Monday, December 25, 2006

A Merry bbc Christmas to all!

I will be on holiday for a short while over Christmas so unfortunately I won't be able to post much for the next few days. To all and anyone reading this blog, have a really great Christmas and New Year.

Please let me know your thoughts on this blog, any suggestions you may have, topics you would like covered and do please keep the comments coming! It's always nice to know someone out there is reading!

See you in 2007!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Old Hong Kong ID cards to become invalid

A quick reminder for anyone who still hasn't changed their old HK ID cards to the new Smart ID cards with the chip inside: Please hurry up and do so before your card becomes invalid!

Old ID cards for people born between 1943 and 1969 are already invalid. The next batch to become invalid hasn't yet been announced but it will almost certainly affect 'bbcs' born in the 70s.

UPDATE: From 17th September 2007, old style (non-Smart) ID cards for those born between 1970 and 1979 will become invalid.

Official government info is here

HK government FAQ on the Right of Abode issue is here.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who still needs to change their card!

Related: New website explains Right of Abode in Hong Kong

Thursday, December 14, 2006

World's first real-life superhero sighted in China

The Guardian blog reports that a man with unusual physical attributes came to the rescue in a life-threatening situation in China.

You realise that this is as close as we will ever get to seeing a superhero in action in real life!

'VeryTallChineseMan' we salute you!


Here is a picture of the man in his 'civilian' identity, Bao Xishun

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Old Master Q comics aka 'Lo Fu Ji'

I don't know what made me remember this all of a sudden...

Back in the day, before the Chinese Channel, before rented TVB videos, the only form of Chinese culture my family could get access to was in the form of Hong Kong magazines and newspapers. There were all indecipherable to me as I couldn't (and still can't) read Chinese but what I could read were the copies of Lo Fu Ji that would very occasionally appear in our house.

If you haven't seen these before, Lo Fu Ji (the official pinyin is Lao Fu Zhi but I prefer spelling it the way it sounds to me) is a comic strip featuring the main character of Old Master Q, the lanky Chinese equivalent of Mr. Bean and a cast of supporting characters: Mr. Chin, a tall man in a check shirt and Big Yam, a short, squat man with an enormous head who resembles a shrunk down version of Old Master Q himself.

The comic strips range from simple gags told over a few wordless panels, to full stories told over several pages (I always skipped over these). There is no main storyline. Each strip is pretty much a self contained joke or story. Sometimes the jokes rely purely on the comic appearance of the three main characters but often they are satirical too and refer to certain Hong Kong attitudes (e.g the constant mockery of Chinese people who try to look 'western' - typically portrayed as pouting, flared suit-wearing poncey idiots).

I've tried to think of a simple phrase that sums up 'Lo Fu Ji'. The best I can come up with is 'life makes fools of us all.'

The appeal of these comics when I was a child wasn't just the fact that there were often no tricky Chinese words to stump this illiterate 'bbc' - I actually found them funny too. There is a particular sense of humour in these comics. It's a mixture of cruel irony, surrealism and slapstick with the occasional note of seriousness thrown in too. Lo Fu Ji humour is similar in some ways to that of the films of Stephen Chow.

Quite often you find yourself laughing at a comic strip and then wondering, 'Why is that funny?' Lo Fu Ji taught me that there was a difference between Chinese and British humour.

If you'd like to find out more, here are a few links:

An Old Master Q fansite

Official (English) Old Master Q Website

Old Master Q blog

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mice, not dragons for the Beijing Olympics?

The 2008 Olympics are shaping up to be the most tightly controlled in terms of public relations there has ever been.

After reports that the authorities will be microchip tagging every last bag of vegetables being used in atheletes' meals as well as testing the food on mice before it's served, there are now suggestions that the traditional Chinese symbol of the dragon will be downplayed because it is 'too aggressive'.

The Telegraph reports:
China is considering slaying the dragon as its national emblem, because it fears the mythical beast suggests an aggressive nation.

The Ministry of Culture declined to comment on plans to tame, or drop, the dragon. But despite an attempt by state media to play down the idea, the call to replace the national emblem has sparked fiery public debate.

In a culture where every word and relationship is scrutinised for hidden meaning, the possibility of slaying the dragon is being seen as part of Beijing's attempt to airbrush China's image and appease Western sensitivities ahead of the the 2008 Olympic Games.

Full story is here.

Bizarrely, one of the less aggressive options being suggested is a hybrid of a dragon and a pheonix. Hmm, cuddly!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hong Kong tackles racism

Despite being possibly the world's international city par excellence, Hong Kong is not free of racism and whilst there are many different groups crammed onto that tiny island, society is to some extent organised along racial lines.

There's been a campaign recently calling for better rights for the 200,000-plus immigrant workers in Hong Kong, and it has just resulted in the first anti-racial discrimination law being passed, as the Guardian reports here.

It'll be interesting to see how a city like Hong Kong implements this kind of law. In fact, I wonder if this makes Hong Kong something of a pioneer in that part of the world, as I don't think many other Asian countries have specific laws against racial discrimination yet?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Presenting your next internet phenomenon: The Wine Cone

This quite bizarre, often funny and strangely endearing Youtuber goes by the name of The Wine Cone and is already building up a fanbase around the world.

Going well beyond silly karaoke singing or dull video diaries, the Wine Cone's videos are a lot wittier and more inventive than most of what you see on Youtube.

Here's one of the Wine Cone's videos to get you started:

And here the Wine Cone interviews Jason Statham (or JaSta, as he calls re-names him).

Wine Cone, I salute you. Global media domination must surely await.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Banquets and Bouquets - Weddings Hong Kong style

One for the romantics out there...

I though this site was a really nice insight into Hong Kong life, from a slightly different point of view - that of a wedding photographer.

Lots of great photos and and a nice blog to read too.

'Simon The Photo' Blog

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Battle of Hong Kong

November 12th 2006 was Remembrance Sunday - the day Britain remembers its war dead and pays tribute to those who lost their lives in past conflicts. Having been brought up the U.K., I was taught a lot about WWII at school and of course U.K. popular culture has covered those events extensively in films and television programmes.

As 'bbcs', I think it's fair to say that we know quite a lot about the war from Britain's perspective but almost nothing about the war from an Asian perspective. This is something I wanted to address.

For example, it recently dawned on me that I knew nothing about WWII history in relation Hong Kong. I kind of promised myself to look into it and find out more about that period in history and I was pretty shocked at what I discovered after just a few minutes of searching.

Surprising fact no. 1: Japanese forces launched their attack on Hong Kong less than 8 hours after they bombed Pearl Harbor. It's a little shocking to me that the Pearl Harbor attack is an ingrained part of my general knowledge - everyone knows about Pearl Harbor, right? - and yet I had no idea about the Hong Kong attack until a few days ago.

British, Canadian and Indian forces did their best to repel the Japanese attack, but their air force was decimated, most of the defences were geared towards a naval attack and they were outnumbered two to one on the ground.

The Battle of Hong Kong lasted 18 grueling days before the British governor surrendered at a meeting in the Peninsular Hotel on December 25th, 1941. Yep, Christmas Day. Yep, that Peninsular Hotel. Where Felix is.

An account of the military action can be found here.

Surprising fact no. 2: Hong Kong was under Japanese rule for 3 and a half years. Again to my shame I hadn't really been aware of this part of Hong Kong's history. Japanese General Rensuke Isogai became the first Japanese governor of Hong Kong after the British surrender and remained so until the Japanese themselves surrendered on August 15th 1945, after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

During the occupation, Hong Kong continued to be a bilingual island but the languages were Chinese and Japanese, not English. Shop signs and street names were changed accordingly. Lane Crawford had its named changed to Matsuzakaya. The Peninsula Hotel became the Matsumoto.

Over 2000 people living in Hong Kong who were of Allied nationality were placed in an internment camp in Stanley.

The Hong Kong Dollar was outlawed and being caught with HKD would result in torture. Locals were forced to exchange their HKD for Japanese war currency. But this currency became further and further devalued as the war progressed and was ultimately declared worthless. This meant Hong Kong citizens who no longer had their original HKD were made completely destitute.

Surprising fact no 3: Hong Kong's citizens endured war crimes and tyranny during the Japanese occupation. I had always associated Japanese war crimes with mainland China (the much debated Nanjing Massacre, for example) and had no clue that similar incidents took place in Hong Kong.

It is reported that the day of the British surrender, Japanese troops tortured and killed injured soldiers and medical staff at St. Stephen's College, a field hospital (

Entire villages were destroyed by the Japanese; Cheung Sheung is one where only a trace remains. Thousands were repatriated to China. Death by starvation caused by a mis-managed economy were common, and dissent and rebellion were punished by torture and death.

Reliable figures are hard to come by but there are reports that up to 10,000 rapes may have been committed by Japanese troops in the early stages of the invasion and the total population of Hong Kong is known to have dropped from 1.6 million to around 600,000 by the end of the occupation.

Surprising fact no. 4: Hong Kong had it's own WWII resistance fighters. Some did fight back. The Gangjiu Da Dui Guerillas gained a foothold on Lantau Island and were able to intercept Japanese intelligence as well playing a central role in the rescuing dozens of Allied nationals, including 20 Brits.

The Dongjiang Guerillas came from Guangdong and were mostly peasants, students, and seamen. After the British retreat, the guerilla force numbered 6000 and established bases in the New Territories and Kowloon. They protected traders in Kowloon and Guangzhou, killed those they believed to be collaborators, and attacked Japanese bases at Tai Po and Kai Tak Airport. They also rescued Allied prisoners-of-war (Sir Douglas Clague, Professor Gordan King, David Bosanquet) as well as twenty American pilots who parachuted into Kowloon when their planes were shot down by the Japanese.

Little seems to have been recorded about the Hong Kong WWII resistance movement and details are sketchy.

Here are a few links for further reading:

Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association

A recent protest in Hong Kong called for Japan to acknowledge and apologise for its actions in Hong Kong during WWII.

Japanese tourists came to Hong Kong to learn more about the events surrounding the occupation.

Wikipedia summary: 'The Battle of Hong Kong'

The Chinese Alliance for Commemoration of the Sino-Japanese War Victims 'The Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong'

A military view of the ill-fated battle

Well that's my attempt to provide a very condensed 'primer' about Hong Kong during WWII. I hope it's been useful. I have to admit that I was little ashamed at how little I knew about this episode in history and I'm glad I started researching it. After all, this all happened just 65 years ago.