Friday, March 28, 2008

Flying to HK soon? You might want to avoid British Airways and Heathrow

They are calling them 'teething problems' but that seems like a bit of an understatement.

Heathrow Terminal 5, the new UK hub for British Airways, including its Hong Kong to London route, has suffered a disasterous opening day and the chaos is expected to continue.

As reported in the Times:

My daughter was at terminal 5 last night trying to get on her flight to Hong Kong. We received a call from her in HK at 4.30 am in the morning saying that it was complete chaos and she was unable to check in her suitcase. She had been told that she could try to find a hotel for herself and to see if there was a seat available tomorrow or leave her luggage behind and collect it when she returned. No assistance was given with this. She was then told that all left luggage storage facilities were full. Eventually she was helped by a policeman who directed her to a left luggage facility on the next floor.

There were no BA staff around to answer queries and no proper management. She has left all her clothes and belongings behind and the man operating the left luggage facility ignored her question as to what the charges for left luggage would be. BA has got to take responsibility for this. There was no crisis management at Terminal 5.

J Waldron, Hong Kong , Hong Kong
Source: Terminal 5 launch disaster brings holiday chaos

Whilst it would be easy to point to Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport and say, "That's how you do it," it's worth remembering that even that airport had problems when it first opened too. They were not on the scale of what is being reported at Heathrow T5, though, and I doubt you would have seen the appalling customer service that the papers are currently reporting. (EDIT: In Hong Kong's case it was the entire airport that was new, whereas at Heathrow it is just one terminal serving one airline)

Source: Lack of preparations behind H.K. airport opening chaos

I've never been a fan of BA but I certainly won't be booking with them now if I can help it. And it sounds like steering clear of Heathrow T5 for a while would be a good idea too.

Related: Terminal Disgrace: Fights break out among queuing passengers

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New book on the Battle of Hong Kong published

I received an email yesterday from Ronald C. Parker, the son of a Battle of Hong Kong war veteran, who spotted my post about the battle on the bbc blog.

He has just completed a book about the conflict, told from the point of view of his father's Canadian rifle company which fought in the battle.

On December 8th, 1941, hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they launched an air attack on the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.

For the first time the saga is told from a Canadian perspective, using the words of those soldiers who fought that, long ago, almost forgotten battle.

Some 50,000 battle-tested Japanese soldiers stood poised on the mainland waiting to storm Fortress Hong Kong. It was defended by 15,000 inexperienced British, Indian, and local militia troops , along with Canadian soldiers from The Royal Rifles of Canada and The Winnipeg Grenadiers. This is their story.

Follow this link to to purchase the book - a rare opportunity to learn more about this little discussed episode of WW2 and a part of Hong Kong's history that many bbcs are unaware of.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

China clamps down in Tibet. How long can this go on?

Apologies for the lack of updates but I've been a little busy with work recently.

I'm sure you will have seen the recent news about the protests and violence in Lhasa, Tibet which started on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Communist rule.

The protests are reported to have led to a number of civilian deaths (16 according to Chinese authorities, 100 according to Tibetan exiles monitoring the protests). It seems likely that some Han Chinese citizens have been attacked by Tibetans, and that the Chinese authorities have used force against the Tibetans although reliable figures are never easy to come by in these situations.

There are now reports that protests are spreading beyond Lhasa and that in response military personnel and equipment are being drafted in by the authorities.

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made his stance clear by agreeing to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits the UK.

I think amongst bbcs you will find differing opinions on the issue of Tibet. I may be in a minority but I actually agree with calls for Tibet to be granted autonomy or even full independence.

I find it difficult to understand how any Chinese official can legitimately say to Tibetans that their homeland is part of China whether they like it or not.

The anti-independence arguments that I have read all seem incredibly flimsy and irrelevant. They cite historical claims of sovereignty over the territory and fears that granting Tibet independence would incite other territories to do the same. To which my honest answer is, 'So what?'

I think that when the population of part of a country consistently calls for independence, the worst thing a government can do is to use force to suppress those calls. It seems to me much more sensible and practical to start a dialogue and be willing to make some concessions. Why?

Because suppressing the will of the Tibetans with force is counterproductive. It uses up the state's resources needlessly, creates resentment, violence and aggression, and it clearly shows China as an oppressive, dictatorial state in the eyes the world. So really, why bother?

I think it would actually serve China's interests to grant Tibet a degree of autonomy and end this policy of forced integration. If other territories want to follow suit, then let them enter negotiations too.

A smaller, united China is far better than a larger, divided one in my opinion.

At the moment Tibet is a lose-lose situation for China and I hope it isn't long before a new, peaceful approach is tried in solving the Tibet problem.

Related: Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
Related: Free Tibet
Related: Tibet protests chronology
Related: Tibet protest hits warriors show
Related: China acknowledges spread of Tibet protests

Thursday, March 06, 2008

HK vs. UK Statistics

Many bbcs are in the position (because of dual nationality) of having a choice between living in Britain or Hong Kong and quite a few of us will - at some point in our life - have to weigh up the benefits of staying in either country.

So I thought it would be interesting to try and gather some statistics to compare the two places. We all have personal opinions about which country we prefer but perhaps looking at some actual data might change those opinions?

The statistics are from the website Nationmaster where you can find a wealth of information about various countries. It's generally considered to be a reliable website for facts and figures.

I was limited by the data available from the site so whilst I was hoping to compare all kinds of stats such as quality of life, cultural diversity, arts etc. there simply weren't that many categories that have figures for both the UK and HK.

For some reason, it's crime that has the most comprehensive data so this article will be dominated by crime-related stats.

All the figures are proportional (e.g. per 1000 people) so the figures should provide a fair comparison.

So here we go, let's have a look at 'HK vs UK Statistics':
Total Crimes per capita
Ranked #6 of 60 United Kingdom: 85.5517 per 1,000 people
Ranked #43 of 60 Hong Kong: 11.6817 per 1,000 people

The UK experiences massively more crime per capita than HK and surprisingly the stats show that only 5 other countries in the world have a higher crime rate than Britain.

But crime comes in all shapes and sizes, so let's look in a little more detail...

Robberies per capita
Ranked #8 of 64 United Kingdom: 1.57433 per 1,000 people
Ranked #35 of 64 Hong Kong: 0.497608 per 1,000 people

A surprisingly high ranking for the UK with only 7 other nations in the world worse for robbery.

Murders per capita
Ranked #46 of 62 United Kingdom: 0.0140633 per 1,000 people
Ranked #59 of 62 Hong Kong: 0.00550804 per 1,000 people

Both countries rank low, but the UK figure is over twice as high.
Assaults per capita
Ranked #8 of 57 United Kingdom: 7.45959 per 1,000 people
Ranked #30 of 57 Hong Kong: 1.07987 per 1,000 people

UK figure is 7 times higher.

Burglaries per capita
Ranked #7 of 54 United Kingdom: 13.8321 per 1,000 people
Ranked #35 of 54 Hong Kong: 1.30004 per 1,000 people

HK is known for its dense housing yet this figure more than 10 times higher in the UK. Those metal gates on all the doors obviously do their job.

Software Piracy Rate
Ranked #53 of 84 Hong Kong: 52%
Ranked #79 of 84 United Kingdom: 29%

The one crime where HK scores higher. You're probably not surprised, right? Interestingly, HK is still way down the league table, though.

Drug Offences
Ranked #12 of 34 United Kingdom: 214.3 per 100,000 people
Ranked #24 of 34 Hong Kong: 34 per 100,000 people

Drugs seem to be a lot less common in HK.

Ranked #2 of 61 United Kingdom: 5.28324 per 1,000 people
Ranked #24 of 61 Hong Kong: 0.737788 per 1,000 people

UK is nearly the world leader in fraud. Germany is 1st.


That's a selection of the various crime stats I found on Nationmaster, and as you can see the UK out-scores HK massively in every area ... except software piracy.

An interesting thought is that the difference is so huge in so many areas and yet Hong Kong was a British colony for almost a century, in theory being run under a British system and British values.

It occurred to me (although it wasn't what I set out to prove) that for those who say Hong Kong is what it is mainly because of the British influence, these stats show that the British influence didn't really permeate Hong Kong that deeply. Because if they had, you could argue, the differences wouldn't be so huge.

So what else can we look at besides crime? I tried to find more lifestyle and health related stats and the ones I was able to pull are as follows:

Suicide amongst Females
Ranked #12 of 81 Hong Kong: 11.3 per 100,000 people
Ranked #51 of 81 United Kingdom: 3.3 per 100,000 people

Suicide amongst Males
Ranked #43 of 81 Hong Kong: 13.4 per 100,000 people
Ranked #47 of 81 United Kingdom: 11 per 100,000 people

Similar numbers for males but both are higher in Hong Kong, and a lot higher for HK females.

Seeing this statistic, I was reminded of melodramatic scenes from those Hong Kong TV dramas where a distraught woman can see no way out but to take her own life. I wonder if Chinese/Asian society is more tolerant of suicide and whether this might explain the higher numbers for HK? Culturally is there a difference between how suicide is perceived? Is it more stigmatised in the West?

GDP per capita
Ranked #13 of 195 United Kingdom: $36,508.663 per capita
Ranked #29 of 195 Hong Kong: $25,592.286 per capita

The UK remains a financial force to be reckoned with, and the GDP reflects this. However, considering Hong's tiny size and limited resources, its GDP is pretty impressive.
And finally...

Life expectancy:
Ranked #6 of 220 Hong Kong: 81.68 years
Ranked #36 of 220 United Kingdom: 78.7 years

Despite it's reputation for smelly air and the lack of a welfare state, only 5 countries in the world have a higher life expectancy than HK.


So there you have it: A selection of stats comparing HK to the UK. Did any of them surprise you?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dramatic showdown at Lydia Shum memorial service

What was meant to be a sombre, respectful occasion - the memorial service for Lydia Shum Din Ha - briefly turned into a melodrama straight out of a Hong Kong soap opera when actor Alan Tang Kwong-wing berated fellow celeb Adam Cheng Siu-chau for not being a father to the the daughter he had with Lydia (Joyce Cheng Yan-yee).

Scroll to around 1:35 to see the relevant incident.

Tang went as far as demanding that Cheng step up on to the stage and explain himself, which he did with Joyce at his side.

You can see what transpired in the video, but essentially it seems that has been some a lot of gossip surrounding Lydia Sum's family affairs and not all of it has been fair.

Only in Hong Kong...

STORY: The HK Standard