Monday, 22 July 2019

More Questions than Answers

Is Carrie Lam really governing Hong Kong? The chaos is out of control...
Everyone in Hong Kong is still reeling from what happened last night, particularly in Yuen Long.

The video footage of people being attacked, including a Stand News reporter who kept her phone rolling on Facebook live while white-shirted thugs hit her, were absolutely shocking. There was a former TVB reporter Ryan Lau whose face was bloody, and a pregnant woman who was injured as well.

Thugs attacking passengers in the MTR train at Yuen Long
The biggest question on people's minds were -- where were the police? Why did it take them so long to respond to the crisis? Hong Kong has 30,000 police officers -- were they all in Sheung Wan firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters? They were definitely not along the protest march route because I didn't see any.

Last night when the police finally arrived (after the bloody attacks had taken place), reporters asked them why it took them so long to respond and the police claimed they came as soon as they could, and that they were not looking at their watches when the call came.

It was their condescending attitude that was unacceptable, and telling people to move along instead of asking witnesses what had happened was very bizarre. 

Another curious observation was pro-Beijing lawmaker and lawyer Junius Ho Kwan-yiu who was shown in a video clip on social media shaking hands with white-shirted men in Yuen Long, giving them the thumbs up and saying, "Thanks for your hard work".

Junius Ho last night with white-shirted men in Yuen Long
It was unclear whether the video was taken before or after the melee in Yuen Long MTR station, but some online sleuths managed to match up some people Ho met with those in the station.

On Monday morning Ho held his own press conference where reporters demanded to know why he was shaking hands with these people who could have been thugs. He explained he was passing through the area after dinner and people were asking to take pictures with him...

And then he later had the gall to say it was the protesters who provoked Yuen Long residents to get out their bamboo sticks to "protect themselves".

Is it surprising that his office in Tsuen Wan was surrounded and completely trashed by angry people this afternoon?

The liaison office being pelted with paint and eggs last night
At 3pm today Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had a press conference, and with her cabinet standing behind her with solemn faces, she reiterated again how she was shocked at the violence last night and again blamed the protesters for instigating the incidents that led to the paint attacks at the liaison office, and the attacks in Yuen Long.

A reporter asked if she prioritized the attacks on the liaison office (that resulted in no injuries) over the 45 who were injured in Yuen Long because a press release was issued at 3.54am when people had been watching the MTR station attacks all evening. Lam said at the time the press release was issued, the government "didn't have all the facts".  A collective groan could be heard all over the city.

Then police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung dismissed claims there was collusion between the triads and the police; he was later was grilled about why there were no police officers in Yuen Long station when the attacks happened (twice), and he claimed that at the time two officers went to the scene and saw that they would be outnumbered and so they left to call for reinforcements.

What kind of response is that when civilians are literally being beaten up?!

Yoho mall in Yuen Long is completely empty today
As to why calls to 999 were not answered, he claimed the line was jammed with hundreds of calls and they did their best to answer everyone of them. He added they were busy with the situation in Sheung Wan, and protesters in front of the police headquarters and the Legislative Council.

He reiterated what Lam said: "Violence is not a solution to any problem. Violence will only breed more violence. We absolutely do not tolerate such violence."

At this point reporters were getting frustrated and started shouting questions at Lam and Lo -- something unheard of as usually these question and answer sessions are usually civilized.

One asked Lam if she felt she was still able to govern Hong Kong after what happened in the Yuen Long MTR last night, and she replied the government "did poorly" and would endeavour to work harder to improve.

Another collective groan could be heard. Endeavouring to work harder is not good enough, especially when you've said that before, and things are worse.

Junius Ho tries to shake a reporter's hand at a press conference
A reporter asked Lam where she was last night when she was able to give a press conference at 4am on July 2 after Legco was trashed. Lam claimed they were still gathering the facts...

Watching that press conference was like watching robots just say the stock phrases that had been pre-programmed into their brains. Many viewers likened it to the Korean movie, Train to Busan where zombies are on a train.

One reporter even asked Lam, "Can you please speak like a human being?"

Towards the end of the press conference Lam said, "You don't know but I was very upset by what happened last night." If you were, why didn't you tell us last night? Why wait until this morning? And what are you going to do about these white-shirted men who injured at least 45 people?

Today Yuen Long was a ghost town, with businesses shuttered all day or from the afternoon onwards as people were worried about their safety. How come the government didn't address the economic impact these incidents have had on the city? Isn't that what it really cares about in the end?

Arthur Shek incited violence on Saturday
And this evening the police have announced it will raid those involved in the last night's bloody rampage in the MTR station, adding they had triad connections. Why is the police announcing this now and giving these thugs an opportunity to flee Hong Kong?

One can only groan again at the incompetence.

The police should really arrest Arthur Shek, vice president of the Hong Kong Economic Times for inciting violence. On Saturday at the pro-police rally, he instructed people to buy bamboo canes to "beat the kids up" as punishment. And that's what happened the following day.

Why is Hong Kong governance breaking down so fast? It is clear Lam doesn't have control over the city -- she has only been focused on pleasing Beijing, the extradition bill one of her pet projects.

In the meantime everyone is mourning the state of their home, that this is not the Hong Kong they know and love.

Lam and Co. still insist it is the protesters who have brought all these incidents on the city and refuse to set up an independent inquiry into the police handling of protesters.

It's going to be a long, hot summer.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Another Protest, Another Conflict

Some 430,000 people participated in the (peaceful) march on Sunday
Every Sunday it's the same thing -- a peaceful march followed by ugly confrontations between a group of protesters and the police.

This afternoon hundreds of thousands of people gathered at Victoria Park for yet another march calling for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to withdraw the bill and set up an independent commission into alleged police brutality. This time the dress code was any colour, but the vast majority of people were in black.

"Hong Kong add oil" in yellow balloons
We were told the finish would be at Southern Playground in Wan Chai, and there was speculation that perhaps the police were itching for a fight and that protesters would go to the police headquarters a few blocks away.

In any event, the march got underway at 3.30pm, but it took us over an hour just to get out of Victoria Park. In that time at least four people passed out and marchers signaled for first aid, and even made space for them to rush over. Standing around in 32 degree heat and high humidity shows protesters aren't doing this for fun -- this is hard work!

At times we had to walk backwards too, which was a first in a protest march, possibly because of people fainting here and there. Almost two hours later we were by the Regal Hong Kong Hotel, and then just after two hours by Sogo.

It was here that we saw Ken Tsang Kin-chiu on a bullhorn telling marchers they could walk faster on Lockhart Road and he was with Cardinal Zen who was giving everyone the thumbs up. All along the way there were no police in sight to ensure we were keeping in line.

People leaving messages of support all over the march route
With some people going to Lockhart Road, we could finally walk at a slightly faster pace, though it was not without its stops and starts. When things got quiet, someone would show "Hongkongers!" and others replied "Add oil!", or "Carrie Lam!" and "Resign!" That would energize the crowd for a while and then later on towards Admiralty Christians were singing "Sing Hallelujah", another protest song...

Overall the atmosphere was good, young and old, we all braved the heat to march. By the time we got to Southern Playground we could see one protester shouting he had masks, hinting it was for people who wanted to go to the police headquarters.

We decided to march all the way to the Court of Final Appeal, the original end point for the march, but we could see other people heading to the Legislative Council, also with masks. After three hours and 48 minutes we finally made it to Central and my legs were tired to say the least.

Protesters deface the sign in front of the liaison office
After coming home I saw on Twitter that protesters had gone to the liaison office in Sai Ying Pun and no police were there to guard the building. Naturally the protesters took the opportunity to deface it, including calling President Xi Jinping a dog...

Then the police tried to clear them from the area, and moved them eastwards towards Central. However, things heated up again near Shun Tak Centre and Western Market and tear gas was thrown many times and possibly rubber bullets were fired as well.

In the meantime things got even uglier in Yuen Long MTR station where people in white with sticks were attacking anyone in black, who they assumed to be protesters. What was even scarier was that there were no police in sight, leaving many people, including families with young children frightened and shocked to be caught in the mess.

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Sheung Wan this evening
Only in the last few minutes (around 11.15pm) did the police arrive (all 12 of them), after the thugs (possibly triads?) left. To some it seemed like the whole incident was planned and are demanding answers from the police, who are telling commuters to just go home. How about some answers?

It's all very confusing and there will be more talk tomorrow. But in the meantime it seems now (11.30pm) that protesters have decided to call it a day in Sheung Wan.

How can Hong Kong continue to sustain these protest marches and violent incidents week after week? This is not the city we know and love anymore and it is the government that has to be accountable for this mess and get us out of it. However, Carrie Lam has been completely silent about it and the longer she doesn't say anything, the more this will continue...

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Pro-Police Rally Today, Anti-Extradition Tomorrow

A large rally was held at Tamar today in support of the Hong Kong Police
The weather has become unsettled again because of a typhoon passing by on Taiwan's east coast, and this weekend there has been rain on and off. Despite the unsettled conditions, a march to support the Hong Kong police was held this afternoon, and organizers say over 300,000 came to the rally at Tamar in Admiralty, while the police said it was 165,000.

Nevertheless, more than 60 relatives of police officers signed an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, urging her to stop using the police officers as "human shields" between the government and the public, and to set up a judge-led inquiry committee.

Afterwards, some people tore messages from Lennon Wall
"We are furious that front line police officers have to stand in the forefront in the face-off with protesters in demonstrations arising from political controversies... Front line police officers are forced to bear the consequences of the government's maladministration," the relatives wrote.

The rally had some star power, with TVB star Nat Chan Pak-cheung and Maria Cordero, as well as former secretary of justice Elsie Leung Oi-see, while co-convenors of the event included Margaret Leung Ko May-yee, managing director of Chong Hing Bank, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, vice-president of the Fok Ying Tung group, and former police commissioner Tang King-shing.

When the rally was over, some participants went over to the "Lennon Wall" in Admiralty and pulled down the hand-written messages there, while putting up some pro-police newspaper articles.

Where will tomorrow's march end? Wan Chai or Central?
In the meantime, since Lam has not addressed any of the protesters' demands, another march will be held tomorrow afternoon. Civil Human Rights Front had planned the route to start from Victoria Park to the Court of Final Appeal in Central, but the police have said the march has to end at Southern Playground for safety reasons.

The police are wary of marchers passing by the police headquarters in Wan Chai as well as the Legislative Council in Admiralty, where there have been attacks on these buildings. So we'll have to see what happens tomorrow -- will it all end abruptly at Southern Playground? Will some other protesters find another government building to vent their frustration and anger?

Stay tuned.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Old School Chiu Chow Cuisine

The decor in Lok Hau Fook hasn't changed in over six decades!

This evening my relatives and I headed to Kowloon City to eat at one of their favourite haunts, Lok Hau Fook, a Chiu Chow restaurant that dates back 65 years. The decor inside has hardly changed, one of the walls features a giant dragon and phoenix, with a double happiness sign in between them for weddings, though probably no one celebrates their nuptials here anymore.

I heard some Hong Kong films have used this restaurant as a setting for scenes involving triads -- who knew they liked to hang out in old school Chiu Chow restaurants?

In front deep-fried crab mousse and shrimp balls in rear
On a Friday night, the restaurant is almost full and we take our seat -- we get cold very fast from the air conditioning and the fans blowing the cold air.

There's a lot of dishes to choose from, and my uncle already has in mind what he'd like to eat. He hasn't been here for many years and reels off some of his favourites to the waiter.

Pretty soon the lo sui duck arrives with some vinegar and it looks overcooked by it's not -- very tender and juicy, and flavourful from the master sauce. Underneath the thin slices of marinated duck are pieces of tofu that are equally delicious.

We also order some seasonal vegetables and choose chun choi, a Chiu Chow vegetable that is a skinny version of choi sum that was cooked in a broth together with chunks of radish and pork rib bits and ginger for flavour.

Super plump baby oysters in a rice soup with pork
Then came some deep-fried items -- a ball that was a combination of shrimp mousse mixed with finely diced water chestnut, and the a rectangular package of crab meat mousse. Both were so lightly deep-fried that their texture was very soft inside, the hot oil obviously fresh.

Probably one of my favourites is the baby oyster congee. The plump oysters are practically poached in the rice soup along with chunks of minced pork, Chinese ham and mushroom. We each had seconds of this giant tureen.

Another interesting Chiu Chow specialty are dumplings where the wrapper is actually made of a very thin fried egg white, and inside the filling is diced chicken, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots, and tied  together by a thin piece of chive topped with shrimp roe. This is such an interesting dish especially in terms of execution; interestingly it tastes of butter, and the bamboo shoots inside are a nice textural highlight.

Dumpling wrappers made of fried egg white are impressive
We were almost full -- but not before we tried some desserts. First up was wok-fried taro covered in sugar -- this is very difficult to execute, as the taro needs to be constantly moving in the hot wok otherwise the sugar on top will burn. Here the slices of taro were practically white with some scallion bits.

Another was a soup of green beans with some translucent jelly cubes. Not a favourite, but a fantastic finish was a taro pudding, again constantly stirred in the wok which is challenging because the grounded taro is so sticky. The end result is a very smooth and sweet hot pudding that's practically screaming to be called comfort food. The small bowl looks deceiving, but really one or two spoonfuls are all you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

In the end our bill came to just under HK$1,000 for four. We will surely be back again as my uncle already began thinking about what to order next time...

Stir-fried slices of taro covered in sugar is difficult to make
Lok Hau Fook
1-3 Hau Wong Road
Kowloon City
2382 7408

Thursday, 18 July 2019

A Pho to Remember?

Dinner last night -- rare beef pho at Chua Lam's Pho in Central

Yesterday my colleague and I finished an assignment in Central just before 6pm and she was wondering where to get a cheap bite to eat.

I suggested Tsui Wah, the cha chaan teng chain, but she said "no" right away. Then I remembered the famous food writer Chua Lam had opened a pho shop nearby and suggested we check it out.

Food critic and restaurateur Chua Lam at his restaurant
Called Chua Lam's Pho, with the tagline "A bowl of pho to remember", is on Wellington Street in a two-storey building with minimalist decor, complemented with beer bottles cut to have plants in them. There's a variety of seating and even more upstairs so we went up to get a table near the corner. The menu is pretty straight forward.

If you want to splurge, there's the "special beef pho" for HK$128, apparently with wagyu beef, but we stuck to the "rare beef pho" for HK$88.

Or you can have a basic beef pho for HK$68 and add toppings like raw beef, beef shank, brisket, tendon, beef ball, and tripe.

There are also other dishes like fried spring rolls, or rice paper salad rolls with fish and mango, or Thai pomelo salad -- what is that doing there! We ordered a dish of stir fried morning glory.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive, we sipped on the complimentary glasses of water and quickly realized they had a sweet peanut flavour! It's obviously a ploy to get customers to order drinks as well, which is what we did -- a young coconut for my colleague, a preserved plum and lime soda for me.

The ground floor interior of the shop
The food arrived quickly and in large bowls, and come with small cups filled with basil leaves, bean sprouts, lime wedge and fresh chillis. When the place first opened, everyone was raving about the soup base, and I have to say it has a round, flavourful beef taste, and wasn't oily.

Meanwhile the portion of morning glory was much larger than we expected and a bit on the spicy side, but still delicious.

My drink had a fake green syrup in it, probably a lime syrup which was completely redundant, while my colleague enjoyed her drink and the thick coconut meat inside.

In the end our bill came to HK$360 for two, a cheap and cheerful dinner.

Chua Lam's Pho
UG/F, 15-25 Wellington Street
2325 9117

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Fact of the Day: Hongkongers Love Oil and Butter

This Hong Kong-style French toast can have as much as 420 calories
OK finally a blog post something not extradition bill related!

Did you know Hongkongers eat enough French toast to cover the Earth's circumference every year?

It's quite the shocking statistic that has nutritionists worried.

Chicken thighs -- as big as your hand are a HK favourite
It comes from an online survey by a health platform called HealthyD.

Other popular snacks? French fries, fried chicken thighs, egg tarts, and pineapple buns with butter, the usual oily and buttery stuff that taste so good but clog your arteries.

"Hong Kong's favourite foods are deep-fried with a lot of oil and usually served with butter and syrup. Excessive consumption could lead to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease," said Cynthia Wong Oi-se, a senior nutritionist at NutraCare Consultancy.

It's scary to hear Hongkongers eat 320 million servings of French toast annually -- basically bread soaked in a batter of eggs and milk (sometimes with peanut butter slathered in between) and then deep-fried and served with syrup. In case you were calorie counting it has 420 calories. That means you'd have to run 5K to burn that off.

Egg tarts are another favourite snack in Hong Kong
While French toast was the number one favourite for 57 percent of people surveyed, the second most preferred snack was French fries which have 539 calories, followed by fried chicken thighs (431 calories), toast with condensed milk and peanut butter (405 calories), egg tarts (230 calories), and pineapple buns (421 calories).

In terms of drinks, 55 percent like to have milk tea, which can have 140 calories. This was followed by lemon tea and lemon water. Wong warned one glass of lemon tea can have as much as 6 teaspoons of sugar in it. Yikes!

Which all probably explains why in a citywide health survey released by the government in 2017 that half of Hongkongers aged 15 and above were overweight or obese.

Milk tea can have as many as 140 calories because of sugar
The online survey also found Hongkongers typically visit cha chaan tengs (where all these tempting snacks can be ordered) on alternate days, with 88 percent of those surveyed saying they eat there 3.6 times a week.

People either really have a hankering for these snacks or they are very keen to show they are proud of the local food!

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Tireless Lion Rock Spirit

There are hundreds of people in Sha Tin chanting for Sun Hung Kai to explain
Tensions are still simmering in New Town Plaza in Sha Tin tonight, the site of the pitched battles between protesters and the police. This evening there are crowds of people gathered in the same spot shouting, "Sun Hung Kai explain!"

They rightly or wrongly believe the developer that owns the mall may have called the police in on Sunday evening, which created a lot of chaos and violence. The mall has reiterated twice in written statements that it did not call the police to come in.

Nevertheless, residents are demanding answers and apparently will continue chanting this message everyday until they get one.

This booth and several others will be inundated by protesters
People are very angry, tired and frustrated. But most of all they want to be listened to and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is completely ignoring them after she claimed she would work harder to engage the community.

In the meantime there are so many activities going on -- I had to ask a colleague what was happening and this person gave me a long verbal list of what was happening where. It's pretty amazing.

Tomorrow should be interesting -- it is the start of the Hong Kong Book Fair -- known for its massive lines because parents want to snap up books for their children to read during their summer break.

However, protesters will be targeting booths run by a mainland publisher, Sino United Publishing. It is state-owned and is controlled by Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, and is the largest publishing group in the city that controls as much as 90 percent of the book retail business through its subsidiaries, Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book and Commercial Press.

Will a Lennon Wall be started at the Hong Kong Book Fair?
Some tactics that protesters discussed online include setting up a "Lennon Wall", which are a collage of messages written by people that have sprouted all over the city; besieging booths by standing there and reading, and protest talks given by pro-Beijing writers.

And surprise surprise -- Hong Kong's leader won't be attending the opening of the event -- the first time in three years.

Meanwhile there will be more events this week, including tomorrow when seniors who will be marching from Chater Garden in Central to government headquarters in Admiralty, and on Sunday, Civil Rights Front will have a rally in Admiralty calling for an independent inquiry on police actions during protests.

This coming weekend there will also be marches held in Hung Hom, Western and Tseung Kwan O.

Summer this year has hardly been quiet. It's a pretty schizophrenic situation -- there are violent clashes on the weekends, but come Monday morning everything is civilized again until Friday evening. If anything this Hong Kong spirit is indefatigable!

Monday, 15 July 2019

What's Carrie Lam's Next Move?

Carrie Lam today visiting the injured police officers in hospital
Hmmm... did the Financial Times get it wrong?

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's office denies that Lam tried to resign several times during the extradition bill fiasco.

Eric Chan Kwok-ki, director of the Chief Executive's Office, dismissed the report as "groundless", where it quoted two people who claimed to have knowledge of the situation.

The police were outnumbered by protesters in a shopping mall
"The chief executive has never offered to resign nor tendered her resignation. Never," Chan told a local newspaper.

So who leaked that?

In the meantime, the Junior Police Officers' Association that has 25,000 members has warned it will seek legal advice to protect themselves from danger if management cannot guarantee their safety at work due to the escalating violence over the extradition bill.

In response, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung pledged in a meeting with four officers' associations on Monday to make their safety a priority when planning strategy.

The scenes were ugly and violent for everyone
Strategy? What strategy? Last night there didn't seem to be any cohesive plan on the side of the police in terms of diffusing the situation and getting protesters out of Sha Tin. They corralled them to the MTR station but then didn't allow the trains to stop to stop in Sha Tin -- so how are people supposed to leave?

Very strange and frustrating. And then the ugly battle scenes in New Town Plaza...

In the end at least 28 people were injured, 13 of them police officers.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun believed the association issued the statement to "protest indirectly and show the government's uselessness in the way it handled the situation politically".

Over 100,000 people marched in Sha Tin yesterday
"Police don't want to be sandwiched between the government and protesters and shoulder the political blame on behalf of the government," To added.

He said officers understood the nature of their work was to deal with dangerous situations, but they did not want to be used as a political tool.

So -- it all leads back to Lam. The ball is in her court...

Sunday, 14 July 2019

More Chaos in Sha Tin

There were battles between protesters and police in New Town Plaza tonight

Today is the 230th anniversary of the storming of Bastille in Paris, which is France's national day. Meanwhile tonight halfway around the world, some Hongkongers are currently pitched in a flight with police in riot gear in a shopping mall in Sha Tin in the New Territories.

As I write this, protesters against the extradition bill are throwing umbrellas and helmets at the police with shields in the mall -- a place where families usually spend their weekends to go shopping and have meals. But now it's a battleground and it is looking uglier by the minute.

Earlier this afternoon around 3pm the protest march started from Tai Wai to Sha Tin, and for the most part was peaceful, but afterwards some marchers refused to leave and began occupying streets. The police then moved in on three sides, which resulted in the protesters retreating to New Town Plaza and the ensuing battles within the mall, startling shoppers.

Some 28,000 people came out to protest in Sha Tin
On Twitter there were video clips of police in riot gear in a residential area above the shopping mall and the angry residents there demanded the police leave. "If you go away then everything will be fine! Just leave!" one woman shouted at them. Did the police think they were harbouring protesters? In any event the police eventually retreated the cheers (and jeers) of the residents.

Now at 10.45pm protesters are trying to leave Sha Tin on any train they can get on to escape from the police. It's just another chaotic protest day in Hong Kong.

When will it end? Surely the police are going to have enosugh of the pitched battles with protesters and tell Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor that they can't continue like this week after week?

Meanwhile the Financial Times is reporting that Lam tried to resign several times after the extradition bill fiasco but was ordered by Beijing to stay on to fix the mess that she created. "No one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job," said one source close to the situation.

At Tamar in Admiralty, journalists protested police violence
We knew that, but the reasoning is interesting. Beijing seems to want to leave Lam high and dry. How benevolent the motherland is...

Tonight's tense flare-ups are in total contrast to this morning when organizers said 1,000 (but seemed more like more than 2,000) journalists, photo-journalists, journalism instructors and freelancers showed up at a silent march starting from Admiralty's Harcourt Garden to the police headquarters next door.

People on buses took pictures as journalists marched in black to the police station in Wan Chai and showed their press passes. Then the marching continued around the Legislative Council, which is currently boarded up.

It's rare for journalists in Hong Kong to protest, but the treatment they have gotten from the police, especially since June 12 when they were pepper sprayed and attacked, it was time to stand up and formally protest.

Some marchers showed examples of violence against media
But tonight's mess is yet another reason for Lam to finally say the w-word (withdraw) and to call for an independent investigation into alleged police brutality against protesters. Keeping quiet is just going to lead to another protest this coming Sunday...

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Tensions Flare up in Sheung Shui

Several thousand people protested in Sheung Shui against parallel trading
This afternoon marchers dressed in black gathered in Sheung Shui, the district closest to the border with the mainland to protest against parallel traders who make a profit buying up products in Hong Kong.

Organizers say some 30,000 protesters showed up, the police say 4,000... you can decide how many from the above photograph. Some protesters held signs that read, "Reclaim Sheung Shui".

Mainlanders are snapping up goods from Hong Kong
As predicted the atmosphere was tense as parallel trading is a touchy issue -- mainlanders want to have quality products, and yet they are snapping up items aimed for the Hong Kong market, though some businesses are specifically catering to these traders and customers.

Some businesses, like pharmacies and shops selling beauty products or snacks took precautions and closed earlier in the afternoon, even though they supported the protests.

Rural leaders, Bowie Hau Chi-keung and Brian Kan Ping-chee were in the crowds lending their support. Hau asked his assistants to buy nine or 10 cases of drinks, which turned out to be Pocari Sweat, the Japanese drinks company that pulled its ads from TVB recently.

Kan, also a famous race horse trainer, said he opposed parallel trading as well. When asked if he had urged the government to deal with the issue, he said, "This government is useless!"

However things got tense after the march when the protesters didn't leave right away and the police, perhaps getting nervous, tried to disperse the crowds that outnumbered them. Some report the protesters initiated attacks on police, throwing umbrellas at them, but the retaliation was much worse. The police brandished batons that they swung at people resulting in bloody injuries.

Police attacking unarmed protesters after the march
Even reporters covering the event were attacked by police, who didn't make it easier for them to observe what was happening and instead became part of the story. One AFP reporter was at first reported as being struck on the head, but it turns out later she tripped and fell, but was quickly treated by first-aid volunteers and was even driven to the hospital by volunteers.

Covering these protests has become very dangerous work for reporters, and it's timely that tomorrow morning there will be a silent march in Admiralty to Wan Chai to protest how the police have treated reporters during violent protests.

Why are the police being so heavy handed with protesters? And why are many of the police not even in uniform? There are many wearing regular T-shirts, let alone not even displaying their ID numbers, which they should in their official capacity. Perhaps they are hoping the tense scuffles and wielding batons will scare of protesters from showing up at the next march?

This is hardly the way to diffuse tensions in Hong Kong, only escalating them.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Baking Smiles for Protesters

These mooncakes say "Hongkongers" at Wah Yee Tang Bakery
A bakery in Sai Ying Pun has shown its support for the anti-extradition bill protesters by producing funny mooncakes and cookies with protest slogans on them.

Wah Yee Tang Bakery began making mooncakes on Monday with phrases like "no withdrawal, no dispersal", "be water", "Hongkongers" and one with Cantonese swear words that the police shouted at reporters during clashes.

The bakery has been open since 1984
"I started making cheeky mooncakes last year, but I usually do quirky designs on my products throughout the year. This year there were some funny phrases [from the extradition protests], so I had the templates made," said the owner, who goes by the name of Naomi.

She is the third generation of her family to run Wah Yee Tang Bakery, that was founded by her grandfather in 1984. She now runs the shop with her mother.

Originally she had not thought of making the mooncakes with expletives against reporters, but Naomi was convinced into doing it after a customer -- who happens to be a journalist -- requested them as gifts to give to friends.

The cookie has the swear words police shouted at reporters
Naomi reports being very touched that so many customers come from far away to purchase her cookies and mooncakes. "It's like they are offering their support by saying, 'I'm by your side'," she says.

Although those who support the police are calling for people to boycott the bakery, saying its products are leading youngsters "astray", Naomi is undeterred.

"I'm not afraid. I'm sticking to my bottom line. Everyone must take their own stand. I have no control over how others see me. I'm just going to continue doing what I'm doing. I haven't done anything which I feel has betrayed my conscience."

The small bakery is struggling to keep up with demand
She adds while everyone is very angry, once they buy the mooncakes and cookies they have a laugh. "I'm trying to turn negative emotions into positive ones. I hope everyone can get this message."

Wah Yee Tang Bakery
120-126 Second Street
Sai Ying Pun
2915 2263

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Picture of the Day: Rain Residue

Puddles from the rain create beautiful reflections of the city
The weather in Hong Kong has been so erratic that you never know if it's going to pour or just have light showers.

That said the temperatures aren't as hot and humid.

Last night I finished dinner with a friend early and went for a walk in the neighbourhood. I was worried the rain would come down so I carried an umbrella with me. Turns out I didn't need it at all thankfully, but... you never know.

The weather for the next few days? More showers and thunderstorms... have the umbrella handy!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

TVB Caught Up in Extradition Mess

Anti-extradition protesters are calling for a boycott of the local TV station
Another "victim" has emerged from the extradition bill fiasco -- TVB.

The broadcaster is the target of ire by some protesters who are calling for others to boycott the local TV station. My colleague explained to me it's because the broadcaster is known for being biased towards the police, presenting stories that are pro-police, how they have suffered mental distress, or how they have been attacked by protesters.

Japanese sports drink Pocari Sweat has pulled ads from TVB
As a result a number of advertisers have pulled their commercials from the station. According to leaked messages today, companies like Japanese sports drink Pocari Sweat, Pizza Hut, insurance company Cigna Hong Kong, and even a local condom maker, Wonder Life have pulled ads from TVB.

"As TVB's style has been called into doubt, the company has decided to not consider TVB when picking advertisement platforms for our products," Wonder Life posted on its social media account.

Pocari Sweat said a similar statement in the leaked message.

A TVB spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that several advertising campaigns had been suspended, but did not reveal the company names.

Hong Kong condom maker also pulls ads
"Due to the recent economic situation and political incidents, a small number of individual advertisers had to defer their campaigns or reschedule their bookings, he said. "This has no significant effect on our business."

The spokesman added the station always maintained neutrality, professionalism and objectivity in its news coverage.

TVB has been also losing popularity due to its pathetic soap opera programming, its shows losing relevance and poorly produced. So it's probably just as well the TV station is fast losing fans and advertisers...

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Dreaded W-Word

Carrie Lam speaking to the media today, saying the extradition bill is "dead"
This morning all eyes were on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor who held her first media briefing since the extraordinary 4am press conference on July 2 after a group of protesters had stormed the Legislative Council.

Lam acknowledged there was lingering fear that the government would restart the amendment process within Legco's current term, which ends in 2020. "There is no such plan, the plan is dead," she said.

Memes online
In addition, she would not entertain one of the protesters' demands that an independent inquiry be established to investigate the clashes between protesters and police.

So basically Lam did not budge at all.

One could hear the entire Hong Kong collectively say, "What?"

What was the point of this morning's press conference when she had nothing new to say?

And "dead"? What does "dead" mean? Can she not say the w-word -- withdraw?

If she did say the w-word, it would have meant that she caved into the protesters' demands, and she doesn't want to be seen as being weak, though these last few weeks have completely eroded any credibility and integrity she has left as a leader.

Even her biggest allies, the pro-Beijing camp are pointing fingers at each other over who supported the bill and that certain people failed in delivering the opinions of the public on the extradition bill to Lam.

All of that is way too late now. We're beyond the blame game and just want to move on -- ie. withdraw the bill. If today is any indication, it seems like saying the w-word is too difficult for her to mouth.

The Chinese media have had a field day, as "dead" in Chinese can have so many different kinds of meanings that immediately exploded on social media.

See Lam's face planted on top of Uma Thurman?
She used the word "壽終正寢", which means a natural death due to old age, but this extradition bill has not died of natural causes at all! 

On Twitter someone reminded Lam that as a Catholic she should remember that Jesus rose from the dead three days later...

Another image on the left shows Lam as The Bride in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill...

It looks like people are going to continue protesting in Sheung Shui on Saturday, Sha Tin on Sunday.

There's no stopping until the w-word is uttered. Hongkongers, add oil! 香港人加油!