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).