering to accomplish this is definitely an impressive feat and we'll have to see how Zhou intends to fight back.

This latest development is part of Xi's ongoing campaign against corruption. Many thought or hoped it would last a few months, but now that he has scooped up Zhou, he has really caught a "tiger", and not just the "flies".

Many China experts believe the anti-corruption drive is a vehicle for Xi to root out his adversaries and not really reform the system. Corruption is pervasive throughout the system, and either Xi has no ability or interest in fixing it, or he really is out to get his enemies.

And so it goes, Chinese history repeating itself and not really moving forward.

The government may be super rich with over four trillion in US Treasury Bills, but it is bankrupt when it comes to integrity.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Size Matters

The Rubber Duck will invade the Chinese capital next Friday
China really has an inferiority complex when it comes to Hong Kong.

In 1997 Sir Norman Foster designed the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok. While it's way out in Lantau, it is infinitely better than what we had at Kai Tak.

The mainland refused to be outdone.

So in 2008 in time for the Beijing Summer Olympics, Foster was again commissioned to design Beijing Capital International Airport -- three times bigger than Hong Kong's.

Fast forward to May 2013 when Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman's Rubber Duck bobbed up and down in Victoria Harbour for a month.

People immediately fell for the 16.5-metre high duck that brought out the children in them.

And now China has asked Hofman to create an even bigger Rubber Duck at 18 metres tall that will float on a lake in the newly built Beijing Garden Expo Park in Fengtai district from next Friday until September 23.

Then the duck will fly? swim? to Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace until October 26.

Already Chinese internet users are annoyed that entrance fees to the two parks are 100 yuan for Beijing Garden Expo Park and 30 yuan for the Summer Palace.

"Why was it free in Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong and we need to buy tickets in Beijing?" asked one Sina Weibo microblogger.

No doubt the admission fees will be used to pay Hofman, though we think he won't be too pleased about the financial arrangement, as he's all about sharing and public space.

There are also concerns there is going to be tons of traffic in these areas, not to mention hordes of people too.

If mainlanders don't like it, they can go find the 10 counterfeit ducks that have been spotted in cities such as Dongguan, Tianjin, Xian, Wenzhou and Wuhan.

In any event we'll see duck mania sweep the capital... does this mean more Peking ducks will be consumed as well?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

About Face

Hanging out on the beach wearing face-kinis... only in China...
I thought I was totally on the ball with what's going on in China.

But I missed one big fashion development that was reported last year -- the face-kini.

They're basically rubber face masks people (women) wear on the beach -- to avoid tanning their faces and scare of "sea creatures".

The masks have holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, but not for the ears, so hearing may not be the best, and completely unattractive.

How can you tell these women definitely don't want a tan?
Some women completely cover up, literally from head to toe while others only wear the face-kini with their bathing suits.

How did I miss this incredibly insane phenomenon?

A colleague told me about these face-kinis a few months ago and then I was reminded of them tonight when I went for a swim at the gym's pool.

There was a woman swimming breast stroke and wearing a face mask, those white cotton ones soaked in serums to enhance the skin's moisture.

We wondered if the chlorine would affect the effectiveness of the face mask...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Infamous 759 Shop

One of the 759 shops around Hong Kong that entice people to snack...
I have a friend who loves to eat snacks, be it chips, cookies and chocolate.

She once told me the best place to go in Hong Kong is called 759. I wondered why it was called these three numbers and now I know.

Coils Lam Wai-chun is the chairman of CEC International. The 55-year-old didn't have much education -- after finishing primary school he started working at a Japanese electronics company. After eight years he started his own small coils factory in a 100 square foot building in North Point when he was 20.

The company then expanded to Zhongshan with a factory there. By 1999, Lam had 10,000 people on his payroll and CEC International went public with the stock code 759.

But a few years later Lam's company began struggling due to the financial crisis, laying off about half his staff.

759 owner Coils Lam Wai-chun with his snacks
"At the time I was looking for a business that would help me keep about 4,000 employees on. I thought of opening wonton noodle shops, but dropped the idea as I found out there are a lot of trade secrets one needs to learn to successfully sell wonton noodles. I also thought of selling clothes, but could not find good suppliers," he said.

Then one day while eating potato chips, Lam had a realization. "I thought why not go into the snack business? Hong Kongers like to snack all the time, surely there's money in it. You can even find the name of the supplier on the back of these packets and I can call them up to order stocks."

He opened his first 759 shop in Kwai Chung and within three years has opened 147 stores. Lam hopes to have 180 by the end of this year.

What is also efficient is that Lam uses the same office and staff for the coils and snack business.

"The drivers who deliver the coils in the morning can deliver the potato chips and noodles to 759 shops in the afternoon. The Japanese salesperson who sells the coils in Japan can also meet the snack suppliers there on the same trip. They can also check the Japanese-language label on the snack pack," Lam explained.

This is how Lam manages to keep himself in business as well as his employees, as both coil manufacturing the selling snacks have thin profit margins. Being as efficient as possible is crucial.

Nevertheless business in 759 is very good -- making up 70 percent of his business, but he expects the ratio to go up to 80 percent.

759 also specializes in Japanese and Korean snacks at good prices -- with the most popular ones priced at HK$15, and so people are willing to indulge. After a tough day at work, why not a little cheap snack to make me happy?

Of course Lam doesn't talk about the resulting expanding waistlines and blood pressure and blood sugar shooting up; he would probably say that's none of his business...

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Fifth and Final Day

Screen grabs of Bo Xilai on his last day in court
The Bo Xilai trial wrapped up after five days -- many of us believe it was longer than unexpected, but who knows, it could all have been planned in advance.

Bo did not disappoint with the bits of weibo posts we got, though they were heavily censored and published less frequently day by day.

On his last day he explained his former police chief Wang Lijun had fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu because Bo discovered Wang had an affair with his wife, referring to them "like glue and paint".

"In fact they had a very special relationship," Bo said. "I was very upset about it."

He described an emotional scene where he walked into the pair as Wang was confessing his feelings for Gu Kailai.

And we thought this was all hearsay!

So did Gu have an affair with Neil Heywood?

He also claimed Gu tried to alienate Bo from his first son, Li Wangzhi, who took his mother's name. Li has been attending the trial everyday as far as we know. But in the Weibo post, Bo refers to his son as Bo Wangzhi. Was this Bo's way of trying to reconcile with his older son in court?

The Bo family members must feel awkward having their lives exposed for the world to see, but at the same time pleased Bo was given his day(s) in court.

And now we wait for the verdict, a few weeks from now. While the guilty verdict is known, how guilty he is the real question.

We just want to know how far he veered off script and if he and his wife are going to share a jail cell...

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Blue Skies and Kevin Rudd

A perfect Sunday afternoon in Central with blue skies and white fluffy clouds
We were so happy to see blue skies again after a week of haze thanks to Typhoon Trami that passed by the region.

And now visitors can do away with that fake skyline that's been erected along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, but for how long, who knows...

Anyway as well took this picture, we looked closer and saw a giant billboard with the face of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd aka 陆克文  or Li Kewen.
Why is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd campaigning here?
What is he doing canvassing for vote in Hong Kong?
In 2009 there were about 60,000 Australians living in Hong Kong, so we're wondering if he desperate for every one of those votes to win on September 7?
And how much did he pay for that billboard? Or is there a large loyal Li Kewen contingent in Hong Kong?

Missing the King of Pop

Who's Bad? Michael Jackson-like dancers "walking" on the building
We are beginning to wonder if Cirque du Soleil has lost its magic touch.

This afternoon we were given free tickets to watch Michael Jackson The Immortal held at AsiaWorld-Expo and though we had really good seats on the right side close to the stage, we had to wonder, is that it?

People in the entertainment industry here say this show is the weakest in Cirque du Soleil's repertoire and it's not hard to see why.

Dancing with some strange acrobatics in between
Michael Jackson was a singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, producer. His music videos are controlled images and sequences that are danced with perfection. He did not want ordinary, average or mediocre. He always created something different, each music video with slightly different dance moves that made us clamouring for more.

And so putting a show together featuring Jackson's music and dancing mixed with some acrobatics in between is a tall order. How do you go one better than the King of Pop?

Or where the producers daunted by the thought or overwhelmed by the material and weren't quite sure what to do? Or it seemed a good idea at the time?

Dressed as mummies for the "Thriller" sequence
In the end the show is a compilation of Jackson's songs strung together... with footage of him from when he was young up until the 2000s. But they are not linked in any logical fashion, making it hard to follow. There is no particular storyline, with perhaps one character, a tall hip hop dancer dressed in silver white who appears in almost every act.

The show is also broadcast on large screens on either side of the stage and in some aspects it's better to watch it on the screen than live because there are some special effects, or in some cases it looked better than the angle where we sat.

As a show comprised mostly of dancing, the choreography isn't too creative or complicated, which made us wonder throughout the show -- would MJ approve of this?
The pole dancer showing off her moves

A few of the acts worked -- an aerial pair doing classic Cirque du Soleil acrobatic moves, and then towards the end, the energetic group of dancers unfortunately in tacky colourful tracksuits but then had stripes and hats that glowed in the dark.

There was also a contortionist dressed in a green suit with a devilish smile who crept out of a giant book and did some amazing moves on it. Gives another meaning to a bookworm.

Meanwhile the pole dancer was quite amazing, strutting out there in barely anything and doing some pretty cool moves including splits along the pole -- but some criticized that she had no stage presence. However one of the dancers was disabled -- with one leg -- but managed to dance up a storm with crutches.

In the They Don't Care About Us song, the photograph of the "tank man" at Tiananmen Square was shown in Beijing earlier and there was a collective gasp in the audience. It was immediately taken out, as producers blamed the Chinese censors for not seeing it, and was not reinserted back in Hong Kong. Little do the producers know you can show this kind of stuff in Hong Kong, but not China. Kind of disappointing...

At one point in the show, they play on Jackson's words were shown on the screen:

In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope.

In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort.

In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream.

And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.

Classic MJ dance moves before they turn off the lights
When I saw the second last line, I couldn't help but immediately thing of Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream". Putting it in Jackson's context, it makes China seem like a depressing situation!

Although we weren't impressed with the show, some die-hard Jackson fans a few rows behind us constantly screaming "Michael!" "Please come back!"

Uh... he's dead... exactly four years and three months ago...

So while the show was created around Jackson, his presence was not felt...

Saturday, 24 August 2013

China's Version of an Open Trial

Bo Xilai is intent on winning points in the court of public opinion
Bo Xilai's trial is stretching to its fourth day on Sunday.

And all everyone is relying on are the weibo or tweets coming from Jinan Intermediate Court where the trial is being held.

But we have to laugh when Xinhua says "media at home and abroad have hailed the openness and transparency showed by real-time online broadcasts and updates from Bo Xilai's trial in an east China court".

The report added, "The public also generally believe that this showcases the Communist Party of China's (CPC) resolve in combating corruption and that the move represents historic progress for the rule of law in China."

Not so fast.

Since there are no foreign reporters allowed in the room, we have no idea of the time lag when something is said and when it is broadcast online. To say it is in real time is a big boast.

Foreign reporters also observed that in the second and third day of the trial, the microblog posts were coming slower and less frequent, guessing that they were being vetted.

How is Bo's trial to be considered open and transparent when there is only a single source allowed to report from the courtroom is laughable.

But state media hopes that because it's printed, it's believable.

In the state's eyes, the trial is "transparent" in that it is not as much as a show trial as others before Bo have been, even though the state has already decided his verdict.

So how does that represent "historic progress for the rule of law in China"? It's hardly a baby step forward.

Meanwhile can we talk about Bo Guagua's lavish lifestyle? According to prosecutors he made many trips abroad, apparently all funded by businessman Xu Ming and in particular a private jet from Dubai to South Africa where he brought home an edible souvenir in the form of a hunk of wild animal meat on a wooden rack.

Seems his mother Gu Kailai indulged her son, and perhaps even more so after she found out Bo was having extramarital affairs, thus landing him the nickname Bo Qilai or "Erect Bo".

Maybe this is what Xinhua means by a transparent and open trial -- seeing the Bo family's life of sex, money and power laid bare on the record.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Fake Sky

If you can't get a clear blue skies, a billboard in Tsim Sha Tsui does the trick
Although it rained heavily this morning, the last few days have been really hazy.

So much so that the air pollution index was up to 167 in some areas, and even up to over 180 in Central.

The haze was blamed on Typhoon Trami that hit Fuqing in Fujian province yesterday and weakened into a tropical storm.

Not quite kosher, but better than the real thing...
As a result tourists took advantage of a billboard showing a crystal clear Hong Kong skyline along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

It was erected by the Architectural Services Department to cover a construction site along the Avenue of Stars.

While it makes a nice backdrop for tourists, you have to wonder if the contrast is a good thing...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bo's First Day of Reckoning

After 18 months incommunicado, Bo Xilai looks shorter than the guards...
We were eagerly watching for news coming out in the form of tweets from the Jinan courtroom where Bo Xilai is standing on trial for corruption and abuse of power.

Foreign media were not allowed in, but interestingly the Jinan Intermediate Court microblogged the event.

In one of the first pictures of Bo, he was dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, looking a bit sullen and slumped, standing beside two guards. The Chinese press were all a twitter about Bo being shorter than the two men. They probably wanted to give the appearance Bo was smaller, but the guards' hats really made them taller.

But we really like Ai Weiwei's take on the proceedings:

We're sure Ai Weiwei would have loved to be in the room...
Others observed the lack of beard on Bo's face as there were reports earlier he had grown facial hair and also that he was able to dye his hair while being detained.

There were other reports that there was a rehearsal of the trial held yesterday. But was today going as scripted?

Prosecution claimed Bo received 21.8 million yuan ($3.6 million) in bribes while mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning province and national minister of commerce, and that he embezzled an additional 5 million yuan in public funds.

They alleged he received the bribes through his wife Gu Kailai and his son Bo Guagua -- the first time his son was mentioned -- though Bo denied receiving more than 1 million yuan in bribes from Tang Xiaolin, saying he had "confessed against his will" when he was being interrogated by the Party's internal disciplinary body. "I was willing to accept my legal responsibilities," he said. "But I was not at all aware about the details of the matter. My mind was blank at the time."

Then he began denouncing Tang as a "rabid dog" and described Tang's testimony as "the ugly performance of a person selling his soul". The judge had to warn Bo to mind his language.

Bo also interrogated Xu Ming, the other businessman who allegedly gave money to Gu and Bo Guagua. Xu's answers demonstrated he did not give money to Bo directly, nor did he directly ask for favours.

Xu also claimed that in 2001 he paid Bo Guagua's credit card bill of £30,000 -- but he was only 13 years old at the time...

Bo also claimed to not know much about the family's finances, claiming Gu looked after this and so he had no idea how much his son's tuition fees were, or how much trips cost and such.

And thus ended the first day.

Bo refused to go down without a fight, and it sounds like he did a pretty good job of defending himself.

However, his guilt is a foregone conclusion -- how guilty remains to be seen...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Ideological Contradictions

Who is Xi Jinping and where does he want to take China?
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a mercurial character. His actions and words these days are building a more interesting picture of the kind of leader he is, and sadly, it's one that's not for the masses but the Party.

Earlier this week he gave a speech to a national conference on ideology and propaganda in Beijing, that was attended by top central and regional party ideology officials, media censors and regulators.

Xi is increasingly referring to Maoist thought and calling for a tightening of media, and greater use of propaganda.

In his speech Xi said ideology should ensure the "correct political direction" be followed for major issues involving political principles, but did not elaborate further. He also said party members should firmly stick to their belief in Marxism and communism.

Ideology, Xi said, was "an extremely important job for the party". Those involved in propaganda and ideology should maintain the correct political stance and promote key decisions by the Central Committee, he said.

Because China was facing unprecedented challenges, Xi said propaganda departments should "consolidate and strengthen mainstream thinking and opinion... to spread the positive energy and thus arouse the whole society to unify and work together".

More specifically, Xi said one important principle of propaganda and ideology is to adhere to "unity, stability and encouragement", and to carry out "positive reporting".

There is also a memo going around, known as Document No. 9, listing the seven perils that could lead to the downfall of the Party. They include: "Western constitutional democracy"; promoting "universal values" of human rights, Western-inspired ideas of a free press and civic participation, pro-market "neo-liberalism", and "nihilistic" criticisms of the Party's past.

It feels like Xi is continuing where Hu Jintao left off, focusing on ideology in the hopes of getting everyone focused on party line rather than rising housing prices, corruption and employment.

Does everyone turn to Mao Zedong thought when things are going off the rails?

Xi and the Party are trying go drag China backwards as its businesses, and particularly new generation are sprinting towards the future.

But perhaps what we find most ironic is that Xi's daughter continues to study in the United States -- fully exposed to Western ideology and values of freedom of speech, liberty, congregation and so on.

Surely we are not the only people to point out this hypocritical stance.

Or is Xi doing this to get the extreme leftists on his side to build consensus and then start doing things his way?

We can't find out soon enough.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Missing the Mark

Learning Chinese characters the old school way -- stroke by stroke
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has a new game show called Chinese Characters Dictation Competition, where 32 teams of secondary school students from across the country, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have to write Chinese characters out.

However what's even more interesting is that the audience is tested too. And it was found that 70 percent of the adults in the audience could not write the characters for "toad" correctly.

In the past two episodes, more than half the adults randomly selected in the audience could not write even common words such as "thick".

The poor results have reignited fears the Chinese are losing knowledge of the written language thanks to the use of computers and mobile devices.

In May, Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group conducted a survey and found that 94 percent of respondents in 12 mainland cities could not correctly write a character they thought they knew.

Twenty-five percent of them repeatedly had problems remembering how to write other characters during the interview.

In previous generations, children had to learn characters through the rote system, writing them over and over again. But now on the mainland, they use pinyin to "spell out" a word and then several Chinese character options pop up and they just pick the one they want. Admittedly I'm one of those people who rely on pinyin too, though at an intermediate level.

As a result, the sound of the word has become more important than how to write the character, which also gives the etymology of the word. As a result mainland school children are falling behind not only in their reading ability but writing too.

"The Chinese language has survived the technological challenges of the digital era, but the benefits of communicating digitally may come with a cost in proficient learning of written Chinese," concluded a paper published in January in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found nearly one-third of 5,000 mainland primary school students of normal intelligence were found to be two grades behind the expected reading level of examination standards.

Teacher Ma Long at the Hangzhou Foreign Languages School, said he and other Chinese teachers also saw this weakness in students.

"You know what a character means and how to read it, and it seems that you also know what it looks like, but you just can't write it with your hand," he said. Ma added students seemed more keen to learn foreign languages than Chinese.

Hao Mingjian, editor-in-chief of the Yao Wen Jiao Zi magazine about Chinese characters believed schools were putting less effort into teaching characters, and at the same time there were fewer opportunities to write out characters, than typing them out.

"It's also a reflection that we read too little -- not those fragmented texts from the web, but serious works in books," he said.

Perhaps the shameful results by the adult audience in Chinese Characters Dictation Competition will inspire them to brush up their character knowledge. Surely national pride is at stake, no?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Enough with the System

We are intrigued by the timing of China's top forensic scientist resigning hours before the announcement of Bo Xilai's upcoming trial later this week.

Wang Xuemei was a forensic expert with the Supreme People's Procuratorate, China's top prosecution office. She tendered her resignation, questioning the evidence around how Bo's wife Gu Kailai murdered Briton Neil Heywood.

She said the official accounts of the murder were "absurd" and said investigators had not presented enough evidence to prove Heywood died of cyanide poisoning.

Wang, 57, told the BBC that cyanide poisoning causes extremely fast asphyxia, spasms and a heart attack. His skin and blood would have turned bright red, which investigators should have observed.

Nevertheless, Wang believes Gu had motives to kill Heywood, and perhaps used another poison.

However Wang says she quit because of another case unrelated to Bo, regarding a student who was said to have died of electrocution from falling off the subway platform in Beijing. While investigators claim there was no foul play, she says the victim's lower jaw show signs he was dealt a blow before falling onto the electrified track.

When she resigned in her job and as vice-chairmanship of China's Forensic Medicine Association, Wang said: "I cannot stand my name being mixed up with an academic body that presents such ridiculous and irresponsible forensic evidence," she said.

"I am also resolved to quit the forensic system in China. As a forensic doctor in the supreme forensic monitoring apparatus, I am extremely disappointed and have become desperate over what is happening.

"After painstaking working in this field for 30 years, I have realized that I do not have the ability by myself to change the situation. I cannot rectify the cases which were unjustly and immorally tried even at the cost of my life. My only option is to quit. For my innocence in the future, I must quit," she said.

Other than the Heywood case and this student, how many others have top forensic scientists bungled? Or is it people above them who would rather not have accurate investigations done just to prosecute people or abruptly close cases?

We are sorry to hear Wang leave, though we note she was three years from retirement. Will she ever speak out again to tell us more about what's really going on in the Supreme People's Procuratorate? Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Bo Xilai's Trial Date Set

Disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai finally gets his day in court
Breaking news on a Sunday evening -- Former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai's trial is set for this Thursday starting at 8.30am in a courthouse in Jinan province.

This signals that senior leaders in Beijing have finally decided how to deal with the man who was once tipped to enter the Politburo.

Some are speculating Chinese President Xi Jinping has struck a deal with Bo to plead guilty in exchange for leaving his son Bo Guagua alone as well as his many assets overseas.

It will be interesting to see what Bo looks like -- or shall we be skeptical and wonder if the person behind the dock really is him after the bizarre appearance of a woman who seemed to look like his wife Gu Kailai when she stood trial?

Perhaps Bo's trial will be swift, as the Party probably doesn't want too many secrets and allegations revealed.

Nevertheless we can't help but notice that Xi is becoming more Maoist in his rhetoric, interpreting the Great Helmsman in his own way. We find this strange, as Wen Jiabao alluded to not wanting the country to go through chaos again in one of his final speeches as premier.

So why this return to Mao again? Or was this in Xi's playbook all along and didn't want Bo to get all the credit?

More shall be revealed later this week. Stay tuned.

Searching for Sugar Man

A well-deserved Oscar for this fantastic documentary about a true artist
Yesterday afternoon I finally managed to catch the Academy Award-winning documentary feature Searching for Sugar Man. Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul heard about a musician known as Sixto Rodriguez who made two albums in the early 1970s but they never took off and then he disappeared.

There were rumours of how he died. One was that while he was performing on stage, he doused himself with petrol and lit himself on fire. The other was that people were booing him as he sang and then he put down his guitar, got out a handgun and pointed it to his head and pulled the trigger.

However, another interesting aspect of the story is that a copy of his album somehow made it to South Africa. In the documentary someone says perhaps it was an American girlfriend visiting her South African boyfriend and they played the record and it soon spread like wildfire, people making cassette copies of it and passing them around.

Rodriguez recording with his guitar in the early 1970s
This happened at the height of apartheid, where the media was completely censored, society was ultra conservative and no one had televisions "because they were considered Communist", said one Afrikaner. The country had many sanctions imposed on it, because of apartheid.

But listening to Rodriguez's music set them free. The lyrics talked about being anti-establishment, about freely expressing oneself and letting go of conventions. Listening to his music inspired a new generation of Afrikans to stand up to the government and protest against apartheid, and this started through music, thanks to Rodriguez.

And so over 20 years after, some South African Rodriguez fans and music journalists wanted to track him down and find out what happened to him. They even analyzed his lyrics to get any kind of clue they could since the liner notes on the album gave no more information about him.

Through the internet, they put out a message asking of anyone knew if Rodriguez was alive or dead and one of his daughters excitedly replied back saying not only that he was her dad, but that he was alive and well in Detroit, where he had been all along.

The documentary perfectly recreates the story thanks to some great storytellers. Bendjelloul also does a bit of searching himself, tracking down the owner of Rodriguez's record label who went bankrupt. While he missed the talented musician, he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

When we finally get to meet Rodriguez, he seems hesitant to be on camera and in the end doesn't have much to say. However, his actions speak louder than words when you watch the archival footage of him performing in South Africa in 1998 for a series of sold-out concerts. He is gracious and kind, soaking in all the attention and yet not letting it go to his head.

His daughters also give some insight into their father. He is Mexican American, and their mother is part European, part Native American. Interestingly the film does not say more about what happened to their mother. They grew up living a tough life, living in places with roofs over their heads, but not necessarily with electricity or running water.

Rodriguez today taking his fame in stride
Their father worked odd jobs, mostly in construction and demolition. One daughter recalls watching him carry a refrigerator on his back. He says he learned the guitar when he was in his teens and started performing at 16. He tried to get gigs wherever he could and in the old photographs one could see a confident Rodriguez with his shades, looking very stylish. As one fellow construction worker jokes, Rodriguez would show up for work in a tuxedo.

The children say their father has a degree in philosophy and took them to the library and art galleries to open their eyes beyond Detroit. He was not embarrassed or afraid to take his children to places that seemed elitist and this helped them understand their father as an artist too.

Despite being rediscovered and performing in South Africa a few times, Rodriguez still lives a spartan life in a home he has lived in for 40 years. Now in his early 70s, he doesn't do the hard work anymore, though one of his daughters forced him to get a mobile phone so she could contact him instead of having to drive through the neighbourhood to find him.

Rodriguez's music is woven throughout the film, at times as background music, others placed in the forefront complete with some animation that gives the film an artistic touch.

We enjoyed the film immensely because of the fascinating story as well as how it was told. Rodriguez himself is an enlightening character -- someone who rises above the mundane and unwaveringly continues to live by his values, something we should all learn from.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Targeted Protest

Protests against CY Leung are common place
Hong Kong has protests every weekend. It's becoming so common place that they have become a leisure activity.

However, things are really heating up after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ordered the Education Department submit a report on primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze after she swore at police officers when they seemed to be allowing a pro-Beijing group cover up Falun Gong banners.

Critics have likened Leung's unprecedented order to be reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, which sends chills down people's backs.

He made this announcement during his visit to Tin Shui Wai, where scuffles broke out and it turns out there were alleged triad members roughing up protestors which sounds frightening if proven true.

And so today there was a small group of people in front of the HSBC headquarters in Central saying Leung should step down.

The bank was so worried something major would happen -- or was it the police? -- that they put down the bank's built-in barricades to prevent any mischief.

As far as we could tell from passing by that the protest was relatively orderly so there was no need for such measures.

But even more extreme measures will be taken tomorrow, when Leung visits Kwun Tong, a previously industrial area that's trying to breathe new life in empty warehouses, though there are some housing estates there and working-class families residing there.

Already the police have started putting up temporary barricades up in anticipation of even greater crowds tomorrow. It seems the authorities are expecting an even bigger clash despite the space being smaller than last week.

The battle of wills is becoming even more divisive -- which makes us wonder if this is doing Hong Kong any good...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Expensive Lesson in Humility

Zhang Qibing's bizarre eyesore on the rooftop of a Beijing apartment
It's game over for a wealthy acupuncturist who built a giant outlandish rooftop villa in Beijing that included fake rocks, real greenery and a glass house.

Zhang Biqing told The Beijing News he spent 800,000 yuan ($130,000) building it and would cost much more to take it down.

After it was splashed all over the media earlier this week, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement gave Zhang 15 days to dismantle the giant structure that looked similar to traditional Chinese landscape paintings or it would be demolished.

At first Zhang, owner of a chain of acupuncture clinics called Qi Jin Tang, claimed in an interview with the Beijing Times that the authorities knew about the structure since 2008 and would not have built it without their permission.

"When I began construction, the city administrators came to the site for an inspection," he said. "They agreed that I am a good man. I cure neighbours and the friends of neighbours for free."

The two-storey structure included a glass room and trellises
However, Chen Yu, deputy director with the city administration's Zizhuyuan branch, told The Beijing News they never had any contact with Zhang.

"The biggest challenge is to get inside," Chen was quoted by the paper as saying. The authorities could not get into Zhang's apartment because he never let them in.

"Once we staged a one-week ambush at an underground parking lot but he did not appear," Chen said. Only when the authorities can personally inspect the place can they make a full assessment of the illegal structure.

Local media reported 77-year-old neighbour Lan Yuezhong was beaten up by Zhang three times for filing complaints with the authorities and was forced to move. Zhang claimed Lan was trying to extort money from him.

This rooftop bonanza has been a nuisance to residents of Park View in Haidian for the past six years, and were tired of Zhang boasting of his license to party. "Famous people come to my place to sing. How can you stop them?" he was reported as saying.

Self-proclaimed acupuncturist Zhang Qibing
The residents also complained about the constant construction and claimed the pipes were leaking. Some sold their flats and moved out.

But Zhang's attitude turned 180 degrees after the authorities issued him the notice to demolish the rooftop villa.

We also find out that Zhang didn't have a license to practice either! So how did he make his money from his chain of acupuncture clinics? Were those licensed too?

Any why did it take so long for the authorities to catch onto Zhang's craggy rooftop villa?

What's most interesting about this story is that it's not about an official flaunting his wealth, but a businessman who seems to have had really good guanxi.

We wonder if this is the beginning of the end of Zhang, as more details emerge from his  dodgy past...

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Zoological Misrepresentation

A hairy Tibetan mastiff is passed off as an "African lion" at a zoo in Henan
It's hard to be something that you're not.

And in the case of a Tibetan mastiff, it had a difficult time passing off as an African lion in a zoo in Luohe in Henan.

This was reported in the provincial newspaper, Dongfang Jinbao, where a zoo administrator explained, "The wolves are there. But the wolf is somewhere else in the pen and the dog is a pet. The African lions will be back. They went to another zoo to breed."

Needless to say many visitors were shocked and outraged. A visitor named Sharon Liu took her six-year-old son to the zoo and was alarmed to hear barking from the lion's cage.

Two rats are in the cage for snakes
"To use a dog to impersonate a lion is definitely an insult to tourists," she said.

The paper also reported there were rats that passed off as "snakes".

On Tuesday, Yu Hua, head of the People's Park where the zoo is, said private contractors ran the zoo. Three years ago the government stopped giving contracts to private operators for animal parks and zoos and the one for Luohe zoo had yet to expire.

Yu added that the signs would be "promptly corrected".

We feel sorry for these animals... not just because they are in a cage, but also because they are being misrepresented. Chinese zoos are facing financial difficulties and in order to keep the coffers coming in, they had to put animals in there, regardless of what they were. But this is ridiculous.

Unfortunately we get the sad feeling this zoo may not be the only one tricking visitors...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

One Cool Granny

A grandmother supports her grandson and hopes he finds a boyfriend
We love this story about a 90-year-old grandmother who has gone on camera to say she supports her gay grandson and hopes he'll find a boyfriend.

In the 36-second clip issued by PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the grandmother is seated in a wicker chair and holds up a sign that says: "We urge the legalization of gay marriages".

In a steady Fuzhou accent, the elderly woman says: "I am 90 years old. My grandson is gay. He is kind and mature. I hope he will find a boyfriend and live a happy life. And I hope our government supports him."

Her grandson, a 28-year-old engineer, was floored by her courage to speak out publicly. He explained that he came out to his parents last year and when they told his grandmother, it was she who calmed them down because they were less accepting of his sexual orientation than she was.

"I was raised by my grandmother, and I know she understands me more than my parents," he said.

That explains a lot, but it is also representative of his generation, where many young people were looked after by their grandparents and in turn have closer relationships with them.

Will this spark the winds of change in Beijing? If anything it's a great incremental start.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Slippy

Watch out for the slippy floor...
Hong Kong people are constantly checking the city's observatory website tonight to see if we have typhoon 8 tomorrow. Severe Typhoon Utor hit the Philippines yesterday and is now moving in a north-westerly direction.

Originally before landing in the Philippines, Utor looked like it would come directly to Hong Kong and Macau.

But now it looks like it may miss us -- or hit us?

The Hong Kong Observatory keeps changing its mind every hour. Just before 10pm when I checked, it said the observatory may consider raising the typhoon 8 signal after midnight and then 10 minutes later its forecast said nothing about typhoon 8.

Now it's just after 11pm and 15 minutes ago the observatory says again it may consider raising to typhoon 8 again.

It's basically keeping us guessing so that we still have to wake up early to see if we still have to go to work or not.

Some believe there is a conspiracy theory that the Hong Kong government does not want to give too accurate a weather forecast, especially when it comes to typhoons because it impacts the city's productivity.

Uh hello? Typhoons can be dangerous?! We need to know if we should be going to work or going home!

Anyway, YTSL and I had dinner in Tsim Sha Tsui East and were walking on the overpass to the Hung Hom bus stop when we saw this sign. I passed one thinking it said "slippy floor" but wasn't sure. So when I saw it again, I knew my eyes weren't fooling me.

Slippy is cute, but not quite grammatically correct...

Monday, 12 August 2013

Dividing the City

Can we still trust this man?
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has begun to decisively divide the city, following a teacher's outburst last month.

Yesterday at a town hall meeting in Tin Shui Wai, Leung had ordered the education chief to submit a report on the incident involving Alpais Lam Wai-sze, who swore at police on July 14. She openly criticized how the police were handling an incident involving the Youth Care Association who protested against the Falun Gong.

Depending on which clips you see on YouTube, Lam's outburst may seem outrageous, while others give the impression she is trying to defend free speech in Hong Kong, in that the Falun Gong should also be allowed to display their placards as much as the Youth Care Association (who were trying to cover up the Falun Gong's).

Lam is a model teacher, having taught for 18 years and even received the Chief Executive's Award for Teaching Excellence for 2010/2011.

After people heard about the incident, they went out into the streets either for Lam or against her in Mong Kok on August 4. Lam has already apologized twice for the incident in the hopes that it would fade, but others refuse to let it go. There have been protests at the school and calls for Lam to resign.

Leung's order to the education chief for the report on Lam, and openly supporting the police shows the chief executive has already decided his judgment on the matter -- you are either with us or against us.

Sound familiar?

Why order a report on Lam's incident when he has already declared he has supported the police in their actions? And why wade into it so late -- it seems like he wants to stir the pot further.

Lam's father, Lam Sum-shing said he was very disappointed at Leung's response to the incident.

"There are a lot of important issues in Hong Kong waiting for him to deal with, but he still wouldn't let go of such a minor thing," he said. "It will tear society even further apart."

Indeed we are already seeing scuffles every time Leung shows up somewhere and there are pro Leung supporters and anti-Leung protesters at each event. No wonder it makes it harder for the police to do their job. They're getting tired of physically dealing with unruly citizens.

Leung has also hit back at critics who reported Executive Council members Franklin Lam Fan-keung and Barry Cheung Chun-yuen to the Independent Commission Against Corruption over possible conflicts of interest.

Lam was accused of profiting from selling two flats just before the introduction of a new stamp duty and the Department of Justice said it had insufficient evidence to prosecute him. Instead of staying on, Lam resigned hours after the statement.

Meanwhile the ICAC said it would not follow up on Cheung's case without further evidence. Cheung quit all public posts in May when his failed venture, the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange was under criminal investigation.

So Leung is now demanding those who accused these two men of wrong doing to apologize to them.

"After the ICAC cleared Lam, not one person -- including those who reported him or the political parties who stirred up the incident -- said sorry to Lam, publicly or privately. The people who reported Cheung too, did not apologize to him."

Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former graft investigator, said Leung's demand for an apology was an "outrageous joke". He said Leung should not discourage people from going to the ICAC if they suspect any kind of corruption.

We get the feeling Leung is a not happy with some of his people being forced out, but that's politics. And besides, these people were not cleared -- there just wasn't enough evidence or information yet to prosecute them.

Leung has to be careful in how he plays his cards. He's already creating a divisive atmosphere in the city when he really should take leadership in being the catalyst in bringing everyone together.

Looks like things are going to become worse before they get better...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Changing Media Landscape

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales is proposing to fix journalism... all ideas welcome
The Wikimania conference wrapped up in Hong Kong today, with over 500 people from 90 countries attending.

Co-founder Jimmy Wales addressed the crowd and proposed an interesting question -- journalism is broken. How can we fix it?

"This is one of the greatest journalistic opportunities of the century. That we live in an era where possibility to expose wrongdoing is great... these are serious times and we deserve serious journalism," he told a packed auditorium. "The question is, is it possible to fix this, and what is our role in all of this?"

He was wondering aloud about a publicly funded journalistic enterprise, what it would look like and how it would function. He imagined professional journalists and the community being on equal footing -- or even where the community was the boss.

"Wikipedia is good at this sort of thing," he said. "We tend to avoid the tabloid nonsense and get to the important facts. If you go and you read the Wikipedia entry on Edward Snowden... Our main headline is not, Edward Snowden, who's he dating now?"

During his speech Wales presented several news clippings that showed the gossipy, sensationalist side of the story. He hopes instead that through some kind of partnership, there would be more stories of substance and quality rather than many of the shallow articles we're seeing now.

"The solution for journalism isn't going to be a purely volunteer effort, in the way Wikipedia is," Wales said. "A lot of journalism involves getting out to interview people, to produce stories, and that's really hard to do without a salary, without support. So the right way forward is some way that's a hybrid model."

We agree that when it comes to the internet, sites like Yahoo, Google News and MSN Hotmail are putting up certain stories to get clicks for advertising dollars, and these are mostly tailored to young people, thus the strange skewing towards wanting to know the latest exploits of Kim Kardashian.

But there are others like The Economist, The Atlantic and The New Yorker that are doing alright -- and these are the ones with long-form stories with quality journalism. These readers are not interested in knowing how much weight the Duchess of Cambridge has lost since she gave birth.

We already have a sort of hybrid relationship with the community, thanks to their online comments or Facebook posts that give journalists an idea of what's happening or tips on story ideas. While Wales points out today the public has a direct line to the media, we do need to figure out how to use it more effectively.

More importantly, how are media outlets supposed to be able to financially survive in this fast-changing climate? When The Boston Globe was sold for only $70 million when The New York Times bought it in 1993 for $1.1 billion?

What are Jeff Bezos' plans for The Washington Post?
What's even more interesting is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' personal acquisition of The Washington Post for $250 million this week from the Graham family that owned it for eight decades.

While he says things aren't going to change much at first, Bezos has hinted there will be some experimentation. We are interested to see what he'll do and if it'll work. Everyone has been trying to figure out how to monetize the news and make a profit. Now it's Bezos' turn.

Does he understand the news business? Does he appreciate what it takes to make good journalism?

We shall find out soon enough.

There are many ideas on how to fix journalism out there this week. May the best man (or woman) win.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Defiance Behind Bars

Xu Zhiyong previously on the cover of Esquire
A few days ago human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was filmed behind bars in a detention centre in Beijing. It was courageous for him to do this, and we wonder if he will suffer punishment as a result of his actions.

The identity of the person who filmed the 1:19 minute clip is not known to prevent that person from getting into trouble.

Xu, 40, was arrested on July 16 for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place."

His lawyer Liu Weiguo says the charge is baseless, and are detaining him in an effort to silence him. Xu probably got into trouble this time because he was calling for people to join the New Citizens' Movement to demand that government officials publicly declare their assets.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for the end of corruption in officialdom, it doesn't seem members of the public calling for greater accountability is kosher with the central government.

And so Xu seemed determined to continue to speak out through this video, where he calls on more citizens to stand up and defend their rights in "this age of absurdity".

"No matter how this society [of ours] is, how defeated or how absurd, this society needs brave citizens who can stand up and hold fast to their beliefs, who can take their rights and responsibilities and their dreams seriously," he says into the camera. "I'm proud to put the word 'citizen' before my name, and I hope everyone does the same, putting the word 'citizen' before their name. Let us unite and work together to make our rights as citizens matter, to make our identities as citizens matter -- working together to promote democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice in our country. Surely we can build a free, public-spirited, loving and good China."

While the video was briefly online in China, it has been blocked in the country unless internet users have VPNs to "scale the Great Firewall".

Xu is not a radical person, but someone with good intentions. He first gained attention in 2003 when he was an advocate for the family of Sun Zhigang. Sun was a young man who was beaten to death in a detention centre for vagrants and rural migrants without the proper official documents.

His work on the case shone a spotlight on these people being thrown into these arbitrary detention centres and in the end the government abolished them.

However this time it looks like Xu may have gone too far in provoking the government. His supporters will work hard to get him released, because China needs more people like him to keep reforming for the better.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Potty Training

Check out the built-in kiddie toilet seat!
We mentioned the other day about a little girl urinating in the MTR, which makes you wonder if people are ever going to change their habits, particularly when they are in a different city.

The problem is that mainlanders consider Hong Kong as a part of China. It is, but it isn't. And it should be obvious to them that Hong Kong people do things a bit differently, but they think it's just like any other Chinese city...

Anyway yesterday we went into Elements in Kowloon station, which is heavily patronized by mainland shoppers and we were surprised -- nay impressed -- that the toilet seats had an extra seat for kiddies.

Pull the second seat down and it's small enough for them to sit on instead of sitting precariously on an adult seat and mothers anxiously holding onto their kids.

It's more comfortable for everyone and probably less of a mess for the cleaners.

Wonder if other Hong Kong malls are going to follow suit...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Disgusting Nightmare Come True

We hope the central government will seriously put left-behind children as one of its priorities after hearing about at least six young girls were molested by their 62-year-old teacher in Jiangxi province.

The girls, eight and nine years of age from Shangyuan Primary School in Ruichang city are being treated for genital and anal warts they got from their teacher.

"He [would] always put his two chalk-tainted fingers inside me. It hurt so much even to walk," said an eight-year old victim.

"Sometimes inside the classroom when we were reciting textbooks, sometimes in his office. It happened many, many times, more than 60 times," said a nine-year-old.

However Hong Kong-based urologist Kwok Ka-ki said: "It is highly unlikely the abuse involved fingers only, as the virus [which causes the warts] lives on the mucus membrane of sexual organs."

Doctors found the girls' vaginal and anal regions covered by masses of red and white bumps that were confirmed to be highly contagious genital warts.

Kwok added the warts had to be treated immediately and properly to try to avert the risk of developing cancer.

"My sister-in-law took my girl and boy on a train from Ruichang to Hangzhou to visit me and my husband during the summer holidays," said Jian Liming, a 29-year-old mother to one of the girls. "When I saw her, she was already walking strangely, deliberately with her legs apart. That evening when I bathed here, my heart was torn to pieces. I couldn't sleep or eat properly for days."

The children were left in the village to be raised by their grandparents while the parents went to cities to find good-paying jobs. And so the children had no idea about sex education, but then again their parents would not have known to teach them either.

Regardless, the teacher preyed on the young girls. After the parents reported the incident on July 4 to the Ruichang Public Security Bureau, he was arrested the following day, confessing to molesting seven girls while marking assignments in his office and during classes. The seventh victim changed schools and lost contact with the other families.

As police are investigating the case, the Ruichang education department sacked the principal of the primary school and another principal who oversaw the school.

If the children's incident wasn't disgusting enough, one of the parents told the media of how they and their children were confined to a local hospital while the government sent people to push them to sign a paper agreeing that they would not pursue the case in exchange for 50,000 yuan ($8,166).

In addition, when parents of three of the girls tried to switch to a bigger hospital in Jiujiang city on Monday, their medical records were withheld by the Ruichang hospital.

"They don't even have the proper equipment to perform vaginal examinations on young girls," said Wu Xueren, a father who works in Wenzhou with his wife. "They also performed four cryoablations [a process that uses extreme cold to destroy tissue] on my girl without anesthesia. She cried her lungs out every time and her legs literally shook before we walked into the surgery."

Hong Kong-based Kwok says cryoablations used without anesthesia is unethical and unacceptable for anyone, let alone young girls.

These girls' lives have been ruined for a dirty old man's pleasure. While we hope they will physically heal, the psychological effects have traumatized them forever. How can they trust anyone in authority again, let alone any adult?

For the parents this is also devastating -- they could not protect their daughters -- and now all their hopes and dreams for their children have evaporated. They don't know if their daughters will be resilient enough to move on with some kind of counselling, if it even exists in this small town.

Shame on the government officials who tried to bribe silence from the parents and we wish the fathers and mothers courage and strength as they fight the system for some kind of justice.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Is HK Becoming More Corrupt?

Are Hong Kong's corrupt-free days numbered?
We are not surprised to find Hong Kong people's perception of the city being corrupt-free has dropped to a 15-year low.

This is according to a University of Hong Kong public opinion program survey that showed the corruption index fell to 6.37 points out of a possible 10, from 6.68 in February, with 1,027 people interviewed from July 30 to August 1.

Pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu says there have been many conflict-of-interest cases, in particular former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming who spent taxpayer money on lavish dinners, booze and gifts.

There is also the recent case of Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and his political assistant Henry Ho Kin-chung found to have owned land that the government plans to develop in the New Territories.

Sidney Chau Foo-cheong (right) was fired from his airport job
May we also add head of security at Hong Kong International Airport Sidney Chau Foo-cheong, who was alleged to have reaped some HK$760,000 ($97,982) in overtime pay from 2008 to February this year. He was dismissed from his HK$147,000-a-month job today.

What is going on?

Are we becoming more vigilant, or do people in positions of authority think they can get away with stealing a bit here and there, or believe that they are above the law?

Hong Kong probably hit its low point when Tong, the former head of the graft-busting agency was revealed to have spent HK$724,000 on alcohol, more than triple the HK$220,000 he first reported to Legco.

Bizarrely HK$50,000 was also spent on cookies. What was he, Cookie Monster? And an alcoholic? Of the 1,000 bottles he bought, 41 are left.

Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming
In the cases of Tong and Chau, they had damn good salaries most locals could only dream of having, but it looks like that wasn't enough. Was it because they liked the thrill of cheating the system or they thought they would never get caught?

We are just thankful there are whistle blowers out there and the media (in particular Apple Daily) that are keeping politicians and government bodies accountable.

Otherwise what is the point of living in Hong Kong anymore when its rule of law is thrown by the wayside? Then we might as well be like any other Chinese city on the mainland!