The full Tuen Ma line will open on June 27.  SCMP predictably came up with a strange headline: Hong Kong MTR: key section of costly Sha Tin-Central link to open by June 27 after repeated delays

A key stretch of the long-overdue Sha Tin to Central link, Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project, will fully open on June 27 after repeated delays and cost overruns, the city’s transport minister has said, while pledging the government will learn lessons from the saga.

Long overdue, yes, but the section of track (from Kai Tak to Hung Hom) actually connects Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan, not Sha Tin and Central.  I may have mentioned this a few times over several years.

RTHK got it right with its headline: MTR's Tuen Ma Line to get going on June 27 (yes, the name comes from the districts at the two ends), whilst HKFP had a rather oblique headline: Two new MTR stations to open next month, forming Hong Kong’s longest metro line.  I think the word you may be looking for is “completing”.  Or, more accurately, joining the Ma On Sha Line with West Rail.

I still think this is not a great name - at one stage there was a suggestion that it would be the East-West line, because it goes from the Eastern New Territories to the Western New Territories (and for part of it you’d only have to add a few letters at the start of the name, so that would save money).  It would avoid confusion with the Tsuen Wan line.  Or is that just me?

Hong Kong people neither surprised nor shocked that CY Leung was told not to stand again

Seriously, South China Morning Post?  Hong Kong is not “in shock” and we are not “stunned”:

Hong Kong in shock as Chief Executive CY Leung decides not to seek re-election

South China Morning Post | Saturday 10 December, 2016

Hong Kong’s embattled leader on Friday left the city stunned and threw next year’s chief executive election wide open by ­announcing that he would not seek a second term to spare his family “unbearable pressure”.

Eyes were glued to television screens and mouths hung open in shock as a grim-faced Leung Chun-ying told Hong Kong that he was calling it quits in a hastily arranged press conference at 3.30pm, an hour after the government gave the media a heads-up.

The only person who might have been shocked and surprised would be CY Leung when Beijing told him what to do.


  • “Eyes were glued to television screens” – no they weren’t
  • “mouths hung open” – no they didn’t
  • “grim-faced Leung Chun-ying” – well, OK, he didn’t look happy
  • “heads-up” is a horrible phrase.  What’s wrong with calling it a briefing?

Revolting parents, supine journalists

The story of the week in Hong Kong's First Free English Newspaper (HKFFEN) seems to be the "revolt" by parents against a fee increase by the ESF (English Schools Foundation).

We all know that The Standard (HKFFEN) is run on a shoestring, and in this case it seems clear that the revolting parents have fed a series of stories to the paper, which is only too happy to have something to fill up its local news pages.  It started on Monday (Parents revolt on ESF fee hikes):

Parents of English Schools Foundation students have launched a signature campaign against planned tuition fee rises.  More than 300 signatures have been collected since an online campaign began a month ago, according to Hong Kong University associate engineering professor Albert T Yeung, whose two children have been attending ESF schools for 10 years.

Yeung fears a hike in fees could result in some parents sending their children overseas, especially as it would be the third rise in as many years.  Tuition fees are set to increase, pending Education Bureau approval, by 7 percent to HK$58,100 a year at primary schools and 5 percent to HK$89,250 at the secondary level.

The Standard was so pleased with story that it followed up on Tuesday (Protests grow over ESF fees)

More parents of English Schools Foundation students have stepped forward to complain about the impending rise in tuition fees.  Parents have also criticized the ESF for charging miscellaneous fees for items such as sex education.

Hong Kong University associate engineering professor Albert T Yeung, whose two children are ESF students, said South Island School forces parents to shell out more than HK$10,000 for laptop computers.  Another ESF school charges parents HK$40 for compulsory sex education classes for Primary Six students. "If parents do not pay the extra HK$40, their children will not be allowed to attend the classes," Yeung said.

More parents?  Er, but isn't this the same parent they quoted on Monday?  The very same parent about whom Fumier was rather unkind (The Yeung Ones), in fact.

On Wednesday the story broadened out (Cash row grows as more schools seek to lift fees), though we were also reminded that "English Schools Foundation parents have lashed out at proposed rises of up to 7 percent and yesterday 100 expatriate police officers joined the protest" and there is a picture of ESF boss Heather du Quesnay looking pensive, perhaps after reading HKFFEN. 

On Thursday, there was a report from Wednesday's meeting (ESF chiefs fail parents' test):

Angry parents last night vowed to continue their campaign to stop rises in tuition fees after a meeting with English Schools Foundation chiefs to address the issue ended in acrimony.  About 50 parents bombarded ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay and her senior management with questions during the two-and-a-half hour meeting at Beacon Hill School, Kowloon.

But what's this?

The [Education] Bureau says it has received 30 applications to increase fees from direct subsidized schools for the 2008-09 school year.  St Pauls Co-educational College, Mid-Levels, is seeking a 25 percent increase to HK$60,000 per year, and St Margarets Girls College, also Mid- Levels, has applied for a 25 percent rise to HK$50,000 for S1 to S3 pupils.

The bureau says it takes into account teachers salaries and improvements to school facilities when considering applications.

By Friday hyperbole was the order of the day (ESF finances to face scrutiny by officials):

Education chiefs are to examine the financial plans of the besieged English Schools Foundation before they decide on the organization's application to increase tuition fees. The Education Bureau admitted yesterday that it was alarmed by the recent row between the ESF and parents who have accused the organization of channeling money into its private independent schools - Discovery College and Renaissance College.

In a written reply to The Standard, the bureau said it "will not approve ESF's investment plans per se, but will look at its financing plans including investment in capital projects in the context of its overall budget when examining its fee proposal."

No story here.  The Education Bureau always have to approve increases in school fees, and so their statement says nothing new or interesting.  Did they even say they were 'alarmed by the recent row'?  That's not a direct quote.  One ESF parent is quoted in the story - any guesses who it might be?

Albert T Yeung, whose two children have been attending ESF schools for 10 years, urged the bureau to seriously monitor the ESF's governance. "The government has failed to monitor the ESF, and it has been greatly unfair to our children as subvention to ESF students has decreased despite skyrocketing inflation in recent years."

Skyrocketing inflation in recent years?  Are you sure?

[Update] Oh, I see Fumier is still on the case.

Continue reading "Revolting parents, supine journalists" »

Celebrity culture gone mad

Amazingly, the "nude photos scandal" is still front page news in Hong Kong newspapers.  The latest non-news is that Edison Chen has admitted he did take the photographs, and also announced that he will quit showbusiness "indefinitely".  Beats me how that is worth more than a few paragraphs in a gossip column, but the SCMP has given the story half of the front page of the main paper and all of the front page of the city section, and most of page 3 as well.  And not for the first time, either.

This follows on from the blanket coverage given to the death of "Fei Fei" (Lydia Shum) after her "long fight with cancer" as the SCMP put it.  I felt sure it had been a "courageous battle", but what do I know?

Anyone, everyone knew that she was seriously ill, so this was not a shock by any means, and yet there was a huge (and very undignified) media scrum at the hospital on Tuesday, and it occupied the first 7 minutes of Cable TV news (with a long follow-up item later in the bulletin).  Both TVB and ATV cleared their schedules for tributes in the evening, so we were able to see what a warm and truly funny person she had been.  The SCMP filled us in on her career (and numerous health problems): 

Shum, who was also known as Lydia Sum, was a much admired Hong Kong comedian and actress – famous for her plump size and dark-rimmed glasses. Hong Kong people affectionately called her Fei-fei (Fatty).

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he was greatly saddened by Shum’s death and extended his condolences to her family.

Liberal Party’s Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said: “She was such an important and talented actress in Hong Kong. Her positive, happy image always set a great example,” she said.

And there I was, thinking she was just a jolly, fat, woman who made people laugh.   

Shum was born July 21, 1947 in Shanghai. She made her film debut in 1960 with the Shaw Brothers. She became well-known in widely televised TVB variety show Enjoy Yourself Tonight, first singing with the female group Four Golden Flowers in the 1970s.

Shum subsequently established herself as predominantly a comic and dramatic actress, appearing regularly in films over the past 40 years. These included The Lotus Lamp 1965, Three Women in a Factory 1967, The Country Bumpkin in Style 1974 and more recently In-Laws, Out-Laws 2004 and Where Are They Now? 2006, among others.

Somehow I seem to missed those cinematic classics.  Except that it's possible that The Country Bumpkin in Style was the film that ATV showed on Tuesday night, and I did catch 5 minutes of that. 

Yes, I'm afraid that I just don't get it.  Why does TVB fill its schedules with variety shows peopled by their roster of artists doing unexceptional things with enthusiasm and little more.  How did Shum win"Best Comedy Performance by an Actress" award at the 2003 Asian Television Awards (for Living with Lydia).

I feel like the bewildered foreigners in London in September 1997 who must have wondered why "Diana mania" seemed to have overtaken the whole population.

Back to the other big story, the one that Albert Cheng rightly called "nothing but a farce". 

The newspapers look foolish because they have devoted huge amounts of space to a story that is really very trivial.  When things like this happen in the USA or UK, you can read about it in the tabloids for a few days and then the story goes away.

Continue reading "Celebrity culture gone mad" »

Out of touch

Margaret Chan has been chosen as the new head of the World Health Organization, and the media here has predictably been celebrating this as a great honour for Hong Kong.  Yeah, right. 

If you speak to ordinary people in Hong Kong they still remember what happened with SARS, and regard Margaret Chan as at least partially responsible for the deaths (particularly in Amoy Gardens).   They are amazed that she could be given this prestigious job and be lauded as an expert on Bird Flu and SARS

The English newspapers have rather grudgingly reported some concerns, but only as a footnote to the story.  Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that they are so out of touch with what people in Hong Kong really think.

Lost in transit

Today's Sunday Morning Post has even more coverage of "the trial that gripped Hong Kong".  Mainly "news" about how New York papers reported the story (the tabloids ran sensational stories, the broadsheets were more sober, you'll be amazed to hear).

They also report that Nancy Kissel may have been planning to ship her husband's body to the States.  If so, I fear she may have chosen the wrong company - there was a time when a staple of the SMP was stories about relocation company losing or destroying the goods that had been entrusted to them.

I suppose another option was a DBS safe deposit box.

Nothing to do

What to do on a Sunday?  Why not take the MTR to Disneyland?  Nothing to do when you get there (because it's not open yet), of course.  Not that this seemed to deter anyone.

At noon, trains from Sunny Bay to the theme park were full of people eager to see the new station. Many posed for photographs inside the train.

"Although the flow was larger than usual, our operation was quite smooth," an MTR spokeswoman said.

Did I say nothing?  I suppose you could keep a lookout for the wild dogs that are so beloved by the SCMP.  They managed to fashion another front page story on this subject:

They have even chased Hong Kong Disneyland group managing director Don Robinson as he drove into the park on his way to work. Other employees also have complained of being chased and frightened by the dogs.

That's about as dramatic as this "news" story gets.  No-one has been even slightly hurt, but it's still a big worry, I suppose.  Or, then again, maybe it's not.

Possibly if Simon Patkin had his way and concreted over Lantau and Lamma, that would solve the problem.  Or maybe the dogs would find their way over to Quarry Bay.

The SCMP had another non-story on Sunday, headlined Why HK air taxes are sky-high. Except that if you read the story (or even just looked at their chart), it was obvious that these "HK air taxes" were mainly fuel surcharges (imposed by airlines) and miscellaneous taxes levied by foreign airports.

What's the verdict

In spite of years of watching Crown Court, Rumpole of the Bailey, LA Law, The Practice and Ally McBeal, I am not sure that I am an expert on matters legal. 

So the Kissel case has me rather puzzled.  The defence case appears to be that Robert Kissel was - how can I put this delicately - a merchant banker.  The prosecution case is that Nancy Kissel used a heavy metal ornament to kill her husband, which she has now admitted under cross-examination.  How on earth do juries reach a verdict based upon such conflicting evidence?

I think Hemlock is confused as well.