Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Photo: jomankwong

Have a great Christmas and see you soon for more bbc blogging! (Click on the photographers' names for some festive HK photo albums.)

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 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Recipes for Dong Zhi ('doong jit', Winter Solstice)

Photo: Su-Yin

One thing about being a bbc is that you get twice the number of festivals and special days to celebrate (which can be a good or bad thing depending on how much you like the various feasts and events).

Just three days before Christmas, on December 22nd is the Winter Solstice ('doong jit'). It's the shortest day of the year and traditionally a time for families to gather and share a special meal which usually includes 'auspicious' dishes such as chicken and rice flour 'tong yuen'.

The date signals the start of longer daylight hours and symbolises the end of the year's 'yin' or dark phase and the transition into the 'yang' or light phase and so is regarded as an optimistic date worthy of celebration.

If you're in need of some inspiration, here's a couple of Dong Zhi recipe pages:

Homemade Tong Yuen by Su-Yin

Chinese 'Drunken Chicken' Recipe

And here's some more info about the significance of Dong Zhi:

China Winter Solstice festival
Dong Zhi (Discover Hong Kong)

Monday, December 17, 2007

HK Wedding Pics... like no others!

We've all seen the typical Hong Kong style wedding studio photos; All soft focus, carefully posed and, well, wedding-like. So it's nice to see a couple throwing convention out the window and doing something unusual (and quite funny) :)

No idea about the background story to these photos but you can see the full set on

Related: Banquets and Bouquets - Weddings Hong Kong style

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Swim Donald Swim!

Whilst most of the city of Hong Kong is impressively clean and well maintained (especially when compared to London), the same cannot be said for its surrounding waters. In recent years there has been growing concern about the levels of pollution in the waters around Hong Kong with salmonella and tuberculosis amongst the bugs thought to be present, not to mention sewage and industrial toxic waste.

Earlier this year the makers of the new Batman film decided not to film a stunt that would have involved stuntmen and actors swimming in Hong Kong harbour. The press claimed that this was due to the filthiness of the water but that idea was later debunked by the film's director. The fact remains, though, that most people see the water around Hong Kong as unclean.

The situation has prompted a campaign in Hong Kong named 'Swim! Donald Swim!' The challenge laid down by the campaign is for Donald Tsang to demonstrate that he has delivered on his promise to clean up Hong Kong by swimming from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui.

Check out the official campaign homepage here: Swim! Donald Swim!

I like the cheekiness and the humour of the campaign - it's very Hong Kong. As to whether we will ever see Tsang put on his swimsuit (perhaps with a specially customized, waterproof bow tie?) and do what the campaign demands, only time will tell.

Related: Batman director says Hong Kong harbor pollution did not force scene cut

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ma Ling contaminated food scare

You may have already heard about this but there is currently a major food scare concerning Ma Ling (pronounced 'mui lum' in Cantonese) canned meat products.

Ma Ling exports have been suspended by the Chinese authorities and Ma Ling canned meats have been taken off the shelves in Hong Kong.

The action comes after higher than permitted amounts of 'antibiotic nitrofurans' - which are thought to be carcinogenic - were found in some cans of food. It is the latest in a series of safety issues concerning products from mainland China.

The reports say that the levels are still so low that you would have to eat massive amounts of contaminated food to be at risk but if you or your family has a few Ma Ling cans stashed away in a kitchen cupboard, you may still want to dispose of them as a precaution.

Related: AP story.

Related: People's Daily story.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

China's Moon Photo Hoax Allegations

Photo: CNSA

China's space programme has just, well, got off the ground and already it is generating its own conspiracy theories! Knowing the Communist Party's love of 'information management' it's not surprising that people are a bit suspicious.

I have to admit I found it strange how China's first manned mission had very few supporting photographs. All I ever saw were photos of the astronaut, Lt. Col Yang Liwei, clambering out of his spacecraft in a field. So far I haven't been able to track down a single image of him actually in orbit, which is a little odd.

When China recently unveiled the first image taken by its Chang'e lunar probe, there were some who alleged that it was a fake or rather a plagiarized version of a NASA photograph taken many years earlier.

This was, the conspiracy theorists alleged, the ultimate act of piracy. Yes, those pesky Chinese pirates had been at it again!

However, the theory has been more or less killed off by a side-by-side comparison of the two images which show that the lighting is different and an extra crater in the newer, Chinese photo.

Full story: Daily Telegraph.

That should at least keep the conspiracy theorists quiet. Until China's next space mission, anyway.

Related: Wired

Monday, December 03, 2007


'Chinglish' used to be a phrase used (occasionally by bbcs) to describe the haphazard and sometimes clumsy mixing up of Chinese and English in conversation.

Recently the phrase has been used more to refer to funny signs and notices that include comically bad translations of Chinese into English and, just in time for Christmas, it's even become a book title.

I had a flick through the book while I was Christmas shopping and some of the examples are quite funny but they do become tiresome after a while. The whole book would probably only give someone about 20mins of amusement.

Seeing as there is probably an inexhaustible supply of these funny signs, the 'Chinglish' phenomenon looks set to run for a while before everyone gets bored of it. Here's my tip of the day: You can save yourself the cost of the book simply by looking up Chinglish on Google Images. ;)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Images of Mongolia by Stephane Passet, 1913

I literally just saw this on a BBC documentary and I thought it was worth a blog post.

Stephane Passet went on an odyssey through Asia in the 1910s, taking some amazing colour photographs on the way.

The image shown is of a female Mongolian prisoner. Passet recorded that she had been imprisoned for adultery but historians have cast doubt on this, as Mongolian culture of the time was thought to be tolerant of adultery.

The purpose of imprisoning people in a box in this way was to allow the nomadic people to transport prisoners from place to place. It was 'portable imprisonment'.

People who took pity on prisoners were allowed to leave them food and water and small bowls can be seen in the photograph, just beyond the reach of the incarcerated woman.

Monday, November 26, 2007

CJ7: Stephen Chow's new film

A teaser trailer for Stephen Chow's next movie CJ7 has just been released.

Looks pretty funny. Mixing Chow's trademark Cantonese humour with sci-fi should produce a film as enjoyable as 'Shaolin Soccer'. Let's hope they pack the film with as many jokes as special effects, though ('Kung Fu Hustle', anyone?)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The false story about the Chinese 'Coca Cola' tattoo

Here in the UK, a story was reported in The Sun newspaper about a Watford man, Vince Mattingley, who asked staff in a Chinese restaurant to translate his name into Chinese and got the words tattooed on his chest.

It was not until 26 years later that he learned, whilst on a trip to Thailand, that the characters etched on his skin were not his name but in fact spelled 'Coca Cola'.

Source: The Sun

The report quoted his obvious annoyance about this and the fact that he intends to cover up the tattoo with a new one - in Japanese this time.

Now, Mr. Mattingley comes out of the story looking a bit of a fool but the story also paints a negative picture of the Chinese restaurant staff who advised him. Clearly, they must have been quite malicious and inconsiderate to deceive Mr. Mattingley in this way.

The only problem is... the tattoo does NOT say Coca Cola in Chinese.

This is one of those quirky, funny, viral stories that gets emailed and forwarded around and sure enough, it soon went all around the world but the story is false.

What the tattoo spells is a close but not perfect phonetic translation of the man's name - Vincent. The characters are actually the same as those used by the Chinese drug and cosmetics chain 'Watsons' which has branches throughout Hong Kong.

This is a close up of Vince Mattingley's tattoo:

This is a charity appeal ad by the Watsons chain in which you can see the same two characters:

This is an ad for Coca Cola in Shanghai where you can clearly see that the logo is totally different:

There is no direct Chinese translation for 'Vincent' so the Chinese restaurant staff must have come up with the best character combination they could that both sounded like his name and made sense as a phrase (that wasn't obscene or odd-sounding etc.).

So far from being a cruel trick played by sneaky Chinese people, the tattoo on Mr. Mattingley's chest is probably the best match possible to his name in Chinese.

It's not clear why someone in Thailand told Mr. Mattingley that his tattoo said 'Coca Cola'. It might have been a simple wind-up, or they may have been referring to the Watson's brand of water and cold drinks. In any case, that's not what the tattoo says.

A urban myth involving Chinese people that turns out to be false? Who would have thought it?

Related: Stupid rumours about Chinese restaurants. Will they never end?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

High Resolution Hong Kong

Photo: pav21.

Found these images posted on the excellent

'HDR' is a new fangled digital photographic technique that crams as much tonal information as possible into a single image, so that you get tremendous detail throughout the photo (or something like that anyway).

This photographer has used the technique to take some highly atmospheric images of good ol' HK. See what you think: Gallery.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hong Kong's first 'maid café'

I've heard of 'maid cafes' in Japan but I honestly never thought the idea would catch on in HK which has (I thought) such a different sensibility about these things.

The waitresses seem more than happy about the slightly odd concept, and the place looks busy, too. A potential new trend for HK?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'Banana in a Nutshell' - Can Chinese parents still love you if they do things that upset you?

I've been meaning to post about this for a while. Banana in a Nutshell is a short film that I saw on a plane (in fact, I think it was a flight to HK) and I thought it was a really interesting short film that quite a few bbcs can relate to.

It's a documentary about a young New Zealand Chinese (NZBC?) girl called Roseanne and her relationship with a white boy. The film shows the anxious build up to the boyfriend meeting Roseanne's father, and Roseanne's stress concerning her parents' reaction. The film's official website is here:

The boyfriend situation is the main event depicted in the film but it actually covers Roseanne's entire relationship with her parents and siblings and the East vs. West conflicts that come with being 2nd generation Chinese.

The film is very heartfelt, especially one scene in which Roseanne tearfully tries to understand why her parents never show her any outward signs of affection. Does this mean they don't love her, she wonders? Yet why would they have worked so hard to provide for her, if not out of love? This is something I think many young bbcs will have thought about at some point in their lives.

If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend 'Banana in a Nutshell'.

As for my own thoughts on this, I think there will always be a big difference between how we, as a westernised generation, expect parents to behave and how our parents have been brought up to behave. We have different ideas about what is 'right.'

It is a lot to ask of the older generation to totally chance their demeanor and personalities just to fit what we, as 2nd generation, have come to regard as 'good parenting' - a view that has been shaped by a totally different upbringing.

Differences exist between the generations, but I think the key is to acknowledge that and learn to accept it, rather than isolating one side or demanding that one side changes to match the other.

UPDATE: 'My Wedding and Other Secrets' - a NZBC movie

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Brit tourist video causing anger in Singapore

The video below shows three British males having a laugh and a joke at the slow pace of the rickshaw that they're riding whilst on a trip to Singapore. They then refuse to pay the fare (10 Singapore dollars - about 3 pounds), despite the driver's pleas, and he is clearly someone in need of the money.

People in Singapore have been outraged at what they see as the gross mistreatment of an elderly man: The driver of the rickshaw, Lee Shee Lam, is 67 and he was attempting to carry 3 adult men in his rickshaw (which would explain the slow pace of the ride).

The video is certainly uncomfortable viewing. Is it abuse of an old man or 3 tourists who feel they're being ripped off? Judge for yourself:

An indication of the anger the video has generated can be read here:

The original Youtube user BODavis has apparently shut down his account.

News story: Daily Mail.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Special: Top 5 Scary Chinese People!

Today is the day that spooks, ghosts and ghouls come out to play so I thought I'd put together a suitably spooky list for the bbc blog.

A word of advice, if you meet any fair Chinese maidens playing a Chinese harp on your way home tonight... be careful!

#5 The ghosts and ghouls of 'Chinese Ghost Story'

A silly yet highly watchable HK film from 1987. 'Chinese Ghost Story' has production values that would put many modern HK movies to shame. It comes from an era when productions seemed to be a lot more lavish and more effort seemed to go into staging spectacular movies.

#4 Mr. Vampire

Another 80s classic, this is thought to be the movie that launched the whole 'hopping vampire' trend in films and TV. The original Chinese vampire myth is much older, though, and is believed to have originated from times when deceased people were transported back to their home village by attaching them to bamboo poles. When the pole flexed, it gave the impression that the cadavers were bouncing up and down.

#3 Fleur (Anita Mui) in 'Rouge'

Playing the ghost of a woman from the year 1900 who roams the streets of modern Hong Kong looking for her long lost lover, Anita Mui sent shivers down the spines of moviegoers. An iconic, unforgettable performance.

#2 Bus Uncle

He's pretty tame compared to the weirdos we have on the London Underground, but Mr. Bus Uncle is nevertheless plenty scary, in that losing-it-under-pressure kind of way.

Related: Bus Uncle - The Aftermath

#1 Inspector Lau (Andy Lau Tak Wah) in 'Infernal Affairs'

Yes indeed. Andy Lau's corrupt cop is as menacing as they come. Not only evil but cunning too, and one of the best movie baddies ever. I'd rather tackle a hopping Vampire any day.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Man with extreme 'yellow fever' arrested. Just one of many, claims Asian women's group

AsianWeek reports on a disturbing case of 'yellow fever' aka 'Asian fetish' at the prestigious Princeton University that became so extreme it was psychotic.

Michael Lohman (a top computational maths student) was arrested for secretly cutting and hoarding hair from young Asian women, as well as other sex-related acts all involving female Asian students. Warning: The article contains details some may find repugnant or offensive.

Source: AsianWeek.

And you know what's even worse?: Lohman has been married for four years and his wife is - you guessed it - Asian.

So either he was very clever at hiding his perversion (well, until he got arrested, anyway) or his wife was a little on the naive side. *sigh*

Whilst the case is certainly unusual, AsianWeek quotes a number of Asian females who give the impression that sexual harassment of Asian students is not rare at all:

Yin Ling Leung, organizational director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), said this was more than an isolated incident by a psychologically unstable man. “It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last,” Leung said. “Sexual assault of Asian women on college campuses is a major issue. You get a room of five Asian American women together, and they all have stories about sexual harassment.”

“It’s happened on an epidemic proportion,” [Author Helen Zia, who graduated in Princeton’s first class of women] added. “It’s this image of Asian American women being exotic and passive and won’t fight back and speak up. Predators think they have free rein with Asian American women.”

Part of the problem is a widespread belief that men who have a fetish for Asian women are harmless.

“Asian fetish is seen as a tongue-in-cheek thing, like ‘We just happen to like Asian women,’” Leung said. “It’s not as innocent as it looks.”

Well, it certainly wasn't in the case of Michael Lohman.

Related: Originally spotted on

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chinese named in botched counterfeit money scam

A number of Chinese individuals have been named in a court case concerning a failed attempt to con the Bank of England out of billions of pounds.

It is not clear what role - if any - the Chinese individuals played or how they got involved, but reports seem to say that the main fraudster Ross Cowie (who reportedly describes himself as an Australian lawyer) was trying to convince the Bank of England that he represented a Chinese clan who had in their possession a number of 500000 pound and 1000 pound notes and that he wanted to exchange them for smaller denomination notes.

Sound plausible? There was a slight flaw in the plan: The Bank of England knew that it had never issued any 500000 pound notes and also 1000 pound notes ceased to be legal tender 60 years ago.

The case is still ongoing and of course all the individuals concerned are innocent until proven guilty. Whatever the result of the case, it sounds like there is an interesting story to be told!

Source: ThisisMoney

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finishing The Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee

With a main character whose name is 'Breeze Loo', you can probably guess this is a comedy!

The director Justin Lin also made 'Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' and 'Better Luck Tomorrow'.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

London Chinatown to 'go on strike' over immigration arrests

Some businesses in Chinatown are expected to close for a 3 hour period today in protest at the arrests made by the Borders and Immigration Agency on October 11th.

Over 40 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested and taken from their places of work by the BIA.

Source: 'Diners stunned by Chinatown raids' (BBC)

The London Chinatown Chinese Association condemned what they called the heavy-handed methods used during the raids which took place during a busy lunchtime and involved some officers wearing bullet-proof vests.

For their part, the BIA has said that they are not targeting Chinese businesses in particular, and that they carry out around 60 raids every week, on different businesses all over London.

Source: 'Chinatown protest at police raid' (BBC).

Clearly Chinatown businesses are in a difficult position: It is true that an illegal immigrant is breaking the law and the authorities cannot really turn a blind eye to this.

Furthermore, illegal immigration from China is known to be closely linked to organized crime gangs and anything that can be done to break up this trade is a good thing, since it so often involves the exploitation and intimidation of workers.

However it is also true that Chinatown's busy restaurants need staff and if they want those staff to be Chinese, there simply aren't enough Chinese workers around who are both legally entitled to work and who want those particular jobs.

I think it's fair to say Chinese immigrants come here by and large with the sole intention of working and working hard, and not to take advantage of the UK's state benefits.

So whilst it is certainly a good thing that the authorities crack down on gang-related people smuggling, is there not some compromise that can be reached that would enable businesses to employ immigrant staff and still stay within the law?

The US has been examining the possibility of introducing a special 'guest worker program' to deal with situations just like this:

"Under the plan, foreign workers -- including the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States -- could apply to work for three years. Each would be matched with an employer, provided with a biometric identification card to help track his or her whereabouts, and released in the country.

"You see, we got people sneaking into our country to work. They want to provide for their families. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River," [President George W.] Bush said.

"People are coming to put food on the table. But because there is no legal way for them to do so, through a temporary worker program, they're putting pressure on our border."

Source: Washington Post.

Related: Borders and Immigration Agency
Related: London Chinese community figure named in DVD and people-smuggling investigation

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hong Kong's terrible shortage of shopping malls alleviated by 'Elements' in TST

As all bbcs know, there are hardly any shopping malls in Hong Kong. In fact, you can wander all over the island for days and struggle to find any good shopping spots and.. oh, who am I kidding? :)

Tsim Sha Tsui now has a brand spanking new shopping complex known as Elements Mall.

Unlike the monochrome interiors of most HK malls, Elements has been designed as 5 distinctive zones, each supposedly reflecting one of nature's elements (metal, earth, fire, wood, water).

It still has that gleaming, HK mall look but at least they tried something a little different. Probably worth a visit the next time you go back. Oh yes, and it has the now-obligatory ice rink inside (see Festival Walk also).

Related: Official website, Wikipedia, more photos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Donald Tsang apologizes after citing Cultural Revolution as an example of democracy

Chief Executive and bastion of Hong Kong's bow tie manufacturing industry Donald Tsang found himself in hot water this week after an RTHK radio interview (above) in which he cited China's Cultural Revolution as an extreme example of the consequences of 'people taking power into their own hands'.

The Cultural Revolution wrecked China's economy and education system, resulted in millions of citizens being victimised and persecuted and is thought to have resulted in half a million deaths. Wikipedia.

Tsang's comment was widely condemned.

"It’s outrageous. The Cultural Revolution was in fact mob rule and it showed a total failure of democracy," said Albert Ho, chairman of the Democratic party in Hong Kong.

"The damage to Tsang’s credibility is already done and people will doubt his commitment to democracy. His remark, made off-the-cuff, shows his genuine feelings towards democracy."

After a barrage of criticism, Tsang issued an apology but it remains to be seen how the incident will affect his not exactly solid standing as a politician and statesman.

"I am very sorry that I made an inappropriate remark concerning the Cultural Revolution… I wish to retract that remark," Tsang said in a short statement, adding that he shared the same aspirations as Hong Kong people in wanting to implement universal suffrage as soon as possible. "


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

'Scores on the Doors': Public can now see restaurants' hygiene scores

The level of hygiene at Chinese restaurants has long been a subject of urban myth and scare-mongering.

So it's good news that the UK Food Standards Agency has now introduced a simple, open-to-the-public, star rating system for hygiene standards at restaurants. Well, it's good news for restaurants that have good standards anyway.

The national site can be found at and, as thisislondon reports, several famous 'celebrity chef' restaurants have been given surprisingly low scores:
Among the well-known restaurants to be awarded only one star are Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle in Mayfair, Zilli Fish in Soho, Langan's Bistro in Devonshire Street, Bank in Kingsway, Orso in Covent Garden and Villandry in Great Portland Street.

Of particular interest to this blog are the ratings for London Chinatown restaurants.

You can find their scores by searching the London section of the site here. Simply enter 'Gerrard Street' or 'Lisle Street', or whichever street your chosen restaurant is on (the borough for Chinatown is City of Westminster).

It seems that the list of Chinatown restaurants, including some of my favourites, is dominated by low-to-average scores.

Restaurants that get a 3 star (the "just above average") rating include:

E Capital (I think this recently changed hands and has a new name now)
Lee Ho Fook
Harbour City
Joy King Lau

The official comment that accompanies a 3 star rating is: "Good level of legal compliance. Some more effort might be required."

Places that get no stars at all (the lowest possible rating), according to the Food Standards Agency, include a number of well-known names:

Four Seasons
London Chinatown
New China
Golden Dynasty
See Woo supermarket
Woo Sang
Yung Cheng (Lisle St.)
London Jade Garden
New Laughing Buddha

The comment that accompanies a no-star rating is: "A general failure to comply with legal requirements. Little or no appreciation of food safety. Major effort required"

Bear in mind that inspections can take place every few months so whilst this post is correct at the time of writing, the ratings could be very different six months or a year from now.

One good thing about the website is that it allows readers to see the restaurant's response to their score, although I don't think many establishments have made use of this feature yet.

One Chinatown establishment that scored 4 stars - in fact, the only one that I could find - is Elderly Luncheon Club, Second Floor 28 - 29 Gerrard Street. Unfortunately, I don't think this is open to the public because I think it's a community centre for senior citizens!

What do you think? Would you still go to a restaurant knowing it had a no-star rating? Would you choose to go to a restaurant you wouldn't otherwise go to, based on it having a higher star rating?

One thing that's fairly certain is that making the scores public like this should encourage all restaurants to make a greater effort to maintain hygiene standards - which is good for us customers!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Starlight Memories' - A little shop that is a haven for HK idol lovers

Throughout the 70s and 80s, HK celebrity memorabilia was big business and fans would queue up to buy the latest photos of their favourite TV, movie or Cantopop stars.

Not so today, when fans can satisfy their idol-worshipping needs online.

One remaining - perhaps the last? - store specializing in celebrity photos can be found in a shopping mall in North Point and it has been profiled by bc magazine.

How long it will remain is anyone's guess but it's an Alladin's cave for anyone looking for a bit of retro HK celebrity glamour.

Friday, October 05, 2007

No kiss for you, Japanese wife!

A new survey suggests Japanese husbands only kiss their wives 0.5 times a day. In other words, just once every other day!


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No more Filipino maids for you, Jacky Cheung!

In what sounds like a great set-up for a Hong Kong movie, pop star Jacky Cheung has been blacklisted by the Filipino authorities and prevented from hiring Filipino home help. The move is in response to the star's alleged turnover of 21 maids in 3 years.

Apparently, one of the reasons why so many maids leave the Cheung household is the large number of stairs in his house (a problem very few HK residents have to deal with). Jacky has had to draft in friends and relatives to help with his household chores.

Full article.

In the movie version of this story, lots of funny shenanigans would probably ensue, and he would probably fall in love with one of the new maids and then they both go on to win the International Maid Championships. Or something.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

London Chinese community figure named in DVD and people-smuggling investigation

A BBC South East reporter has infiltrated a group of Chinese immigrants and uncovered what is alleged to be a pirate DVD selling operation that is closely linked with people smuggling from China. Furthermore, a main player in the operation is said to be He Jia-Jin, who was previously the Vice-Chairman of the London Chinatown Chinese Association.

He Jia-Jin is said to be linked to properties that were used to house the smuggled immigrants (allegedly up to 18 in one house). He is currently standing trial in Hong Kong for money laundering offences and has been arrested in the past in relation to people smuggling offences.

In 2004, Mr. He's assets were frozen by the British authorities investigating his activities. This prevented £14,000 that he had raised from the Chinese community for the families of the deceased Morecambe Bay cockle pickers from being sent to China (Source: The Times)

People smuggling is a lucrative criminal activity that burdens the smuggled immigrants with huge debts that are often enforced with threats of violence against relatives back home.

It's something that's been mentioned on this blog before but I think this shows that (as with many parts of London) behind the surface appearance of Chinatown there are murky goings on that the average tourist or restaurant diner has no idea about.

Source: BBC News.

Related: BBC South East investigation.

Related: He Jia-Jin found guilty of money laundering in Hong Kong (BBC News).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

2 Youtube language lessons

A couple of slightly different approaches to teaching Chinese via the medium of Youtube...

I stumbled across this Youtuber today and thought the vids might be of interest to any fellow Chinese school drop-outs out there ;) ashunbuggie's lessons are at 'basic' level at the moment but maybe later on they will become more advanced:

And here's a slightly, um, different approach. You may not learn very much but it was funny anyway :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma: It does relate to us

Map: BBC News

In my earlier post, I said that I was writing about Burma (officially known as Myanmar) despite that fact that it was "not strictly to do with bbcs".

Well, that was actually a naive thing to say because, as you may have read in the media by now, Burma does have links to both the UK and China.

Burma's neighbour, China, plays a crucial role in this uprising. Its stance is the one that probably matters the most. However, China is also the main source of the Burmese military's arms. And the way China has dealt with Tibet, another Buddhist region calling for more freedoms and human rights, does not bode well.

It's not a nice thought but China may actually prefer to have an oppressed country run by a brutal, military dictatorship on its doorstep rather than a democratic state where Buddhist monks are seen as national leaders.

As for the UK's links, many high profile British companies have distanced themselves from the Burmese regime (so-called ethical shopping has really taken off in recent years) but UK-sourced investment remains high.

Natural gas, timber and tourism seem to be the main attractions for British business but vast amounts of murky business is also done via companies based in British offshore territories:
The UK is ranked the 2nd largest source of approved investment in Burma, estimated at a total of more than 1.2 billion dollars since 1988, largely because companies from all over the world have used UK overseas territories to channel investment to Burma. They are attracted to dependent territories by tax incentives and the lack of transparency. In addition, UNOCAL used the fact that it had invested in Burma via Bermuda to try to avoid being sued in US courts over human rights abuses.

“The British government could stop this kind of investment today, but refuses to do so,” said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The refusal to act is inexplicable, the government says it does not support trade and investment in Burma, but does nothing to stop it.”


The same campaign group published a list in 2003 of UK companies that have refused to say whether or not they source products from Burma.

Surprisingly the list contains a number of household names; bear in mind that this list is from 2003 and has not been updated, as far as I can tell:
Companies refusing to disclose if they source from Burma [in 2003]:

Bay Trading
By Design Plc
Ciro Citterio
First Sport
Jane Norman
Jeffrey Rogers
Jo Bloggs
Karen Millen
La Coste
LK Bennett
Miss Sixty
Pied a terre


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sweet Mandarin - the schools tour

The success of Helen Tse's bbc-themed novel Sweet Mandarin (currently sold in 33 countries) continues with an international schools tour. The ideas behind the tour such as teaching awareness of one's roots and "if I can do it so can you" certainly seem like positive messages to be taking to schools:

Well done, Helen!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Burma braced for mass protests led by Buddhist monks

This is not strictly to do with bbcs but the fast-moving events in Burma (officially known as Myanmar) could be an important development in one of Asia's longest running human rights issues.

Burma is ruled by a military regime that has been harshly criticized by activists for decades, and the leader of the democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, is one of the world's most well-known prisoners of conscience.

These latest protests seem to have been instigated not by politicians or activists but by the country's Buddhist monks, which will be significant in how the protests are resolved.

Are we about to see history being made in Burma?

The protests are getting a lot of coverage around the world. Here's one article from the Hong Kong Standard:

When 20,000 Buddhist monks, nuns and protesters marched through Rangoon's streets, a 50-year-old housewife broke into tears as she rushed to the sidewalk to cheer them on.

She said they were tears of joy because, like many in the country ruled with an iron fist by the military, she sees the monks as Burma's preeminent moral authority taking a stand on behalf of the people.

Fact of the day: Burma is the largest country by land area in mainland Southeast Asia.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nokia Mooncakes!

Check out these new Nokia mobile phones on sale in China.

They're a strictly limited edition and they only have one feature - they are mooncakes.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Black rain falls in Shenzhen

Part of Shenzhen had a graphic demonstration of the effects of man-made pollution last month. EastSouthWestNorth reports on the black rain showers that hit the region during August. The local government suspects ash and smog from local power stations is to blame.

If only all pollution resulted in such direct, immediate and visible consequences - then people might be more willing to do something about it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Am I the only bbc who has never eaten 'cha yip dan'?

I was browsing a Chinese cookery book when I saw a recipe for 'tea eggs': chicken and quail's eggs boiled in seasoned tea.

I'd actually never heard of these before and it was only after a bit of Googling that I discovered that 'cha yip dan', as they are called in Cantonese, are a common snack throughout Asia. In fact, Wikipedia says Taiwan's 7-Elevens sell millions of them.

How have I managed growing up as a bbc - including numerous trips to HK - and not eaten one, solitary tea egg? I thought I'd eaten everything! :)

So that's my latest mission: To get me some 'cha yip dan'. No idea when this will happen but I'll post some pics when it does. If you're interested in trying to make them yourself, this seems to be a good recipe.

HK ID cards - advice wanted

My post about old-style HK ID cards becoming invalid is still getting comments and one reader has asked for help regarding British National Overseas status if you don't have right of abode in Hong Kong.

If anyone thinks they can advise, please see the comments section in the post.



Monday, September 17, 2007

John Woo/Chow Yun Fat computer game: The inspiration

With ads for the new game 'Stranglehold' blitzing our tv screens at the moment, it seems appropriate to reminds ourselves of the original two-handed, guns-blazing, slow-motion movie carnage that inspired it, courtesy of Youtuber jax633:

And there's an interesting behind-the-scenes video here about how the game was made.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The First Emperor - BBC behind-the scenes documentary

What looks to be a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the current must-see exhibition at the British Museum is on right now.

BBC link.

I'll look out for a link if the show is available online.

Friday, September 14, 2007

FBI investigating 'college spies' in Chinese student associations?

This article was quite an eye-opener when I read it...

When you think of overseas Chinese student associations, you probably think of barbecues, badminton and other fun activities. What had never crossed my mind was the idea that a Chinese student association might be linked to and even managed by the Chinese Communist Party!

Surprising as it may sound, the FBI is said to be investigating the relationship between Chinese consulates and the leaders of Chinese student associations at American universities.

To be clear, this report is talking about official, overseas Chinese student associations not ABACUS or bbc-style uni social groups.

It's reported by the Epoch Times (a newspaper that is distributed free in London's Chinatown) that local Chinese consulates (which serve under the Chinese Communist Party) not only appoint the leaders of these associations but also control some of their activities turning some into quasi-spying operations on U.S. soil.

They quote Xu Shuiliang, editor of the Chinese Net Digest and a democracy activist:
"Almost all CSSAs [Chinese student asssociations] are under the control of Chinese Consulates and become part of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] special organizations. The CSSAs are not officially connected to the CCP but they work under the cover of social recreational activities.

According to Mr. Xu, not only American students, but also a lot of Chinese students, do not know about this. Of course, not all students in CSSAs are the CCP's members or special agents, but normally the leaders of CSSAs are appointed by the CCP.

This dates back to when the CCP was established, as it has always used underground groups such as union workers or students to achieve its goals."
The report says that the current FBI investigation has forced a number of students to return to China, presumably fearing that will be 'unmasked' as spies and arrested.

However, the students who are involved in these operations are usually not 'spies' in the sinister sense, but rather pawns in a game of espionage:
"According to Mr. Xu, many Chinese students don't really understand the system and laws in the United States and still live under the shadow of the CCP. They think the CCP can still provide protection for them in the United States, and they work for profit and out of fear.

These students may not even know what they do is illegal in America. They are also victims."
There are reports that some students disown their links to the student associations after graduating (removing their names from past member lists etc).

This second article is a more in-depth look at one particular student association in Minnesota and how it got caught up in the machinations of Chinese politics and the propaganda battle with the Falun Gong organization.

It does seem that the students in these cases face a dilemma: Do you disobey the Chinese consulate and risk intimidation or punishment of your relatives back home and harming your future prospects, or do you follow the consulate's orders (perhaps doing something you don't agree with), get in the party's good books but risk being 'outed' as a spy?


If it's standard practice amongst Chinese student associations in the U.S., does that mean the same thing happens here?

It's certainly strange to think that something that's seen as fun and non-political such a Chinese student association might be so closely linked to the Chinese Community Party!

Source 1: FBI Questions Chinese Student Leaders at Eastern U.S. Universities

Source 2: How the Chinese Consulate Took Control at the University of Minnesota

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Random Picture of the Day (or so)

I couldn't help smiling when I saw this picture on the Tube this morning :) It was one of a series of babies born with unusually copious amounts of hair. That's quite a 'fro Zoe has going on there! :) See link for more.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Has anyone seen this book on Canto slang?

If there is anything that marks us out bbcs as not native Hong Kongers (besides our haircuts, facial expressions, laughing at British sitcoms and other 'gwai sing'), it's not knowing or using Cantonese slang words.

And Hong Kongers are so damn good at slang, too. The phrases are inventive, clever and often hilarious. And, of course, they can also be a little intimidating if you don't understand any of them.

A short primer on Canto slang can be found here (Warning: There's some rude stuff in the 'Swearing' section!) but this is just the tip of the (damn) iceberg.

If you want to really, learn some cocky, Hong Kong street talk, you might want to try and track down a copy of A Dictionary of Cantonese Slang.

As one reviewer puts it:

I must inform everyone that Cantonese has the most vivid descriptions and usages of slang of the entire Chinese language (yet, being the least awful sounding). How do I know, because I was born in that wonderful city of Hong Kong! It's my native tongue, so trust me, we know how to slang in style.

Amazon only seems to have used copies available at the time of writing, so I'm going to have to keep on searching...


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A380 Superjumbo flies by HK

Cameras were out in force on Monday morning in HK as the Airbus A380 'superjumbo' performed a special, low-level fly by as part of this year's Hong Kong Air Show.

At one point, the plane appeared to be cruising lower than the top of the 2 IFC tower, Hong Kong's tallest building. Can't wait to fly to HK on one of these:

Pics from

Monday, September 03, 2007

MTR to bring expertise to London's ailing transport system

I've just caught the news reports about Hong Kong's ultra efficient and modern MTR being brought in to run a large part of the London public transport system.

In partnership with the British company Laing, MTR will take control of a new cross-city network that has been named the London Overground System. The network will stretch from Watford in the north to Crystal Palace in the South, and from Richmond in the west to Barking in the east. In other words, it's pretty major. This is the first time that Hong Kong's MTR has undertaken a project outside of China

Bbcs who have experienced the MTR will tell you how well-run it is compared to the London Tube (e.g. modern, clean trains and stations, almost non-existent delays, highly professional staff, Oyster-style touch cards being introduced years in advance, wi-fi on trains) and getting MTR involved in this project sounds like a great idea and good news for London.

However the Tube workers union the RMT opposes the deal. Now, if you live in London and have experienced the regular delays, poor service, unpleasant staff attitude and frequent strikes, you'll understand how the idea of a new company coming in which is both efficient and known for providing excellent customer service must terrify an organization like the RMT.

I say, MTR come on in! London needs you.


PS. The RMT started a 72hr strike today.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another reason never to fly Air China.

If the poor safety record wasn't enough to put you off, this snippet of a conversation between an Air China pilot and air traffic control should do it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tina Kim - Korean American comedienne

Just heard about this new stand-up comedienne who's getting quite a lot of attention in the States. I like her laid-back style of comedy and how it isn't purely about 'being Asian'. And the fact she isn't afraid to be a little risqué every now and then.

Introducing, Tina Kim:

(BTW the 3rd clip is of a mildly adult nature, in case you're easily offended!)

Check out Youtube for a ton of clips.

Friday, August 24, 2007

10 years in prison for sending an email.

These days it's quite common to read articles about how modern China has become and the dramatic way the country has changed in recent years.

But every now and then, you read something that makes you realise how differently society is run over there compared to what we are used to either here or in Hong Kong, despite the huge economic strides China has taken. It can be quite a shock:

[Journalist and poet Shi Tao] is three years into a ten-year prison sentence, after being arrested in 2004 in connection with an email sent from his Yahoo! email account. This email, to a Chinese pro-democracy website based in the United States, contained an article revealing the Chinese government's instructions to Chinese journalists on how to spin the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Yahoo! gave his account information to the Chinese authorities, which helped them to identify Shi and led to his arrest on charges of "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities".

It's not just the long prison sentence that's shocking (for something that seems to happen regularly in the UK media) but also the involvement of a high-tech, western corporation in helping to put this guy behind bars.

Furthermore, there are reports that Shi Tao's family is also being harassed and intimidated even though they had nothing to do with the original offence:

According to Amnesty, Shi has been doing forced labour in Chishan Prison even as the authorities are extending the punishment to his family. Shi's wife was questioned daily by Public Security Bureau officials and was persistently pressured by her work unit to divorce him, which she eventually did.

His brother and uncle have also been under surveillance and harassed at home and at work; and his mother, Gao Qinsheng, is closely monitored and harassed as she continues to petition for her son's release.

Gao is a brave woman: two months ago she accepted on his behalf from the World Association of Newspapers the award of the 2007 Golden Pen of Freedom. With tears in her eyes, she waved her fist at the Chinese state and raged against her son's shackles.

It raises an interesting question: What does more harm to the image of China? A forwarded email that confirms what most people might have guessed anyway, or imprisoning someone for 10 years (and allegedly harassing their relatives too) for sending that email?

You can read more in the original article in The New Statesman.

And the case of Shi Tao is profiled by Amnesty here.

Above: Journalist Shi Tao

9 yr-old boy applies to H.K. universities [Update]

An Indonesian-born Chinese maths prodigy who was raised in Hong Kong has submitted applications to a number of Hong Kong universities - at the age of just 9.

March Boedihardjo has received his British A-level results (he got two As and a B) and is reported to be waiting to hear back from several universities including HKU and Baptist University.

[The boy's father] Tony Boedihardjo declined to disclose which university is his son's first choice. But he insisted going to university was his son's only option. "He is not old enough to go to work and he has already passed his A-levels," he said. "Studying at a university is his only choice."

It's a fair point. Uni does seem to be the next logical step. Although if he plans to take a gap year, he'll have to do it aged 11 or 12, which might limit his traveling options!

Update: March has now been accepted at Honk Kong Baptist University and gave this unexpectedly cutesy press conference in Hong Kong. Cheeky little maths prodigy, isn't he?

Original story here.