Current Affairs

Posts filed under Current Affairs


Jackie Chan Calls for Curbs on Political Freedom in Hong Kong

Perfection. The Lie of the Century.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong, LifeTags: , ,

The truth is that everyone wants to be happy. The reality is that apparently, most people are very confused about how to be happy.

For years, advertising agencies have been using images and movies of seemingly very beautiful and happy people to sell products, everything from beer to jewellery. The core of their message is that you'll be happy too if you consume or own whatever they're selling.

The reason that this advertising works is a deep-seeded psychological need for people to be part of a community, to be accepted, to be 'one of the gang'. Many organisations use this need to their advantage. Beer and cigarette commercials imply that if you're not drinking their beer or smoking their cigarettes, that you'll not be welcome by others in the community, or at least if you do drink their beer or smoke their cigarettes, you'll have 'better' friends and more of them. Many young people have come to believe these messages.

Unfortunately, materialism has become a major influence in today's world. We as a society are becoming more and more materialistic, and consequently more and more superficial. Over time, people will lose themselves. They will forget the true value of their lives and despair and hopelessness will ultimately ensue. Perhaps this is the reason that so many young people commit suicide in Hong Kong when relationships fail or when they get unsatisfactory results in their exams. I wish someone would tell them that there's more to a person than what they're wearing, smoking or drinking, and there's much more to a person than the prestige of the school they're attending.

The reason I'm writing this article; the trigger that made me sit down and begin typing, was an article in today's S.C.M.P. titled "Alarm bells ring over cosmetic surgery push". Corporations in Hong Kong are arranging cosmetic surgery tours to Korea where the surgery is cheaper and reportedly more advanced than that available in Hong Kong. Company's are paying big money to hire spokespeople and perform non-trivial surgery to become walking examples of their work. One such corporation by the name of Be a Lady recently paid one million Hong Kong dollars to a former Miss Hong Kong lady (吳文忻, Miss Hong Kong 1998) to have surgery done and become one of their spokespeople. Just the name of the corporation upsets me (colourful language would be more appropriate than 'upset' but generally speaking, I don't use colourful language). It implies that if you're not perfect, then you're not a lady. Unbelievably pathetic!

One of the procedures that Miss Hong Kong 1998 had done was the straightening of her nose. I feel sorry for her. The one million dollars will probably be useful to her, but I very much doubt that any of her operations are going to make her any happier, especially in the long term.

People seem to forget. What the surgeons and corporations are referring to as perfect features in people are in actual fact not attractive. Perfection is boring. Imperfections; the way her nose slants to one side, the way his left eye is slightly smaller than his right eye, or the unusual shape of her lips; make us special. Our wrinkles represent our past; the joy, the laughter, the pain, the hardships and the toil. They also represent our pride because we survived that pain, those hardships and that toil, so why hide them?

We are who we are. Our looks are a very important part of who we are, and that we all look different and perhaps curious is what makes us interesting. It's what makes us human. To infer and teach that people will be happier if they have 'perfect' features is perhaps one of the biggest lies of the century. I wish people would wake up.

The Devaluing of Human Life

It's not unusual in a newspaper's account of a young person committing suicide to read of elder family members or friends struggling to understand why today's young people undervalue their lives. I have my suspicions.

When our parents were growing up, advertising of the variety that implies that you'll be accepted and happy if you use a certain product were minimal. Newspapers were basically text with very few pictures. Television was in black and white and advertising agencies were still learning the psychological side of advertising. Admittedly, they too used pictures of smiling 'happy' people in their advertisements (and 'cool macho' men in the Marlboro ads) but it was harmless for the most part. Most people from that generation worked very hard to make a living and raise their families. Many did it without grudge or complaint. It was an accepted part of life and life itself was to be treasured.

Today, advertising, television programs and magazines now have almost every young person convinced that they'll never be happy if they're not beautiful and don't own all of the latest fashions, accessories and gizmos. The situation is probably further complicated because most parents today are working long hours at the office to pay the household bills and rarely have time to spend with their children, teaching them the value of the family unit, and hence the true way to find value in themselves.

Unfortunately, since we live in a very capitalist world and money controls what we see and read, I don't see a solution to this problem. Materialism will continue to increase. Our society will continue to commoditise and debase humanity. People will continue to buy into the lie of perfection and those people will inevitably arrive at a point in their lives where they'll feel alone, disillusioned, betrayed, degraded and devoid of self-worth. The future doesn't look good for humanity.

If you're considering cosmetic surgery in an attempt to perfect a certain feature, please stop and remember. You're perfect just the way you are. If anyone tries to say otherwise, it's certain that they don't respect you, they don't love you, and they're not worthy of your friendship.

A Story of Affection

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong, Miscellaneous

It was Tuesday. My wife and I had things to do at Telford Gardens. My wife and her sister were hungry for something Chinese, and I wasn't, so they went off to their choice of restaurants while I began making my way to Starbucks for a coffee. On the way though, I was side-tracked by a young lady who recognised me from a veterinary clinic I had visited a few times with Rose our rabbit.

The lady was trying to rescue a kitten and asked for my help. The kitten was behind some building materials stacked up against the wall facing the outside carpark and crying out loudly. While the lady used a plank to force the kitten out of hiding, I waited on the other side and grabbed her when I had the chance. Little did I know how much of a wild cat she was in spite of her small size. She instantly spun around and clawed at me with everything she had. She even managed to bite me at least once, but I quickly grabbed her gently and securely, covering and holding her head with one hand and holding her body with the other. She stopped moving but growled angrily from time to time in protest.

While I switched my position to hold the small kitten by the scruff of the neck, the lady opened the boot of her car and began looking for a box to contain the kitten for transport. The kitten wasn't ready to give up just yet and began struggling as hard as possible to get away. The lady found a box in the car, but it was obvious that getting the kitten into the box would be almost impossible because the opening of the box was far too small and the kitten had all four legs sprawled out, ready to push away whenever the opportunity presented itself.

It was at this time that we realised that the kitten had a mother, and that the mother was in the rafters above us. She had been calling out to Mum all along. We looked up to see the mother peering down at us. There was a fire in her eyes, the kind that only wild animals possess. It was obvious to me that she would never trust us, and that she was worried about her kitten.

Getting the kitten into the box was pretty much pointless, and the kitten's mother was there to look after her so we decided to let her go. As I lowered the kitten to the floor and let her go, she pounced onto the floor with all four paws spread out and disappeared into the building material almost instantly. She was gone.

The lady left. I went into the bathroom to attend to the cuts and bites on my hands. With bites like these, it's advisable to press a little blood from each of the wounds to help wash out any bacteria that might be present, so I bled the wounds and washed my hands.

Back at Starbucks, I sat down to coffee and a sandwich. When my wife arrived, she was none the wiser to what had just happened in her absence.

On Death Row

Several hours later, I returned once again to Telford Gardens to change an order at Ikea. After getting my parking validated, I walked out to the car park and over to my car. While unlocking the car, I was keenly aware of the kitten crying out again. This time, it was in a stairwell. Too curious to be healthy, I peered around the stairwell and saw the kitten. She saw me too, and began backing away up the stairs. I decided to leave her alone and go home. Just as I was getting into the car, I noticed one of the security people carrying a cardboard box, walking in the direction of the stairwell. I was pretty sure I knew what he had planned but wanted to be sure and asked him. Sure enough, he was getting ready to catch the kitten.

A couple of weeks ago, I remember walking down the corridor of Telford Gardens Phase III with my wife when we noticed a medium sized non-threatening nervous black dog walking towards us. As he passed us, we also noted the security guard following closely behind talking with some urgency into his walky-talky. Obviously, he was planning to catch the dog.

I felt sorry for the dog. He wasn't harmful to anyone. He had no problem walking among the hundreds of people shopping in the centre but he wasn't welcome and he'd be caught by the security people soon enough. Once caught, his death was almost guaranteed.

I was familiar with the security guard planning to catch the kitten. I had talked to him several times in the past. When I asked about the kitten, he said that the kitten would be given to the SPCA. I commented that this action was the equivalent of committing the kitten to death (almost all of the animals given to the SPCA are delivered to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department which kills them within days of receipt) but he said there was nothing he could do. People move from Telford Gardens and some of them rather than taking their pets with them choose instead to dump them in the public areas. The pets leave toilet products in the public areas and the company consequently has no choice but to catch and dispose of the abandoned pets.

I had ignored the black dog, but I didn't want to abandon the kitten, particularly because I knew of someone who was willing to home it; the lady who had asked me to help her catch the kitten earlier. I accompanied the guard to catch the kitten.

Just as we exited the stairwell on to the public garden courtyard, we observed a young teenager chasing the kitten, enjoying himself as he instilled needless torture and fear into the kitten. How can people be so ruthless? Is it really so macho to persecute and terrorise small animals? These people are so pathetic. I reprimanded the teenager (whose father was watching nearby) with 「有啲人道先得嘅!」 and the guard and I proceeded to catch the kitten which I then took home.


We have a spare cage which I unfolded and placed on my desk next to the computer. I wanted this wild kitten to see me as much as possible, to adapt quickly and lose its fear of people. I placed a mat inside along with water and dry kitten food I had picked up at the pet food store on the way home. I then gingerly placed the cardboard box with the kitten at the door to the cage and opened one flap of the box. The kitten didn't come out. It was cowering in one corner of the box. It not an option to place my hand in the box with the kitten so I opened every flap of the box and gently shaked it while keeping it pressed up against the cage to prevent the kitten from escaping. She went in.

We have eleven dogs, and fear was not going to help this kitten settle down, so I covered most of the cage with towels keeping the kitten blind to the world around it; except for one small area facing my chair.

The next thirty hours were incredible. I'll never forget the change that unfolded in front of me.

Every time the kitten cried out for her mother, I popped into view and gently meowed back to her. She cried all night long, even when her voice began to get dry and raspy. We didn't sleep much that night. I got up four or five times and went over to her. The more she saw me, the easier she would become with me. At least, that was the plan.

Day time came and the kitten continued to cry for its mother but she was getting tired. She hadn't touched the dry food, nor the diluted milk I had set down for her. Throughout the day, she became quieter, and began nodding off. It had been a terrible and exhausting ordeal for her.

Later that day at the advice of a friendly vet, I bought some canned kitten food for her. The strong smell of the canned food would make it more enticing to the kitten, and sure enough, not long after I set the food down, the kitten began to eat a little.

Over the next several hours, the kitten changed dramatically. Little by little, the kitten relaxed. She slept some, then she ate some. She cleaned herself, and she began to roll over and play around, even playing with her own tail. She talked to me more and more without the loud crying we had been subjected to for nearly 24 hours. Throughout the second night, she would sleep and then wake up and call out, but instead of calling out for her mother, she was calling out for me; it was a different sound. I would get out of bed and come over to the cage and meow back to her. She began to rub herself up against the cage, and suddenly, she was purring!

The second time she woke me with her calling, I came out and sat beside the cage. She came over to me and began rubbing against the cage again. I sensed that she had changed and I began to take small risks, tentatively poking my fingers through the cage and rubbing her tummy and back. She rubbed back and purred.

The third time she woke me, I decided to take a bigger chance. I opened the cage and was pleasantly surprised to find that she let me pick her up. I nursed her and she began to purr incessantly. She then walked up to my shoulders and became curious, wanting to explore the room we were in. I allowed her a limited amount of freedom, keeping a careful eye on our other kids to make sure they understood that the kitten was out of bounds.

By morning, we were good friends. The wildness in her eyes had disappeared, and in its place was an abundance of affection, comfort and joy. The change was miraculous. She was so beautiful.

Beautiful Kitten

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A New Beginning

We couldn't keep her. I wanted to but there were too many reasons that it wouldn't be a good idea. She'd have to live in the cage for several weeks while I trained the kids to leave her alone. That wouldn't have been a good life. Then after growing up, it was entirely possible that she would decide one day to attack our rabbit who is after all a species of rodent. And she'd probably go after the birds that like to come down to the ground in our garden every day.

I made a few calls and was very lucky to find someone who had a friend who was looking for a kitten. After taking my wife to work, I drove over to a temporary holding area where the kitten would begin its new life. She was not completely tame and managed to claw two of the assistants who were trying to put her into a new cage. When I looked in on her, she was shaking with fear again. I hoped that she would adapt quickly.

Two days later; i.e., yesterday; my wife and I drove over to visit her. I had missed her badly and wanted to be sure that she was ok. When we arrived, she was sleeping under the shirt on the tummy of one of the assistants. The assistant lifted the kitten out and I began nursing her, stroking her and talking to her. Half an hour later, she was that precious bundle of affection again, with a look in her eyes that would melt the heart of even the hardest criminal. It was a wonderful time.

I grew up with cats and have always loved them. When I was young, I broke my leg trying to save our favourite cat Jacob. Jacob eventually grew to a ripe age of 21 years old and died after I had moved to Hong Kong. I have seen Jacob in my dreams on many occasions, usually walking back to me from the bush that surrounded our country home in Gympie at the time. Jacob was an incredible pet and friend, and I'll always miss him.

The kitten will be staying where she is for one month until she has fully adapted to people and until she is old enough to get her first shots. She already has a home to go to and hopefully, she will have a wonderful life. In the meantime, I'll visit her as often as I can and take full advantage of the situation. She is simply too amazing for words, and I feel so so lucky to be able to spend time with her.

Unlimited Affection

Unlimited affection. How could anyone not fall in love with her?

For a 750x500 version, click here.

1202. For those who care.

Filed in Current Affairs, Dogs of our Lives, General, Hong Kong

In my home, we have a table, a chair, a bed, a sofa, a refrigerator, a television and many other household articles. If I hit them, they don't feel pain. If I drop them, they may break but they will not be aware of it. They are simply material objects.

In my home, there are five people. We eat. We live. We cry. We laugh. If someone hits us, we feel pain. If someone betrays us, we hurt. If we are injured in any way, we know. We are aware.

In my home, there are eleven dogs and one rabbit. They feel joy when we return home from a day's work. They feel hunger before a meal. They feel lonely when the people are not home. They feel apprehension when they have done something wrong and see me approaching. They envy those who sit close to us. They speak. They cry. They even shed tears.

There is very little difference between people and animals, yet there are many people who treat animals as objects, as tables that can be bought and sold, born and killed, and all without any feeling or sensibility whatsoever.

In Beijing, the authorities in a bid to control an outbreak of rabies are killing all dogs with a shoulder height taller than 50cm. The fear is that these dogs may catch rabies and become a mortal threat to the humans around them. But it is senseless killing, and devoid of the only thing that makes people special: humanitarianism.

Rather than require that all dog owners arrange rabies shots for their pets, and rather than test for the presence of rabies in the dogs before killing them, the Beijing authorities have chosen the simplest method. Their people are simply catching every dog they see and killing it on the spot. It does not matter if the dog's owner has a license for the dog. It does not matter if the dog is healthy. It does not matter that the dog is an animal, with feelings almost identical to humans. It does not matter. The authorities are even encouraging residents to report relatives, neighbours and friends who may own a dog. It's early communism all over again.

It wouldn't even be proper to use the phrases "put them down" or "put them to sleep" because the government people are striking the animals to death with long rods, in the streets, in plain sight of everyone around.

China is rapidly becoming a modern country. Unfortunately, modern does not equate to civil. While technology can be learnt very easily, humanitarianism; the understanding and caring of life in general; takes a very long time to learn and appreciate.

China is not the only criminal though. Back in January of 2006 in a bid to prove to the people of Hong Kong that they were actually working hard to prevent a bird flu epidemic, the Hong Kong government sought out and killed every domestic chicken owned and cared for by common people all over the territory. There was no testing, no proof of theory, and no mercy. Commercial people; i.e., people with money; were not sought after, only the common people. The unfortunate reality though was that chickens growing up in the back yards of common people were far healthier and far less likely to get bird flu than chickens in the commercial people's overcrowded factories. But the Hong Kong government did not care. Their only concern was that the Hong Kong people felt that they were doing something. Politicians are so superficial.

From what I've heard, the Hong Kong government's theory at the time was that migratory birds carrying the bird flu virus may fly over the common people's homes, depositing contaminated bird droppings into their yards. The chickens in those yards would then walk on the droppings and consequently become infected. Possible but extremely unlikely. This theory was truly a load of crap.

Today though in Beijing, dogs are being senselessly slaughtered and their owners are suffering. To show our support for dogs and their owners in Beijing and to be an example for other Chinese people in China, people here in Hong Kong who care for animals will be holding a vigil on Saturday, December 2 at 6.30pm outside the government building in Chater Gardens in Central. If you share our care for animals, please make an effort to come.

One day, it will be proven that those who have money and power will never be as strong as those who have heart.

More about the vigil:


鑑於近日中國各地所發生的大規模殘殺狗隻情況,以及其所採用的不人道虐殺手法,本小組聯同將於二零零六年十二月二日晚上六時半,在中環遮打花園舉行名為「1202 關注中國犬隻哀悼晚會」活動,為近期在中國死去的犬隻舉行集體悼念儀式,藉此宣揚愛護動物的正面訊息。

由於 閣下一直 對推動愛護動物的事宜不遺餘力。現本小組誠意邀請閣下出席是次活動,一起為動物盡點綿力,令是次在中國發生的不人道對待狗隻事件能夠被廣泛關注,並籍此提高公眾對動物生命的尊重及愛惜。




日期︰ 12月2日 (星期六)
時間︰ 晚上 6時半 至 9時正
地點︰ 中環遮打花園




Man on fire!

Filed in Current Affairs, Health, Hong KongTags: , , ,

True story.

It was supposed to be a straight forward operation, a small one, a simple one. Cut a small hole above the bronchial airway, pull the large oxygen breathing tube out from the mouth and push the new smaller tube in through the hole.

My brother-in-law Joe had a stroke almost two weeks ago. A blood vessel in his brain had developed an aneurism and while walking the streets of Macau, it burst, streaming blood into his brain. He knew immediately that something was wrong and asked a nearby policeman for help. He was transported to a hospital and treated. He had lost consciousness well before getting to the hospital and his situation was serious.

Fast-forward a week. Joe has been transferred to the Prince of Wales hospital in Sha Tin and is resting and recuperating in the crowded and understaffed Neural ward on the third floor. He can open his eyes but cannot move any of his muscles. He has a long way to go before he'll be normal again. His mouth is perpetually open because his jaw muscles don't respond to commands. Consequently, he breaths through his mouth but cannot moisten it or control where the saliva and nasal fluids go allowing some of it to run down the trachea and build up in the lungs. According to the attending doctor, this may have been one of the causes of the secondary pneumonia infection noted a few days later.

The pneumonia produced massive amounts of phlegm in his lungs and without motor movement or coughing capabilities, the phlegm would remain in his lungs, significantly impeding his ability to breath. Without help, he would die, possibly of suffocation. An air tube was inserted down his throat to assist with his breathing but leaving the tube there long term would probably damage his throat. The doctors therefore decided to cut a small hole through his chest into his trachea and insert a small tube. For the immediate future, this would be a safer and more convenient solution to his breathing problems.

The procedure is relatively simple. Cut a small hole through to the trachea. Pull the large tube out through the mouth. Push the small tube in through the hole. To make sure that the patient doesn't suffer from a lack of oxygen during the procedure, almost-pure oxygen is fed to the patient through the large tube just moments prior to the operation. The extra supply of oxygen is supposed to keep the patient going while the tubes are being exchanged.

The procedure took place yesterday in an operation room. During the operation, instead of using a traditional scalpel, the doctor used an 'electric scalpel'. For reasons not yet explained to us, the 'electric scalpel' released sparks during the operation which ignited oxygen coming out of the hole. Joe was literally on fire; for approximately ten seconds. The fire was reportedly quickly put out with water (water??). Once the damage had been surveyed and evaluated, the tube procedure was completed and Joe was once again able to breath.

The fire was real. According to the doctor, it was an accident and it was the first such known incident in Hong Kong although according to the doctor, web searches revealed twenty or more similar cases overseas. The fire produced heat and smoke, and some of it may have entered Joe's bronchi, scorching the bronchial epithelial layers. Best case scenario; the bronchi will recover without further complications. Worse case scenario; the epithelial layers swell and result in thickened bronchial walls and narrower wind ways possibly leading to further serious long term complications.

The fire was an accident. We believe that. The question though is one of negligence. In my (admittedly inexperienced) mind, I can only see two possible reasons for the fire. First, the electric scalpel used was faulty, leading to the sparks that ignited the oxygen. Second, the procedure was flawed. With oxygen pumping through it, the larger tube was pulled up above where the hole was to be cut before the cut was made and oxygen was still pumping through the tube while the hole was being cut. This lead to direct contact between the almost pure oxygen and the electric knife hence the fire.

In either case, negligence is the cause of the accident; lack of maintenance and equipment inspection in the first case, and incorrect procedure in the second case.

If we were in the U.S.A., we'd be suing the hospital. Here in Hong Kong, suing is much more complicated. That said, it's far more important at the moment to keep an eye on Joe and make sure that his road to recovery is not hampered again. Hopefully, the nurses and doctors will pay more attention to his case.

In the end though, the real criminals here are the Hong Kong Government and the Hospital Authority. While happily advancing funds to large corporate contracts for extravagant projects, and while the Hospital Authority management staff joyfully award themselves high salaries and large unsubstantiated bonuses, they continue to cut financing to the hospitals. Public hospitals in Hong Kong are now overcrowded. Even the Intensive Care Unit looked like a refugee zone with beds camped hither and thither in the hallways and in the walking areas between beds. The staff are overworked, understaffed and underpaid. This can benefit no-one.

Similar situations are building in the public school system, situations which have recently led to multiple suicides in the teacher population.

Funding and expenditure need to be controlled but there's a limit to how much you can save on staffing costs and the lives of the people have to be considered. If the government doesn't work soon to remedy the situation in a sensible realistic way, the consequences will be dire; for everyone (except the rich which not surprisingly includes those same government officials and hospital authority management staff. Maybe the middle-class citizens should be the ones making the life-and-death decisions instead of the rich.)

Justice like fine wine

Filed in Current Affairs, Hong Kong

I've been watching a lot of the amazing "CSI" American television series lately and something occurred to me while watching it. For the justice system to work, a certain assumption has to be made; that all police work can be trusted.

If a case against a criminal is built entirely on evidence collected by the police, then the courts have to assume that the police-provided testimonies and evidence, and everything about the evidence is true. If not, then no case would ever get prosecuted.

For example, a criminal scientist collects a strand of hair at a murder scene. The first assumption would be that the hair was actually collected at the scene and not swapped afterward (or planted earlier) by a corrupt officer. The second assumption would be that the hair was correctly handled, labelled and transported so that its authenticity and usefulness as a piece of evidence wouldn't be affected in any way. The third assumption would be that the scientist within the crime department who analyses the DNA of the hair is not corrupt, knows exactly what he's doing and does it accurately to identify the owner of the hair. The fourth assumption would be that the database used to compare the hair's DNA so as to identify the owner is accurate and up to date.

You see, once the results of the investigation of that hair get into the court, the source of the hair, the handling thereof and the DNA identification won't be questioned by the court. It can't be questioned or the case would never get prosecuted. The scientist and the department has to be absolutely unreproachable. That's why in the various television series regarding law, the departments are always extremely concerned when one of their members; be they policemen, scientists, attorneys, judges or whatever; gets impeached with corruption, mishandling of evidence or plain old negligence. When this happens, every case that has ever involved that person or the evidence they touched becomes questionable, and convicted criminals have a basis for retrials. Within the law system, those working within the system are truly assumed innocent (and capable) until proven guilty. It's the only way the system will work.

Unfortunately, police departments around the world are not pure. They become puppets for corrupt governments, politicians or rich people. All around the world, rich people frequently get away with criminal activities; including murder; and there's almost nothing that the common person can do. I know people who worked within the law system of Hong Kong and they hated going to work because they saw rich people orchestrate trial results even before going into court. It happens in Hong Kong. It happens all over the world.

I think it's probably worse in countries where most court cases are prosecuted behind closed doors so that the public only has access to the evidence and findings that the courts deem suitable for public consumption. It's even worse when those same courts don't allow the suspects to hire their own independent attorneys. From the beginning, the suspects have no chance of disproving the accusations against them. The courts have already decided the result without hearing all evidence from both sides. They have no interest in hearing the truth. They have no interest in justice. They only want a speedy trial and the occasional larger-than-life demonstration conviction that they can show to the citizens of their country to prove that they're doing a good job.

The justice system is like making wine or meringue. If even a little vinegar gets into the wine, or if even a smingen of egg yolk gets into the egg white, then the wine and the meringue will go bad.

One of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Crime (ICAC) department's responsibilities were to make sure that any corruption within Hong Kong's justice system be uprooted, so that the system always remained pure like fine wine. Before the 1997 handover, the ICAC did a pretty good job although there is at least one case that I can remember where the bad guys were not prosecuted by the ICAC because of their connections to important people in China. After 1997 though, the ICAC apparently lost the "Independent" part of their name. If you read the news regularly, it's easy to sense how things have changed there and how the ICAC is becoming more and more a puppet of the Hong Kong government. Recent controversial changes to the communication/phone-tapping laws; passed by Sir Donald Tsang without even asking the Legislative Committee; are only the most recent clues that the ICAC is no longer what it once was when first conceived back in the 1960's.

In case it hasn't occurred to you, the changes made to the phone-tapping laws combined with legal phrases such as "disturbing the social order" basically allows the government to spy on anyone they don't like; ie, "big brother" from the book "1984" by George Orwell.

Some people claim that justice is for all when the truth is that justice is only for the rich. For a while, some poorer people in Hong Kong had a good chance of getting justice when private companies were springing up to help people prosecute and sue others without requiring any legal fees up front. Once the suit had settled, the company would keep a percentage of the awards and everyone would be happy. Rich people didn't like this though and many of the expensive attorneys didn't like it either so the attorney association put out a letter forbidding all attorneys from aiding these companies. Basically, they wanted to make sure that only the rich had access to justice. Fortunately, some of those companies are still running, allowing some of the poorer people in Hong Kong to continue getting access to justice. Note that "poorer" doesn't necessarily mean sleeping in the streets or living on the poverty line. Attorneys and lawyers are extremely expensive, so much so that most middle class people cannot even consider hiring attorneys when they've been wronged.

The rich will always want their own way, and those in positions of power will often be owned or persuaded by the rich. As mere mortals, there's not much most of us can do. Thankfully though, there are still a few upright moral people within the justice system. Hopefully, they'll prevent the system from becoming completely biased to the rich and powerful, and prevent the wine from going completely sour.

A Day at Disney HK

Filed in Current Affairs

I had already decided not to visit Hong Kong Disneyland for quite some time to come, pretty sure that there would be a rush to get in when it first opened and that there might be all kinds of problems as the park adjusted. But when my friends offered us Rehearsal Day tickets, my wife and I bit the bullet and agreed to go.

I've been to the Florida Disneyland park in the USA twice. My wife has been to both the Florida and Japan parks, so this visit was going to be a comparison trip even if we didn't plan it that way. We were sure that the Hong Kong park wouldn't be as big or as grand as the other parks but we were curious none-the-less.

We went to the park on Tuesday. The weather was incredible. Luckily, I had my aussie wide-brim hat with me for protection because the sun proved to be quite harsh that day. Many a visitor spent hours sweating while waiting in line to ride the attractions or see the shows, and the sweat level seemed to be much higher than I experienced in Florida.

Disney in the hills

It might have been a visual affect of being nestled in the mountains but the Disney signature castle looked pretty small.

One of the things that struck me as we entered the park was the size of the buildings. Everything seemed to be small. At first, I thought it was the mountains in the background that made the buildings look small but friends who have also been to the USA parks confirmed that the buildings in the Hong Kong park are indeed smaller than the buildings in the USA. That's strange. I wonder why they'd do this? For most of the buildings, it didn't matter that they were smaller but the signature castle was a big let down for many people. It was simply too small.

Umbrellas were up everywhere as people tried to stay out of the direct sunlight. Unfortunately, as a relatively tall person in a city of less-than-six-feet-tall people, I detest umbrellas because I usually end up getting poked in the neck or the face by somebody's umbrella and Tuesday was no exception. It wasn't too bad but I still had to be careful whenever surrounded by umbrella wielding people. Umbrellas were also a problem when we were trying to see the Disney Main Street Parade. We could hardly see anything at all because people in the front rows had their umbrellas up, almost completely blocking our view.

The Main Street Disney Parade

With all the umbrellas up in front of us, it was almost impossible to see the parade. While watching the parade, I was admiring the performers who had to maintain their wonderful cartoon-like smiles and expressions throughout the parade twice a day under the heat of Hong Kong's sun.

We didn't go on many rides. In fact, we only went on one ride if you could call it that. We went on the river raft ride which is around 50 feet long! The reason we took the ride was to get to the other side of the river to walk around Tarzan's tree house which was actually quite good. For most of the day, my energy levels were too low to be bothered waiting 50 minutes in line for the Space Mountain ride or the other rides.

Apparently, the rides are not nearly as advanced as the ones in the USA parks. Rides with simulated momentum such as the "Back to the Future" ride don't exist, and neither do rides such as the Jurassic Park, Tornado and Fire-fighting rides. I guess they were simply too expensive to be rebuilt here in Hong Kong.

There were two live performances. We saw both and I was very impressed by the performers; most of them not from Hong Kong. The dancers and the singers were outstanding. You could see the professionalism by the energy they consistently put into their performances, and the small movements in their dance routines, small movements that are the signature of mature advanced dancers. And the singers were great too. My only complaint was with the Lion King show where in typical Hong Kong fashion, the music was so much louder than the singers that we couldn't hear what they were singing.

On the day that we went to the park, there were too many visitors. Even when not queuing up for a ride or a show, we were still forced to walk at baby speed because there were people all around us. This, combined with the heat of the sun, really tired me out.

Food was a problem. There are around seven or eight restaurants in the park and from around 12 to 2pm, it was impossible to get a table. After queuing up at one restaurant for twenty minutes, I was told that we'd have to wait another one and a half hours before getting in. I gave up. It was almost time for the Golden Mickeys Award show anyway so we bought some fruit juice and made our way over to the show, hoping to find food after the show.

With Disneyland being an American company, I expected to find some fair dinkum American food in the park. I was wrong! With the exception of a few lame hamburgers in the Star-liners fast-food restaurant, there was no real western food to be found. No hot dogs. No quality ice cream or ice cream sundaes (I really missed the Ghirardelli chocolate/ice cream store from the Florida park). However, if Tuesday's attendance was any indication, the park management probably made the right choice. There were almost no caucasians in the park so serving western food might not have made sense. Still, I would have really enjoyed a quality ice cream sundae on that hot day.

The view from Tarzan's tree house

Looking down on Adventureland and the River Boat ride from Tarzan's tree house.

I found the problem of language to be interesting. Cantonese is my second language so I have no problem with it and I enjoy running into people around the world who speak it. Still, the park must be expecting a lot of traffic from Guangdong because all performances were in a mixture of English and Cantonese. If you spoke Mandarin, you were out of luck. Almost all of the Golden Mickeys Award show was in Cantonese except for the songs which were almost entirely in English. It'll be interesting to see how this aspect of the park is accepted by future attendants, particularly those from China who don't speak Cantonese. And if case you're wondering, there were no subtitles anywhere that I could see.

My wife and I didn't stay around for the fireworks scheduled for 9pm. I was too tired to wait. Our friends stayed, one of whom later commented that the most interesting aspect of the fireworks was the sea of starry DV camera LCD screens while everyone recorded the fireworks. Which brings me to cameras. They were everywhere. Digital photography has really changed the world of photography. People aren't afraid to take photos because it won't cost them anything. They were taking photos everywhere. People were even taking photos while trying on hats and clothing in the Disney stores; which makes a lot of sense because you get to wear them without paying for them, and you'd probably only wear them once or twice anyway.

Overall though, I think the park has a big chance of being very successful. Everything looked great and I think people will enjoy it; especially the kids!

The one concern I have about the park's future is the future visitors from China. Will they mindlessly drop rubbish everywhere instead of using the rubbish bins? Will they push through the queues for the shows and rides? Will there be scuffles and fights? Will they try to steal as many souvenirs as possible from the Disney stores? Will they be crouching on the sidewalks in that typical Asian style? Will there be escalated pick pocketing? Hopefully, my premonitions are wrong and the Chinese visitors will be very respectful of other visitors and the park itself.

The big question. Will I go again? Probably. One day.