Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Mysterious Force Derails Chow's Legco Run

Ken Chow claims forces beyond Hong Kong's jurisdiction threatened him
Things are getting murkier in the case of Liberal Party candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan, who dropped out of the Legislative Council race, claiming he feared threats from a source "outside Hong Kong" that was more powerful than Beijing's Liaison Office or the triads.

That certainly raised eyebrows.

In an interview with Next Magazine, Chow said there was no way local authorities could look into the matter because "The power does not come from Hong Kong. How can they investigate. It's beyond their jurisdiction".

However, Chow, who was running for New Territories West, refused to divulge who made the threats against him.

"I can only say it's a very powerful force. The pressure [I face] is far greater than any individual or political party [can impose]," he said.

Chow dropped out last Thursday during a televised debate, saying he did not want those close to him get into "high level troubles".

Junius Ho denies knowledge of threats made by his volunteer
The Independent Commission Against Corruption has launched an investigation following complaints filed by several political parties.

After the televised debate, Chow released a recording from a volunteer who worked for pro-Beijing candidate Junius Ho Kwan-yiu.

In it, a man's voice can be heard suggesting mobilizing several dozen people to "chase after" Chow before the election forum. Ho has denied any knowledge of this plan or recording.

During the Next Magazine interview, Chow denied his withdrawal had to do with the recording.

"The political climate in Hong Kong right now is very scary. This could be the last election where there are choices," he said.

He was asked if he was worried about being disappeared, and Chow replied that is why he went to the UK and not Thailand, Myanmar or China.

Chow said he would return to Hong Kong after the election and would say more if people were interested.

Of course we are!

The booksellers' saga adds more fears about people's rights
It will be interesting to see if some people do vote for Chow on Sunday, as he cannot withdraw his candidacy after it has been approved. His own party doesn't even know what happened.

We had the incident of the missing Hong Kong booksellers being intimidated, and now a political candidate fears running because of some strong forces that seem to threaten him and anyone close to him.

Chow is not a separatist or a localist.

What is going on?

But we probably won't know until after September 4. This year's race is definitely a bizarre one and we hope it's not a sign of things to come.

If anything, this incident should encourage the public to get out and exercise their right to vote without fear.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Pro-Beijing Paper Blasts CY Leung

The front page of Sing Pao calling for CY Leung to be investigated
Sing Pao is a staunch pro-Beijing newspaper, but today its editorial claimed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was "inciting" the Hong Kong independence movement with the help of the Liaison Office.

The editorial urged China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) to investigate Leung and the office, which is an extension of the Central government in the city.

"In fact, Hong Kong independence has no market in Hong Kong... Leung Chun-ying deliberately encouraged Hong Kong independence to consolidate the authority of his governance and the hawk faction," it read, saying there was barely any talk of independence before Leung came to office.

It also criticized Leung for attracting only incompetent people to work for him, saying the Liaison Office was happy to see a "core interest group" seeking the approval of Leung and the office.

It quoted "political figures" whom the editorial author knew as saying that they received "warm reminders" a day after they made statements in disagreement with Leung. The author claimed there were threats made to those who spoke out, and that many political figures had experienced this.

The editorial urged the CCDI to investigate the Liaison Office, specifically mentioning Li Qiufang, a member of the commission who has been stationed at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council since January in order to oversee discipline inspection work in the Hong Kong and Macau Liaison Office.

"Hong Kong society expects the CCDI to investigate the work and the role of the Liaison Office along with a recommendation to disband the group that hurts the interests of the country and Hong Kong," the editorial said.

"Return peace to Hong Kong society; return lives not involved in politics to schools; return the energy for developing the country to the political and business sector; return innocence to the 'central [government]' so that it does not have to take the blame for some individuals who only seek personal gain."

Is this for real? Sounds like Leung must have made someone at Sing Pao so angry that they are calling for him and the Liaison Office to be investigated by Li.

One would have thought Apple Daily would be pushing for this, but for a pro-Beijing newspaper to do this is very intriguing, especially days before the Legislative Council election.

How is the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) going to handle this latest hot potato? All is not united in the pro-Beijing camp when someone is calling for bad elements to be ousted.

However the democratic camp is so fractured, this outburst won't do much, though it will help boost candidate Ricky Wong Wai-kay's platform of "ABC" -- anyone but CY Leung...

Will Li and CCDI respond? Stay tuned...

Monday, 29 August 2016

Saga of Assault using a Breast Continues

Ng Lai-ying (left) expresses relief after emerging from court today
Last March in Yuen Long, at a protest against parallel traders who snap up goods in Hong Kong to sell across the border, a woman was charged for assaulting a police officer with her breast.

How one does that was hard to fathom and the story grabbed headlines around the world for such a bizarre charge. And women's rights protesters expressed bewilderment at how a breast could be a weapon.

Last March she was charged with assault using her breast
But Ng Lai-ying, 30, was actually convicted of this charge and today was able to appeal against going to jail, but was unable to overturn her conviction.

Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes wrote in her judgment that it appeared Ng was trying to get her boyfriend Kwong Chun-lung off the hook when she bumped into Inspector Chan Ka-po with her breast and yelled "indecent assault".

"Although her action could not be said to be excusable, the court should consider it was under this circumstance that she committed the offence," Justice Barnes said.

But the judge noted the offence remained serious in that she falsely accused Chan of indecent assault, which could have incited the crowd. She warned Ng that if she failed to display remorse, she could still face a jail term.

Last year protesters made fun of breasts being used as weapons
Kwong, 20 also managed to overturn his original sentence of time at a training centre, but was unable to overturn his conviction as well.

Outside the court, Ng gasped, "I was relieved", and added she and Kwong respected the court's decision.

The pair and two others will be sentenced on September 26, with the expectation of time doing community service.

Falsely claiming indecent assault is definitely wrong, but it's still interesting that a breast could be considered a weapon...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stroking for Parity

The pool is only 20 metres long, but it can go fast... if no one's blocking you!
There's been a lot of talk in the media about sexual harassment, in light of Fox News' Roger Ailes, which also leads to talk about gender disparity, how women are paid less than men even though they are doing the same job. But if a woman speaks up about wanting more pay or a promotion, she is perceived as being a bitch.

When I was in Vancouver over a month ago, a woman in her 60s asked me if there was sexual discrimination in Hong Kong. I said there definitely was, that there is an old boys' club feel and culturally men feel like they should be the dominant ones, while women are supposed to look pretty and be docile.

There aren't that many women leading large companies here, and we have only one senior female government official.

Why does Hong Kong likes to claim it is an international city and yet how its women and men are treated is still so stereotypical?

However I like to think that I change those perceptions when I'm in the swimming pool. While the men at my gym may run faster and lift heavier weights, I can swim faster than most of them in the water.

It's always the same scenario: The man starts swimming in the fast lane, thinking he will have no problem keeping up with me. But he's dead wrong 95 percent of the time.

I always have to pass him to keep at my pace or to avoid being frustrated tailing behind him.

The rudest part is that he doesn't acknowledge this and doesn't yield to me so that I can keep going.

It is always the case and today was no exception.

A very skinny Chinese man watched me swim for a while before donning his swimming cap and got into the water. I very easily passed him a few times before he got out and I thought that was the end of that.

Instead he sat on a lounge chair and watched me swim several more lengths before he decided to take another stab at swimming again (thinking I was tired). Again I had to pass him a few more times -- at one point my fingers touched his toes because he was slower than I anticipated.

But did he think to yield to me on the way back? Nope. He continued freestyle, while I was forced to swim breast stroke because there were other swimmers in the lane.

He got back out of the pool again, watched as I continued lap after lap and then he went back in a third time.

Again I passed him until he decided to rest in the pool for a bit until I finally finished my laps. Did he think the last one in the pool was the winner?

A few weeks ago two middle-aged women saw me tearing up the pool and were thrilled to see a woman swimming so fast. They wondered if I had competed before and I said no, but I'd been swimming for many years, and enjoyed it.

Perhaps they appreciated seeing someone showing up the men for once...

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Picture of the Day: Election Literature

Who would you choose to represent your interests from this lot?
Next Sunday is the Legislative Council elections. In the geographical constituency for Hong Kong Island, there are 15 candidates vying for six seats.

These are all the flyers I have received from the candidates -- who would you pick?

This year is going to be very interesting, as people seem tired of the traditional pan-democrats and many shades of democrats have emerged, including localists who are even advocating independence which has been mooted.

Radicals like Leung Kwok-hung or "Long Hair" and Wong Yuk-man are considered passe these days, though localist parties aren't getting much traction beyond some young people.

This vote splitting only makes it easier for the pro-Beijing DAB to potentially gain even more traction.

Nevertheless there are some notable candidates for Hong Kong Island.

First up is Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, founder and chairperson of the New People's Party and her "Team Regina" slogan. At a glance her platform looks pretty mainstream. Who doesn't want to improve air quality and reduce students' stress?

Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosisto escaped jail time recently following his conviction of inciting others to join in unlawful assembly almost two years ago which sparked the 79-day occupation of Admiralty.

The party's main platform is to hold a referendum in 10 years, asking Hong Kong people about how they want the city to be governed come 2047, when "one country, two systems" expires.

Independent Paul Zimmerman is the only gweilo running. He's been involved in local politics for a few years, and in the past year has been pretty active in trying to improve aspects of Hong Kong's environment, from suggesting seats at bus stops, cleaning up beaches, and cracking down on land abuses in the New Territories.

The Dutchman definitely manages to shine a light on these issues, and shows up at major rallies even if he doesn't understand everything that's been said.

Finally there's Ricky Wong Wai-kay another independent, who has campaigned on "ABC" or "Anybody except CY Leung".

His campaign material is pretty comprehensive and bilingual too going through 12 main issues advocating small class sizes in schools, reforming the MPF scheme and more transport subsidies.

It's interesting this businessman is keen to run and we'll see how he does. But he has definitely thought out how he'd like Hong Kong to be run with his 99-page policy platform.

So another week to decide... decisions, decisions...

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dramatic Twist to Elections

Ken Chow claims there were threats against him if he campaigned further
There is over a week to go before the Legislative Council elections and things have already gotten bizarre with one candidate running in the highly contested New Territories West abruptly announced he was not running anymore during an election debate on Cable TV last night.

Liberal Party candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan said he feared for the safety of people close to him after he received threats that 20 or 30 people would "pursue" him at an election forum "until he had no mood for such forums anymore".

"As I don't want my loved ones to be in even higher level of trouble or pay any price, I will suspend all campaign activities for getting voters' support," he said reading a statement as part of his opening speech.

Junius Ho says the claims against him are to smear him
He then bowed in front of the camera to apologize to friends and volunteers who supported him.

Later Chow even distributed the voice clip of the threat to the media.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, another candidate running in the same geographic constituency, admitted the voice on the clip was one of his volunteers, and immediately claimed he had no knowledge of the apparent threat.

Ho hit back, claiming Chow was trying to smear him, as both seem to be fighting for the same voters. Ho also questioned how Chow managed to get a copy of the clip, that was part of a Whatsapp group chat.

"Where did he get hold of the clip? They were not talking to you. Why are you overreacting like this? You told the media you were scared but you said you would not talk anymore... Isn't he smearing [me]?" asked Ho.

But there's no way to contact Chow to find out more -- he has left Hong Kong and apparently won't be back until after the elections.

Last week E Weekly Magazine reported someone tried to bribe Chow with HK$5 million for him to not stand in the elections but he refused. The amount was double his election spending. Some are speculating the bribe may have come from pro-Beijing supporters.

In his concluding speech at the debate, Chow said, "Death doesn't frighten me. The most horrible thing is that you can't protect those who are important to you.

"I am not afraid of becoming a broken egg, but I fear that those who are close to me will be harmed."

The strange thing is that one you are an approved candidate, you can't just quit. And there was no indication that Chow and his family were in any danger...

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sliding in Hong Kong

Enjoy the thrill of sliding down and taking in the view of the city too
At the Central waterfront there's a giant 10-metre long slide for people to beat the heat, though according to the Chinese lunar calendar, summer was officially over on Tuesday.

Slide in the City had a delayed start yesterday
Slide in the City was supposed to open at 9am yesterday until Monday, but was delayed until 2pm because it was waiting for approval from the Hong Kong government's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Karen Kwok Ka-yan, project director of event organizer Dreams Salon Entertainment Culture, conceded the company had underestimated the time it needed to win government approval for the installation.

As a result, many people who had tickets for the morning session were disappointed they couldn't play on the slide, though they were happy to return at a later time and get a free bottle of water each.

This is the second year Slide the City has come to Hong Kong. The American outfit first installed temporary slides in the United States in 2013 and has since gone to Canada, Japan, Columbia and Malaysia.

Visitors can hang out in the make-shift beach...
There were over 16,000 people who visited the site in Hong Kong last year and organizers are hoping for 6,000 a day for six days.

While people can enter the site for free, they have to pay HK$180 to HK$580 to use the slide for two hours, depending on the time of day. There's even an artificial beach complete with deckchairs and large plastic balls.

Sound like fun? Join the line...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beijing's 1st Tibetan Search Engine

New search engine Yongzin looks very similar to Google, no?
China recently launched its first search engine -- in Tibetan called Yongzin, which means "teacher" or "master". State media outlet Xinhua says Yongzin is a "unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China".

The search engine has been in the making since 2013 and cost 57 million yuan (US$8.7 million) to produce. Eighty percent of the 150 developers are ethnic Tibetan, and the site is expected to benefit 2 million users.

You will be hard pressed to find images of him on Yongzin
With an entire population of over 1.2 billion, why would the Chinese government bother to set up a search engine for such a small percentage of people?

"[It will] meet the growing needs of the Tibetan-speaking population and facilitate the building of Tibetan digital archives and the expansion of databases in the Tibetan language," an official said.

Or how about trying to control the information flow Tibetans can access in their own language?

Tibet watchers outside of China seem skeptical about this latest development. "After decades of effectively suppressing the Tibetan language, China now puts emphasis on being seen to support it," observed Alistair Currie of the Free Tibet Movement.

"As with everything in Tibet, language is tainted with political connotations, and Beijing wants to control any development rather than permit it."

And there are problems trying to find images of Tibetan tea
Some media asked Tibetan-speaking users to try out the portal and found searches for the Dalai Lama didn't even show his official website. "None of the top results [on Yongzin] are particularly relevant," a researcher said.

When the search switched to images, the results showed images from a defunct website compared to Google, which had lots of pictures of the Dalai Lama.

Another search was made for "Tibetan tea", and those results showed Chinese officials drinking tea, whereas Google had images of the actual beverage.

Currie noted there were many more blogs, websites and social media from Tibet that were not accessible through the search engine.

So what's the whole point of this 57 million yuan exercise when hardly anything is accessible?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Olympic Stars Coming to Hong Kong

Hong Kong fans are going to be excited to see Fu Yuanhui this weekend
The euphoria of the Summer Games in Rio have begun to evaporate, but it will extend in Hong Kong this weekend when the Chinese gold medallists come here to show off why they're in the best in the world.

Sixty-four Olympians will come, including the 12 "golden girls" of the women's volleyball team who won gold for the first time since 2004, along with their coach Lang Ping.

Diver Wu Minxia will show off her diving skills
Others include diver Wu Minxia, swimming Sun Yang and badminton player Chen Long.

Even though badminton bad boy Lin Dan was unsuccessful in defending his title, he will also be in Hong Kong, as well as bronze medallist Fu Yuanhui, who became an internet darling for her post race interview when she found out from a reporter she came in third, and being open and honest about her menstrual cramps.

Hong Kong Olympic officials had been requesting Fu to come, but the previous policy from the Chinese side was only to have gold medallists come here.

But Fu's attendance was confirmed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying today, which will surely thrill those who managed to snag the 5,700 tickets that went on sale on Monday morning and were gone by 1pm.

Superstar Lin Dan will demonstrate his badminton prowess
Already some of the tickets are being scalped for as much as 1,000 yuan each, when they were bought for only HK$20, each person able to buy a maximum of two tickets.

The athletes' visit starts here on Saturday, when they will hold table tennis and diving demonstrations at Queen Elizabeth Stadium and Victoria Park, and participate in a variety show in Sunday.

They will also have a meet-and-greet session with young people in Ma On Shan, and visit the Hong Kong Sports Institute to meet local athletes.

Attention will definitely be on Fu and wonder what she'll inadvertently gab about next!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Review: Catch in K-Town

Delicious Catch crab boil with mussels, clams, chorizo and sweet corn
Did some eating around Kennedy Town this weekend with my cousin in town for a few days.

On Friday evening we went to the popular Catch, short for Catchick but also a hint to the seafood menu, as in catch of the day.

When I booked the table for 6.30pm, they asked us to vacate it by 8.30pm, which gave the impression it was very busy, but when we got there, we were the only ones dining in the restaurant for at least an hour.

A side dish of pan-fried okra with lentils and shallots
Nevertheless it was fun having the place to ourselves, and having the restaurant open up to the street gave us another perspective -- watching people walking by peering in to where we were, as well as buses and trams driving through.

My cousin was craving beef tartare, so we ordered this one ($138), that arrived on two baguette slices topped with half quail eggs. We liked the chunks of beef, but the seasoning was on the very spicy end of the scale with a slow, hot burn.

We had a side of pan-fried okra with lentils and shallots (HK$48) that was quite a large bowl for two, but we liked the taste and healthiness of the dish.

For mains, the baked salmon, walnut, coriander, capsicum and chilli salsa, and minted cabbage salad ($198) was light and very refreshing with the combination of flavours and textures.

Baked salmon with chilli salsa and minted cabbage salad
Then we got our fingers dirty digging into the Catch crab boil (HK$168 for small, HK$328 large). Since we ordered the small one, the crab was also relatively small, and didn't have that much meat in the legs, but we really enjoyed eating the mussels and clams, both plump and juicy.

We also liked the thick slices of chorizo and of course the buttery sauce. We asked for some bread to mop it up and we were soon stuffed -- so much so we couldn't even fit dessert in.

When we wobbled out of there around 8pm, we had a short walk around the neighbourhood to at least try to digest some of the meal, a memorable one.

G/F, 93 Catchick Street
Kennedy Town
2855 1289

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Playing Piano... Again

An upright piano ready to be played and it was a fun hour that whizzed by
The apartment building I live in has a clubhouse with a variety of facilities, such as a swimming pool, gym, classes for baking and making crafts, tai chi and so on.

In order to entice more residents to use the facilities, today was a day to try things out for free and booked in advance, though things like the swimming pool and gym were first come, first served.

Not having played piano for over 20 years, I thought this would be a good chance to see if my fingers still had the magic touch on the ivories and reserved myself a room for an hour.

I printed off some sheet music from the internet and then headed to the clubhouse at the appointed time. I was shown to a small room that had an upright piano and two chairs; a clock was right above the piano so there was no mistaking what time it was.

I got out my first piece, Minuet in G by JS Bach and started playing the right hand, trying to remember how to read sheet music, and then ventured to add the left hand and presto -- I was playing music!

It was very rough at first and immediately after playing at the end, I started the beginning again, hoping it would get better, and sometimes it was, and sometimes it was worse. How did I forget to play that note? Why is my fingering all wrong? I was determined to play it better the next time around.

Soon 30 minutes was over and I was still playing Minuet in G. I moved onto Fur Elise by Beethoven, but it turns out I had the abridged version. That's OK because I managed to play the first part OK, partly because it was arpeggios and easier to follow because there was a lot of repetition.

I used to love playing Fur Elise, channeling the romanticism of Beethoven; but now it didn't seem to hold as much meaning to me as it did as a 15-year-old trying to figure out her way in the world.

So I went back to Minuet in G for the last 15 minutes. It's funny how as a kid practicing piano an hour went by at a snail's pace, and here it whipped by and I was playing non stop to get as much practice in as possible. My fingers weren't doing exactly what I wanted them to do, but not bad for not having touched a piano in over two decades!

It was a good distraction to do something different, and also use my brain in another way.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Where's Hong Kong's Olympic Drive?

Big dreams for Joseph Schooling (right) when he met Michael Phelps in 2008
The Summer Games in Rio are over tomorrow, but Hong Kong came home empty handed this year, raising questions of what went wrong, and why Singapore won its first gold medal ever with Joseph Schooling easily beating Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly.

Chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong tried to spin the negative outcome by saying Hong Kong people should avoid looking at Olympic medals as the be all and end all of sporting achievement, adding it was impossible to put a value on intangible benefits of our athletes at international sporting events.

His father Timothy saw Sarah Lee Wai-sze win bronze four years ago in London, and Lee Lai-shan clinch gold 20 years ago in windsurfing in Atlanta.

Kenneth Fok tries to manage Hong Kong's disappointment
Some bright spots in these Games have been Siobhan Haughey, who was the first Hong Kong female swimmer to qualify for an Olympic semi-final, and golfer Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching who worked hard to stay in the game.

Trying to put a brave face on Hong Kong's performance in Rio won't be enough for the Hong Kong public to wonder if athletes aren't given enough resources in terms of training facilities and coaches. The city's new commissioner for sport Yeung Tak-keung put things into perspective, saying Hong Kong has won three medals since first competing in 1952.

What does that say about the priority of sport in the city, and the tiny talent pool we have here?

It starts from parenting and the school system that encourages playing sports, and building talent from the grassroots level, and encouraging kids to continue playing, running, jumping, dribbling, kicking and so on.

Sarah Lee (left) came home empty handed this year
When parents tell their kids they should study than exercise, it's the wrong message -- sports can help them excel in academics, being more disciplined, more focused and more cooperative in working with others. These skills carry on into their working lives.

But it's going to take a long time for attitudes to change and realize academics and sports go hand in hand.

The more children take up sports, the bigger the talent pool and competition to be the best.

How did Schooling do it? In 2008 he took a picture with Phelps in Beijing, with the hopes that one day he would be just as good as his hero.

That is an Olympic dream come true.

Do Hong Kong athletes have the same drive?

The soul searching begins... again.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Tainted Pork Raises Food Safety Questions

All lined up -- pork ready to be sold in markets and supermarkets
Earlier this month, we discovered there are still some loopholes in our quality control when it comes to inspecting pigs from China that come to Hong Kong to be slaughtered.

What typically happens is that when they pigs arrive in the city, they are tested to ensure they are safe for consumption, and once they have the green light, the animals are slaughtered and distributed, and then sold in wet markets and supermarkets.

However, this time, the pigs from Jiangxi province were tested, but before the results were confirmed, they were already slaughtered and the pork was distributed into the food chain.

Tainted pork earlier this month caused food safety fears
This caused not only a lot of fear regarding food safety in Hong Kong, but also led to financial losses for wholesalers and sellers who were mistakenly accused of selling tainted pork.

Today the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man apologized for the blunder, saying the tainted pork scandal was "entirely the government's fault", and police would investigate possible sabotage involved.

While farmers in the mainland are known to illegally use asthma medicine to enhance animal growth and leaness, this time around 300 pics were "drugged" with an unusually high level of illegal chemicals on their way to Hong Kong, rather than from the farms they came from.

"This might not be a simple food safety incident," Ko said. "It was unusual for farmers to use such a high level of food additives in pigs before the livestock were subjected to food safety tests.

"Even if they use illegal enhancers, they usually stop for a certain period before the pigs are sent to the slaughterhouse," he said.

Dr Ko Wing-man apologized for the tainted pork scandal
Wouldn't one be concerned to know farmers use these illegal enhancers anyway? Why doesn't Hong Kong refuse to accept any pigs that have been treated this way?

In fact why not encourage animal husbandry in Hong Kong again so we can ensure we are getting clean pork? Why are we depending on China for our supply? Why can't we have our own?

The Hong Kong government does little to encourage locals to take up farming, once a livelihood of previous generations. While it is admittedly hard work, there are some people who are keen to do this because of the benefits of eating organic, or at least food that is cleaner.

We have some organic farming happening, but on a vary small scale, and they aren't properly regulated. Chefs are keen to use local produce to lower their restaurants' carbon footprints, but these farms just don't produce enough volume.

There is potential there, so why can't the government support these farmers?

This dependence on China for our food and water is too much; and it's scary too. Ko's comment about farmers using illegal chemicals in our food is an everyday occurrence is shocking. And his lack of interest in encouraging locally-produced food is very telling.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Rita Fan Chides Chinese Envoys in Hong Kong

Rita Fan says Chinese envoys need to understand Cantonese to know HK
Finally Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a senior Hong Kong official has explained the fact that senior Chinese officials posted in the city don't know Cantonese has contributed to rising tensions between the mainland and Hong Kong.

She said this led to mainland envoys not having a comprehensive understanding of the social sentiment here. Fan also encouraged the local government to look at why young people were turning to pro-independence and not just criticize them.

Fan is Hong Kong's sole deputy on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and she made the comment during a live online interview with Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing yesterday.

She hints Chinese officials don't go out to experience the city
"You have to live in Hong Kong to know about Hong Kong, not only staying at home alone, but going out to feel the social sentiment," said Fan, who added many mainland envoys here, like those from Beijing's liaison office, only spoke Putonghua.

"You need to feel how [Hong Kong] people feel. You need to feel and understand what makes them happy and what makes them unhappy. But first of all, you need to speak Cantonese, otherwise it will be very difficult."

But at the same time she warned young people that independence from China was not the way out.

"If they succeed [in achieving Hong Kong independence], it will sentence Hong Kong to death. And of course they will also not be able to survive. But unfortunately, millions of other innocent people will also become victims.

"But we need to understand the young people and why they have such ideas. If you just criticize them and say no to this and that, they won't listen.

Why is Fan saying this 2 years after the Umbrella Movement?
"You need to express your views in such a way that they feel comfortable to listen. No one will listen to you if you use the wrong way," Fan said.

Very interesting that Fan has come out now to say these level-headed statements -- but why didn't she say them earlier -- like YEARS earlier, back when locals were angry at having mainlanders invading the city, or even just before or after the Umbrella Movement?

Or has she tried to tell senior mainland officials that they need to understand Cantonese and they didn't listen? Is this her way of trying to get their attention in a very public way?

Fan is saying what many have thought but never said publicly, and it's about time -- oh only 19 years after the handover. It's also intriguing she points out these envoys don't go out and experience what life is like in Hong Kong either.

It is obvious language and cultural issues continue to create conflict and they are not going to go away anytime soon. But what will mainland officials do about it? Are there senior government officials from Guangdong province who speak Cantonese and can be posted here?

Even then there are cultural differences between Cantonese speakers in Guangdong and in Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how Beijing responds to her suggestions -- if its officials are listening...

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Picture of the Day: Rain Again

Overcast and rainy, at times heavy too -- the forecast every day this past week
In the last week or so, temperatures in Hong Kong have dropped to high 20s because of the rain we've been getting day and night.

One minute the sky is covered in a grey gauze-like curtain of showers, and a few minutes later it clears up and maybe the sun pokes through, albeit briefly before showers appear again. It's as if the weather hasn't decided if it's rained enough yet.

Today the Hong Kong Observatory raised the Typhoon signal No. 1 and this evening it was upped to No. 3. There is currently a tropical depression that is intensifying south of Hong Kong, but by tomorrow will blow westward towards Hanoi.

Apart from having to carry umbrellas all the time and put on our plastic shoes and rubber boots, we're definitely not complaining about the temperatures that are much cooler than usual.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Carrie Lam: Mixed Signals

So what's the deal? Will she or won't she run for Chief Executive in 2017?
There was wide spread speculation that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would run for her boss' job next year, but she wanted to quash the talk yesterday, saying that kind of conjecture was a waste of time and that she had made her stance "crystal clear".

However, she did not categorically spell out her intentions when she spoke to reporters ahead of her trip to Vietnam.

"Some people have thought I am very ambitious to run for the post of chief executive... since I made a duty visit to Sichuan in May," she said. "But I want to tell these people that they are wasting their efforts as my stance over this issue has been crystal clear."

Those who intended to sow discord between senior government officials and civil servants would only bring more conflict to society," Lam said.

During that Sichuan trip, Lam did not reply to questions if she would run for CE, saying she would answer the question 12 or 13 months later. This compares to her statement in January when she said she would not stay in the administration, would not run for the top job, nor participate in politics after the end of her term next June.

So will she or won't she?

Guess the speculation continues...

Monday, 15 August 2016

Lenient Sentences for Trio

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow speak outside the court
Today Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang can thank their lucky stars today, escaping serious jail time after being convicted for their actions in storming Civic Square in the Hong Kong government headquarters on September 26, 2014, which two days later sparked the Umbrella Movement that lasted 79 days.

The trio were prepared for the worst, as their crimes, unlawful assembly and inciting others to join in unlawful assembly carried the maximum penalty of HK$5,000 and three years in jail.

Wong was handed 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly, while Law received a sentence of 120 hours of community service for inciting others to join in unlawful assembly.

The three were part of the group that stormed Civic Square
However, Chow was sentenced to three weeks in jail suspended for a years so that he could study his Masters in the UK.

The community service sentence was a relief to Law, who is running for a seat in next month's Legislative Council elections. If he had to go to jail, that could have disqualified him from being a candidate.

It seems Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan considered the motives and intentions behind the offence because the case was atypical from other criminal cases. She described the three activists as passionate and genuinely believing in their political ideals.

"If their actions did not originate from personal gain or intent to harm others, the court should not only consider their actions and the consequences, but also try to understand the motivations behind their offence by adopting a more lenient and understanding attitude," she said.

Cheung added a deterrent sentence would not be fair as their actions were relatively moderate compared to political events after the storming.

Two days later the police fired teargas at protesters
"The three defendants' actions were undoubtedly reckless, but they were not very violent nor intentional in harming security guards or police officers," she continued. "They only wanted to enter the east wing forecourt, the Civic Square with a historical and symbolic meaning that they genuinely believe in, to form a circle and chant slogans."

Outside the court, Chow said he found the ruling powerful and that it was a wake-up call for those in power and an important warning to the community that one must consider the motives and political stances behind Hong Kong's different voices.

On Twitter, Wong said: "I was given 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly. I will not regret for [sic] my commitment in the Umbrella Movement."

Localists and pan-democrats must be relieved the three weren't severely punished, and perhaps the sentences demonstrate the authorities may have gone overboard in arresting anyone they thought was related to the Umbrella Movement in the hopes of jailing as many of them as possible as a lesson.

It'll be interesting to see how these sentences will affect the Demosisto vote on September 4 and if their support grows or wanes.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Pro-Independence Has Younger Activists

Students who gathered at an earlier event advocating independence
Talk of separatism isn't only on university and college campuses in Hong Kong -- it's spread to secondary schools too.

There were reports earlier this week that said students from at least 14 schools had set up "localist" concern groups, which led to the Education Bureau declaring such groups were banned on campuses.

One group called "Studentlocalism" has at least 60 members, and its mission is to get the city prepared for when the time came for self-determination -- 2047 perhaps?

"In the coming days, Studentlocalism will continue to increase [the number of] its street booths to promote independence," the group wrote on its Facebook page.

"We have also started contacting different secondary student unions which support independence to foster more cooperation."

Students who had protested for democracy back in 2014
It seems the group is intent on getting things moving in earnest when the school year begins next month, and some unions from such schools as Wah Yan College on Hong Kong Island and Ying Wa College are taking part.

A spokesman for the Education Bureau has said there shouldn't be any pro-independence activities in schools and that any organization that promotes pro-independence must be banned.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said to counter the rise of pro-independence sentiment, opinion leaders, teachers and respected educators, such as university presidents, should express their views.

"The government should also try to improve the social atmosphere by being more inclusive and creating more dialogue," he said.

But the latest is that the Academy of School Managers sent a stern warning to teachers today, saying that their registered teachers' professional qualifications could be cancelled or be rejected for qualification if they advocate independence in schools.

"Some people, including those who work in education or are key persons at educational bodies, have openly advocated or even begun to organize groups on campus... encouraging Hong Kong's separation from mainland China," the statement read, without naming anyone in particular.

The group said it was "firmly opposed" to such "violation of educational ethics", which it described as a breach of the Education Ordinance and the Basic Law.

While it is understandable teachers should not impose their political views on students, what is wrong with a discussion in the classroom to clear up misconceptions or to explain that independence goes against the Basic Law?

It sounds like this could be the beginning of a Cultural Revolution-esque atmosphere in terms of fellow teachers and students ratting out other teachers.

And if students want to discuss these issues on their own, who can stop them? The more restrictions that are put on them, the more determined they will be to make their gatherings and activities a priority.

This knee-jerk reaction by the education authorities is not the best way forward on this polarizing issue, but probably came from above to nip the problem in the bud so to speak.

So they hope...

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Not Too Sentimental

Li Ka-shing is Hong Kong's wealthiest man with a global outlook
As a skillful tycoon, worth US$31.3 billion this year according to Forbes, Li Ka-shing has learned not to be sentimental about his investments.

Up until a few years ago Hong Kong people were enamoured with the richest man in town, whose rags-to-riches story has been well documented, making plastic flowers and eventually investing in real estate. His empire now includes property development, telecommunications, ports, supermarkets, utilities, retail, oil and even venture capitalist investments in vegetarian meat.

But in the last few years he became the token tycoon we all love to hate. He -- oh sorry his companies -- have made people feel cheated with unscrupulous practices particularly when it comes to selling flats, and with only two main supermarket chains in Hong Kong, one of which is his, prices aren't very competitive, leaving the consumer not much choice but to shell out.

Victor Li says the company is keen to look at deals
His control over the city's economy is a testament to his ability to beat the system, and also the government's inability or unwillingness to rein in his and other tycoons' power. This wealth inequality was one of the sparks of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, though nothing was resolved on that front, and we were resigned to continuing to give a good chunk of our paychecks to Li everyday.

He has decided to focus more on global property investments, which seems prudent from a global, tycoon point of view to spread risk. But that also means he is unsentimental about the city where he started his fortunes.

Cheung Kong Property Holdings made its latest statement to the stock exchange on Wednesday and Li said:

As it is presently challenging to identify property investments with reasonable returns in the current cyclical stage of the property market, the Group will also pursue global investments to extend our reach to new business areas.

Li invests in vegetarian meats, and here fries an alternative egg
The following day, Li's son Victor who is deputy chairman, was asked by financial analysts if the company was considering selling commercial properties.

"I always look at deals, it's my job to look at deals, both purchases and sales. "There is no deal that we must have, there is no property we must own, other than this building -- we do need an office ourselves," he said, referring to the Cheung Kong Centre where CK Property has its headquarters.

Well OK. Maybe Li has a soft spot for his headquarters, but other than that, let's make a deal...

Friday, 12 August 2016

Xi Jinping, The Model Worker

Apparently Xi Jinping works so hard that he doesn't have lunch...
The former personal secretary to then President Hu Jintao and chief of the Party's General Office, Ling Jihua, was jailed for life last month for bribery and other crimes. And it seems the current president isn't content to let the matter rest, but continue the negative campaign against Ling and his boss.

The chief of staff to Xi Jinping Li Zhanshu revealed details about conflicts within the communist party's general secretariat in a transcript that was published on the website of People's Daily today.

"During the investigation [into Ling]... some had hidden facts and some had resisted the investigation. Those are not honest people," Li said in a speech delivered in June to the General Office.

Xi's staff reveals more allegations against Ling Jihua (centre)
"During Ling's stint in office, some people courted, pandered to, and flattered him without principles," he said.

Ling had worked for 17 years in the General Office, which handles security, health care, paperwork and logistics for senior leaders, and his last five years were as chief of this office.

This prime job came to a crashing end in March 2012 when his son was killed in a car accident involving a Ferrari and two women.

The incident not only left Ling completely exposed, but at least eight other colleagues too.

One was Huo Ke, who was the director of the office's secretary bureau. He was expelled from the party for taking bribes and leaking state secrets to Ling, according to state media reports.

Another was Xia Yong, the former director of the office's research branch, who was expelled from the country's top advisory body, which indirectly confirmed a reported investigation into his activities.

Does President Xi exercise? Inquiring minds want to know
"When Ling told you to tell a lie, if you really didn't care to tell the truth, you could at least remain silent; when Ling did wrong, if you didn't have the courage to expose it, you could at least refrain from being an accomplice," Li said.

He added all office employees, from drivers to chefs to guards and clerks -- must remain absolutely loyal to the party, echoing an instruction from Xi in 2014.

Li also explained Xi and other senior leaders worked long hours, explaining that documents could be sent to them as late as 11pm or midnight, and that during overseas state visits, Xi attended numerous meetings with heads of state and events each day.

And back at home, Xi wakes up early and returns home around 9pm or 10pm without having eaten lunch and still reads documents and handles daily administrative affairs, according to Li.

Sounds like Xi wants to prove that he and his colleagues are working hard to solve the country's problems and make the best decisions.

But does Xi really not eat lunch? His portly figure seems to deny Li's supposed observation.

Or does he have a really late dinner or snacks after hours?

That's what we really want to know...

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Olympic Pride of Crisis Management?

 Wu Minxia may show off her gold medal and diving skills in Hong Kong
After every Olympics, the Chinese gold medallists get to visit Hong Kong to boost the national pride, but this time they will come a week before the upcoming Legislative Council elections.

There are concerns the athletes competing in Rio could face backlash due to rising "pro-independence sentiment".

Swimmer Sun Yang will probably come too
Typically the gold medallists give sports demonstrations and meet fans during their three-day stay. Athletes that will likely come are Zhang Mengxue, winner of the women's 10-metre air pistol event; (controversial) swimming star Sun Yang, and Wu Minxia, the five-time diving gold medallist.

Hong Kong chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong said he would try to invite bronze medallist and social media sensation Fu Yuanhui to come, after the swimmer's post race interviews made her endearing all over the world. She expressed complete delight at finding out from a reporter that she had won bronze, and made funny faces on the podium.

However, Fok says it is up to the Chinese national team who will come to Hong Kong August 26-28.

While he is not worried about backlash during the athletes' visit, Fok was concerned about the event being politicized and that it's about the medallists and sports.

There are hopes to get bronze medallist Fu Yuanhui to come
However, political analyst Dr Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University warned the upcoming visit could backfire in the wake of the rise of pro-independence sentiment in Hong Kong.

"The visit, like those in the past, is supposed to promote social harmony and drum up social support for Beijing and the Hong Kong government. But the government should be prepared for some embarrassing moments when the medallists are confronted with anti-China protests," Chung said.

This Friday night could be the start with localists planning to broadcast a badminton match between Hong Kong and China on the street.

Don't say you weren't warned...