Friday, 19 December 2014

Friday, 12 December 2014

New Twist as Indonesian Maid Charged with Impersonating a Hong Konger

Is it not the case that you are intent on getting into the newspapers at every opportunity and making money without having any talent whatsoever?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hong Kong Told to Emulate Macau

Gambling, corruption, money laundering, Russian women with a list of tricks this long – what more could a Communist Party member want?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

China Softens South China Sea Stance towards Philippines

You can have the watery bits on the surface and we'll have the rocky bits and everything below

Monday, 8 December 2014

I'm Sorry, Could You Articulate That Again?

A friend of mine who works as the "English Guy" at a large utilities company based on Argyle Street, currently in the news for regulatory and – would you believe it? – anti-monopoly concerns, has received (indirectly, as is usually the way of such things in Hong Kong), a ticking-off for his English from one of the company's directors. It is so good that, with his permission, I am sharing it with you, having first, like a student submitting an essay that will be scanned by plagiarism detection software, altered it in a couple of places only to protect the innocent:

"The English has significantly deteriorated. I am less referring to grammatical correctness (which is not that great), but more about sentence structuring/articulation. Can we step this back up please as it is a document that would be read by everyone?"

Two points to note. My friend's company regularly runs off with all the awards going for best annual report, and the director used to work for, yes, I think some of you who are regular readers will have guessed already, McKinsey's.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Joshua Wong Hunger Strike Update

I wanted to faint during the night but there were no cameras to film it

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Protest Leaders Prepare for Next Big Challenge

We remain split over how and when we will split, who will stand in the middle and who will announce it

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Fourth Estate or Fifth Column?

In the passage that follows, excerpted from CS Lewis's Spectator article “After priggery, what?”, Cleon (the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics – derided by Thucydides and Aristophanes as a warmonger and demagogue when he became leader of the Athenian democracy following the death of Pericles) stands for the archetype of the dishonest, money-grubbing ‘hack’ journalist. 

“We have lost the invaluable faculty of being shocked - a faculty which has hitherto almost distinguished the man or woman from the beast or the child…The result is that things are a good deal too easy for Cleon. Even when the rewards of dishonesty are strictly alternative to those of honesty some men will choose them. But Cleon finds he can have both. He can enjoy all the sense of secret power and all the sweets of a perpetually gratified inferiority complex while at the same time having the entrée to honest society. From such conditions what can we expect but an increasing number of Cleons? And that must be our ruin. If we remain a democracy they render impossible the formation of any healthy public opinion. If the totalitarian threat is realised, they will be the cruellest and dirtiest tools of government.”

Worth a demo on its own, perhaps...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mong Kok Mourners out in Force as Bailiffs Move in

We journalists demand further standoffs between the governments of Hong Kong and China and good-looking and charismatic students*

* okay, the one that looks like an otter will do too

Monday, 24 November 2014

Vincent Tan Charges Fellow League Chairman with Bigotry

                               That bloody gweilo is a racist

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Heroic Hack’s Statement Raises More Questions than It Answers

On 12 March this year, a couple of weeks after he had been attacked by a man wielding a chopper, Kevin Lau Chun To, who had until six weeks before the attack been chief editor of Ming Pao, issued an extraordinary statement, which appeared on Hong Kong Journalists Association headed notepaper.

Journalists were quick to make capital of the incident, organising a march for the Sunday following, which ended up in front of government headquarters, where they unfurled a huge banner with the bizarre message “You Can’t Kill Us All”. Bizarre, given that “You” had killed no one, certainly not Kevin, who was recovering nicely in hospital.

It was especially bizarre because it is difficult to imagine why anyone would wish to kill the average Hong Kong journalist. For getting the details wrong in most stories they cover, I hear “You” say. “You” might have a point there, but, with so much decent journalism available online, do people actually read their stuff and would they go to all the bother that killing someone involves?

Kevin’s carefully crafted statement proves to be of a different water entirely, taking a leaf out of the Renaissance “Guide to Aspiring Authors” by combining profit with pleasure (where ‘profit’ must be understood in its sense of bringing benefit to the reader with regard to offering him enlightenment).

As we have already mentioned, the very first “statement” that the statement makes is contained not in the text but in the letter-heading, which shows that Kevin is keen that what follows in the body of the statement should not only be lent added gravitas but should also be seen as coming with the approval, if not the endorsement, of the entire journalistic industry – oops, “profession”.

Next for the statement itself (which was of course unsolicited, being quite separate from anything he was asked to provide in order to help the police with their enquiries). Here it is in full:

“I am grateful for the police’s efforts over the past few days in apprehending the culprits and protecting my family members. I hope the police can hunt down the mastermind and ascertain the motive for this brutal attack justly and impartially as soon as possible.

Before the truth is revealed, it is bewildering for the Commissioner of Police to have said that there had been no direct evidence to suggest that the assault was related to any journalistic work. I hope the police can come up with a swift clarification.

I have already signed and verified my testimony to the police, in which I stated that my family members and I are not involved in any financial, extra-marital or other personal disputes. I am, therefore, positive that the assault is related to my job in the newspaper.

I am encouraged by the progress in the investigation and hope that the police can make an early arrest of the mastermind behind this crime.”

The first thing to note is the repeated reference to a “mastermind”, a word which is regularly trotted out when people with connections to the media are targeted by unknown figures in attacks that are fated to remain unsolved. (One thinks of Albert Cheng King Hon and Leung Tin Wai in the 1990s, and more recently the attacks on the property of Jimmy Lai Chee Ying, publisher of Apple Daily.)

In the case under consideration, the point is not so much that anyone denies that a mastermind exists (no one is seriously suggesting that the assailant and his accomplice – two “plumbers”, who double as Triad members – did it), but rather that we don’t know what kind of motivation said shadowy figure in the background had for ordering the attack.

But I have got ahead of myself, because before we get to the first mention of “mastermind” we have Kevin extending his gratitude to the police for “protecting [his] family members”. What, you may ask, is the significance of this? Is it not merely the expression of a courtesy to Asia’s finest? Should we not be applauding Kevin for being able, at a time of such personal difficulty, to step back and consider things from someone else’s point of view?

Well, call me an old cynic, but I’m not so sure. You see, if Kevin was attacked because, say, just for the sake of argument, he had been conducting that extra-marital affair he talks about, then, to be quite honest, his wife and children (not to mention, granny, nan, granddad, pops, his brothers and sisters, and the whole extended family who get together to celebrate all those festivals we have) wouldn’t have been in much need of protection.

Now, the rest of the statement up to the point where he signs off with the somewhat forlorn (and possibly disingenuous – see below) hope that the police will soon nab the “mastermind” is devoted to a lengthy attempt to persuade one and all that the reason for the attack was the nature of his job duties at Ming Pao. (Kevin doesn’t say this, but I think he means his former duties as chief editor rather than the duties he was undertaking at the time of the attack, since nowhere has it been suggested that someone powerful was pissed off by his work on the Ming Pao Group’s e-Learning platform).

It is in relation to this that we find the most extraordinary sentence in the whole statement. I don’t know if it is because he is beginning to believe all the publicity about himself as saviour of the free Hong Kong press corps or if it reflects a deeper malaise within, but it takes bare-faced cheek to try and tell the local police chief how to do his job. Especially, when it is anything but “bewildering” that the police should follow tried and trusted procedures by considering every possible motive for the attack. The fact that the majority of such attacks in Hong Kong are the result of getting into debt or into bed with the wrong person more than justifies the police in keeping all their options open. One can just imagine the fuss that an organ like Ming Pao would make if they were to learn that the police were ruling out a particular motive for committing a crime in any other case.

As for the conclusion of Kevin’s apologia, is it just that cynic in me or when Kevin says that he hopes the police will “make an early arrest of the mastermind”, does he in fact mean quite the opposite? And, on a final note, is there, I wonder, any significance in the choice of tense when Kevin writes that he told the police after the attack that "my family members and I are not involved in any financial, extra-marital or other personal disputes".

Monday, 17 November 2014

Was it Really Press Freedom for which Former Ming Pao Editor Was Attacked?

Back in February, Hong Kong was rocked by what journalists in Hong Kong reported as an attack on freedom of the press in the shape of an attack on one of the most distinguished and respected of their own, Kevin Lau Chun To (劉進圖).

Kevin was at the time looking after the Ming Pao Group’s e-Learning platform, a far cry from the heady days he enjoyed helming Hong Kong’s answer to The Washington Post, Ming Pao (明報), as editor-in-chief.

The attack on Kevin was made – allegedly – by two Hong Kong “plumbers” (eerie parallels with Washington once more) by the name of Yip Kin Wah and Wong Chi Wah. Now, if the two Ah Wahs carried out the attack (and we don’t yet know since the pre-trial preliminaries have been stretched out with at least three court appearances having been made to discuss this and that but no trial at the High Court having yet taken place), you would have to say they are the Hong Kong equivalent of “Dumb and Dumber”.

First, they managed to get themselves caught on closed circuit television when carrying out the deed, and then, after they had scarpered across the boundary to the Mainland, they took their mobile phones with them so that the boys in blue could ring up for a friendly chat and ask their country cousins to arrest them.

In the meantime, Hong Kong was almost drowning itself in its outpourings about press freedom, even though anyone with half a brain (even the Ah Wahs, perhaps) know that, as George Orwell pointed out three quarters of a century ago (in a “true democracy”, to boot), “All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.”

Even that mother and father of has-beens, Mike Rowse, was driven out of the woodwork by the flood of tears mixed with cigarettes and expense claims cascading down Ice House Street, clambering onto the raft-cum-soapbox that is the “Opinion” page in the South China Morning Post to intone that “Someone very powerful and wealthy – and evil – has been angered by something Lau has done.”

While this may be considered an example of what my old English teacher used to mark in the margin as "CGO” (“crashing glimpse of the obvious”), Mike shows that the old magic is still there more than a decade after “Harbourfest” by leaping to the stunning conclusion that there is no “ambiguity in Lau’s case”, which is a clear “attack on freedom of the press”.

Which makes it all the more interesting that a source close to the family has suggested that this case may have a lot more to do with an angry husband than a pro-Beijing politician or dodgy local businessman whose nose has been put out of joint.

One wonders whether Ming Pao will duly cough up its reward of HK$3 million for bringing the assailants to justice if our Kev is found to have fallen foul of the age-old eternal triangle. Those Frenchies knew a thing or two when they demanded that the investigation of every case of violence against the individual should start with a cry of “Cherchez la femme!”

One awaits judicial developments with great interest.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Verdict Delivered in Kwok Brothers Case

The jury's verdict may not yet be in in the high court action for bribery and corruption against Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, his younger brother Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and chief-secretary-turned-scumbag Rafael Hui Si-yan, but GK Chesterton had it in his sights more than a century ago. In his book Heretics, he talks about the 'strange theory' which is 'always advanced when a wealthy or prominent person is in the dock, that exposure is more of a punishment for the rich than for the poor'.

Chesterton points out that the reverse is actually the case, as 'the richer a man is the easier it is for him to be a tramp', and the richer he is 'the easier...for him to be popular and generally respected in the Cayman Islands'*.

As for the poor man, while honour is a luxury for the rich (they can buy it, after all), it is a necessity for those who depend on their reputation to make a living.

As a footnote, I see Chesterton was fully conversant with local lawyers (the least successful of whom tend, incidentally, to find their way onto the bench), writing that 'an enormous amount of modern ingenuity is expended on finding defences for the indefensible conduct of the powerful'.

* Chesterton actually wrote 'Cannibal Islands', but I have updated it for modern times and the modern reader.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Obama Gives Strongest Denial Yet of Support for Umbrella Movement

With all the money to be made through trade and all the jobs to protect back home, why would we give a flying f*ck about Hong Kong?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Chinese Pledge to Let Pollution Rise Only till 2030

In 15 years' time, all our factories will have moved to Tibet and Xinjiang

Monday, 10 November 2014

China and Japan Reach Historic Agreement

We'll let you worship your war criminals as long as you let us have our peacetime ones

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Little Bit of Byrd and Tallis

Exactly a month after the Tallis Scholars performed so ethereally in the magnificent acoustics of the City Hall, Hong Kong has its chance to show that whatever you can do, we can do – well, pretty well, at any rate – as a new early music ensemble called Tallis Vocalis gives its debut concert on Saturday 8 November in Wan Chai at the Chinese Methodist Church. (That’s the one that looks like a door stop turned on its side, sitting between Hennessey Road and Johnston Road).

The group will be conducted by Andrew Griffiths, who is a founding member of Stile Antico, professional purveyors of Renaissance polyphony. Interestingly, unlike the Tallis Scholars and Tallis Vocalis, Stile – consisting of just 12 members (about as few as you can get away with when tackling pieces where voices divide into more than one part) – dispenses with a conductor altogether, giving it much more of a chamber music feel with the focus on the singers rather than the bloke with the baton. (One of the joys of Murray Perahia’s Emperor Concerto the other day was to luxuriate in the intimacy of a performance directed in the old style – stile antico, indeed – from the piano, quite apart from the enjoyment provided by the sight of a maestro leaping from his stool like a jack-in-the-box.)


The matinee concert (3pm – tickets HK$250 at the door or $200 online) will be preceded by a talk at the same venue (in the Function Room at 2.15pm) by Griffiths, in which he will no doubt flesh out something of the story of the main protagonists Thomas Tallis and his pupil William Byrd. To draw a parallel with current events in Hong Kong, each was a bit of a rebel (continuing to fly the Papist flag in Queen Elizabeth’s reign), but while Tallis was more the Allan Leong type (a closet Catholic prepared to accommodate regime change), Byrd was much more of your Long Hair, constantly getting fined for his recusancy, or refusal to toe the Church of England line.

While the cosiness of the ensemble means that they will be unable to perform Tallis’s potboiler – the 40-part Spem in alium – they will be covering several of his better known pieces, including Miserere nostri and O sacrum convivium. Highlights of the Byrd bit include his marvellous Ave verum corpus and, for a complete change of pace, the frenetic call to prayer and watchfulness Vigilate. Rounding off the programme will be John Sheppard’s Media vita, a longer piece originally composed for Compline (evening prayers), whose biggest claim to fame hitherto is that it is used on the soundtrack of the Civilization 4 strategy game.

Those of you who can’t wait until the weekend for your live music fix may wish to come along to the Concert Hall at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (which celebrates its 25th birthday this year, looking just as much like a public lavatory as ever) on Friday at 8pm, where the Hong Kong Phil are putting on a real “bums on seats” event showcasing the Hong Kong Phil Chorus. You’ll get plenty of bang for your buck, including Hong Kong’s own Rachel Cheung accompanying choir and orchestra in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia (think Ninth Symphony lite), Handel’s Zadok the priest (last heard in earnest 61 years ago in Westminster Abbey) and Mozart’s version – and a rather good one it is too – of Ave verum.