Tuesday, November 08, 2011

China's 'black jails' (disturbing)

A rather scary report from Al-Jazeera.

Can places like this really exist to deal with ordinary people who, for example, want to report corrupt officials?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

China's Got Talent to hold UK auditions

Calling all karaoke stars, musicians and performers...This could be interesting.

A lot of UK talent shows already feature Chinese or Asian auditionees - often, it has to be said for comedy value (see Goldie Cheung)

But now, a show that was conceived in the UK and was then exported to China is now coming back to the UK to search for British contestants to compete in China!

According to Shanghaiist:
... contestants must 'have a connection to China, either through language, family, or simply an appreciation of Chinese art forms.' Which sounds to us like the floodgates are open for hordes of random non-Chinese people trying to get famous by singing Chinese songs.

This sounds like a great potential opportunity for the many talented singers and performers out there.

Want to give it a shot? head over t the 'CGT' facebook page here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Lowdown on the HK$6000 payout

Word has probably reached you by now that the Hong Kong government is offering all its permanent citizens a one-off payment of HK$6000 over the next couple of years.

Similar to but not the same as the US 'stimulus check', the move has been prompted by pressure from Hong Kong citizens who are becoming increasingly frustrated at the rising costs of living on the SAR, especially for housing.

An initial plan to make payments into citizen's state pensions schemes was scrapped in favour of an immediate handout.

Rather than get into a lengthy explanation of the scheme, I thought I would just direct readers to this blog , where everything you need to know has been posted already by ben.ism.

And this is the link to the official HK government website for the scheme.

Will you be applying? HK$6000 equates to roughly GBP460, which might cover a return flight from London if you're lucky.

Bear in mind you have to either have an active HK bank account or be able to collect a cheque in person from a Hong Kong Post office. There is also a set timetable for when to apply and when your cheque will be ready (see official website)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Chinese Novels: 20 Classics

If, like me, you are a little in the dark about classic Chinese literature, you might appreciate this link sent to me by bachelorsdegreeonline - a list of 20 renowned Chinese novels.

'Water Margin' and 'Lust, Caution' are perhaps titles you will be familiar with but there are a host of other interesting ones to learn about.

Check out the page here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lawrence Leung is performing in London!

Regular readers will have caught a glimpse of Larence Leung in this earlier post.

Well, it just so happens that the composer of the ultimate b.b.c anthem is in London doing a series of stand-up comedy performances. Lawrence is at the Soho Theatre until August 13th, and by all accounts puts on a fairly enjoyable show.

Details: Soho Theatre

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yes, we invented hipsters too

Now we know where those trendy people in Hoxton and Manhattan get their fashion ideas from. Trust me, next year's must have accessory will be a red-blue-white plastic sack.

Link: Accidental Chinese Hipsters

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The kindness of strangers in Hong Kong

This is not the usual kind of video you get from Apple news. Apparently three girls in Hong Kong have since last Christmas been voluntarily distributing 'tong sui' (sweet soup) to elderly people in the street, as well as stopping for a chat with them.

As one of the girls points out, they do this not just to feed the elderly people they encounter but also to provide a listening ear.

A random act of kindness in Hong Kong? Whatever next?

Friday, June 24, 2011

"How can you call them noodles?!!"

More melodrama from the world of TVB miniseries.

Only, if one of the highlights of the show is someone saying "The noodles made from this flour... How can you call them noodles?!!" then I'm not sure how captivating the drama is going to be. The last shot seems to sum it all up! :)

PS I know nothing about this show, just saw the trailer.

Do you know a rebellious, b.b.c. teen?

Readers, do you know any misbehaved, spoilt or downright out of control British Chinese teenagers?

Are their parents at a loss as to how to get through to them or change their behaviour? Perhaps you are one of these unruly teens yourself?

The BBC is looking for more participants for its successful reality show The World's Strictest Parents and would are inviting applications from the UK Chinese community.

In each episode two teens are sent to live with a ‘strict’ family abroad, where they are asked to live according to new rules, required to attend school, and get a taste of what it is to be a teenager in a very different, and often less fortunate culture. In previous programmes the show has sent teenagers everywhere from Jaipur to Jamaica, and Accra to Atlanta.

Do you know of anyone who would benefit from such an experience? If so, please contact the programme makers here.

Who knows, we might be seeing a b.b.c. face on this show in the future?

Link: The World's Strictest Parents

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is Susan Ma the feistiest and smartest candidate of The Apprentice 2011?

She's certainly the youngest and unfortunately she may also the be most naive, and the least adept at defending herself in an argument. So what will become of the Shanghai-born, British based entrepreneur currently battling it out for a business partnership with Lord Alan Sugar?

If you've been following this year's 'The Apprentice', you can't have failed to notice Susan Ma, who has emerged as one of the characters to watch not least because of her ongoing rows with fellow contestants.

Aged 21 at the time of filming, Susan is full of youthful enthusiasm as opposed to boardroom soundbites in stark contrast to her fellow candidates. But whilst she often displays quickness of mind and eagerness, she has also stumbled in the tasks (overestimating her ability to sell luxury fake tan to the good people of Birmingham and comically failing to explain her idea for a mobile phone app, for example).

Outside of the show, though, there is little doubt about her business abilities as she has built up a bona fide business selling natural skincare products, an enterprise that she says enabled her to pay off her mother's mortgage.

My view is that Susan is a smart young woman with good business instincts but hindered by poor communication skills and lacking maturity. Will Lord Sugar see past the flaws and give her a shot at the ultimate prize of a £250,000 business investment?

Tune in tonight on BBC1 at 9:00 to find out.

Link: The Apprentice, BBC

Link: Susan Ma homepage

Link: Susan Ma's company, Tropic Skincare

Thursday, May 05, 2011

'Why Can't I Be More Chinese' by Lawrence Leung

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have found the b.b.c anthem.

I'd like to present for your viewing pleasure Australian comedian Lawrence Leung with... well, just watch it. It's very funny!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Silver Vauxhall Corsa sought in connection with Northampton deaths

Police are searching for a rented Silver Vauxhall Corsa in connection with the apparent murder of a Chinese family in Northampton, in the East Midlands.

UPDATE: The main suspect has been named as Anxiang Du (above). Press are reporting that Du recently lost a court case against the Dings to do with their joint herbal remedy business. Did a money dispute lead to these tragic deaths?

A mother, father and 2 daughters were the victims. The father was Jeff Ding (below), a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Police suspect the attack may have been targeted rather than a botched robbery or a random incident.

Anyone with details about the incident can call police on 0800 0961011 or 0207 1580126 and ask for Operation Nene.

Source: Northampton Chronicle

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is this a sad sight?

Walk to the centre of London's historic Chinatown and what will you find? Perhaps a museum charting the history of Chinese immigrants in the UK? A cultural centre celebrating the richness and diversity of Chinese art and society? Well, not quite. How about a giant betting shop?

To be fair you will also find many great restaurants, community centres and lots of Chinese-run businesses and services. I just find it a little sad that this is what occupies such a prominent position in Chinatown (and the fact it wouldn't be there if there wasn't a demand for it).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby milk formula shortages hit Hong Kong

Not nice for any parent... Incidents of toxic milk and rising prices in China have prompted many mainland Chinese to bulk buy baby formula in Hong Kong, creating territory-wide shortages.

It's not happening quietly either - there have been reports of mainlanders working in teams to jump queues in order to clear stocks, leaving local parents struggling to find supplies of milk formula for their babies.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Modern China, old fashioned disappearance

The whereabouts of artist Ai Wei Wei is still unknown after he was taken into custody by Chinese authorities as part of a major crackdown on dissent in China. Some have described as a return to the 'bad old days'.

The following is the timeline of his disappearance as reported by Western media.

October 11th 2010

November 8th 2010

March 7th 2011

April 3rd 2011

April 4th 2011

April 5th 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'My Wedding and Other Secrets' - a NZBC movie

This makes me smile. A long time ago, over three years ago in fact, I published a post on this blog called 'Banana in a Nutshell' - Can Chinese parents still love you if they do things that upset you? .

It was inspired by a short documentary film I saw that told the story of a young new Zealand Chinese girl who wanted her parents to accept her Caucasian boyfriend.

It was a touching, well-made little film with a humourous side that I was happy to publicize to bbc blog readers.

Well, three years later it turns out that the girl who made that documentary has turned it into an actual full length movie that has just gone on release in New Zealand.

I have to say many Western-based Asian drama films can seem a bit fake and stilted but this one looks quite different and genuinely entertaining. Well done to all involved! Hopefully we'll get a chance to see it here in the UK.

Check out the trailer below.

Related: Official Movie Website

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Takeaway chefs from HK/China excluded in new immigration quotas

As part of our coalition government's promise to 'clamp down' on non-European Union immigration, the Home Office has announced new restrictions on the number and types of people who can migrate to the UK from outside the EU to work.

The new rules mean that, for example, someone from China or Hong Kong who wants to come to the UK to work as a chef in a takeaway will no longer be allowed to do so.

It's a blow to the Chinese catering industry which has been calling for special dispensation to employ migrant workers as part of the Strangers into Citizens campaign (see video above).

Chinese chefs will still be permitted to work in UK restaurants as long as they meet certain criteria (minimum five years' experience, income of £28,260 after accommodation and food) but takeaways are excluded.

The BBC reports:

"Immigration Minister Damian Green: "These changes will allow firms to bring in people with necessary skills without migrants becoming the first resort to fill a wide range of available jobs.

"This government is also determined to get people back to work and provide business with the skills they need from the British workforce - reducing the need for migrants at the same time as we reduce their number."

I understand the move might be logical from a domestic and political point of view - when there is record unemployment in the UK it does not make sense to encourage businesses to bring people in from faraway countries to do jobs that might be done by a British person.

But should that apply to ethnic catering? After all, can you really say that a Chinese chef working in a takeaway has actually deprived a British person of a job? Isn't the job, and the business itself generated by the ethnicity of the people involved? If British chefs are now supposed to be considered for jobs in Chinese takeaways, who is going to train them?

Personally I don't think it is that undesirable (for either the shop owners or the customers) for a Chinese takeaway to employ Chinese staff to cook Chinese food. It makes you wonder if in this case the law has been used to target something that was not actually doing any harm.

Story: BBC

Story: The Guardian

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Massive disasters... and small gestures

A colossal natural disaster has struck Japan and as the world looks on and rallies around to help the stricken nation, the relationship between neighbours Japan and China is put in the spotlight.

When there has been strong animosity between two nations for many years, what happens when one of them is subject to a devastating natural event that causes loss of life on a huge, almost unimaginable scale?

When an earthquake struck Sichuan province in 2008 claiming the lives of around 90,000 people, China made the unprecedented move of accepting foreign help. Especially symbolic was the granting of permission for a Japanese team to join the rescue effort. They were first Japanese troops to set foot in China since World War Two.

The Japanese team did not locate any survivors (they were not allowed in until late into the operation) but they were thanked by Premier Wen and for many in China it was a small but meaningful gesture that (combined with an estimated 9 million USD in aid) hinted at the possibility of improved relations in the future.

Now the situation has been reversed. Some estimates have put the loss of life caused by the Sendai earthquake and tsunami at near Sichuan levels.

The Chinese Premier has expressed condolences and dispatched a 15-man rescue team. Aid of around 4.5 million USD has also been pledged.

Considering the scale of the disaster, it's not a lot. Yet even this contribution is more than what many Chinese would have offered Japan.

Such is the deep-rooted hatred felt towards the Japanese people amongst some Chinese, that some were openly celebrating the Sendai earthquake - cheering as though the event were some kind of moral or national victory.

Blog sinostand trawled the web as the tragedy in Japan unfolded and found some choice quotes (after initially finding many messages from people imploring their fellow Chinese not to celebrate the disaster):

“Japan earthquake, tsunami, oh ha ha ha ha ha. Brings satisfaction to everyone! Retribution, retribution ah!”

"We’re not small like Japan because we’re human beings, not pigs. Let little Japan suffer this little holocaust."

"Japan’s earthquake is worth celebrating. We should gloat. In the face of natural disasters, people are a country. Japanese people do not deserve sympathy. Give up the Diaoyu Islands, change the textbooks, then nothing will be wrong."

The last comment illustrates the source of these sentiments: war time atrocities and territorial disputes.

The writer of that article believes about there is a constant 20% of Chinese that hold these hard-line, anti-Japanese sentiments and that they run through all sections of Chinese society regardless of age or level of education.

The Japan Times published an article on Feb 27th 2011, just days before the disaster, in which a writer in Chengdu describes the deep-rooted mistrust of Japan amongst university-age Chinese. Its central quote is:

"What you must understand is we Chinese all hate Japanese."

heard by the author at a debate amongst students at Sichuan University.

Now that the full scale of the Japan disaster is unfolding, perhaps these views are not being expressed as openly but the lingering animosity is unlikely to go away.

A rescue team here, a few million dollars there. When disasters of such magnitude only result in such relatively small gestures, is there really any hope that these two countries will one day reconcile and put past differences aside?

Perhaps they are just the first, tentative steps in improving relations between the two countries? If only we didn't need huge tragedies and thousands of deaths to instigate them.

Story: Global Times

Story: International Business Times

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In China you can 'rent' a white guy for business meetings

Photo: BBC

It sounds ridiculous and yet it also makes perfect sense when you acknowledge the business mindset in China.

These hired white guys are used for photocalls and to be present at meetings and corporate events to give the impression that the company is important and has connections to the West. Says one hired employee:

For the next few days, we sat in the office swatting flies and reading magazines, purportedly high-level employees of a U.S. company that, I later discovered, didn’t really exist. We were so important, in fact, that two of the guys were hired to stay for eight months (to be fair, they actually then received quality-control training).

“Lots happening,” Ken told me. “We need people for a week every month. It’ll be better next time, too. We’ll have new offices.” He paused before adding: “Bring a computer. You can watch movies all day.”

I look forward to the day British companies need to hire fake Chinese guys.

Source: Boing Boing

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is Gordon Ramsey a hypocrite to criticize the use of shark fin?

Renowned chef Gordon Ramsay recently made a TV documentary exposing the practices behind the procuring of shark fins for sale in Asia where, as we all know, it is eaten as a delicacy.

The footage shown in the documentary was harrowing (sharks having fins cut off whilst alive and being thrown back into the sea) and it showed that there does appear to be a murky, ungoverned black market in shark fins that has no regard for animal welfare.

I personally am happy not to eat shark fin again (it is genuinely tasteless and has no nutritional value and is believed to to have extremely high levels of mercury) and I'm sure some fellow bbcs feel the same.

What might be more difficult is persuading Chinese people not to include the dish (once the preserve of emperors and the elite classes only) in special celebrations such as wedding banquets, where shark's fin soup has become a traditional dish.

To use an analogy that is closer to home: Imagine if western wedding dresses could only be white due to the use of certain dye, and this dye was found to be harmful to some species of animals thus sparking a campaign calling for an end to the wearing of white wedding dresses. You can imagine how tricky it would be to change people's minds in such a scenario.

That said there is a steadily growing anti-shark fin movement in Asia and I think in time its use will indeed phase out.

"I Pledge Not to Eat Shark Fin Soup" - Campaign Video - English from Shark Savers on Vimeo.

However there is another side to this story, which is that Gordon Ramsay, like many top, western chefs, continues to use foie gras in his restaurants.

Foie gras is the engorged liver of geese or ducks that are force fed by man and in my opinion it's even crueler food than shark fin.

The poor shark suffers when its fins are cut off but the animal at least dies soon after and you could argue that animals in the wild suffer injuries and death as part of their natural life.

In contrast, foie gras is produced using a mechanized process called gavage which involves trapping the animals in tight cages inside huge barns for weeks and literally pumping feed into them using pipes. That's a 'nice' description - to see gavage in action, go to Youtube but I have to warn readers that some of the footage is disturbing.

Foie gras geese are said to be the only animals in farming that recoil from their food such is the fear and discomfort they experience.

Killing a shark inhumanely is one thing but the gavage process is more like torture to me, sustained over several weeks until the animal is butchered (if it doesn't drop dead).

For me, this makes Ramsay a hypocrite because you cannot condemn the use of shark fins in cooking on ethical grounds if you persist in using foie gras.

Of course, you can also go to the other extreme and pay no regard to animal welfare whatsoever. As demonstrated by the chef who created what might be the cruelest dish known to man: Dim sum that contains both foie gras AND shark fin

Thanks, Zen Peninsular, San Francisco!

Story: The Sun

Related: SharkSavers campaign

Related: Channel 4 - Shark Bait

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Gung Hei Fat Choi!

Gung Hei Fat Choi! Wishing peace and prosperity to all bbc blog readers! Let's welcome in the Year of the Rabbit!

Photoset: The Guardian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gemma Chan, rising b.b.c actress

I must have seen the advert below a dozen times yet never realised the actress is a b.b.c.

The lady in question is 28 year-old Gemma Chan. She first came to public attention by reaching the final 3 in the UK version of modelling reality show Project Runway and now it seems her profile is on the rise.

As well as that Bing commercial, Chan has had roles in Dr Who, The IT Crowd, Sherlock and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. She has also had movie roles in such films as Exam and Shanghai (starring John Cusack and Gong Li).

She may be about to hit the showbiz pages again as she stars in a new independent British film called Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade (best known as Moss from The IT crowd) which has premiered at the Sundance film festival and is getting some positive reviews.

We could be looking at another b.b.c rising star!

Link: Gemma Chan official website

Link: Gemma Chan, Wikipedia

Related: Maye Choo joins the growing list of British Asians in the media

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shenzhen becoming more expensive than Hong Kong

Not long ago, traveling to Shenzhen was a popular excursion for Hong Kongers wanting cheap deals on goods and services. The region became a synonymous with 'bargain' and some Hong Kongers even relocated there to take advantage of lower property prices and living costs.

But now inflation on the mainland plus the rising value of the yuan against the Hong Kong dollar mean prices are now often lower in the SAR.

The flow of shopping tourists is starting to flow the other way, with excursions from Shenzhen to Hong Kong rapidly increasing - especially in the run up to Chinese New Year. Shoppers are not just after luxury or one-off purchases. Even daily food shopping works out roughly 20-30% cheaper in HK. As the Hong Kong Standard describes:

In Diamond Hill's Hollywood Plaza, Shenzhen resident Irene Lai Yen-fen, 28, arrived with a busload of 40 shoppers yesterday, the third Lunar New Year shopping group to visit the mall.

In less than 30 minutes, her shopping bag was full with dried seafood bought for more than HK$1,000.

Looks like the days of cheap shopping trips to Shenzhen are over... for now, at least!

Story: Mainlanders bus to HK in blitz on malls

Related: HK Prices Now Cheaper Than Shenzhen: Shoppers Flock the Other Way

Friday, January 21, 2011

A complete guide to sushi etiquette

I'm sure that like me, many readers enjoy eating sushi. But are you aware of the many customs and rules that go along with this cuisine?

Exactly how much soy sauce should you use? Precisely how much wasabi? What should you say (and not say) to the chef when ordering?

Watch this helpful short film to find out the answers to these and many other questions.

PS This film may not be entirely serious ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Did you catch the BBC children's programme based around Chinese/Asian characters?

Well, this is very rare indeed! 'Spirit Warriors' is an action-based drama for children that aired last year on the CBBC (Children's BBC) channel. It draws on Chinese legends and mythology and features a mainly East Asian cast.

I think it's really good for young bbc kids to be able to watch TV and see Chinese/East Asian faces in such prominent roles (as opposed to bit parts). Check out the brief trailer below and see what you think. Hopefully the series will be re-run soon:

Longer clips and more info can be found on the official BBC website.

The creator of Spirit Warriors is an award winning British born Chinese script writer called Jo Ho and her series is now in the running for Best Children's Programme 2011! Well done, Jo!

Link: Jo Ho profile on Visible Chinese

Link: Spirit Warriors, CBBC

Link: Jo Ho feature on Dimsum.co.uk