Sunday, December 08, 2019

Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow

Once every few months we treat ourselves to a leisurely Sunday breakfast at the Landmark Café in Central – where I usually scan the menu, think “everything looks good”, then order the eggs Benedict as usual.

Every time we’ve been there recently, a few sparrows have been flitting around inside the Landmark mall. It seems they fly in by the Queens Road entrance, find the environment and the crumbs in the Café to their liking, and don’t want to leave again.  No doubt they are undesirable from a food hygiene perspective, but we find them rather cute breakfast companions.  I would be sad to see them disappear.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Safety First

Quite right too, I always feel safer when I'm cuddling a baby.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

All that education and still stupid as sh*t

You have to wonder what is wrong with Chief Executive Carrie Lam.  She's supposed to be highly intelligent - invariably number one in class, head girl at school, educated at top universities in Hong Kong and the UK, years of experience as a senior civil servant - yet it is clear she is as out of her depth now as Bob Dylan's Mr Jones..  The two biggest mass protests ever in Hong Kong, and she doesn't get the message.  Six months of violent clashes, and she doesn't get the message.  Now the biggest electoral drubbing in history for the pro-government parties, and she still doesn't get the message.  Public opinion polls show her popularity rating at  unprecedented lows, and that more than half of Hongkongers have zero trust in the police, and - need I repeat myself?

Hong Kong voted massively for change, yet all Lam continues to deliver is hand-wringing, platitudes and empty promises.  For all her talk of listening humbly to the people, I think the problem is that humility is not in her nature.  Southern District Councillor Paul Zimmerman's analysis seems spot on: instead of thinking "the people have spoken; I must respond", her attitude is "the people are attacking me; I must fight back".  That does not bode well for Hong Kong's future.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Eyes Have It

The Lesser of Two Goods

Tomorrow's District Council elections are being framed in some quarters as a gargantuan battle between the resurgent forces of democracy and the mighty Beijing United Front electoral machine, a chance to strike a blow against the powerful empire that is crushing Hong Kong.  Well, guess what, most District Council work is pretty humdrum stuff, more concerned with where rubbish bins and bus stops should be located than with the higher scheme of things.  Nevertheless, after months of violent protest the election does present a rare opportunity to raise one's voice peacefully against the DAB juggernaut and to demonstrate the Hong Kong government's near-total lack of support (as an aside, there is no silent majority supporting this clueless government - in fact, any politician anywhere who claims the backing of a silent majority usually lacks much real support).

What may surprise my regular readers is that I have decided, after much reflection, not to vote for the candidate of the democracy movement in my district.  Our constituency is largely rural, with a mix of traditional villages and upmarket estates, and has been represented for two terms now by a local man who is popular in the area.  As an indigenous villager, he has some connections with the Heung Yee Kuk, but his political stance is genuinely independent.  More importantly, he has done a good job for the district - I base this not just on his glossy election brochure listing the many projects he has been involvesd in (as Mary Melville's  comments here point out, some candidates will claim credit for just about anything that happens in their district, or even in neighbouring districts), but on experience.  My wife worked with him on a successful campaign against an unsuitable proposed development in the district, and has observed at first hand the effort he puts in.

Nothing against the "official" democracy candidate, who comes with the backing of various well-known pro-democracy figures, but he has no track record here (and his election leaflet misspells the constituency name; not a great confidence-booster!)  And ultimately, why do we want a more democratic system?  Not to make great gestures with our votes, but to select candidates who are dedicated to their job, care about their constituency, and who listen to and are responsive to their voters' needs and wishes.  We have that already in our constituency, which is why the incumbent will be getting my vote again.  Tell me if I'm wrong.

And by the way, don't worry if your ballot paper has a corner snipped off - it's not damaged, just a new feature to help the blind.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Lord, what fools these ministers be!

This is Hong Kong's "Secretary for Justice" - who decided that this would be a good time, in the middle of months of violent clashes on the streets of Hong Kong, to fly to London (presumably at the taxpayers' expense) to promote the territory as a centre for dispute resolution.  Truly, these people make satirists redundant.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Proud No Longer

Under its new boss, Chris Tang, the Hong Kong Police Force has decided to take my advice and adopt a new motto, reports the HKFP. Instead of being proud and careful, the Force has regretfully ignored my suggestion and will now be “Serving Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty”.  Which sounds fine until you ask "loyalty to whom?"  Based on the events of recent weeks, the answer is more likely to be the Chinese Communist Party than the Hong Kong people.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Man of His Word?

I'd reather be dead in a ditch than still in the EU after October 31st, declared Boris Johnson.  Well, those millions of us Brits who value our rights as European citizens can be glad that we will not lose them for at least a while longer, but sadly Boris's claim seems to be, as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out, another broken promise.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Teargas Sutra

Among the mass of remarkable street art inspired by the current protests, this striking one in Nam Cheong caught my eye.  I love the way it blends a Banksy-style image of a weary protester resting with inspiration from a much older Asian tradition.

Cycle of Violence

How much intelligence does it take to recognise that if you curtail all peaceful channels for expression of opinion and for achieving much-needed change, only violent channels remain? Apparently more than the pathetic Hong Kong government can summon up.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Sleep of the Volunteers

While Hongkongers are eagerly adopting a new anthem of resistance, already on YouTube in multiple versions on numerous instruments and translated into several foreign languages - read its history here - the government is presumably pressing ahead with its (already failed) plan to enforce "respect" for China's official national anthem - March of the Volunteers - through legislation.  This would make it illegal, among other things, to change the words of the anthem.  I am not sure what the implications of this are for translations into other languages - there are already many, including an English version performed by the legendary American singer Paul Robeson even before the founding of the PRC (which ironically later hounded the anthem's lyricist to his death).

Robeson's version (see the link) has different words to the current official ones, which come out in English as:
Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!
With our flesh and blood,let us build a new Great Wall!
As China faces its greatest peril
From each one the urgent call to action comes forth.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Millions of but one heart
Braving the enemies' fire! March on!
Braving the enemies' fire! March on!
March on! March, march on!.
Another (slightly less clumsy) version:
Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves
With our very flesh and blood Let us build our new Great Wall
The Peoples of China are in the most critical time,
Everybody must roar his defiance.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Millions of hearts with one mind,
Brave the enemy's gunfire, march on!
Brave the enemy's gunfire, march on!
March on! March on! March on, on!
Out of curiosity I fed the Chinese words of the anthem (from here):
(( 义勇军进行曲))
into Google Translate, and got this [my emphasis]:
Stand up! People who don't want to be slaves!
Make our flesh and blood into our new Great Wall!
When the Chinese nation is at its most dangerous time,
Everyone is forced to make the final snoring.
We are all united,
Take the enemy's gunfire and move on!
Take the enemy's gunfire and move on!
go ahead! go ahead! Into!
stand up! stand up! stand up!
So as Hong Kong's protesters no doubt mark China's National Day tomorrow with mass singing of "Glory to Hong Kong", let us all look forward to the final snoring of the PRC!

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Hong Kong Police adopt new motto

Suspicious Minds

The government has officially denied the rumour that a protester was killed by the police action in Prince Edward Station a few days ago.  Meanwhile the police stated that reporters were removed from crime scenes to protect the privacy of suspects.  Seeing what the police already get away with in front of the camera, if I was one of the protesters, I would rather endanger my privacy than risk what they might do to me when no one is filming them.

At least one of these pictures is adapted from the indispensable  Hong Kong Free Press.

BS Johnson, PM

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Stirring the Pot

Hear, Hear

Pompeo and Circumstance

It is obvious that Trump and his evil crew are itching to start a war with Iran - perhaps hoping for a Falklands effect.  However, that only worked for Margaret Thatcher because she won the war she entered. 

Being someone who neither studies history nor learns from it, it may have escaped Trump's notice that the Iran Hostage Crisis was the largest single reason why Jimmy Carter failed to win a second term as President.  However, you can be sure the Iranian authorities haven't forgotten.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Both Sides Now

You could believe that Donald Trump is sincere in his condemnation of racism following recent mass shootings - or you could look at his past record of racist statements.  The choice is yours.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The End of Empire

Between 1975, when I arrived in Hong Kong, and the end of colonial rule in 1997, I cannot recall a single time when the Hong Kong Police used tear gas.  Today, it is almost a daily occurrence.  Things sure get better, don't they?

Monday, July 22, 2019

The cop who wasn't there

So, let me see whether I've got this right.  According to Yau Nai-keung – Assistant District Commander of Crime Yuen Long - the police were called to the scene of a possible crime, but hung around for 2.5 hours waiting for all evidence of the crime to be erased before they actually went in to check it out.  This seems a distinctly odd method of policing - in fact, its sheer absurdity reminded me of Major Major in Catch-22, who only sees people in his office when he's not in his office.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Nasty Woman

Pro-government Legislative Councillor Ann Chiang - the one who falsely suggested a local expatriate blogger was a foreign provocateur, and who called for a government ban on protests just before her own party stages one today, asks why Civil Human Rights Front convenor Jimmy Sham has "never mentioned his sexual orientation" in relation to his role in the Front.  Could it be because his sex life is:
  • a) irrelevant to his political activities; and
  • b) none of her damn business?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Turning Point

Yesterday's dramatic storming of the LegCo building was hardly “extreme violence”, as Carrie Lam characterised it – few heads were bashed – but it was a hugely dramatic act of targeted symbolic property damage.  I know I am not the only one wondering whether Beijing agents were involved in stirring up the action with the aim of discrediting the protest movement - which might help explain why the riot police presence inside the building evaporated as soon as the protesters broke through the glass door.  

Be that as it may, over the past few years the Hong Kong government has been systematically narrowing the scope of allowable political discourse.  Consider for example:
  • LegCo expulsions
  • Election candidate disqualifications
  • Anti-filibuster rule changes
  • Basic Law “reinterpretations”
  • Forced “respect” for the symbols of the ruling regime
  • The ban on the Hong Kong National Party
  • Expulsion of journalists
  • Barring entry to Hong Kong by perceived opponents of the government – not just wild-eyed revolutionaries, but sober British Parliamentarians
  • Pushing through highly unpopular legislation without adequate scrutiny
  • Hysterical over-reaction to minor public order offences during protests (what we might call the fish sandwich syndrome) – contrasted with a completely spineless response to cross-border political kidnappings
  • More restrictive conditions for protests
  • Reining in of academic freedom
  • Declaring various topics off-limits for discussion in schools
  • etc. ad nauseam.

The problem with this strategy is this: the more that certain political views are excluded from normal channels of expression, the more their expression will take other – and almost certainly less peaceful and less controllable – forms.  Add in unaffordable housing and the totally unacceptable extradition bill, and the inevitable outcome is the shock of yesterday's kerfuffle.

So Carrie Lam, if you really want to get things back to normal, what must you do?  The answer is simple: stop it.  Everything on my list above, just stop it.  Drop the extradition bill completely.  Forget about the Lantau white elephant reclamation project, and use the money to give Hong Kong's senior citizens a dignified old age instead.  Face up to the vested interests of the property developers and the Heung Yee Kuk and get serious about housing.  And if Beijing won't let you do any of this, then at least you can regain the respect of the Hong Kong people for trying, and we can all stop pretending that One Country Two Systems still retains any shred of meaning.

Friday, June 28, 2019

That Shrinking Feeling

If this graffito - spotted in Bonham Strand West, home to many dried seafood merchants - is to be believed, shark stocks are not the only thing getting smaller.

Making It Better:
Hong Kong Shark Foundation

Friday, June 14, 2019

Chorlton / Hardy

So someone finally told them about this - but what a klutzy solution! And why change the Chinese as well?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Carrie on Lying

Does anyone in Hong Kong really believe that Carrie Lam thought up the controversial extradition bill all by her vacuous self?  It has Beijing's fingerprints all over it, not least in the indecent haste with which the usually lethargic government is pushing through a .change widely opposed by the legal sector, many of Hong Kong's major trading partners, large parts of the business sector (including some the government can usually rely on for support), and most importantly, the majority of the Hong Kong people.

Then there was her description the other day of the Tiananmen Massacre candlelight vigil as "some sort of gathering to commemorate a particular historic incident".  I'm not a violent man, but I really wanted to slap her around a bit and shout "It was a bloody mass murder, not a 'historic incident'" in her uncaring ears.

And a day or two ago, she even started playing the mother card: "As Chief Executive and a mother of two...".  Really, give us a break.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May You Never Again

Before becoming an awful Prime Minister, Theresa May was an awful Home Secretary.  Her legacy of disasters includes cutting police funding by 20% just as Britain was facing a growing wave of knife crimes and a spate of terror attacks.  The impact has been so devastating that police forces now openly acknowledge that they do not have the resources to handle minor offences, and just have to ignore them.

Even worse than this was May's proclaimed policy to create a "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants.  Unfortunately this also created a hostile environment for legal immigrants - to the point where hundreds of people who had lived in Britain for several decades and were legally entitled to remain were wrongly hustled out of the country.

This disgraceful human rights catastrophe - known as the Windrush Scandal - should have disqualified May from ever holding high office again, but alas, it only came to light after she became Prime Minister and had set out to turn the whole country into a hostile environment for everyone.  Arriving in Downing Street with a platform of excellent promises, she failed to deliver on any of them.  Instead she obsessively pursued her promise to "deliver Brexit" long after it became obvious that no realistic withdrawal deal would ever satisfy the Brexit nuts, and opinion polls showed a clear majority for remaining in the EU.

Perhaps May's only plus point is that just about all the alternative Tory leaders on offer - especially the arch braggart Boris Johnson, a man so incompetent he doesn't even know how to comb his own hair - would be even more awful.
  My poor country!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Caring, Sharing, Racially Comparing

This curious question is part of the application form for the HK$4,000 Caring and Sharing Scheme handout, one of the government's series of cockamamie programmes for giving back the taxpayers' money with the minimum of rational targeting and the maximum of bureaucratic expense and inconvenience.

Curious because the scheme is open to all Hong Kong residents with no racial qualifications, so there is no obvious need to ask the question.  Indeed, to do so is probably in breach of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

Curious also for the apparently random selection of countries included.  While there are substantial numbers of South Asians in Hong Kong, few of them are from Sri Lanka, while those of white European ancestry - a much larger group - are not included at all; nor are Africans or Arabs.  And while the Scheme has been promoted in various ethnic minority languages, these do not correspond with the list in the questionnaire.

And curious too because most of those listed are not ethnicities at all, but nationalities.  By Bengali the form's compilers probably mean citizens of Bangladesh, but millions of those with Indian nationality are also ethnic Bengalis.  Sri Lanka has two major ethnic groups - Sinhalese and Tamils - while all the countries on the list have multiple ethnic groups or at least substantial minorities.

So what is this all about?

The Lucky Lemming

Unfortunately I don't have another EU nationality, unlike this happy chap.

This can't go on forever - can it?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Andrew Marr gets up Nigel Farage's nose

Nice one, Andrew!  Since Farage's past lies played a major part in creating the current Brexit mess, it seems entirely appropriate for Marr to call him out on them.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Accidentally like a martyr

Was it really necessary for the Hong Kong authorities to wrap jailed LegCo member Shiu Ka-chun in chains like a ferocious wild animal for his return from hospital to prison?  Shiu is a gentle soul whose only "crime" is peaceful civil disobedience, not a vicious thug who needs restraint to ensure public safety.  A token pair of handcuffs would be more than enough precaution against the unlikely possibility of him taking flight.

There are two possible explanations for this security overkill.  One is gratuitous nastiness on the part of a government whose velvet glove is increasingly coming apart at the seams.  The other is that the powers that be are more afraid of the democratic opposition than they would ever admit, even to themselves.  Either way, they should all be sentenced to go away and read the works of Thoreau for a while.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Cross-Cultural Appropriation

Branding experts like to ask what a brand stands for.  When a Japanese bakery in a Chinese city advertises itself with a picture of a European child so perfectly white he could have auditioned successfully for a Hitler Youth recruitment poster, what indeed?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Far from the Madding Crows

I was originally going to name this piece either Pigeon Post, after the Arthur Ransome story, or Like a Bird on the Wire, after the Leonard Cohen song, but then I accidentally came up with the typo above which seemed to fit a bird-related post.

The pictures come from the point where Johnston Road turns off from Hennessy Road in Wanchai by the Chinese Methodist Church.  For some reason, large flocks of pigeons regularly gather on the tram lines at this point.  What puzzles me is why they choose this particular perch - some nearby food source perhaps?  Or are they devout Methodist pigeons waiting for the next service to start?  Perhaps any ornithologist reading this could suggest a reason.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Moral Bankruptcy of Julian Assange

Julian Assange's arrest in London has brought forth predictable howls of outrage from those who view him as a hero of press freedom, from perennial anti-American propagandist John Pilger to indifferent actress turned semi-coherent political activist Pamela Anderson.  But is the Wikileaks founder the saint they make him out to be?

Wikileaks was certainly founded on a moral principle: the belief that governments use their control of information to lie to, deceive and manipulate their own people, and that ordinary people should have the opportunity to see this information and know what their government is hiding from them.  A noble idea, though somewhat marred by the fact that the most repressive governments - like those of Russia and China - tend to spawn the fewest whistleblowers, meaning that in practice most of the secrets exposed by Wikileaks come from relatively open societies - in particular the United States of America.

When it came to the 2016 Presidential election in America, Wikileaks got hold of a large cache of emails from parties related to Hillary Clinton's campaign.  What we now know from the Mueller investigation and other sources is that Assange released these in stages in a way calculated to hurt Hillary's campaign and get the odious Donald Trump into the White House.  In other words, Assange was doing exactly what Wikileaks purports to be campaigning against - using his privileged access to information to manipulate political outcomes.  In the process, he helped to elect the worst President in American history - but even if he had thrown his influence the other way, he would still be not a hero, but a hypocrite.

Unholy Land

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


You have to wonder what kind of dining took place before the restaurant posted this notice!