New blog

I just noticed that the very first post here was exactly 4 years ago.  There are still a few other of my contemporaries hanging on, but only just.  I know how they feel!

There are probably dozens of splendid blogs out there, but these days I don't seem to have the enthusiasm to look for them (even when they should be hard to ignore because they link to me and post comments here).  Poor show.

Which is a long way of saying that I should really have given Ulaca a plug before now, but I didn't quite get round to it. 

Somewhat in the Hemlock style, with a bit of Fumier thrown in. 

Going, going, gone.

Vince from HKMacs has reminded me that my list of Hong Kong blogs needed updating, and his prize is to get reinstated (probably for the 17th time).

I notice that a few of my contemporaries are flagging.  Some have sprung back into life recently, and so they live to fight another day, but others have not (Phil being the most notable). 

F Off

I see that Fumier has closed down his blog.  It just disappeared on Monday evening, with not so much as a word of explanation, and without any warning. 

Where will I be able to read about the poor standard of driving in Hong Kong?  As if I cared...

Does this mean that Freddie Fumier will stop writing to the SCMP?

So many questions, so little interest.

Meanwhile, I have added Alice Poon to the list of Hong Kong blogs, but I still haven't got round to buying her book.

Another HK blog

Living in Hong Kong seems to have some interesting stuff from a Filipino perspective, such as this:

Reasons why you should get a Filipina domestic helper

Filipina domestic helpers can be ideal house helpers for Hong Kong people.

They have children back in the Philippines.
Which means: They know how to properly take care of their employers children. This is a sad reality in life that Filipinas leave their children to take care of other people's kids. Just to make both ends meet.

They used to be manage eateries in the Philippines
Which means they are great cooks. While Filipino food is virtually unknown in Hong Kong due to absence of Filipino restaurants, these noble overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are fast learners of Chinese, Western and other cuisines!

They used to be teachers
Which means: They are perfect suit for growing kids. I happen to live near a school and as a common sight all over Hong Kong, I find Filipinas who bring and pick up their wards at school. The schooling does not end up there. At night, they ready their school books and help the kids finish their assignments. Do I need to mention they have great English language skills?

They are great lovers
Which means: They are devoted to the ones they love. So devoted that children who grew up under their care often think they are their biological mothers. That's why it's a tear jerking experience to see a child cry his/her heart out when he finds out his che che is going back to the Philippines. Parents even make compromises such as longer vacations and better pay just to prod the loving helper to defer her departure and sign a fresh contract.

They lived a tough life back in the province
Which means: They are reliable in tough times and always have the initiative to work hard/smart. The bad side of this is that they are subjected to abuse such as sleep, rest or food deprivation.

They are housewives
Which means: They know how to budget the money. They often stretch the budget by scouring for the cheapest commodities the town has to offer. Chinese people are generally thought as penny-pinching folks even back in the Philippines. Therefore a certain skill of making things work out of a limited budget handed to a helper to the grocery is often necessary.

They are spiritual
Which means: They were raised to respect the elderly, be courteous and honest (almost, save for Preslyn Catacutan as a suspect). They can teach children good manners and right conduct.

So it's actually paying for a teacher, a house manager, a cleaner, a cook and a caretaker, all rolled into one. Yet unscrupulous employers still manage to abuse and underpay them. Watch out you morons, remember those things will all come back to you.


Recently, I have become rather bad at reading Hong Kong blogs.  Mainly it's sheer laziness, but the problem is that there are just too many of them, and having got them all set up in an RSS reader it's all too easy to check half a dozen and overlook the rest.

Which is a pity, because there is some good stuff out there.  And, no, Mr Fumier, I don't mean you.

For example, Learning Cantonese had a rather long post about the problems faced by the pan-democrats.  This is what I meant when I said that the biggest obstacle to democracy in Hong Kong is our political parties - it's so easy to find fault with all of them. 

First of all, the pro-democrats are, and have always been, a bunch of strange bedfellows united by a single issue. There have always been cracks, economic fissures, in Hong Kong's pro-democracy alliance. (Just as there are strange bedfellows, indeed, among the pro-Beijing camp). Strip away the eloquent philosophy, and what does a wealthy guy like London-educated Democratic party barrister Martin Lee have in common with a humble schoolteacher activist like democracy's great uncle Szeto Wah?  Fear of Beijing has been enough to cement the pro-Democrats together for a decade, as solidly as Tito held Yugoslavia.

There's also a reference to a book which I think I need to read.

Ten years after the 1997 handover, Hong Kong's battle lines are changing. The people, and the politicians of Hong Kong have begun to focus less on Beijing, and more on the enemy within--the collusion between home-grown tycoons and a government that exercises almost unlimited control over the city's wealth and development. (The way this system works to choke Hong Kong's economic growth and initiative is very ably explained by Alice Poon in her great book, and by my buddy Hemlock, in his.).

This led me to something else I had overlooked - an article by Alice Poon in Asia Sentinel:

Hong Kong’s proposed new competition law barely scratches the surface and leaves the oligarchs pretty much alone

Hong Kong is about to get a law sometime later this year designed to regulate competition in an economy that has always prided itself on being red in fang and claw. But don’t look for much substance. The oligarchs of Hong Kong have always been largely exempt from the hard scramble of real competition and the powers that be are making sure that the final law is going to be more form than substance ‑  no review mechanisms for the control of mergers and acquisitions, no criminal sanctions and no consumer protection provisions.

Although this is a city famously regarded as a territory of free marketeers, that is largely a false perception perpetrated by right-wing American think-tanks which consistently declare Hong Kong to be a paragon of competitiveness. What the libertarian think tanks measure are free ports with low-tariff regimes and fully convertible currencies. In Hong Kong, taxes are low, government is small, trade is free and business, credit and labor markets are fully deregulated.

But the fact is that Hong Kong’s trading companies, particularly Hutchison Whampoa and Jardine Matheson, operate a duopoly that stifles competition in supermarkets, petrol stations and drug store chains. In the late 1990s, the oligarchs, aided by government policy, famously drove Carrefour, the French retailer, out of town and put an end to any chance of so-called big-box retailers like Wal-Mart or COSTCO that would save consumers money and give them choice.

And, of course, if you search for a review of Alice Poon's book you will find one by Hemlock.  Who has his own book out now - and what's the betting that the "friendly journalist" who interviewed him on his website is the same person who interviewed him for Slate?  Yes, the blogger behind Learning Cantonese, Daisann McLane.

Incidentally, it rather amused me (and maybe nobody else) that Hemlock's book is published by Chameleon Press, who also published several of Nury Vittachi's books.  Or perhaps Hemlock and Peter Gordon (the boss of Chameleon Press) now have something in common.

Mr Jam

I've mentioned Nury Vittachi's blog here before.  Now he has redesigned it, purchased a new domain, and started writing a diary that is someone similar to the Lai See column of old (which ran in the SCMP until 1997 and then in the iMail for a year or two) - though naturally you can expect more on the literary scene and less about business.

I know that Nury's stuff is not to everyone's taste, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the old Lai See columns, and now he is free from the constraints of writing for a newspaper.  Here's one item from today's diary:

A BEIJING COURT ordered a shop to pay 195,000 yuan to US movie studios for selling pirate DVDs of films, the press reported today. The sample movie mentioned in the charge was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Well, that must be the first that particular bomb actually made some income for the movie industry.

Counted out

One thing I find slightly strange about (English language) Hong Kong blogs is that you very rarely get anything even approaching controversy, let alone any feuds, between bloggers.  Perhaps this is because there aren't that many of us, and that most people steer clear of politics. 

One exception is Roland Soong's ESWN.  I've mentioned this before (Lost in translation) and he has come under attack again for his habit of offering "expert analysis" in a very partisan way.  A guest contributor at Peking Duck generated a lot of response for his attack on Roland, and Tom Legg has also joined in on his blog.

The concern here is that a casual observer might believe that Roland is offering impartial analysis of the "facts" about how many people took part in a march for democracy, and what it all means.  Roland's technique is normally to question the estimates for the number of marchers, and then conclude that this indicates lack of support for democracy (The Unanswered Question about Hong Kong numbers):

But what is your explanation as to why 5,000 people showed up for the march when public opinion polls showed that 60% of the population are for universal suffrage? If you can solve that puzzle, then you will get 60% of 7 million people = 4.2 million people to march for universal suffrage. How can that sort of people power be stopped?

Clearly Roland is being disingenuous here, as Raj pointed out in his posting at Peking Duck:

It seems like quite an easy answer to me. Hong Kong people have indicated - quite consistently through polls - that they want universal suffrage. However they probably do not believe that protesting about it will make much of a difference. It's all very well that saying getting 4+ million people on the streets "cannot be stopped", but then again when did Hong Kong ever get 4+ million people on the streets? The UK managed much less than that in protests against the war in Iraq (Police said 750,000 - organisers said 2 million), despite the fact we have a population of over 60 million and there was generally a lot of opposition to the war.

I think that's correct, though I'd probably go further and say that Hong Kong people are also quite patient.  They became very frustrated with Tung Chee-Hwa, but are willing to give Donald Tsang a chance.  He knows that he has to do something about democracy, but mass demonstrations won't help him in negotiations with Beijing.  In fact, you only have to look to Taiwan to see that this form of "people power" really doesn't solve anything, and probably makes things worse.  Would Beijing react positively to 4 million people marching?  I can't see it myself. I think there's far more chance of Tsang sorting something out quietly with Beijing, as he has promised to do (Tsang targets 60pc backing for suffrage plan - subscription required):

Hong Kong will adopt a universal suffrage model that has international recognition, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has pledged.

Without committing himself on when it could be implemented or what form it would take, Mr Tsang said he would try to forge a proposal that would win the support of 60 per cent of the public. He said Hong Kong people would not accept any proposal for universal suffrage at the expense of the city's prosperity, way of life or relations with the central government, and again called on different political forces to try to reach a compromise.

If he fails, it's possible to imagine another mass demonstration in a few years time, but Roland must know that 1 million would be more than enough to make an impact.