Friday, June 24, 2022

We Must Remember

Picking up the last edition of Apple Daily a year ago

Today marks the one year anniversary that Apple Daily shut down.

I remember waking up relatively early, there was light rain and I raced out to the nearby Circle K convenience store to see if there were any copies of the last edition of Apple Daily.

Luckily there was a massive stack of papers and I grabbed six of them, relieved to be able to get them no problem.

Staff waving to readers, many are unemployed
I went to the office and my colleague was distraught that she was unable to get the paper. I reached into my bag and gave her a copy. She was so grateful.


Because it is the last physical piece of democracy that we can hold in our hands. The paper represented free speech, free press, independence, brashness, creativity, resilience and determination.

The Apple Daily website does not exist, and its founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has been in jail for the past 18 months.

Six other executives have been held in pre-trial detention for 11 months.

Everyone at Apple Daily lost their jobs that day, and since then some other media organisations have shuttered, resulting in some 1,000 journalists out of work, or completely switching to other jobs like taxi driver or working at McDonald's.

Having worked at Apple Daily is either a badge of honour or a sign to be shunned.

Lai has been behind bars for 18 months
I still have that copy of the last edition of the paper even though I don't know what it means. But we need to preserve it to prove to ourselves that Apple Daily existed.

We have to tell ourselves that what we experienced, saw and read was real.

We have to do that because the government, and by extension Beijing is rewriting Hong Kong's history.

The authorities have scrubbed away anything in Hong Kong related to what happened in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. For 30 consecutive years there was a massive candlelight vigil held at Victoria Park with tens of thousands of people attending, each holding a white candle in their hands as they sang songs, shouted slogans and heard speakers talk about their experiences that horrible day.

But now those vigils are no more. There are no more statues or murals commemorating the incident, nor can people even gather at Victoria Park anymore that day. It's as if the authorities are trying to re-program people into thinking June 4 is like any other day, but Hongkongers are hardwired to think otherwise after decades of annual ritual.

The Pillar of Shame dismantled and removed
The same goes for the protests, scrubbing the city clean of graffiti, though there may be a few lingering... the protests are now called "social unrest", a euphemism for a cataclysmic event in the city's recent history that led to the implementation of the national security law that pushed many to leave Hong Kong for good.

There are no more signs of dissent, from the civil society groups, unions and grassroots organisations that supported the protests -- they have either shut down or gone underground. But shutting down hasn't ensured the peaceful end of these groups as they are still targeted by the police for things they have done retroactively. It's relentless.

A friend says it's good that I've left and can move on, but I can't.

I told him I spent 18 years of my life in Hong Kong, it played a huge role in my life and I cannot just turn my back from it.

And yet it is painful watching what is happening there day by day, as the government forms its own alternate reality, like Hong Kong was never a British colony.

It's such an absurd belief that the last governor Chris Patten had to do a double take.

Patten mocks China for denying HK colony status
In a recent letter to the editor of The Times Newspaper he wrote:

"Sir, it was with some relief that Ben Macintyre reassured me that I really was governor of the colony of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 before China, in President Jiang Zemin's words, "resumed the exercise of sovereignty".

"The attempt to rewrite Hong Kong's history in the territory's school textbooks claiming that it had never been a British colony but an "occupied territory" is on par with Beijing's efforts to expunge any memory of the Tiananmen murders in 1989.

"But if Hong Kong was simply an "occupied territory" perhaps President Xi and his communist stooges in Hong Kong should own up to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people who occupied it were themselves refugees or the families and descendants of refugees from the brutalities of communism. 

"They found a safe haven in a British colony and established a hugely successful free society there under the rule of law."

See, we remember. We have to.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Health Minister Criticised for Pandemic Fifth Wave Response

Chan shed a few tears in her last meeting with Legco

Yesterday at her last meeting with the Legislative Council, outgoing Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee shed a few tears as she thanked Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-gnor for having trust in her.

When she leaves office on June 30, Chan will have completed 10 years in the civil service, the last few years undoubtedly the most challenging on her career in having to deal with the response to Covid-19 in Hong Kong.

However, many believe she and her department could have done much more, particularly prior to the fifth wave in getting more elderly vaccinated, which could have mitigated the number of deaths during this period, as well as handed out rapid antigen tests and masks to the vulnerable.

Ho criticised government's response to fifth wave
How can anyone forget the scenes outside public hospitals where elderly patients were left there in the elements because there wasn't enough bed space. Those images were shocking and shameful.

Microbiologist Ho Pak-leung called on the government to apologise to residents for its failure to deal with the city's outbreaks.

On a radio show, he slammed Chan for failing to prepare appropriate Covid responses, even though Hong Kong had long been achieving Covid-zero before the fifth wave of the epidemic started.

Ho said Chan wasted time in not getting more of the elderly vaccinated before the fifth wave, which resulted in a spike in deaths. Ho said this taught Hong Kong a "painful lesson".

He called on the current government to issue a formal apology to its citizens or build a monument in memory of those who died during the city's fifth wave.

While a formal apology would be nice, the monument would be overboard... unless for propaganda purposes...

Seniors lying outside hospitals with no space
Yesterday Hong Kong recorded 1,323 cases, and Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection is warning the number could go up to 2,000 soon.

"We are seeing a slow increase, a gradual increase in the number of cases recently and there have been no signs of decreasing in the past few days," Chuang said. "We expect the cases will be going up and may exceed 2,000 in the near future."

But she also noted the number of hospital admissions and severe cases and deaths is stable.

This does not bode well for the upcoming July 1 anniversary... it looks less likely Chinese leader Xi Jinping will come down here for mark the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China.

Does this mean Premier Li Ke-qiang is going instead?

The intrigue continues...

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

More Hongkongers Identify as Chinese

Emigration, change of mindset may explain poll results

For the first time since 2018, more Hong Kong residents identify as "Chinese" compared to "Hongkonger" in previous years, according to a poll by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI).

While "Hongkonger" is still popular, there seems to be more people over 30 years of age who are identifying as Chinese.

One thousand Cantonese-speaking adults were surveyed from May 31 to June 5 by telephone.

The survey is conducted every six months
Those who identified as "Chinese" had increased from 56.8 to 61.5 when compared to Pori's similar study six months earlier. The latest results were the highest rating since December 2018.

Those who identified as a "member of the Chinese nation" rose from 60.7 to 65, and as "member of the PRC" also climbed from 53.6 to 59.1.

Meanwhile, those who described themselves as "Hongkonger", "Asian" and "global citizen" decreased across the board. "Hongkonger" got a rating of 75.4, the lowest since June 2017.

Additionally, more respondents over 30 identified as "Chinese" since 2020, while only 2 percent of those aged 18 to 29 did.

Current affairs commentator Derek Yuen, said during a press conference releasing Pori's findings, the results for Beijing were encouraging.

More people over 30 identify at Chinese
"Without Beijing implementing significant policies [to raise national identity recognition], it is already seeing favourable results," Yuen said.

He said the shift could be due to emigration, and people's changing mindset, especially those aged 30-49.

"These people recognise this is China's international financial centre," Yuen said. "In order to survive, prosper and thrive... you have to adjust your mindset."

However, Paul Wong, a lecturer at the University of Wollongong College Hong Kong's Faculty of Social Sciences, said during the same media briefing, that it was uncertain "if respondents were totally free of fear" when responding to recent surveys.

He hinted perhaps the national security law had impacted the survey findings as freedom of speech and thought were being constrained in the city.

"We don't know how many of them are speaking their true feelings," he said.

The explanations are plausible... or they just happened to call up pro-establishment respondents?

Maybe we'll have to check-in again in six months...

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Jumbo Sinks to its Demise

Jumbo docked in Aberdeen harbour before it left June 14

Today came news that the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, that left Hong Kong's Aberdeen harbour on June 14 has sunk in the South China Sea.

According to a press release issued by Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Limited, the floating restaurant passed through the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea when it "encountered adverse conditions" and water entered the vessel, causing it to tip.

Marine engineers inspected the vessel before it left
"Despite the efforts of the towing company responsible for the trip to rescue the vessel, unfortunately it capsized on Sunday (June 19)," the statement said. 

It added no crew members were injured and because the vessel sank to a depth of 1,000 metres, it will be extremely difficult for the company to conduct a salvaging operation.

When people found out about the news, they immediately latched onto it as a metaphor for Hong Kong's demise.

Really? Is the city a rundown has-been bloated vessel that only catered to tourists served crappy food?

Definitely not.

There are sneaking suspicions on social media that the company -- which is owned by late casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun's family -- may have accidentally sunk for insurance purposes.
Ah To's prescient cartoon of Jumbo's fate

Its insurance is probably worth more than the scrap metal...

Interesting the restaurant had a press release ready for the media too...

What did political cartoonist Ah To know? When he heard news on June 1 that Jumbo Floating Restaurant would be towed away, he drew the sinking Jumbo Floating Restaurant together with the Goddess of Democracy and Lady Justice at the bottom of the ocean to represent the end of the June 4 candlelight vigils in Victoria Park and the rule of law.

And another artist known as SurrealHK made a computer manipulated image of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant sinking in Victoria Harbour... coincidence? Inspiration?

Monday, June 20, 2022

Building van Gogh Brick by Brick

Van Gogh's The Starry Night in Lego form by Truman Cheng

One of the latest products to come from Lego is a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night -- in the colourful bricks.

The swirl of the clouds in blues, grey and yellow is cleverly recreated using straight, thin bricks, but perhaps what's so fascinating about it is that the piece is its three-dimensional look.

Even better? It was designed by a Hongkonger.

Cheng likes van Gogh's paintings
Twenty-six-year-old Truman Cheng is a PhD student studying medical robotics and magnetic controlled surgical endoscopes.

During his free time however, he loves playing with Lego, something he's done since he was a child.

"To me, Lego is more than 'toys', it's something similar to painting," he said in an interview with Lego. "I can express myself, create characters and sculptures from my imagination. It's a very relaxing experience where I can forget about the petty troubles in daily lives, and get lost in my own imagination."

He later explained that he's always loved van Gogh's work and that The Starry Night is such a well known piece. 

"I had wanted to make a Lego creation based on the artwork for a long time but never thought of a good execution-style for it.

"One day I was just playing with Lego parts, and I realised stacking Lego plates together in random intervals look a lot like van Gogh's iconic brush strokes!

A figurine of the artist himself
"I couldn't help but wonder what the full painting would look like with this build style. I kept building and modifying, and eventually created the model you see in the project."

There are over 1,500 pieces for this particular Lego set and the company teamed up with the Museum of Modern Art -- which houses the original art work -- to produce the set, which retails for US$159.99.

One wonders what royalties Cheng will get!

But in the meantime it just shows how playing can get those creative juices going!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Picture of the Day: Oatmeal Cookies

These oatmeal cookies are vegan and only use four ingredients

One thing I couldn't do in Hong Kong was baking so now it's nice to have access to a large oven and make something from scratch.

Scrolling through Instagram I'm seeing more short cooking videos and they post the recipe too. 

The one I saw the other day was for oatmeal cookies -- using just four ingredients: oatmeal, chocolate chips, peanut butter and bananas.

After buying a bag of chocolate chips, I tried out this recipe.

Just before putting the cookie dough into oven
It's simple enough -- mashing up two bananas (the more ripe the better), and adding a quarter-cup of peanut butter, a quarter-cup of dark chocolate chips, and one and a half cups of oatmeal.

After I mixed them thoroughly together, I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet, making 12 cookies. I flattened them a bit and then baked them for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

When my timer went off, the cookies seemed very soft and baked them for another five minutes, but they hadn't changed much in terms of firmness and turned off the heat and left them there.

They were still soft, but they were already golden brown so they should be done.

Nevertheless they taste delicious. You can taste all the ingredients, and not one overpowers the other.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Would You Like a Raid with Your Dinner?

Imagine having your dinner interrupted by screaming officers

On the Instagram account of Hong Kong restaurant group Black Sheep Restaurants the latest post is this message:

"We had a bit of an intense night at Carbone yesterday, we think we were in compliance with the current regs and we are checking with our lawyers."

One of its restaurants is Carbone, a New York-style steakhouse above Lan Kwai Fong in Central that pays homage to the mid-20th century. Suited waiters may entertain guests with funny comments as they dine on American-sized portions of food, mostly meats, pastas and sides, while desserts are presented on a trolley.

Carbone is above Lan Kwai Fong in Central
Last night in the middle of dinner service, inspectors from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and police officers suddenly appeared in the restaurant and apparently screamed at guests to stay where they were and shut up. No one was allowed to talk or even go to the washroom for 45 minutes. Nor were they allowed to touch their phones.

Apparently the staff were each fined HK$5,000 (US$637) for contravening the latest Covid-19 regulations of not inspecting guests' rapid antigen tests.

However, the restaurant did not violate any rules -- it is a restaurant and not a bar or nightclub, which now require each patron to present a negative RAT result before entering.

So why did the FEHD and police raid this place? Did they not know it was a restaurant and not a bar?

Did FEHD do their homework on Carbone first?
Someone either did not do their homework about Carbone, or were using it as an example to other places.

While Black Sheep Restaurants are checking with their lawyers, there isn't much they can do -- the FEHD can pretty much flaunt its power without much oversight or accountability. 

It's intriguing none of the guests were fined, but the staff were, and it seems Carbone was the only restaurant targeted last night.

The incident must be sending chills to every restaurateur in Hong Kong -- which guest wants to endure an experience like that when they're already paying big bucks for a good dinner?

Is this raiding restaurants and screaming at guests going to be the norm now? If so it will definitely turn off people from wanting to dine out again. 

A police raid at another restaurant recently 
It also begs the question if guides like Michelin and Asia's 50 Best Restaurants feel confident enough to continue to promote Hong Kong restaurants when diners can be subject to an outrageous interruption to their meal out of no fault of the dining establishment?

If it is the new normal, surely more people are going to be fed up by this and want to leave Hong Kong...

The government seems intent on killing its own city. And it's doing a really good job of it.

We Must Remember

Picking up the last edition of Apple Daily a year ago Today marks the one year anniversary that Apple Daily shut down. I remember waking up...