Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Hong Kong - Approval Rating of Last British Governor Higher Than That of any Post-1997 Leader

(photo by James Yuanxin Li via Wikimedia Commons)

According to the latest survey of the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKU POP), Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, enjoyed the highest ratings among political leaders of the city in the past 24 years. 

Chris Patten was a member of the British Parliament with the Conservative Party from 1979 until 1992, when he lost his Bath seat at the general election (Chris Patten: East and West. Pan McMillan 2012, p. 13). British Prime Minister John Major offered him the post of Governor of Hong Kong. Patten's term of office as Governor lasted until 30 June 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China. 






The POP survey, released on March 29, shows that upon assuming office Chris Patten's rating was approximately 55% and at the end of his term in June 1997 it was 60%. 

After the handover and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). the office of the Governor was replaced by that of the Chief Executive. From 1997 to the present Hong Kong has had three Chief Executives: Tung Chee-hwa (董建華, 1997-2005), Donald Tsang (曾蔭權, 2005-2012) and Leung Chun-ying (梁振英, 2012-present). 

The POP survey shows that the ratings of all three Chief Executives upon assuming office were either the same or higher than Chris Patten's: Tung Chee-hwa 65%, Donald Tsang 73% and Leung Chun-ying 53%. However, their ratings declined during their term of office: Tung Chee-hwa 48%, Donald Tsang 39% and Leung Chun-ying 39%. 


Friday, 25 March 2016

Hong Kong Government Censors the Word "National" in Names of Taiwanese Universities

Despite Beijing's pledge that Hong Kong's system would remain unchanged after 1997, the institutions of Hong Kong are little by little aligning themselves with the national ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

According to local reportsthe theatrical troupe The Nonsensemakers (糊塗戲班) was invited by Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department to take part in an event in late March. However, the department asked that the name of the alma mater of one of the troupe's members, National Taipei University of the Arts, had to be changed and the word "National" had to be removed. 

In a statement published on their Facebook page, The Nonsensemakers explained:

The Nonsensemakers were invited by the Leisure and Cultural Department to perform the piece "Three Novels: The Third Lie" from 18 to 20 March at the Tsuen Wan Town Hall. Because the Department was the organiser of the event, it was its responsibility to print out the booklets. The organisers asked for the bio of each troupe member. Our director and executive producer, Luo Shuyan, graduated from National Taipei University of the Arts (國立台北藝術大學), but the Leisure and Cultural Department said that the word "National" could not appear on the booklets and asked that it be removed. They did not even allow the English version of the name to be published. Although we fought for it, in the end we could not change their decision and we suggested the abbreviation Beiyida (北藝大). The name of one's alma mater is a basic fact, and printing the entire name on the booklets is an act of respect for learning and art. That's why we would rather remove all the information and refuse to have our curricula censored. We have no alternative. We sincerely hope that Hong Kong may continue to enjoy freedom of speech and of creative work. That is our most cherished core value. 

On March 22 Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah read out a statement from the government at a press conference in response to the controversy. “Hong Kong has been maintaining very close and active relations with other parts of the world, especially in cultural exchanges,” Lau was quoted as saying. “The co-operation is good, is fruitful and we welcome these cultural exchanges and will continue our efforts.” Lau did not accept reporters' questions. 

On March 23 another name controversy hit the headlines after the Chinese University of Hong Kong unilaterally decided to expunge from its website the word "National" referred to National Taiwan University and other institutions of the island. 

On Thursday Taiwan's Minister of Education Wu Sihua (吳思華) said that he hoped both sides would respect each other and maintain cultural and educational exchanges on an equal level. He added that educational institutions should remain free from political interference. Wu stated that he had already asked the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong, which serves as an unofficial embassy, to notify the Hong Kong government about the standpoint of the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Chinese Website Censors Taiwanese Scholar Because He Used The Words "Republic of China" and "President"

Tong Zhenyuan (credit: Wikipedia)

On 18 March Tong Zhenyuan (童振源), professor at National Zhengzhi University, visiting professor at Berkeley University and ex vice committee chairperson of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, was invited by the Chinese website The Paper (澎湃新闻网) to answer netizens' questions. However, about one hour after the beginning of the question-and-answer session, the broadcast was interrupted and taken down because Tong had used "sensitive words" which belong to the forbidden vocabulary of the People's Republic of China (PRC). 

The Paper has a section called "Ask Questions" (問吧). Tong Zhenyuan had been invited to answer netizens' questions regarding the future of Cross-Strait relations and the possibility of peaceful reunification. Some netizens asked why young Taiwanese people endorse independence and why Taiwan does not recognise China.  






Tong received over 200 questions and replied to 50 of them. However, during the session he was warned by the staff of the website not to use "sensitive words" such as "Republic of China" (中華民國) and "President" (總統). 

According to the media regulations of the PRC, Taiwan cannot be called by its official name "Republic of China", and its President must be referred to as "Leader of the Taiwan Area" and not as President. Beijing claims that Taiwan is part of the territory of the PRC and does not officially acknowledge the existence of a separate state on the island. 

According to Taiwanese media reports, Tong explained that president-elect Tsai Ing-wen will abide by the Constitution of the Republic of China (未來會依循中華民國憲政體制). At this point the staff of the website asked him to avoid using the term "Republic of China". Tong switched to "Taiwan", instead, but soon he was interrupted again because he had said "President". This time Tong did not comply and said that if he could not even use the word "President" it was impossible for him to continue. Afterwards the entire discussion was taken down from The Paper's website.  




Sunday, 20 March 2016

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg Meets Representative of China's Communist Party in Beijing



On March 19 Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, was received in Beijing by Liu Yunshan (刘云山), member of the Politburo Standing Committee and of the Secretariat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to Chinese media reports, Liu Yunshan said that the internet is a new common home for mankind and that shaping the future of the cyberspace community is a common responsibility of the international community (互联网是人类共同的新家园,构建网络空间命运共同体是国际社会的共同责任). "Chairman Xi Jinping's 'Four Principles' and 'Five Propositions' regarding the administration of the World Wide Web have received widespread approval", Liu was quoted as saying. He added that over the past twenty years China's internet has grown following "the path of development and governance with Chinese characteristics" (中国特色的发展治理之路). 

Liu praised Facebook's advanced technology and management model and expressed his hope that the US company "might strengthen its exchanges with China's internet companies, share its experience, promote mutual understanding and advance the development of the internet so that the people of every country can benefit more from it".



Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the progress made by China's internet, calling the country an "internet superpower" with a global influence. "We hope to understand China more, explain China, cooperate with China and create a better world through the internet", he was quoted as saying.

During the past two years Zuckerberg has widely publicised his interest in China and shown his willingness to accommodate himself to the country's dictatorial political system despite the fact that Facebook is blocked by Beijing's censorship. In December 2014 Zuckerberg received Lu Wei, Director of State Internet Information Office of the People's Republic of China, on the Facebook campuses in California. During the visit, Lu noticed a copy of Xi Jinping's book The Governance of China on Zuckerberg's desk. Zuckerberg reportedly told Wei: "I also bought this book for my coworkers; I wanted them to learn about socialism with Chinese characteristics."

In a speech at Tsinghua University in October last year, Zuckerberg won over his Chinese audience by speaking Mandarin. The US entrepreneur started his latest charm offensive on March 18, when he posted on his Facebook profile a picture of himself jogging at Tiananmen Square. "It's great to be back in Beijing!", he wrote. "I kicked off my visit with a run through Tiananmen Square, past the Forbidden City and over to the Temple of Heaven".

Zuckerberg's warming ties with Communist Party officials may signal a future expansion of the US tech giant in China. However, it is likely that the company will have to submit to Beijing's censorship regulations as a precondition for entering the Chinese market.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

China is the Republic of China, says Ma Ying-jeou At Press Conference in Allied Guatemala



On March 13 Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou began an official trip to the central American country of Guatemala, one of the few states that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan

On the website of the Central American Parliament (Parlamento Centroamericano) Ma Ying-jeou is called "President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)". According to Taiwanese reports, other sections of the website called him simply "President of China (Taiwan)". At a press conference, Ma Ying-jeou clarified which country he represents.

"As far as the relations between our two countries are concerned", he said, "China means Republic of China".

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Luo Zhizheng (羅致政) criticised Ma's response, wondering if the Foreign Ministry could accept "Republic of China" as the country's official name.





Wang Peiling (王珮玲), spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, reiterated that "Republic of China" was the official name of the country as far as diplomatic relations with Central American countries are concerned. "'China' means 'Republic of China'", he said, "and 'Republic of China' means 'Taiwan'" (『中國』就是中華民國,就是台灣).

Ma Ying-jeou's response at the press conference was quoted in mainland Chinese media. Both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Ma's party, the Guomindang, adhere to the so-called 1992 consensus. According to this unofficial agreement, Beijing and Taipei uphold the "one-China principle", while each side considers itself the legitimate government of all China.

Chinese nationalism and Chinese identity were part of the Guomindang's state ideology, which was enforced dictatorially. Since Taiwan's democratisation in the 1990s, however, identity has become a matter of heated debate. The Democratic Progressive Party, which currently governs Taiwan, opposes the Guomindang's Chinese nationalism and promotes a "Taiwan-centric identity".  

The Republic of China was founded in mainland China in 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution. In 1927, the Guomindang seized power and established a de facto one-party state. In 1949, however, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong overthrew the Republic of China, whose government fled to Taiwan. On October 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China. Ever since then the two sides have officially claimed to represent China. 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Taiwan's "Touch Me Party"

In Taiwan, nightclubs are traditionally a matter of controversy. In a country where public ethics and reality often clash, the media tend to portray nightclubs as places of perversion and loose morals. Whoever has experienced Taiwan's night scene knows that what goes on in nightclubs can be quite extreme. But while pleasure - and specifically sexual pleasure - as an element of nightclub life cannot be ignored, the way in which one judges the individual freedom to enjoy oneself is entirely subjective. 

A new type of nightclub party has recently hit the headlines in Taiwan. According to local reports, Rave Club, a popular nightclub in Taichung City, has announced on its Facebook page that on March 18 it will organise a so-called "Touch Me Party" (摸摸派對). This type of party seems to have originated in South Korea. Although Taiwan's media have noticed this phenomenon only recently, the club has been holding such parties for about a year, as pictures of "Touch Me Parties" on the club's Facebook page demonstrate.

But what is a "Touch Me Party" exactly?




As the name suggests, it is a party where people can touch each other. However, there are certain rules to be followed. Each guest receives a sticker. There are three types of stickers that indicate what each person is allowed to do. The post on the club's Facebook page - which appears to have been hastily removed but is still visible on Apple Daily's website - explains:

Blue sticker: men can touch  
Red sticker: girls can touch  
Mouth-shaped sticker: can kiss

The entrance prices depend on gender and time. 

Men: before midnight 500 TWD/after midnight 600 TWD  
Women: before midnight 100 TWD/after midnight 300 TWD

Taiwan's media have criticised the "Touch Me Party". Apple Daily, for instance, suggested that it challenges the law as well as morality (挑戰法律及道德). The party is also closely monitored by the police, which want to verify the legality of such events. 

A representative of the club declared that "Touch Me Parties" are held once a month, and that there have never been incidents. 

According to a lawyer interviewed by Apple Daily, the parties do not seem to break any law, although he added that the police have to keep the club under surveillance in order to protect young people. 




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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Strange North Point Musician - A Hong Kong Story

If you are in Hong Kong and live in North Point, chances are you have seen that guy. Middle-aged, tall, scrawny, he has a long, wrinkly face, a long nose, blue eyes. Once he shook hands with me, and I felt the power of his sinewy arms.

He is from the United Kingdom and, as far as I know, he has been living in Hong Kong for a few years. You might have seen him because every day he stands at the corner of a sidewalk - usually near North Point MTR Station - and he plays guitar. That is how he earns a living. If you ever heard him play, you know he plays badly, and his singing talents are even worse than his music. And yet he manages to support himself. At least he earns enough to stay at a serviced apartment in Fortress Hill. At night, after "getting off work", he goes to McDonald's next to North Point Station and drinks there a coffee, which he regularly pays using a bunch of the coins passers-by gave him. While he counts each coin, he talks to the staff who, embarrassed, seldom reply.  

One day he talked to me. At first he seemed nice. But I soon changed my mind. He tried to convince me that the sovereignty over Australia, Canada and other former dominions belongs to the UK. I told him my opinion, but he kept interrupting me, and it seemed he would never ever stop talking. He became aggressive, did not give me a chance to say anything, and in the end he behaved like a master who is scolding his disciple - a role I do not like to play. "I'm going to have lunch now", I said politely and left. Since that morning, whenever we bump into each other I pretend not to see him.

Yet the sovereignty issue over Britain's former dominions is not his main topic of conversation. Usually, he talks about something else: his faith. For he purports to be a Christian, a man who once had a revelation and now has a special mission. He tries to convince people to accept his particular version of the Christian faith. 

Once I saw him with a guy. The room was full. He got up and said that he could not talk about his story in public, that what he wanted to discuss was a very important matter, and he urged his companion to go to a quiet cafe, where he probably held another of his never-ending monologues.

Tonight he gave another brilliant performance. A Hong Kong girl was sitting next to me. She wore a jeans mini-skirt and a black leather jacket. She was good-looking. The man walked in and looked around. I pretended not to notice him. All of a sudden, he walked over to the girl and chatted her up. He talked about his faith, his job as a musician, his life. Every now and then he told the girl how pretty she was. She seemed diffident, but she talked. Perhaps she did feel lonely, since she was alone in the middle of the night. Or maybe she only wanted to be polite. 



His mouth was full of honey: "It is a pleasure to chat with a pretty girl like you, even if just for five minutes", he said, "What's a pretty girl like you doing all alone so late?".  After a while, he cautiously broached the subject of faith. "In your heart you need something more", he said, "If I get to know you, I will stop you drinking and smoking", "We can become friends, and then I'll help you if I can". 

As he spoke, the girl became increasingly distressed and impatient. Not knowing, perhaps, if he was hitting on her, or if he had something else in mind. "Whenever you see me", he said, " you can come and talk to me, and I can help you. I will buy you a coffee, and you can talk to me". 

As soon as he uttered these words, the girl got up, bowed to him and, after saying a polite "thank you", hastily threw her paper coffee cup into the trash can and left. "Goodbye", she said somewhat coldly, "Nice to meet you". "Goodbye, darling", he replied, and blew her a kiss.    

He was now alone. He got up and went to sit at another table. But he was still full of energy and determination. He talked to a guy who sitting in front of him. The conversation soon turned into yet another monologue, a monologue of the man who wants to save people's souls, but who does not know how to listen to them, how to forget himself, but constantly seeks to impose on others his faith and beliefs, longing for their submission. He apparently tries it with anyone. The feeble-minded, those without self-confidence, might in the end be dragged into his world. Who knows what is the fate of those he has enlightened?



Monday, 14 March 2016

Another Student Commits Suicide in Hong Kong



Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hung Hom Campus) (photo by Baycrest)

Another student has committed suicide in Hong Kong. According to local reports, on March 13 a 21-year-old female student of Hong Kong Polytechnic University jumped from a window of her residence in Tseung Kwan O.  Her dead body was found at around 1 p.m. The student left one suicide note for the media and others for family members and friends. 

This is the fifth student suicide in Hong Kong this month. Over the past ten years, more than 110 students have committed suicide in the former British colony. 23 students have killed themselves since the start of the current academic year - the youngest of them was just 10 years old.

Only four days earlier, a third-year student of Hong Kong Faculty of Arts had killed himself. He left a suicide note in which he blamed himself for not performing well enough. The 20-year-old student, surnamed Su, was an only son and lived with his parents in Wong Tai Sin District. On March 9 he was supposed to meet a fellow student for lunch, but he did not go. His classmate called his mobile phone. The police picked up and informed him of what had happened.

According to Joyce Chow Yuen-fun, chairwoman of the suicide prevention centre, academic pressure, emotional problems and family issues are the main reasons why students commit suicide. 

Last Thursday Hong Kong's Education Bureau held an an emergency meeting with schools, parents and psychologists. The government pledged to provide better psychological support for students in need. 


Friday, 11 March 2016

Hot Sale in Hong Kong - A Lucky Charm That Promises Wealth





This little figurine of a smiling man holding a gold ingot is a hot sale in Hong Kong at the moment. And judging by the number of luxury cars on the city's street, it is not that surprising. Perhaps it really works, so I am thinking about buying one. Getting wealthy for just 30 dollars (around 3 euros) is a pretty good deal. 

The name of the figurine is 元寶財神公仔 (pinyin: Yuánbǎo cáishén gōngzǐ), which literally means: Doll of the Gold Ingot God of Wealth. 

Shoe-shaped silver or gold ingots (元寶) were used as money in ancient China and they have thus become traditional symbols of wealth in Chinese culture. According to Vivien Sung, the yuanbao first appeared in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). In the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) they became an actual standard currency. Because the Chinese dumplings resemble the shape of gold ingots, they are also associated with wealth and are an auspicious dish to eat on New Year's Eve in various part of China (see Vivien Sung: Five-Fold Happiness: Chinese Concepts of Luck, Prosperity, Longevity, Happiness, and Wealth, 2002, pp. 232-233). 

Some people believe that China has become "materialistic" after Deng Xiaoping's opening up in the 1970s. But I think this is far from the truth. The Chinese-speaking world is full of traditional symbols of wealth that show exactly how much people have always cared about money in China.

Traditional symbols of prosperity include the deer, the peony, the monkey, the rooster, the crab, the sticky rice cake, tangerine, the lettuce and the beckoning cat, the number 8, and dozens of others. 

One of the most popular symbols is the goldfish (金魚), because the pronunciation of these two characters sounds like 金餘, which means "abundance of gold". That's why the image of a child holding a large fish and a lotus flower can often be seen on Chinese New Year. The fish stands for wealth, while the lotus flower stands for harmony. Another popular image is a fish wrapped in a lotus leaf. If you send a postcard with this image to a friend before New Year, it means you are wishing him or her "abundance of money in their wallet" (ibid., p. 244).

If you go to a Daoist or Buddhist temple, you may also see the famous "money frog", a three-legged frog sitting on a pile of Chinese money and often depicted with a coin in its mouth. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Chinese Traveller Opens Airplane's Emergency Exit to "Take a Breath of Fresh Air"

(photo source: Wikipedia)
In order to take a a breath of fresh air, a mainland Chinese traveller opened the emergency exit of a China Southern Airlines plane during take-off, causing a 1-hour delay. 

According to media reports, the incident happened on Wednesday 9 at Chengdu Airport. A plane of China Southern Airlines bound to Urumqi was preparing to take off when a passenger, surnamed Nan, suddenly opened the emergency exit. Cold air immediately entered the aircraft causing panic among the 130 passengers on board. 

The man had been allocated seat number 41A, next to the emergency exit. Later he explained that he felt it was stuffy inside the plane and he wanted to take a breath of fresh air.

The airport ground crew rushed to the aircraft to close the emergency exit from the outside. Afterwards, they took down the passenger's personal details and carried out a safety check. The plane took off one hour after the scheduled departure time.  

This is only the last of an endless series of similar incidents. In December 2014 a mainland Chinese traveller opened the emergency exit of an airplane to get some fresh air. In March last year, a man opened the emergency exit door on an Urumqi Airlines flight because he thought the handle was a handrail. On February 11, 2015, a passenger of a China Southern Airlines flight to Nanning opened the emergency exit without any apparent reason. When questioned later, he said: "This door is not important". The police detained him at Nanjing Lukou International Airport and kept him in prison for 10 days as a punishment. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

An Evening Walk in Hong Kong - From Sheung Wan to Fortress Hill

Hong Kong is a quintessentially futuristic city. For people like me, who love modern metropolises, simply strolling around among shiny skyscrapers, neon lights and billboards is an amazing experience. 

Yesterday I had dinner at a vegetarian cafe' called Ovo Cafe'. It is located in the business district of Sheung Wan. I ordered an all-day breakfast set and a mango smoothie, very tasty (although quite expensive). 



After my meeting, which ended at around 10 p.m., I decided to walk back to Fortress Hill. As you can see from the map below, this is a 5 km walk, lasting around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

While I was walking I took a lot of pictures, and I want to share them now with all the people who are interested in Hong Kong.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

China's Plan for a Beijing-Taipei Express Highway

Beijing-Taipei Express Highway
(photo by ASDFGHJ)

Over the past thirty years China has launched a series of ambitious infrastructure projects. After creating the world's largest high-speed railway network (19,000 km, accounting for 60 percent of high-speed trains mileage globally), last year Beijing came up with an overwhelming plan to build an undersea railroad to the United States. 

For China, however, infrastructure has not only economic but also political implications. So with the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which, according to the government, is promoting the "integration of Tibet with the interior of China".  
The Beijing-Taipei Express Highway, which is currently under construction, will serve a similar purpose: advancing the one-China principle

The project was announced on January 13, 2005 by the Ministry of Infrastructure of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which pledged to expand the country's highway network so as to cover all cities with a population exceeding 200,000. Beijing did not consult the Taiwanese authorities, though. Chen Qimai (陳其邁), then-spokesperson of the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan), described the project as "political propaganda" (政治宣傳). 

Beijing has also proposed a highway encircling the island of Taiwan, the so-called G99 Taiwan Ring Expressway, according to the terminology of the PRC. The expressway would connect the cities of Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Taitung, Hualian, Yilan, Keelung. 

The Fujian section of the Beijing-Taipei Express Highway has been completed, connecting the cities of Jian'ou, Minhou, Nanping, Ningde and Fuzhou. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

"Taiwan is not abroad", says Chinese Tourist

Kenting National Park (source)
On March 1 a mainland Chinese traveller protested when she was classified as a "foreigner" (外籍) during a booking procedure at Taiwan's Kenting National Park. 

The tourist had applied for an entry ticket to Longkeng and Nanrenshan Ecological Reserve Areas. Recently a new entry booking method has been introduced, limiting the daily number of visitors. According to the new system, 100 Taiwanese and 50 foreign nationals are allowed to visit the two areas each day. Tourists from mainland China are classified as foreigners. 

According to Taiwanese media reports, yesterday a mainland woman from Guangdong Province protested. "I don't think that coming to Taiwan means going abroad", she said. She argued that Taiwan's culture is similar to that of the mainland and she could speak with everyone whenever she went. "Taiwan is part of the mainland" (台灣是大陸的一部分), she added.