Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Limited Options

Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung don't have many legal options left to pursue
It's almost game over for Youngspiration localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.

The Court of Appeal this morning upheld the previous ruling that disqualified them from office for saying derogatory terms for China when they said their oaths, along with having banners that read "Hong Kong is not China".

Will they go to the Court of Final Appeal?
The three judges unanimously confirmed Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law earlier this month.

"There can be no innocent explanation for what they uttered and did," the ruling said. "What has been done was done deliberately and intentionally."

Originally the pair were prepared to present their case to the Court of Final Appeal, but Leung is now concerned that the case might bring up further interpretations of the Basic Law that could further damage the system.

"It boils down to whether [seeking] the rule of law and justice or the stability of a system is more important," he said.

He said they were also concerned about the cost of mounting such a case, estimating it would be in the seven-figure range.

The ruling is a political win for both Hong Kong and China governments, who have stepped up rhetoric against independence in the city even though the numbers are actually quite small.

And now the Hong Kong government is looking to legally unseat another localist Lau Siu-lai, who paused six seconds between each word when she took her oath, and later explained on Facebook that the pauses were meant to negate it.

Lawmaker Lau Siu-lai is the next target of the government
The government is obviously taking out its big guns to not only intimidate, but also clamp down on any kind of dissent -- which is very unlike Hong Kong. It has always had its critics, but differences were respected.

However, that doesn't seem to be happening anymore, particularly when some lawmakers do not seem to be taking their jobs seriously.

Lau's case will be interesting, as she was allowed to retake her oath successfully by Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, though he too is named in the suit.

Does the man not have any powers at all?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Detained for 128 Days in China's "Guantanamo"

Writer Kou Yanding who was detained somewhere in China for 128 days
A mainland writer was "disappeared" for 128 days as punishment for visiting Taiwan during the sunflower student movement and Hong Kong at the start of the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Kou Yanding, 51, has no idea where she was detained on the mainland but only that she was picked up and blindfolded by security officials while on her way from Beijing to Mount Wutai in Shanxi province in October 2014.

She was held for over four months without access to family and legal counsel, and has now published her ordeal in a book called How is an Enemy Made?  -- Chinese Who Don't Have the Right to Remain Silent.

She went to observe the sunflower movement in Taiwan...
The book was launched in Hong Kong last week and she is one of the few people who has publicly spoken out about her time in custody and how civic movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan have touched a nerve in Beijing.

While Kou's family had no idea of here whereabouts, she asked repeatedly to see a lawyer and relatives but was denied on state security grounds.

"Doesn't the United States have Guantanamo?" she quoted one of the officers as saying. "Well this is the Guantanamo of China."

The officer told her she was being held for subversion.

When she was in Taiwan, she saw the student movement in March 2014, and six months later went back again to see exiled 1989 student movement leader Wang Dan.

Then she went to the Occupy Central site and met with Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Chan Kin-man, one of the campaign's organizers.

... and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014
Two weeks later when she was in the mainland, Kou was blindfolded and bundled into a detention centre. "Occupy Central is Hong Kong independence! The sunflower movement is Taiwanese independence! The overseas democratic movement is subversion... You are in the middle of everything," she recalled an officer shouting at her.

During her time in detention, Kou was not allowed to speak to anyone except her interrogators and she could not look around, turn her head, close her eyes, drink water or go to the bathroom without permission.

The furniture and walls of the windowless room she was held in were covered in plastic foam, presumably to prevent her from harming herself. She had no idea how big the building was that she was in, except overhearing the guards talk of a fourth floor.

While she was concerned about her safety, Kou was also worried about the Occupy protest. "I was afraid to say anything wrong that would prompt them to make up their mind for a bloody clean-up," she said.

The authorities eventually decided not to prosecute Kou, but stopped her from coming to Hong Kong last year because she was still on parole.

She is one of many activists on the mainland to be detained without charges in the last two years, but one of the few to speak about it. Kou wondered if the authorities would retaliate, but decided to write the book anyway.

Kou is a brave woman -- some people would have been to scared to speak out at all, let alone write a book about her terrifying experience. She has let the world know a bit more about China's use of intimidation but also its insecurity, with very little tolerance for what it believes is subversion.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Tycoon Gives his Two Cents...

Chen rants about localists from his wood-carved throne...
A Shenzhen-based tycoon who chairs the Harmony Club, has urged the Hong Kong government to stop pro-independence localists from damaging the business environment.

Chen Hongtian says he was concerned about the city's political development and was even considering diverting his investments elsewhere.

"Anyone who has a clear mind knows they are causing damage and messing around. They don't want Hong Kong to be good," he said.

Pony Ma of Tencent is a member of the Harmony Club
Ok -- wait right there -- we all want Hong Kong to be good. In what way, that is the question, but we all want the city to be strong economically, politically and socially, but it is the government and its policies and actions that has resulted in the polarization we are experiencing now.

Chen claims his club represents 140 mainland and local tycoons including Tencent chairman and CEO Pony Ma Huateng, Lee Yin-yee, founder of Xinyi Glass Holdings, and Wong Kwong-miu, founder of Centralcon Group.

Eighty percent of them have permanent residency in Hong Kong and have business assets totalling HK$1.68 trillion according to Shenzhen media. Chan himself made headlines when he bought a house in June at 15 Gough Hill Road on the Peak for HK$2.1 billion.

Referring to now barred localists Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, Chen says: "I think the Hong Kong government should be firmer in upholding the Basic Law. Such people should not be allowed in the establishment," he said.

Chen's latest acquisition on 15 Gough Hill Road, on the Peak
Uh, they don't want to be the establishment. Perhaps they would like to disrupt the establishment, but actually they have indirectly thanks to Beijing intervening and the Hong Kong government taking them to court.

But it gets better.

"You would be penalized if you said anything against the queen during her rule. Now you talk about the whole country and want to become a legislator? Tell [the two localists] to get out of Hong Kong. I think the Hong Kong government can be even tougher and firmer," Chen says.

Why would the government throw them out of Hong Kong? They were born here. It's laughable that he would even suggest such a thing. A statement like that demonstrates his complete disregard for how rule of law works in the city.

He seems to think money from tycoons like himself rule the city, but maybe that was back in the 80s and early 90s. Thanks to tycoons like him, housing prices have gone up so much that people can barely afford 400 square-foot flats that they would have to mortgage for 30 years because their salaries are so depressed there aren't opportunities to make more money.

Those who voted for Yau and Leung wanted change in the city
As a result, many Hong Kong people have long given up the rat race and are becoming more politically active in the hopes they can make a better future for their children through the ballot box. That's why a record 2.2 million people voted on September 4.

So Mr Chen, this is how Hong Kong works. Yes, Leung and Yau were immature in what they did, but we should not discount that tens of thousands of people voted for them because they believed in what they stand for. This fact cannot be neglected, along with the other localists who were elected into the Legislative Council.

It's interesting that Chen is willing to be so outspoken about this, as if trying to agitate the masses to agree with him. But really tycoons here are the 1 percent, if that. What about the rest of us?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Clockenflap Finishes on a High

Gorgeous skies for the last day of Clockenflap that brought out the music fans
Today was a complete contrast to yesterday -- the rain finally finished overnight and this morning it was a gorgeous day, sunny and blue skies, though clouds started gathering in the evening.

Kids had a fun time with lots of activities for them to play
Last night M.I.A took to the stage, a Sri Lankan rapper who lives in the UK and burst onto the scene in 2005 and had a lot of political messages in her lyrics. She hadn't done an album in a long time and there are rumours this might be the last time people can see her.

However, she tried to warm up the crowd by mentioning China instead of Hong Kong, which got a lot of boos in the audience... she wasn't quite politically correct with the sensitive crowd.

Nevertheless, I managed to wander a bit more today and saw some funky grooves by Subcoat, a Hong Kong-born, UK-based DJ and then went towards the side closer to Admiralty to see what was going on -- Hong Kong thrash metal band CharmCharmChu was playing and many, particularly the gweilo were impressed.

Three kids hanging at Talk2Me, a sound installation
One song was related to the Umbrella Movement, when the police beat up protesters near where the band was playing. The lead singer mentioned this context before singing "F*** the police". It got a roar of approval from the audience.

Nearby kids were hanging out, playing hula hoops, making colourful three-dimensional designs with yarn, or hanging out at a sound installation called Talk2Me.

Later in the day The Sugarhill Gang got the fans going with their old school hip hop from back in the late 1970s. Their big hit at the time, "Rappers Delight" was played at the end, with a long solo rap by Master Gee about how old school rappers don't have lyrics dissing women, talking about shooting people, violence and such, but more about how the world needs more love, and too many people are disrespectful of women.

The Chemical Brothers closed out Clockenflap this evening
They warmed the crowd up for The Chemical Brothers from the UK, and they started with a bang with "Hey Boy, Hey Girl". I also wandered over to another stage to see The Turbans, a multi-ethnic band that also rocked the house.

So much music to take in, but so little time... Thank goodness today was a fantastic day to make up for yesterday. Oh yes and I had some Okinawa salt ice cream from Initial that was blue... it wasn't salty, but wasn't too sweet either.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Clockenflap in the Rain

London Grammar has a glowing red stage to keep people's spirits up in the rain
Today the skies looked overcast, and trying to be optimistic, I didn't bring an umbrella with me to the second day of Clockenflap.

It turned out to be a very bad decision.

Around 2.45pm, sprinkles of rain immediately turned into a downpour, and lots of people in the food area gathered under a large tent waiting for the rain to end. And waited and waited.

Earlier in the day there were big puddles and hiding in tents
It must have been tough for the performers to keep the audience engaged, but the artists braved on, while festival goers were trying to figure out the best course of action -- stay or go? They had paid HK$980 for the day... but no one was expecting monsoon rains today, with temperatures down to 14 degrees.

The rain finally let up over 30 minutes later, giving us enough time to find other shelter before it poured yet again, but tough for fans for Jose Gonzales, who is more an acoustic musician, and one of my colleagues gave up because the rain was so heavy and all she saw was a sea of umbrellas.

This gave me an opportunity to dry out a bit; but that wasn't to last. Just before dinner I wandered the main site again, and then just as Fat Freddy's Drop began their performance, but people seemed to brave the rain for some sunny reggae/techno/funk music to keep them going.

I got caught in the rain and was completely drenched -- water covered my face and at times I couldn't see where I was going very clearly! I managed to get a plastic poncho, but the damage had already been done -- my jacket was soaked, my socks and shoes completely wet, as well as my bag.

A journalist interviews members of Fat Freddy's Drop
After I got home I started drying them off, but it's several hours later and they are still drying off... what a day.

In places like the UK, rain is expected in music festivals. But in Hong Kong, even going across the harbour is a big deal. There were lots of complaints about the weather, but what can you do?

Hopefully almost all my things will be dry by tomorrow and that all the rain has fallen tonight so there's none left for tomorrow.

For a long time, I'd been thinking of investing in decent rubber boots and always thought that typhoons happened only a few times a year so it didn't make sense to buy a pair. But now I'm kicking myself for not investing in them anyway...

Friday, 25 November 2016

Clockenflap is Back

The Central skyline makes for a brilliant backdrop for Clockenflap this year
Tonight was the start of the three-day music festival Clockenflap and it's an eclectic selection of artists from various music genres, and local and international performers.

DJ Janette Slack's infectious beats gets people dancing
Because of construction going on at West Kowloon, Clockenflap has moved to Central Harbourfront, making it more convenient, and an interesting skyline backdrop too.

There was Ellen Loo warming up the crowd, who sang about pollution and rising housing costs, and DJ Jeanette Slack at the turntables putting on infectious beats that people couldn't help but dance to.

For some ethereal sound, there's Sigur Ros, a group from Iceland that sings its own language, but at another large stage was the granddaddy of funk, George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic.

My colleague got to interview the man who inspired so many artists in hip hop, and even his granddaughter performs on stage with him. The man in his mid-70s doesn't know when to stop.

George Clinton signing albums for a superfan in a mask
When we walked into his trailer, it was literally a haze of smoke, and when it cleared we saw Clinton sitting on the sofa relaxed just before he went on stage.

One of the other journalists interviewing him was a humongous fan. How humongous? He had five vinyl records for Clinton to sign, and even wore a ski mask or balaclava that had an alien design on it, harking back to the days when the front man descended onto the stage from a space ship.

Clinton was so cool about the whole thing, and enjoyed chatting with the journalists who were big fans of his. He signed every album cover and his granddaughter was covering the entire proceedings on Facebook Live.

A panoramic shot of the festival grounds tonight
On stage he wore a completely sequinned jacket and was non stop on stage, even jumping up and down at the end. That man definitely has energy beyond his years.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

What Legal Eagles Want in HK's Leader

Edward Chan (centre) says ProDem21 wants a leader who upholds rule of law
When a group of legal eagles in Hong Kong win seats in the committee that chooses the next chief executive, they promised a competitive election and accuses incumbent Leung Chun-ying of obfuscating the city's rule of law with "Chinese characteristics".

Senior counsel Edward Chan King-sang, who leads ProDem21 says: "We want to have a [chief executive] who can actually uphold the rule of law. We do not want rule of law with Chinese characteristics."

Chan says Leung Chun-ying reverses democracy
The veteran lawyer has teamed up with 20 other barristers, solicitors and legal scholars to compete for the 30 places for the legal sector that will make up part of the 1,200 member election committee that pics Hong Kong's next leader in March.

There are other pro-democratic candidates running, such as PanDem9, led by former lawmakers Alan Leong Ka-kitSC and Albert Ho Chun-yan. Former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC is also running.

Chan said Leung was divisive, did not uphold the rule of law and was reversing democracy. He also criticized the chief executive for being transcendent over all branches of the government, saying this was not the rule of law that lawyers in Hong Kong, a common law jurisdiction, had learned at law school.

Chan says Leung should not launch legal challenge of localists
While he disagreed with the two localist lawmakers' use of derogatory language when they took their oaths last month, Chan says it was unnecessary for the chief executive to be named a plaintiff in lodging an unprecedented legal challenge against the legislature to stop them from retaking the oaths.

He said Beijing giving its interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law amounted to "legislating for Hong Kong".

While the group were more supportive of former Justice Woo Kwok-hing, they said it was too early to decide who they would support. And although Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has extensive government experience, Chan said it wasn't vital.

Chan said he was keen on having competition so that it would force the candidates to reveal their vision, by which they would be bound after they were elected.

To them, an ideal candidate had to support real democracy and the rule of law while solving financial and social issues.

ProDem21 like Justice Woo, but seeing who else runs first
Solicitor Michael Vidler, who is in Chan's group, said the candidates should "fight for Hong Kong" rather than "just do the bidding of China".

Ideally we'd like that too, but is that really going to happen? Justice Woo hasn't had the formal blessing from Beijing, and it seems the others are waiting for their green lights to blink on before they throw their hats into the ring.

It is obvious that the position of Chief Executive doesn't look out for the interests of Hong Kong at all. He or she is the middle man, making sure policies decided by Beijing are implemented, and if they are done well, then they will get a second term.

How would they benefit if they were acting in the interests of Hong Kong, when only 1,200 people vote for him or her, and not 7 million people?

It's been a fixed race from the beginning, because -- let's face it -- China knows no other way to run an election...

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Picture of the Day: Sushi

Cute pieces of sushi... made of sugar! Only from Japan...
Tonight I didn't have time to eat dinner -- I went to watch a documentary and thought it was about half an hour long and it turned out to be almost two hours long!

My friend YTSL went to the screening too with her mom. The two of them had just come back from Japan and gave me this present. I remarked I was hungry looking at it, but didn't realize it was made of candy until I opened it!

There are even thin slices of "ginger" and plastic grass underneath!

So I could have eaten my "sushi" for dinner, but they're too pretty to eat!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Trying to Survive in Hong Kong

There's a lot of foot traffic on the streets, but who's spending?
As if we need more proof it's getting more expensive for people to live in Hong Kong when their salaries aren't keeping up with inflation -- a latest study says households are in nearly twice as much debt as they used to be 10 years ago.

The Legislative Council research division released its latest survey that found grassroots families are earning less than what they spend every month, and that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) that employees and employers contribute to monthly is not enough to retire on.

in 2005, the average debt carried by each household consisting of mortgages, credit card advances and personal loans was HK$349,100. That amount has almost doubled to HK$646,100 last year.

Overall the outstanding balance of household loans was HK$1,594 billion, 70 percent of which are mortgages, more than twice the amount a decade ago.

Try buying a matchbox and paying it off before retirement
While people try to save for emergencies like unemployment and illness, the report says, "in the face of slowing economic growth, slackening social mobility, continued inflation and escalating property cost in Hong Kong, many lower- to middle-income families may not be able to do so".

According to the latest data from the Census and Statistics Department, the report estimated the average household expenditure in 2015 was HK$27,600 per  month, a 46 percent rise from a decade ago.

Lower-income households aren't able to save as much these days; those with incomes of HK$11,000 to HK$16,000 a month could barely cover basic expenses, having to fork out another HK$400 from their savings.

This contrasts with those making HK$61,000 to HK$85,000 who are able to save HK$23,700 a month.

Housing makes up the biggest monthly expenditure at 36 percent. Flat prices and rentals have surged by 223 percent and 100 percent respectively between 2005 and 2015, forcing many to resort to taking out bigger mortgages.

Retired couples spent between HK$6,600 to HK$38,300 per month, while their MPF only averaged HK$144,000, which covers only less than two years of spending in some cases. Relatives would have to chip in around HK$4,500 a month just to keep up.

Seniors don't have enough money to be self-sufficient
We're hoping the government is paying attention to this study -- this is why Hong Kong people are frustrated and unhappy. Employers are getting away with not paying their employees what they are worth with the excuse that the economy is bad, but then it's harder to afford even basic necessities to get through the month.

This study shows that one has to have bought a flat and paid off the mortgage before they have retired. But in many cases, because the price of flats keep going up, people may be in their late 30s or 40s before they can afford one, and they may or may not have paid it off within 25 to 30 years.

And there is also the issue of how big a flat they can afford... who wants to live in a matchbox flat of 152 square feet for over 20 years as they try to pay off the mortgage?

The income gap is getting worse and worse here even though the economy is slowing down, things aren't "cheap". We are all still beholden to landlords who seem to live on another planet when it comes to charging rent.

But the government isn't going to impose rent controls anytime soon so we are still going to have to pay more for every service or item we buy because of greedy landlords.

People can't even aspire to bigger and better things because they are just trying to keep their head above water.

How does this give people here any hope that things are going to get better? A good chunk of them are just barely surviving...

Monday, 21 November 2016

The A&F Party is Over

The A&F boys whipped up a lot of attention in the city in 2011
We're actually surprised Abercrombie & Fitch lasted this long in Hong Kong.

After a splashy opening that included topless men in red shorts riding in an open-deck bus and greeting customers at the Pedder Street store in 2011, the casual American wear brand will close its doors early next year.

The male models drew lots of customers into the store
It is breaking its lease that was supposed to expire in 2019, probably to the relief of the company's headquarters, which was paying HK$7 million a month for the 25,600 square foot store, double that of the previous tenant, Shanghai Tang.

"The company exercised a lease kick-out option for its A&F flagship store in Hong Kong," the retailer said on Friday. It claimed the move was "part of the company's ongoing strategic review" and "was expected to drive economic benefit over time".

Which probably means we had to cut our losses and review our strategy.

After the store vacates the Pedder Street location, Abercrombie & Fitch will not have a presence in Hong Kong anymore, though it plans to add five more stores to the mainland by the end of January.

How much merchandise do you have to sell to make rent?
Anyone could have told the company paying HK$7 million a month was too much, and how many jeans and T-shirts would it have to sell to make rent? Someone wasn't doing the calculations.

And besides there are fewer mainlanders shopping in Hong Kong, and the days of someone buying 10 Gucci bags at once are long gone.

They are lucky to get 10 customers buying one bag each these days.

So who is going to take over this prime shopping space? And will the rent be lowered too?

We're all eager to find out.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Food Hawkers Legal by Next Chinese New Year?

This year's #fishballrevolution may be a one-off if hawkers legalized next year
Nine months after riots broke out in Mongkok on the first day of Chinese New Year, the Hong Kong government has proposed licensing street food hawkers during the holiday period.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department submitted a proposal to the Yau Tsim Mong district council to set up a food bazaar from January 28-30 for 40 hawkers in a "suitable" location.

However, Secretary for Health Dr Ko Wing-man denies the proposal is related to the Mongkok riot on February 8. He said the government had formed a task force with the previous Legislative Council to discuss street food policies.

Dr Ko denies the proposal is linked to the Mongkok riots
It is the first time the government has proposed legalizing these hawkers, who traditionally offered food alternatives during Chinese New Year, as many shops and restaurants were closed during the holiday period.

While many places are open these days because of the economic climate, that hasn't stopped food vendors from trying to make an extra buck for a few days and offer some nostalgic snacks for sale.

However this past February, a riot started in Mongkok apparently because officials were cracking down on illegal operations, and the violence escalated to the point where a police officer fired shots into the air when they were surrounded by angry protesters.

"We did not consider [the proposal] because of any specific incident," Ko said during a public event on Sunday.

"We have however, considered that citizens, during Chinese New Year, may be interested in enjoying traditional Hong Kong snacks and cooked food on the street. Some business operators may also feel there are larger flows of people during this period and they can do better business.

If the licensing is approved, local food culture will thrive again
"Given that there is such demand, we have the responsibility to consider whether there is a way or location to make such operations safer without affected public order."

The preliminary proposal suggests 40 street food stalls would operate between noon and 2am during the three-day holiday period, and set up at locations like Macpherson Playground. For safety reasons, only electricity would be used to cook the food.

Interesting to see the government make a concession about street food during Chinese New Year following all the political tensions we have gone through in the past few years.

However, from a food perspective, customers might not be too thrilled with dishes cooked with electricity, as those cooked with gas would have more "wok hay" or flavour from the wok due to the high heat.

Nevertheless, it's a good will gesture from Ko and we'll take it for now.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Justifying Microflats in Hong Kong

Not everyone is clamouring for a matchbox-sized flat in the sky
Hong Kong government officials are disconnected as ever from the rest of us 7 million people, and they still wonder why the Umbrella protests happened two years ago.

One of the gripes was that housing had become unaffordable. And what has happened since? Flats have become even more unaffordable.

Developers then hit on the idea of making flats smaller and smaller so that prices would seem more within reach of first-time home buyers -- care for a 152 square foot flat anyone?

There is public outrage about these microflats -- the smallest ones are smaller than a prison cell. How is that humane?

Chan says there won't be size restrictions on building flats
But Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po says there is no need to impose restrictions on how small flats should be, because flexibility was needed for market adjustments, given the uncertainties during the period when the flats are under construction.

We all know real estate is a winning investment. How could one lose? There are no uncertainties in selling them because everyone needs a roof over their heads.

And then Chan twists the justification even further.

"There is a demand for such small units," he said. For example, he explained, young people who want to move out of their parents' houses could only afford these flats due to their limited budget. "It is not suitable for us to decide what size of the homes they are allowed to live in."

These flats are in demand because investors want to rent them out to people who want to move out of their parents' home. These buyers are even willing to pay the 15 percent stamp duty for buying a second, third, fourth... whatever number home.

Is it fair for people to have to live in such tiny spaces?
Would a first-time home owner really want to buy a 152-sq-ft flat, and pay over HK$3 million for it in a mortgage that will take over 20 years to pay off?

Hardly seems worth it for a matchbox-sized home in the sky.

Chan is mistaken for thinking the majority of buyers of these microflats are first-time buyers.

We should also keep in mind that Chan and his wife Frieda Hui owned a company that owned several flats that were illegally subdivided. Seems like Chan doesn't mind packing people in like sardines either.

Edward Yiu Chung-yim, associate professor at the Chinese University's department of geography and resource management, said the government should tackle the housing problem by improving the affordability of homes instead of imposing size regulation.

"If the high land price policy does not change, size restrictions would do more harm than good," Yiu said, adding such a policy would further discourage people from buying homes.

Has Chan even been in one of these microflats and tried to imagine how he would live in one of them?

It's amazing how someone who grew up in a housing estate doesn't even care to empathize with how people are struggling these days...

Friday, 18 November 2016

Further Erosion of "One Country, Two Systems"

Martin Lee says "one country, two systems" has been undermined by Beijing
A former Basic Law drafter is concerned about how two localists have given Beijing license to undermine the "one country, two systems" concept.

Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said he was suspicious about the actions of Youngspiration lawmakers-elect Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who were disqualified by the High Court on Tuesday.

Speaking after a Commercial Radio program, Lee said the Hong Kong government and Beijing could point to Leung and Yau and say "not only do they want independence, they were insulting the people of China. Of course we should get rid of them".

Leung and Yau have given Beijing the excuse to change oath
"Then they have become good excuses for Beijing not only to attack them, because they could be removed anyway by the judge even without the interpretation, but making life very difficult for so many of us and in fact destroying 'one country, two systems', giving them the excuse to do so," Lee said yesterday.

He said Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law had destroyed the "one country, two systems" principle as it suggested the city's public officers, including judges, had to pledge allegiance to both China and "its special administrative region".

The interpretation says "the taking of the oath stipulated by Article 104 of the Basic Law is a legal pledge made by the public officers to the People's Republic of China and its Hong Kong special administrative region".

This is different from the Basic Law that says: "principal officials and members of the Legislative Council... must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong special administrative region."

Elsie Leung says the oath was changed to safeguard the law
Lee said this suggested officials and lawmakers had to pledge allegiance to the mainland's constitutions as well as the Basic Law.

He said this would have major consequences and questions could be raised over several lawmakers having dual nationality.

"If they have a US or British passport, how are they pledging allegiance to the country? Chinese law does not recognize dual nationality," Lee said.

However, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People's Congress Standing Committee, rejected Lee's criticisms and said the committee had acted in accordance with the law.

"There is no question of it destroying the rule of law. The move is to safeguard the rule of law and the 'one country, two systems' principle."

Leung said it was the fault of the Youngspiration pair for refusing to acknowledge Hong Kong is a part of China.

She said the ruling was not aimed at "chasing dissident voices out of the Legislative Council".

The debate continues, but Lee is right. The nature of "one country, two systems" has changed in Hong Kong. The mainland continues its dragging of the city closer to the mainland...

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Dreams Do Come True

Cathay Pacific pilot Hank Cheng realized his dream of flying a homemade plane
Back in late August Cathay Pacific Airways pilot Hank Cheng took off on a flight around the world in a locally-made plane and returned to Hong Kong safely earlier this week.

He flew 49,650km in the plane named B-Koo Inspiration and along the way touched down in 45 airports in 20 countries.

At times Cheng was forced to alter his flight path as he faced difficult weather conditions, including chilly winds, snow and typhoons, according to a project spokeswoman.

The small aircraft took seven years to design and build
After he landed, Cheng said he hoped his achievement would "put Hong Kong on the map".

"There are Hong Kong climbers who have climbed Mount Everest. I wanted to put the Hong Kong flag on the map, so this is a source of pride."

He said the most exciting leg of his journey was from Hilo, Hawaii to San Jose, California, a 3,800km flight across the Pacific Ocean that took 14 hours and 37 minutes to complete.

Flying in the plane, Cheng said "I brought together all the hopes and dreams of [my] team. It started as a personal project, but it became a bigger group and I was just the guy flying the plane, taking their hopes around the world."

Cheng and his co-pilot Thomas Ng wave from Karachi
It took Cheng seven years to make his dream of developing and building an aircraft into reality. It was a collaboration between Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company and St Paul's Convent School.

B-Koo Inspiration now joins the list of 14 amateur-built planes to have flown around the world, according to international aviation society Earthrounders.

Congratulations to Cheng and everyone involved in the project!

He has demonstrated that through patience, perseverance and hard work, dreams can come true.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Saddest Polar Bear in Guangzhou

Polar bear named Pizza is hanging out in its faux icy conditions in a mall
In a shopping mall in Guangzhou is an enclosure that holds what animal activists are calling "the saddest polar bear in the world".

Three-year-old Pizza, a female polar bear, lives in a small glass-walled enclosure and there is video footage of her pacing and swaying her head, evidence of mental decline.

You'd be lying like this too if you were bored in a small space
Hong Kong-based charity Animals Asia posted the video online in July which caught global attention, forcing the mall to announce it would temporarily move Pizza during an upgrade of her home.

"Pizza the polar bear will temporarily leave Guangzhou and return to her birthplace," the Grandview Mall Aquarium said on its official account on WeChat.

The move was part of ongoing upgrades and "minor alterations" to the mall, and the aquarium would remain open during Pizza's absence, though it did not say when she would return from a zoo in Tianjin.

But animal rights groups have called for the move to be permanent, saying the conditions in the mall are unsuitable for a polar bear.

The shopping mall uses Pizza to attract shoppers
Peter Li, a campaigner at Humane Society International, said in a statement that sending Pizza back to Guangzhou would be "cruel and heartless".

"No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal," he said.

First of all -- why is a polar bear called Pizza? Isn't that inhumane?

And why is she even being housed in a shopping mall? If this is the mall's way of attracting shoppers, it's very shocking to use an animal in this way.

While zoos in the west are wrestling with the ethics of keeping animals in cages, China is only starting to see the novelty in it and not how this is not the politically correct thing to do.

Perhaps they should watch Oscar-winning animator Nick Park's Creature Comforts, where zoo animals explain what it's like to live in cages:

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

High Court Rules Localist Pair Disqualified

Yau Wai-ching holds up a copy of the High Court's ruling in front of the media
Hong Kong's High Court has decided that two localists who were democratically elected in September are disqualified from becoming legislators because of the way they took their oaths of office last month.

Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang of Youngspiration have vowed to appeal the ruling.

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said the pair's conduct during the October 12 ceremony meant they declined to take their oaths and must therefore vacate their seats.

The Youngspiration pair have been disqualified from Legco
During the oath-taking ceremony, they had carried banners that read "Hong Kong is not China" and said "Sheena" instead of "China", which many consider to be a derogatory term the Japanese used during World War II.

The judge also ruled Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had no right to allow Yau and Leung to retake their oaths, adding that he came to this conclusion before the National People's Congress Standing Committee made its ruling last week.

Justice Au said according to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, the oath must be taken solemnly and sincerely and that oath takers are "bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully and truthfully", which he believed Yau and Leung did not do, nor did they recognize "one country, two systems".

The judge says Andrew Leung cannot decide on retaking oaths
The pair's lawyers had argued that the courts had no right to intervene in the affairs of the Legislative Council, citing the UK, where the parliamentary supremacy reigns and no constitution exists.

But the judge said in Hong Kong's case, the Basic Law is "supreme" instead of the legislature.

It sounds like Justice Au was at pains to clarify he arrived at this conclusion independently of the NPC Standing Committee, but one will never know since Beijing made its decision before the High Court.

Either way it's a sad state of affairs for democratically-elected legislators in Hong Kong. There have been previous cases of the Legco President allowing people to retake their oaths.

Now suddenly it's been decided this is not possible.

We understand Beijing is clamping down on anyone suggesting independence. We also have to stress this is a very small minority of people.

But this also indicates that many people here find it hard to accept that Hong Kong is a part of China, but at the same time, it is NOT China.

There's a big difference...