Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fan's obsession with Andy Lau ends in tragedy

A bizarre story that is the talk of Hong Kong and a case of what happens when celebrity worship gets out of control.

30 year-old Yang Li Jian from Lanzhou, China, has been an obsessive fan of Andy Lau since the age of 19. Her parents had apparently tried their best to help their child 'move on' from her obsession but to no avail. Her devotion was so extreme that her parents ended up borrowing money in order to travel to Hong Kong to attend an Andy Lau event where - they hoped - Li Jian would be able to not just meet her idol but also be able to speak to him.

In fact, all that happened was that Andy Lau posed for a photo with his besotted fan. For the desperate father, the disappointment was too much to bear...

Details and discussion on

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Frozen in Time (#1)

Have you ever come across a Chinese takeaway or restaurant that looks like it hasn't changed since the day it opened - probably decades ago?

I like places like this. They have a sense of age and endurance. They are survivors in a world of ever-changing shop fronts and constant re-vamping. They also stir up feelings of nostalgia and memories of the takeaways I knew as a child. From the plastic, laminate counter to the scuffed, grubby lino flooring; Multi-coloured plastic strips in the doorway and cans of coke stacked up in 3s.

I happened to pass this restaurant at the weekend and thought I'd start a 'frozen in time' series on the bbc blog. It's on Duke Street, Mayfair, right next to London's hottest department store Selfridges, in probably one of the ciy's most sought after locations. No idea what the food is like but the fact that it's still here must be a testament to its popularity.

If you see any other 'frozen in time' Chinese establishments, drop me a line!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Perhaps too late, the Oriental City Campaign has official homepage

The plans have been approved by both Brent council and the Mayor, but the campaign lives on.

The issue was also featured on the BBC's 'Inside Out' programme. I'll keep my eyes peeled for an online clip.

BBC 'Inside Out' covers the Oriental City story.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Elaborate race-rigging scam uncovered in HK

As the sporting world reels from suggestions that an international cricket coach might have been murdered by a betting syndicate, word comes from Hong Kong of more possible gambling-related murkiness.

Staff at Happy Valley racecourse have discovered an elaborate device planted in the turf on the racecourse that was apparently meant to fire tranquilizer darts into horses at the start of races. Quite bizarre.

Yahoo News report.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Bridget Jung's Diary": Asian Chick Lit in the U.S.

Chick lit has been a huge literary phenomenon in recent years both in the U.K. and in the States. Tales of rollercoaster romances and contemporary life from a female perspective have been extremely popular but there are signs that readers are starting to get tired of the same types of chick lit stories being told and retold. A case of "If you've met one Bridget Jones, you've met them all," maybe.

But as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, a new wave of Asian female authors seems to be giving the genre a whole new lease of life:

"A lot of people question the longevity of the genre, saying it's a fading fad, but the truth is, the genre isn't dying -- it's evolving," says Diana Szu, editor at the St. Martin's Press imprint Thomas Dunne Books, who acquired Yu and Kan's "China Dolls." "It's moving away from just being about shopping and designer labels, and tackling more serious issues ... And of course, you've seen the emergence of ethnic authors -- black and Latina and Asian American -- who are reinventing the genre in their own image."

Of course, reinvention doesn't mean throwing out the Manolos just because your hose has a run in it. Just because an author is Asian American doesn't mean that she has to beat readers over the head with the Joy Luck club.

Sounds like these books might be an enjoyable read, especially for female bbcs. Interestingly, this trend also has its detractors. A columnist on has questioned some of the authors' use of non-Asian sounding pen names.

Here's some more info on a few of the books mentioned in the article:

China Dolls by Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan.

The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner.

Buddha Baby by Kim Wong Keltner.

In Full Bloom by Caroline Hwang.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Avril Lavigne sings Mandarin

Caught this on another blog

Avril Lavigne's new single 'Girlfriend' will be released in several different languages (the chorus only, the verses are in English): Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and most intriguingly, Mandarin and Japanese.

No doubt it's a commercial move but kudos to Avril for actually learning to sing in Mando:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Er.. it's not up to you, Ken?

In a statement made today, Mayor Ken Livingstone said that it was not within his powers to refuse permission of the controversial re-development of Oriental City. The Mayor said:

“London’s Chinese community plays a vital part in London’s economic and cultural vitality, as well as providing us with a vital link to China and other Chinese communities throughout the world. Oriental City is an excellent example of the contribution made by Chinese and other Asian cultures to life in London.

“Unfortunately, under my current planning powers I cannot direct refusal for the scheme on these grounds - this would be illegal under existing law. Nor, unfortunately, do I yet have positive planning powers that would allow recasting of the site. Therefore I have no options in the matter under the current law.

“However I recognise the importance this centre holds to the East Asian community and the contribution it makes. My staff will continue to work with and support the existing businesses to help minimise any disruption when development takes place. This includes a long-term commitment of support to help businesses relocate, and move back into the area once the new Oriental City is completed. I have secured a £250,000 package to provide this support, as well as temporary community facilities for use by the businesses and users of Oriental City.”

So at least there will be some assistance for the businesses having to manage this tricky relocation.

I still haven't heard anything in the news about where all the businesses are supposed to move to, though.

This remains the big question: Where will Oriental City re-locate to?

It's up to you, Ken

The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is expected to make a final decision soon on whether Oriental City is to be redeveloped. Will update with any news as I hear it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Live the life of a European aristocrat... in Tai Po, N.T!

The last time I was in Hong Kong, this commercial for the 'Beverly Hills' property development seemed to be on TV constantly (much to my annoyance). As a bbc, I'm a lot more interested in seeing ads for the latest food products or those government adverts about how to live your life without annoying the hell out of your fellow citizens.

So overblown it's quite funny - like those old Ferrero Rocher commercials multiplied by 100. This company really wants to bang the point over your head - repeatedly - that their development is classy and sophisticated.

I'm not sure if living in Tai Po in the New Territories is exactly the same as flying a bi-plane to a French vineyard and canoodling by Notre Dame cathedral but hey, that's advertising!

It's interesting that this scale of development is happening in the N.T. It may be in response to the steadily increasing numbers of super-rich in China, who may not consider it essential to have an address on Hong Kong side.

The company homepage is here if you're curious. I've heard that asking prices are around 5-6 million GBP per unit.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hong Kong's new dining trend: 'Speakeasy' restaurants

I like the idea of this: Ordinary people turning their homes into informal restaurants. Some of these places are, strictly speaking, not legal establishments but the authorities turn a blind eye as most speakeasys are well run with the owners taking a lot of pride in the food they serve. I hope I get to try one of these places on my next trip back to HK. Anyone ever been to one?

HK speakeasy restaurants, as reported in the New York Times.

Take the concept of the speakeasy (si fang cai), the intimate eating places that have sprung up in people's homes and have become, for locals and those in the know, some of the best places to eat on the island. The speakeasies started several years ago when some Hong Kongese, gastronomes and cooks with limited means, decided to set up one or two tables in their sitting rooms and offer a fixed-price, multicourse menu of distinctive home-style dishes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Northern Ireland gets a Chinese MP

In a region known in the past for religious conflict and sectarianism, a new political figure has emerged whose success may be partly due to the fact that she is not tied to either Catholicism or Protestantism - 56yr old Anna Lo.

Lo, who was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Belfast for 32 years, has allegiance to neither Protestant nor Catholic. “I’m a Taoist, not a Christian and I don’t naturally belong to orange or green,” said Lo...

Northern Ireland once prided itself on being a non-racist society but Lo claimed “there was always racism in Northern Ireland. It is just that the troubles overshadowed it and the media didn’t report it so much”.

She recalled: “In the late 1970s I was kicked in the street. That was in broad daylight. I was walking home from the BBC to get the bus at Belfast City Hall and four or five youths walked towards me shouting abuse and I walked away from them on the pavement. When they kicked me they were jumping up and down and laughing.”

The Times reports.

Photo from AP.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hong Kong Siu Ba (minibus): Fast and Furious

Take a fan of Hong Kong's minibuses, a video camera, and perhaps a little too much spare time and here's what you get... :)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

France's far right has 'Orientals' in its sights

Jean-Marie Le Pen is France's equivalent of Nick Griffin (the leader of the BNP) - a political figurehead for the far-right.

Whilst many view him as 'yesterday's man' - someone who's time has passed, it's worrying to see that Le Pen's most recent speech has specifically singled out Chinese and Asian people as the new 'threat' to France:

The Times article.

“France faces catastrophe,” Mr Le Pen told the hall of cheering supporters. “The political class has taken us to this point. They are all guilty — left-wing and right-wing. France wants a president with a sense of destiny, not a governor of a European Union province.” If the frontiers were not closed, France would be “sub-merged by illegal immigrants — Mongols, Tamils, Chinese,” he added.

It's the same old rhetoric, just the skin colour has changed. Traditionally, the racially motivated attacks from right wing extremists have tended to focus on black and Indian/South Asian people, with Chinese people tending to go unnoticed (in fact I've always thought of France as traditionally having more respect for the culture of China and the Far East than even the UK). Does this mark a shift in tactics, as migration from China and the overall visibility of Chinese people increases?

Time will tell if these tactics achieve anything, and whether this should be taken as forewarning of what the British far-right may be trying next.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Chinese New Year: Thoughts from Hong Kong

A nice article from

So more people are wearing red these days, as lunar fashion dictates local trends. One popular hairdresser, who cut my hair exactly once several months ago, was entirely booked out for the two weeks preceding the New Year - 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Workaholics Anonymous would surely prosper in Hong Kong, if only people got off work in time to attend the late night sessions.) Then again, some industrious white-collar workers are shelling out several hundreds of HK$ to take lessons in proper enunciation, with the expectation of shedding off the pedestrian, and epidemic, "lazy cantonese" heard around the territory. So remember, it's "bai neen", not "bai leen".

Speaking of which, the annual round of new year's greetings is not to be taken lightly...