Your consistently loyalty

I received this email after a recent brief hotel stay in China:

Firstly, Thanks for your consistently loyalty with our hotel and [group] as a [loyalty program] member!

Our management team have paid more attention to your staying experience.  If there anything happened on  you and makes you feel dissatisfied stay experience. Please do not be hesitate to contact with us.  We will make arduous efforts to our vission- [fatuous slogan]. Finnaly, I wish you have a good and safety time day by day! We looking forward your come back soon.

Hmmmm…this was my first stay in this hotel, and I only joined their loyalty program at check-in.

All true, obviously

Over the New Year holiday, CCTV-4 has been showing the full 48 hours of Deng Xiaoping at History's Crossroads.  My favourite bits (i.e. the only stuff I can understand) are the cameo appearances by Robert Maxwell, Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and a Governor or two.  And only one of them looked anything like the real person. 

The there’s the stilted dialogue…and some of the scenes were totally fictitious.  We see Thatcher having a cordial meeting with Ted Heath (in 1982?), where she asks him “as her old friend”  to talk to Deng about Hong Kong. 

Rather unlikely, given that they barely spoke after 1976 (she defeated him in the leadership election in 1975).  Yes, Heath went to China and would have talked to Deng about Hong Kong, but the meeting with Thatcher never happened.

But I expect everything else is totally true. 

Scottish independence? Impossible.

Two weeks ago, the SCMP published this ridiculous letter:

Voting rights don't include secession

Virginia Yue ('We should respect voters' choice,' January 30), in her reply to my letter ('Small-circle election for us, please', January 20), can be forgiven for being unaware that universal suffrage can be in the form of indirect election or direct election.

In my letter, I never said anything against universal suffrage per se, only the direct-election mode of it, through which China has been subjected to threats of secession by Taiwan.

The indirect-election mode of universal suffrage, as provided for in Article 45 of the Basic Law, would have provided some safeguard against threats.

But what I would really like to see introduced is a positive instrument, a piece of legislation such as the US Patriot Act. The mainland has such an antisecession law and hopefully in Hong Kong it can be introduced under Article 23.

Yes, respect the voters' wishes, but not when it is secession.

I am sure even the US federal government would come down like a ton of bricks if any state tried to secede, as it did in the secession [civil war] of 1861-65, when 11 states tried to secede.

I suppose, in the case of your correspondent, my argument will fall on deaf ears.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Strangely the SCMP has not printed a single letter in response to this load of nonsense. 

Would the US government “come down like a ton of bricks” if there was a political party in, say, California that advocated independence?  No, because things have changed in the USA in the last 160 years, and if one of the fifty states did really want to secede it would all be resolved peacefully . 

Scotland does have a party that advocates independence, and they now control the Scottish Parliament.  They will hold a referendum, and if the Scottish people vote for independence then the UK will allow it to happen. 

There have been several other peaceful and amicable break-ups, such as Czechoslovakia becoming the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

So you have to wonder why the SCMP lets Peter Lok put forward such absurd arguments and then fails to print letters that challenge his ridiculous assertions.

Infamy, infamy

I think the SCMP only employ Lau Nai-keung to annoy people (or maybe he pays them to publish the nonsense he writes).  Today he gives us the theory that the Western media are just jealous of China (Fakes offend Chinese as much as anyone - subscription required):

After the grand opening of the Beijing Olympics, some aspects of the show were later pounced on by the media. For one, some of the "live" fireworks seen marching through the city towards the "Bird Nest" stadium were computer generated. Then, the nine-year-old girl with the seemingly perfect combination of an angelic face and voice actually lip-synched her routine because the real singer was not pretty enough.

[...] this was like finding treasure for some China-bashers in the western media, and they made a big fuss about it. Let me tell you something: if the Chinese authorities had really wanted to fake things, like any other government, they would have made it a state secret, and nobody would have been allowed to even talk about it.

What nonsense!  How can you fake a firework display in Beijing and keep it secret?  It's not possible.  I don't think anyone would have cared too much if they had announced at the time what they done, but they did try to keep it secret, they failed, and of course that aroused media interest - as it would done if a UK or US broadcaster had done something similar (and fakery is a very hot topic in the British media right now).

The real fuss, it turns out, is not about the show. Critics just used these facts to insinuate that China is faking it and cheating in the competitions. A case in point are the female gymnasts. Unlike their American counterparts, the Chinese girls are so tiny that westerners suspect they must be underage. An American reporter pointedly asked one of the athletes whether she was, in fact, 16. Many western media reports dwelled on this point, citing incidents in the opening ceremony as substantiation of their claims.

It all boils down to one thing: some people are bad losers. If indeed they have so-called "evidence", as they claim, I suggest they file a formal complaint with the International Olympics Committee, which is obligated to do something. Defamation will not help anybody get a gold medal.

Watching the Chinese athletes grabbing one gold after another, I fully understand the feelings of some westerners. Many find it difficult to accept that the Chinese are coming up so fast. It will take time for them to adjust their superiority complex and acknowledge Chinese as equals. It is a western problem, not a Chinese one. The Chinese are basking in the glory and pride; they do not care what these people think.

I'm sure the Chinese people don't care, but if some of the Chinese gymnasts were too young to compete then that's breaking the rules, and again it is bizarre to think that any country would get away with this.  A complaint has been made to the IOC (Olympic probe into gymnasts' ages) and they are investigating - but I think we would all expect the documentation to support what the authorities have been saying all along. 

Any country that wins as many medals as China has done is bound to come under scrutiny.  It comes with the territory.

Did anyone think this through?

The Cable TV news service on KCR MTR trains is all about the earthquake in Sichuan.  Would it therefore not be possible (just for a day or two) to drop the idiotic advertising that takes up about 50% of the screen whilst the news is being broadcast? 

Distressing pictures of earthquake victims do not sit well with advertising for products we really don't need. 

Then, of course, in the "breaks", they show one of the lavish ads for The Palazzo...   

The Southern China

I try to avoid making fun of the mangled English that is common in Hong Kong (glass houses and all that).

However, when large companies choose to place advertisements in Tai Po's leading English language newspaper, surely they could spend a little time or a few dollars on getting it right.  The sub-heading to the so-called "Sponsored Feature" describes Mangrove West Coast in Shenzen as

"The most prestigious community in the Southern China". 

Obviously you don't need the second "the" in that sentence.  Plus, I am intrigued to know how a developer can create a "community", but that's marketing people for you.  Later on we learn (deep breath) that they

"have teamed up professionals from all the world to collaborate on this most prestigious community in the Southern China characterized by central location and an irrrestible charm of a seaside township".

It's a pity they didn't manage to team up with someone who can write good English.

Not so scary anymore

Every since I first came to Hong Kong, my various jobs have required me to travel to China, almost invariably to Guangdong province. This is hardly unusual, and many Hong Kong people spend several days a week (sometimes the whole working week) across the border.

I have to admit that the first few times I made the journey I really hated it. Long queues at Lo Wu, getting past the aggressive beggars in the car park, followed by a hair-raising journey along the rather dodgy roads, marvelling at the "flexiblity" about driving on the left or the right, and the chaos of roundabouts and other road junctions. Eventually I became more sanguine and started to trust that anyone who drove in this mad place would have to pay full attention if they wished to survive, and hoped that was basically good news. Well, I live to tell the tale.

Perhaps I was unlucky in the first area of Guangdong I visited. Identikit factories as far as the eye could see, interspersed with nothingness and derelict sites, and those terrible roads. Or perhaps it was all like that a decade ago. Certainly the areas I have visited subsequently have been much better, though obviously industrial estates are hardly areas of outstanding natural beauty whatever country you visit.

Of course the roads have improved since then, as have the train services.  I am quite impressed with the trains going out from Shenzen, and it certainly seems safer than the highway.  Shenzen now has its own version of the MTR, and again it seems to be clean and efficient - and there's the entertainment value of watching people trying to figure out that the "coin" must be passed over the sensor when you enter the system but placed in the slot when you leave (which is not exactly obvious). 

Even the border crossing seems easier - the Hong Kong side now has the automatic gates (if you have a Smart ID card and are a Permanent Resident), and the queues on the China side seem to be processed reasonably quickly.  Perhaps one day all Hong Kong Permanent Residents will be given a 'home visit' permit rather than needing visas in their passports, and then it really will be trouble-free. 

Those shoes again

It's those Chinese tourists in the Clarks factory outlet again:

The Chinese were well-prepared. Armed with paper cutouts of their relatives' feet, they leaped from their coaches and headed straight for the racks of shoes at the Clarks shop. "It was a bit of a frenzy," said a staff member at Bicester Village, a collection of factory outlets near Oxford visited by a group of 2,000 Chinese salespeople this month. They bought up to six pairs of shoes each and the queue stretched out of the door.

There's more:

According to Calum MacLeod, director of the Great Britain-China Centre, many Chinese still have an outdated view of Britain shaped by classic literature and old movies.

"Oliver Twist is a very popular book in China and the title of the Chinese version translates as Foggy City Orphan," he said. "When I tell people I live in London they often ask me how bad the fog is."

MacLeod says phrases such as "the home of the industrial revolution" or "the empire on which the sun will never set" still resonate strongly with many Chinese. "But not in a particularly negative way," he said. "They are very interested in the UK's history and traditions."

This amused me:

The British Museum is a less straightforward attraction. "The Chinese section contains precious exhibits from the imperial times, many of them given to the British as gifts from the royals. Many feel that these are looted from China."

This seems to be a common misconception.  I remember explaining to my wife (as she then wasn't) about the stuff that foreign governments had so kindly donated to the British Museum, and she also seemed to have the idea that it had actually been stolen.  Perish the thought.

An expensive day trip

Spike over at Hongkie Town is complaining that he can no longer get a multiple-entry visa to go to China, and instead has to make do with a six-month dual-entry visa (costing near HK$1,000).  That's not very good!

Six months ago when I last renewed my visa I complained about the cost, but now I am wondering whether I'll have the same problem as Spike next time.  Or perhaps this is just aimed at Americans.

I won't repeat what I wrote last time, but you have to wonder whether it's really in China's best interests to stop people coming to spend money.  Politics again, I suppose.