Saturday, July 29, 2006

This Week In Hong Kong

I have been really busy and unable to post this week. However, I really enjoyed seeing Fat Pat (Chris Patten) and Henry Tang get after each other in the papers and on TV. I don’t like either one of them but it is funny; I agreed with both of them.

Fat Pat was absolutely correct when he said it was unethical of Henry to try to deflect criticism of his GST proposal by blaming all of Hong Kong problems on his administration. Henry hit it out of the park when he called Fat Pat, in effect, a glad-handing, self-centered politician. (I am being more polite than Henry)

I wish they’d gotten in fist fight. Boy, oh boy would that have been fun. They could of sold tickets

Until Next Time
Fai Mao

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Political Agenda

I am considering running for Legco in the next year or two. If I did the purpose would be to simply rock the political boat a bit and get my name in the paper because I am not part of the good-old-boy network here and didn’t graduate from either HKU or a university in the UK I have no real hope of being elected.

Here is my political agenda for Hong Kong which I reserve the right to modify or change without notice.
  • Universal suffrage for all Hong Kong Citizen above the age of 21.

  • Revoke the corporate monopolies on cross harbor tunnels and set all of the fees at HKD $30.00 for a round trip. That would allow people and delivery drivers to choose the tunnel need rather than the one they could afford. In other words, like the rest of the civilized world.

  • Require real-estate developers to advertise the actual interior dimensions of flats without adding part of the outside walls elevator lobby, stairs or other intangible additions to floor space. In other words, like the rest of the world.

  • Abolish the functional Constituencies in Legco. In other words, like the rest of the civilized world.

  • Require a 67% positive referendum before any form of a sales, goods and services or VAT tax could be imposed. Given the prominence of street vendors and hawkers such a tax would be impossible to fairly enforce and fall unduly on retailers with a street address.

  • Institute a HKD$1000.00 per container tax on all cargo containers that go through the port. (See previous post on this subject)

  • Petition the central government to form a Hong Kong regiment of the PLA. Station that regiment in Hong Kong rather than the non-Hong Kong soldiers who are now here. In order to ensure that the regiment was fully staffed require every male to serve from the ages of 19 to 21 with no deferments. My son, your son, Donald Tsang’s son Tung Che Wah’s son. Then provide every veteran of the Hong Kong regiment with a scholarship and guaranteed admission to the state sponsored universities (See below)

  • Rather than onerous and freedom limiting anti-smoking laws being currently proposed require restaurants to obtain a smoking license in the same way that they must have a liquor license. If they have the license then it is a smoking establishment if they do not have the license then it is non-smoking.

  • Restrict immigration and from China to people that can actually help Hong Kong. I really wonder about the apparent slew of 70 something year-old men with 30 something mainland wives.

  • Increase the amount of land used for residential development and build enough flats so that the cost falls by 60% then greatly scale back the public housing authority. (Currently 53% of all Hong Kong Citizens live in government subsides housing at a huge cost to the government) Then use government surpluses to make a one time payment to homeowners to over the loss of equity for the middle and upper middle classes to a maximum of two flats. Then scale back the now unneeded public housing subsidies.

  • Set Civil Servant and Legco pay at a maximum of 2.5 times the Hong Kong Median Income. If they want a raise make Hong Kong wealthier place overall.

  • Make all civil servants participate in a lottery for their jobs. 1/3 of them should simply be fired. A lottery is the fairest way and would stand the best chance of getting rid of the incompetent higherups.

  • Abolish the ESF. There needs to be an English language public school in Hong Kong but the ESF is corrupt and not worth the money. Abolish them and start over.

  • Combine Open University with City University and Polytechnic University, they all serve the same income and educational level students. Fire 2/3’s of the administrators.

  • Combine Baptist University with Lingnan University; as they are both there roots in Christian organization. Cease giving them direct government funding and let them revert to private institutions

  • Combine the University of Science and Technology and the Institute of Education with Chinese University.

  • Let The University of Hong Kong become a private institution.  Let them set their own tuition, and maintain the English instruction as they should. Allow them to really become the Harvard of Asia.
This would reduce the number of state supported Universities in Hong Kong from a bloated 8 to a more manageable 2 (City/Open/Poly and Chinese/UST/I. Ed. There would be three private universities HKU Baptist/Lingnan/Shue Yan.
Currently many of the degrees awarded by these institutions are nearly worthless anyway doing this would improve the degrees from Open and City and Poly-tech because they could use the savings gained from sacking redundant administrators and majors to improve the combined areas left.  This would give Baptist and Lingnan a way to serve a niche that is currently not served in Hong Kong.
  • Reduce class size in Chinese public schools from 44 to 24 students

  • Simplify the way schools are classified by the EMB They should be either government or Private and then classed by the medium of instruction.  So private-English medium of instruction or Government and medium of instruction. Any of the old, so called “Elite” schools on Hong Kong Island that don’t want to abide by this can become private schools.

  • Institute a mandatory recycling program. Not necessarily as draconian as the one in Tokyo but make it easier to reduce waste.

  • Require electrical companies to have modern pollution controls on their plants rather than none like they have now.

  • Require buss companies to have modern pollution controls on their busses rather than the 1970’s era devices they now have.

  • Stop reclaiming the harbor. If they need to reclaim something try South Hong Kong Island near the cyber port.

  • Remind people and businesses that Hong Kong is one city. If they build a corporate headquarters in Yuen Long rather than Central they are still in Hong Kong.We cannot keep adding traffic and congestion to Hong Kong Island. The only way to reduce this problem is to not issue buildning permits for Central, Wan Chai and the "high zoot" areas of the Island. Use the whole SAR guys that way we don't need the big ugly elevated roads along the waterfront. Related to this would be an some zoning laws that wouldn't let a developer build a 62 story tall residential building on a two-lane road that cannot be widened and that cannot support the traffic generated by the project. Bonham Road is an abomination at rush hour because the road cannot safely carry that much traffic.

  • Implement a unified pedestrian plan that makes it easier to walk by widening sidewalks and restricting traffic and delivery times

  • Put some teeth in environmental law penalties

  • A 48 hour work week regardless of whether an employee is on salary or hourly wage with mandatory  time and half overtime.(This is still higher than most of the world)

  • A HKD$25.00 per hour minimum wage. This is still very low.

Oppinonated Rant on HK Governemnt

Oppinonated Rant Warning –If you are patriotic UK citizen do not read this post if you truly want to find out what expat Americans think of your benighted nation’s legacy in Hong Kong. Especially since everything in it is, to the best of my knowledge, TRUE.

I also realize that my politics are WAAAAY out there in some respects. I am not a moderate. Neither am I a conservative or liberal in the normal sense of the word. People today tend to think as either free-market capitalist or Socialist-Marxist. I follow Nicolò Machiavelli. I believe that the primary purpose of government is to perpetuate itself. I believe that good government exists because and only because it doesn’t want to be replaced. I am also somewhat a follower of John Lock. I believe in freedom. The problem in government as I see it, is to balance the governments need for self preservation with the individual’s need for freedom.

The politics in Hong Kong are really weird. I believe, a large part of that weirdness is a result the mini-constitution called the “Basic Law” Another part of it is because the British government was effectively a racist one in that used British imperial flunkies to run Hong Kong. The local Chinese were, until almost the end, only worked in rather menial government positions in that even the high ranking officials were not to make any legal decisions on their own. The only Chinese who were allowed to advance were those obedient followers with very brown noses. They are not decision makers. That means you have people who are afraid to make decisions that have to use a deeply flawed constitution; is it any wonder you get bad decisions? Hong Kong has ended up with a government run by a civil service who are not so much interested in doing what is right for Hong Kong but rather, in not rocking the boat. Don’t make a mistake. Keep your head down. Look busy. Keep your job. It is the culture here.

I think, the problem with the “Basic Law” is that it was never intended to be an actual working constitution but vehicle that would allow the bloody racist and immoral British toadies to continue to pillaging, looting and plundering by brown nosing and skirt lifting for the PRC. In addition to that it is poorly written. For example; it contained no provision for the transfer of office if a top official stepped down, resigned or died before the end of their term as Tung Che Wah did. It is, in many ways a scary document.

It contains provisions that allow various industries to have SEATS in the legislature. I am sorry, that is simply fascism.  Chris Patten, The Queen and the Parliament approved a fascist constitution for Hong Kong. I am still waiting for “The Guardian” to blame that on Bush or Reagan. Granted they were dealing with China but they could have done better than this.

But, what would you expect from a country that is so racist that it allowed laws to stand in Hong Kong that barred Chinese from living in certain neighborhoods until the last 25 to 30 years? (I believe that the actual date was in the 1980’s but can’t say for sure) Gee, it looks like South Africa learned how to set up apartheid from the UK!  When did “Jim Crow” laws end in the US again; 1964? I bring these little facts up every time some fat-arsed ex-colonial tries to lecture me on the moral superiority of the UK. Most of the time they simply get angry and say I’m just a bigoted American and then leave me alone. Sometimes if you can’t win you settle for a withdrawal of enemy forces.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Political Reactionary

Go Floyd

Some people, probably acoholic losers spent way to much time following the World Cup. I was up until 2:00AM last night following the Tour d'France.

What story Floyd Landis is!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Bicycling Blogger

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The GST Shuffle

As an addendum to my last post on the proposed HST in Hong Kong. TVB had a report on either Thursday or Friday night that showed government figures claiming the GST they are proposing would raise about HKD $30-billion but that after rebates and administrative cost net the government about 20-billion.

My HKD $1000.00 tax on shipping contains would gross about 22-billion with greatly less in administrative cost so the two plans are about equal in fund raising. However, mine does not fall upon the shoulders of the poor and lower middle class.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Tax Resisting Blogger

This is the Golden Age

I was reading some post on another site this morning about the things someone's grandfather told him about growing up in rural Oklahoma in the 1930's. I always find such stories to be interesting and enjoy them but take them with a grain of salt.

It seems to me that we, as humans have the innate ability to view our past romantically. The hard times, the good time, they all blend together into a haze fondness and yearning for times that were simple, pure or uncluttered. Over all, I think that is a good thing. We remember the good and learn from the bad which transforms the external evil we experience into moral good in our lives. This is really, I think, in some ways, an expression of the "noble savage" concept though we seldom recognize it as such.

The whole idea of the "noble savage"and how it has been perpetuated and morphed into an excuse and justification for everything from environmentalism to NAZI politics would make a really interesting study. While Rousseau is normally given the credit for the concept, I am not sure that he invented it so much as discovered it or, perhaps just was the first to articulate it in something approaching a systematic way. We can find examples of prominent people calling for a return to simpler, more noble and moral times at least as early as the Roman Empire.

I think there is a danger in focusing on the past. We cannot try and return to the past. We need to solve the problems of today. In focusing on today while learning from the past we will discover that there has never been so much opportunity to solve all sorts of problems. The real question is, "Can we as humans stop looking backwards? Somehow I don't think so. At least I can't. However, I think it is important to realize that if there was ever a Golden age, it is today. Does that mean there are no social problems? No, it doesn't. While there is an incredible amount of evil in the world there is also, today, more potential and actual good. This is an exciting time to be alive.

When I think of the experiences, real and exaggerated that I will be able to tell my grandchildren, I am sure that they will be amazed. I guess, this is like several earlier post in that I believe that part of our God given purpose on Earth is to enjoy life. That is easier for some people than others but wherever I go I find people laughing with friends and sharing what happiness they have; even if it isn't very much or by my standards non-existent.

Enjoyment comes from many sources but I think the most potent source of enjoyment comes from caring for each other. Martin Heidegger was absolutely correct when he wrote in Being and Time that the ultimate expression of our humanity was caring for one another. Even in desperate times we can care. We can care when we cannot do anything else. In caring we turn weeping into a kind of joy. It is that act that makes memories of bad times into a golden age.

Carpe Diem

Until Next Time
Fai Mao

Missed it

Yesterday, July 18 was the 37th anniversary of US Senator Ted Kennedy's accident at Chappaquiddick. I'd completely over looked it. But, I guess I'll have to go home today and lift a glass to the ability boozing, philandering, self-righteous and arrogant politicians everywhere to use their position, wealth and influence to avoid prosecution for major crimes.

At the very least Mr. Kennedy should have had to resign from the Senate. That he is still a Senator is blot of shame upon his political party in that it implies that US democrats believe that the rich are "more equal than others.

I can be excused because it is also my anniversary and I spent the evening with my stunningly attractive and intelligent wife.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Populist Blogger

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Use the Doorbell

One of the nicest features of our flat in Hong Kong is that it because it is located away from the street cell phones will not work in it. If you try to call you will hear a ring but our phone never rings. We do not have land line phone; thus, we do not get disturbed by telephone calls. We have to go down stairs to call but that is a small price to pay for being absolutely undisturbed.  Where it becomes problematic is in dealing with people here who are addicted to their cell phones.

A prime example was last night. We had an appointment with the Census to come gather our relevant demographic particulars. We were home, watching TV waiting on them. They never came; or at least we didn’t know they came. This morning there was a card on our security gate from the Census stating they were there but we were not and requesting a new appointment. It also reminded us that it is unlawful for us to refuse to participate. I would bet a dollar to a doughnut-hole that the census taker stood right in front of our glowing door bell and tried to call us on their cell phone. They never rang the door bell.

It has happened before. Why it never occurs to anyone younger than about 40 in Hong Kong to ring a doorbell anymore is a question I can’t answer. But, there you go. I think I’m going to put a sign on the gate with a red arrow pointing to the door bell that says “USE THE Doorbell” in both English and Chinese. I’d put a negative appellation after the word doorbell such as “Fool,” “Idiot” or “Moron” but given the strange names people adopt here they’d probably think I was referring to a particular individual.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The doorbell using blogger

Monday, July 17, 2006

Universal Suffrage and the GST

There has been quite a lot of talk about two things in Hong Kong of late.

The first is the idea of Universal Suffrage, specifically in regard to the election of the Chief Executive (Mayor) of Hong Kong. The second is the continuing push by non-elected civil servant types to institute a Goods and Services (GST), Sales or V.A.T. tax scheme in Hong Kong.

I am in favor of having an elected C.E.O. in Hong Kong, however; I have real concerns as to whether it would help solve any political issues in Hong Kong. I am not like the pro-PRC parties that oppose universal suffrage because they do not believe that Hong Kong is ready for it. Hong Kong has a literate and reasonably well educated population. The argument that the population here couldn’t handle the complexities of voting for a mayor like billions of other people around the world is simply insulting.

I am concerned about the Universal Suffrage push because I feel that many of the people promoting it see it as a sort of a be-all-end-all magic bullet for the political problems in Hong Kong. It isn’t. Look at the Philippines, can anyone in their right mind say that the government there is not so corrupt that the average Fillipino wouldn’t be better off with a benevolent, “father knows best” non-corrupt, dictator like, say, Lee Quan Yu of Singapore who wasn't voted in? Think about it! Which country has a higher standard of living, better enforcement of laws, cleaner environment, and smaller percentage of its population in poverty and fewer social problems; Singapore or the Philippines? Singapore. Which leader Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or Lee Quan Yu is elected by universal suffrage? Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In Singapore the only people who are allowed to run for office are the one that Lee Quan Yu approves. The citizens can only vote for government approved candidates. Thus, suffrage in Singapore is a sham snd it doesn’t matter that Mr. Lee was voted into office, there wasn’t really anyone else to vote for. There is no opposition to government on the ballot in Singapore. Yet, of the two, Singapore is the better place to live in many ways.

I think that politicians in Hong Kong need to look more at providing good government. Universal suffrage is probably part of that but it isn’t the only part and I don’t know if it could even be considered the most important part.

This fat cat thinks that the most important job for people who believe in a freer Hong Kong is to drive a stake through the heart of the unelected, over-paid, fat-arsed, self-righteous, arrogant, inflexible, conceited, pencil-pushing, running dogs left over from the British Imperial office bureaucratic civil service; which I call “Baboons” for short.

No better example the pernicious, malignant and misguided nature of these “public servants” can be seen than the continued attempts to institute a Byzantine, regressive, oppressive and difficult to collect and enforce GST, Sales Tax or VAT scheme in Hong Kong. Every government is going to have unelected civil servants but Hong Kong is one of the few places where they set tax policy. To be fair, most of these high ranking baboons that are causing problems work in the CEO’s office. Donald Tsang himself was one of these baboons.

The impetus for this is a report issued by the government in about 1998 that claimed that Hong Kong needed to “Broaden” its tax base. The original idea was to move away from the need to bubble up the property market to collect government revenues which caused a shortfall in taxes when Hong Kong had its recession in 1997-1999 and the property bubble that made the UK rich burst leaving the locals flat busted and awash in negative equity. Broadening the tax base isn’t a bad idea. But the way the baboons want to do it is to institute a scheme that is so complex that it is unworkable. Its real purpose appears not to “broaden the tax base” but to broaden the civil servant base. It provides jobs for redundant civil service personnel who could otherwise be forced to eat their “fat chicken meal” and then find another job.

Worse, it does not tax Li Kai Shing or big business or any or the huge polluters and pillagers who have made billions off the backs of the poor in Hong Kong for decades at all; but imposes’ an onerous tax upon the middle class. I realize that all taxes fall disproportionately upon the middle class. Even in Hong Kong there are not enough wealthy tycoons to pay the governments freight. However, this system doesn’t even try to tax those who can afford it. Any way they slice it the GST scheme falls mainly upon the less fortunate.

The reason the GST looks good to the baboons is that they make huge incomes, live in huge flats, drive big fancy automobiles, send their kids to expensive schools on HK Island and are out of touch with the cost of living here for the average person. They are just waiting to reach sixty so they retire to one of their houses in the US, Canada, Australa or Belize and in their arrogance think that it would be a painless, and easy to bear tax.

I repent. The baboons are not baboons; apes are smarter than that; these people are morons. Rich morons but morons never-the-less. Yes, Donald, that means you.

Rather than the complicated, Byzantine GST scheme being considered if the government really wants to broaden the tax base then try this.

How about a flat HKD$1000.00 tax on every LOADED 20 foot (6.5 meter) shipping container that arrives or leaves Hong Kong. That is only about USD $130.00 which considering that the value of goods in those containers can be millions is an insignificant tax on those goods. I doubt, if the tax would amount to much above 2% or 3% of the value of any of the cargos. It would be levied against the OWNER of the goods but collected by the container handling companies in exactly the same way that businesses would collect the GST. But there would be fewer people doing the collecting and vastly more money raised. There could and should be an exemption for household goods for people who are relocating to or from Hong Kong but that is it. This is a tax would be paid by large companies and the more they ship the more they would pay. Making it a flat rate rather than based upon the value of the cargo makes it easy to collect. It would, and this important, be paid by people who don't live in Hong Kong. If Wal-mart orders 15 containers full of shoes from China that were transhipped through Hong Kong and paid HKD $15000 in taxes on the containers then the customers in Wal-Mart pay the tax because Wal-Mart would pass the cost along into its prices. Thus, a consumer in New Jersey might pay USD $10.29 rather than USD $9.99 for a pair of cheap sneakers. Better them than us.

There are 22 million containers transshipped through Hong Kong every year. At HKD $1000.00 each the tax would be 22 billion Hong Kong dollars or 2.8 billion US. That looks like a pretty broad amount to me.

The objection here is “Hong Kong is a free port, our prosperity is built on it and we’ve always had it this way” Well, the same objection applies to the GST. We’ve never had one and HK has always been known as a low tax place. Adding a goods and services tax will have a much greater effect on tourism, not mention the knock on hardship caused to the poor and middle income people

My tax could be implemented and the size of the civil service could still be cut because it would not require the huge army of officials to ensure enforcement. Thus it would save money as well as make money.

I want to see Universal Suffrage here. But, I want to see it in conjunction with a better government. Part of that better government is to stop letting people who admire the punitive and regressive tax systems in Europe and North America do our tax planning.

Another part of bad government in Hong Kong is the bloated pay scale of the civil service that causes civil servants be more concerned with keeping their jobs and benefits intact than with doing what is truly in the best interest of Hong Kong. The extremely high salaries of the civil service in Hong Kong are actually a form of corruption that needs to be stamped out. But that is another rant for anther day.

It might not be perfect, but it is a better place to start. Reform the Civil service and then push for Universal Suffrage.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who could fix the Hong Kong Tax System if He were King For a Day

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Censorship at RTHK

I find it disconcerting that over the last week or so I have become much more political. As I normally try to not be political this is a disturbing trend. However, I have a couple of more political or quasi-political post left in my queue of things I want to say and then I should be back to my more normal meditative, slice of life post.

There was an interesting article in the International Herald Tribune yesterday titled "Broadcaster Feels Chill In Hong Kong" that I found disturbing. It talks about how RTHK is being pressured to change its content to reflect a more pro-government position.

To be fair, the article starts off by noting that the non-governmental press and broadcasters are completely unfettered. But, then tries to show how RTHK has been singled out for censorship.

The article then generalizes the experience at RTHK to the rest of Hong Kong.

As an example of this censorship the article states that RTHK's website is often blocked in the PRC, wow, how unusual!

Then there is a transition from RTHK to broadcasting at large.

Let me quote from the article:Prominent pro-democracy politicians like Emily Lau say the public broadcasting review is troubling because the Hong Kong government has a history of seeking to limit freedom of expression since British rule ended here in 1997."The situation is getting worse and worse," said Lau, a legislator who once was the head of the local journalists' association. Lau said efforts to restrain the media had included intimidation and behind-the-scenes pressure on prominent media critics of the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not advocating censorship, I am a librarian and they probably wouldn't have given me an MLIS degree if I did, but there were some real problems with this article.

First, nowhere in the article does the article talk about the accounting and financial scandals currently swirling around RTHK. I think, that it is a fair to say if that if RTHK is (How can I say this politely?) stealing government money through fraudulent overtime, unregulated purchases and improper use of RTHK facilities, vehicles and supplies then maybe there could also be some question about the content of the programs. If RTHK, which is a government organization, wants to be free of government interference in its content then it needs to be free of corruption and engage in transparent and ethical accounting practices. Period, full stop, no further argument is required.

This is not Bill Clinton having the IRS target his political enemies. The financial problems at RTHK are apparently quite clear and plane and have been published by other local outlets.

Second, RTHK is a branch of the GOVERNMENT. It receives its funding from the GOVERNMENT. That means that it is, in some measure, answerable to the GOVERNMENT for its policies and is ipso facto, an organ for the government to dissimilate governmental policies and positions. Just as I, the parent can refuse to give my daughter cash or restrict her choices through my lack of financial support the HK government can demand that RTHK provide news and commentary that reflect the government position and withhold funding or support if RTHK refuses to do so. This isn’t censorship; it is the government getting what it has paid for. The Hong Kong government pays RTHK's bills.

I understand that many journalist like to think of themselves as "progressive, enlightened, urbane and civilized fighters for the truth;" I also think they tend to, many times, view the world through a rather strangely tinted gestalt that makes them think that normal rules of business, economics law and even taste somehow do not apply to them. RTHK should realize who their employer is.

When RTHK, as cited in the article compared Tung Che Wah to the Taliban they crossed a line of not only taste but of journalistic responsibility that gave government officials cause to question not only the veracity of RTHK's point of view but its ability to fulfill its function as a n official news source and gave the government a plausible warrant to say that maybe RTHK needed to be reeled in.

Journalists, especially those who work for state supported broadcasters should never forget to paraphrase Nicolo Machiavelli that the foremost purpose of any government is to perpetuate itself. Just as a writer who works for the Tourism Board should be expected to publish articles that deal with the restaurants and parks in Hong Kong and ignores the air-pollution; journalists who work for RTHK should realize that they will be, at least in part, required to tow the government's line. To misapply the New Testament "A house divided against it self cannot stand." No government anywhere at any time is going to allow a state owned broadcaster to seriously undermine the rest of the government; especially if, as in the case of comparing the Tung administration to the Taliban the undermining is based upon mischaracterization. That is true of all governments at all times.

That means that if RTHK is critical of the government it must be very sure that what it says is provable. If a journalist cannot deal with that fact then they should work for somebody else. Indeed, they should find another line of work.

Likewise, people who listen to state sponsored broadcasters, whether RTHK, The BBC, PBS or whatever should always remember that they are listening to an official government organ and realize that the government will want to spin the information like a top to make it self look good.

Third, hearsay is not evidence. If, as Emily Lau says "The situation is getting worse and worse," said Lau, a legislator who once was the head of the local journalists' association. Lau said efforts to restrain the media had included intimidation and behind-the-scenes pressure on prominent media critics of the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing." Then the journalists who are being intimidated and threatened need to step forward and identify who is threatening them.

They need to name names of who it is that is intimidating journalist who criticize the PRC or HK government they need to supply specifics; they need to get the people threatening them on tape and expose them. That is what investigative journalism is all about. They should not let the intimidation remain "behind the scenes." Let us see the tapes on TVB or ATV at 7:30 as the lead story on the evening news. I can hear them say; "Fai Mao would you be that brave" Well, perhaps that is one of the reasons I am not a journalist. They took the job, I didn't. I fight my battles and they should fight theirs.

Please note I would not be surprised if the PRC or HK governments practice intimidation but the media outlets need to document it and file charges against the people doing this as they have every right to do under the basic law. If they cannot present evidence then they should not spread what are, in effect, only rumors. So, Emily, put up or shut up. If that idiot Long Hair Leung can get the horrific surveillance law thrown out then you should be able to prove this and have the courts protect free speech in this area. It is your job as a servant of the people.

That said journalist should also realize that they are not above the law. RTHK cannot engage in dodgy accounting and justify it by saying "We are a broadcaster! They cannot say anything they want and hid behind the "I'm a journalist" shield. If a media outlet or journalist publishes treasonous materials then they should be ready to stand trial as traitors. (Notice if you are a traitor to evil government you might very well be a good person and still be considered a traitor in the law's eyes.) If they publish lies they should be not be surprised when people call them liars. If they claim something is a fact they should be ready to supply the proof needed to document the facts. If they spin their stories to fit a pre-existing ideological bent then journalist should not be surprised if people stop reading or listening to them and refuse to grant them the influence they believe they deserve.

Conversely, if they stand for truth and do so ethically, honestly and without hypocrisy then they will have more respect than they could ever imagine.

What they cannot do is have it both ways. They cannot be shallow, puerile, cowardly and false and have people respect them for being deep, honorable, brave and truthful.

Finally, this story bothered me because it places me in an uncomfortable position. I do not enjoy being seen as a shill for the government. I generally think the PRC is oppressive and the HK government inept and servile. I don’t really enjoy defending either of them.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Reluctant Defender of the Government Blogger

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why no mention of the Tour?

I realize that television news is actually a business and true news reporting is of secondary importance to ratings which drives the advertising rates. However, I haven't seen any mention of the Tour d'France on the sport section of TVB or ATV. I realize cycling is not a hugh sport in Hong Kong; but, it isn't big in the US or Canada either and their TV stations at least give the tour a 15 second mention.

The Tour is a major international sporting event. I think it would deserve a mention.

Until Next Time

The Cycling Fan Blogger

At last a real man!

Here is a story about a guy who knew how to die like a man.

I remember when this happened. It was one of the most horrific murders in a long time because of the savagery and brutality involved. I'm not going to go into the details but suffice it to say that if there was a ever a crime that deserved the death penalty it was this one. There was also absolutely no doubt that Derrick Sean O'Brien killed these two girls.

Holy Cow, look at how this guy behaved at the end. I'd read somewhere that he'd become a Christian in jail. Lots of prisoners do or claim to have religious conversions and I normally pass it off as an attempt to gain an early parole. However, to look the family members of the girls he raped, sodomized, tortured, and killed in the face, apologize to them, admit that this was the worst thing he'd ever done and then to lie down on the table and let the prison officials administer the lethal drugs WITHOUT being restrained, that took courage.

RIP Derrik. You died a better man than you lived.

Until Next Time

The Amazed Blogger


I do not know what I've done to template for this blog. The banner is suppossed to say: "Fai Mao's Sandbox" but now says "Fai Mao's Sandbox Fai Mao"

I've looked but don't see how to change it

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Only Semi-Computer Literate Blogger

Jackie You Are Not The Man

From the AP

It seems that Jackie Chan wants to loose his fan base.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Kung Fu Movie Fan Blogger

One More T-Shirt

I rode the elevator down yesterday with a very pretty teenage girl. She had a t-shirt on that said "I like my boyfriend and he likes my mother"

Yeah right.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Pearl (Mis)report

Warning this post is not a whinny rant; it just sounds like one!

On Sunday night the TVB Hong Kong aired its weekly news magazine “The Pearl Report” The host, as all ways was Dianna Lin who always does her dead level best to look like a female Captain Kangaroo. She spent the whole program “investigating” the relevancy of blogs. Dianna proved once again why I think she should be replace with the comedian Lydia Lum. At least Lydia is funny.

The only legitimate blog they actually looked at was EastSouthWestNorth. Otherwise the program looked at goofballs with cell-phone video cams that were interviewing protesters at the various protest over the past several weeks and months. Don’t get me wrong, if people want to make their own video documentaries on these protest then I think they should. But when they say, as one girl did that in effect they show a particular point of view then what they are making is no longer a documentary but propaganda. They are not interested to find out what the truth is because they already think they know. I am glad that the MSM in Hong Kong has finally noticed the blogs. It is just that the people they picked with the exception of EastSouthWestNorth were pretty much cranks or unfunded digital movie and documentary/propaganda maker want-to-be types.

I think the idea to do this show came from the “Bus Uncle” video on You-Tube. (By the way, I think that video was staged nobody in Hong Kong acts that way.) There are, in fact many good Hong Kong bloggers. Some are linked on this site. (I would not list my self among them because I primarily do navel gazing not punditry.) Why no mention for example or Simon World? Both of these sites are widely read and have intelligent and thoughtful comments on the government and daily life in Hong Kong.

I used to think that people in journalism were in a grand cabal to promote a political agenda. Of late I’ve changed my mind. I don’t believe that people in the media are, as a whole smart enough to do that. The reason that I think they used the “Videographers” is because they were doing essentially a type of feel good story. “Let us all identify with these poor down trodden dears and let the world know their terrible plight.” Television news likes those type stories. It would have made TVB look bad if they had found someone who had done a really good job and found a legitimate story that TVB had ignored.

I also think that if the only thing you know about blogs in Hong Kong was what you learned on that show you’d still not know very much and most of what you know is wrong.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Angry at TVB Blogger

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Top 10 List for Hong Kong

Fai Mao’s
Top Ten List of Things Hong Kong Should Do

  1. Put Anson Chan out of her misery. She wants to be the next CEO (Mayor of Hong Kong) simply because she was the most senior Civil Servant. I have news for you baby, politics is not a seniority system unless you live an benighted place like the UK where Dumbo the Elephant masqurading as Prince Charels becomes king because he is the first born. She should be required move to the US and keep Helen Thomas company.

  2. Make it illegal for Long Hair Leung to wear t-shirts with the face of a mass-murderer on it in Legco meetings. He should be required to wear a suit and tie. That way he could look like someone who went to university in the UK or gaduated from HKU rather than simply like a fool.
  3. Require retailers like Fortress and Broadway to carry replacement batteries for the cameras they sell if the batteries are a propriatory item that cannot be easily found.

  4. Require Li, Kai Shing to live in an 350 square foot “Luxury apartment” that his company built.

  5. Require Nina Wong to have plastic surgery so she does not look like a pig and fine her HKD $1,000,000 per day she wears her hair in pig tails

  6. Erect a statue of Chris Patton in Yuen Long that people can throw oranges (or maybe egg tarts) at on Chinese New Year since they can no longer throw them at the wishing tree.

  7. Force TVB to replace Dianna Lin with Lydia Lum.

  8. Forbid the police from using lights and sirens when on their way to a new noodle shop.

  9. Make Donald Tsang where a beanie with a propeller on top if he wants to keep wearing those stupid bow ties

  10. Build the New government headquarters next to the Disney Land on Lantau Island. That way the government officials would feel right at home.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Cynically Political Blogger

Thursday, July 06, 2006


It is amazing how you change as you get older.

I never thought I would live in Hong Kong, seriously contemplate becoming a Chinese citizen, work as a teacher, have a wife that looks 25 years younger than me, have children in university, or travel the world like I have.

I also never thought I would willingly ride a Fred bike. For those who are unfamiliar with bicycle slang a Fred is either a guy who tries to race on a Huffy or rides a strange bike. It is generally a derogatory term though it can be used to describe an eccentric cyclist. As everyone knows calling someone eccentric is a polite way of calling them a “Dork.”

Well, I will be 46 next week which means that it has been at least 6 years since I have been able to train and race with any hope of ever being able to race and win at a professional level. Yet, as I would ride my rollers or make loops around Hong Kong Stadium I would still imagine I was in the Tour d’ France or the Hawaii Iron Man Triathlon . It helped to pass the time and gave me some motivation. Over the past several weeks I have been consciously giving up that dream. I replaced my deep drop bars and aero clip-on with flat mountain bike type bars and a set of bar-ends, converted to a set of NOS Campagnolo Record-OR thumb shifters and installed a Nitto Periscope stem that allows me to raise the handle bars to about an inch over the saddle height. I replaced the Look Clip-less pedals with old fashioned toe-clips so that I can ride in sneakers.

The nice Italian frame simply screams DORK. I do not know how one would say “Dork” in Italian but that is what this frame would say if it could speak.

All of this was done in an attempt to make the bike comfortable enough for a middle-aged guy with no pretensions of racing to ride for exercise. The changes have worked. The bike is insanely comfortable. Indeed, it is much more comfortable than many much more expensive suspended bikes. It is stable, I can see the traffic. It shifts well. I can really have no complaints about its performance. It still accelerates and handles like the fine Italian road bike it is but, holy cow, does it look weird.

If you look close you can still see the expensive Campagnolo derailleurs, shifters and crank. The beautiful titanium railed Brooks saddle is also a gem. I am still riding light weight tubular tires. But, that stem, it steals the visuals.

I still have to admitt that I feel just a little like a dork when I ride it public. However, one of the nice things about growing older is that you tend to worry less about what others think of you. Middle-aged men can sort of revel in their dorkiness. Middle-aged men can learn to internalize their dorkiness and turn it into something manly and cool. At least that is what we tell ourselves. The 20 something racer boys still laugh at us until they come to a job interview and we don’t hire them, then they curse us.

What is strange is that my average speeds have increased since I swapped these parts out. I was not really fast anyway and the comfort and view of traffic have allowed me to ride with more confidence I guess and that has translated into a higher average speed. I also have found my trainer sessions to be a lot less tiring because my back is not so stiff. My butt has been a bit sore because of the new position but that will sort itself out with a few more rides.

Maybe the frame is not saying "Dork!" in Italian but, "Bravo!"

I have a couple of pictures of this new setup

The first one shows the bike from the left side. Notice how high the Nitto Stem allows me to raise the bars. BTW, if anyone knows anything about this model frame then drop me an email. My guess is that it was made in the early 1990's but I really do not know. It has a Columbus SL tubing sticker on both the frame and the fork and says "ARN Racing" on the top tube.Here is a picture of the bars and stem from the front. Notice the Campagnolo thumb-shifters. The brake levers are actually quite cheap ones because I needed to make sure that they would work with side pull brakes and were not "V-Brake" or Cantilever specific. The cork grips are really nice but somewhat tricky to install because they have to be glued to the bar. That means you have to get the setup right the first time.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Dorky Blogger

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blogging Hong Kong

I decided today, on the spur-of-the-moment; which is the way all really good decisions are made, to add a list of ex-pat blogs from Hong Kong. If you find me before I find you and want your blog listed then drop me an email with your URL.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Cataloger of Blogs Blogger

Chinese Xenophobia

I mentioned in an earlier post that I think the Chinese are, as a rule somewhat racist. I guess I should clarify. They are not any worse in many ways than say people from the US or Canada But, in some way they are much worse.

If you are not ethnically Chinese the locals call you a "Gweilow" which is literally translated "Pale Devil" unless you are of African decent and then they call you a "Soy Sauce Chicken." You don't want to know what they think of Indians or people from Pakistan. Try designating entire groups of people by such derogatory monikers in the US and be prepared to loose your shirt in court.

The Chinese used to consider themselves "The Middle Kingdom" While it is true that they thought of this in terms their nation being between Heaven above and Hell below it is also true that the term meant that they considered their culture to be the center or the most important on Earth. The 19th century Imperial powers dissabused them of this notion but it is still an undercurrent in modern China and Hong Kong.

Could you tell a blatantly racist joke in an American church? Try this one and substitute the word "Caucasian" or "white" for Chinese. It was told by a Chinese pastor from the pulpit while he talked about why Chinese were superior to Westerners.

When God created humans he formed their bodies and had to cook the clay before they would live. So he heated His wok and filled it with oil. He then placed the first man in the oil but cooked him too long and he became the father of the Black race. He then placed the second man in the oil and didn't cook him long enough; he became the whites. He then cooked the third man the proper amount of time and he came out a beautiful yellow-brown and was the father of the Chinese. So, you see we Chinese are the only people who were made perfectly.

The people in the Church service where this was presented laughed.

Maybe I am too sensitive. But I do not like to be called a white devil or compared to undercooked doughnuts.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Ethnic Minority Blogger

Who Are You?

One of the ways that you know you have gone completely local in Hong Kong is that you always carry your MP3 or I-pod with you every where you go. It can be somewhat entertaining, in a low brow sort of way to look at all the people on the bus or MTR who are plugged up and singing to themselves. Cantonese pop music singers tend to sound flat anyway because many Chinese words end with a falling tone. Because Chinese is a language that uses single syllable words that have tonal endings Cantonese Pop singers cannot hold a note without changing the word and that gives the music a very choppy and disjointed sound as well. Still, some of the Cano-Pop singers do a pretty good job. But, when you hear a 14 year-old girl unconsciously screeching along with Andy Lau you can easily understand why everybody else wants to have their ears plugged and their own piped in music. I am no exception.

My musical taste is somewhat eclectic. Depending on my mood I will have Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, The Beatles, or Bob Dylan, as well as the likes of Enya, Norbert Kraft, Verdi’s Operas, Bach, Mozart or Muddy Waters. B.B. King is another favorite as are the lesser known Mark Heard, Larry Norman, and T-bone Burnett. Lately I have been listening to “The Who.” When it comes to English rock bands the Who are not the “Rolling Stones,” “The Beatles,” “Lead Zeppelin” or “Pink Floyd”; I am not even sure they would rank as high as “The Police” or “Yes” in my book but they are still fun and I have enjoyed listening to them over the past several days..

“The Who” are at their best when they just play Rock-n-Roll and do not try to be too intellectual or relevant or political or symphonic and instead encourage you to simply “join together with the band.” That said, one of my favorite Who songs is “Who are You?” from 1979 album of the same name, which in a strange way, is one of their more intellectual songs. In this song Pete Townsend asks himself who he really is. His answer appears to be a drunken, potty mouthed, somewhat violent, lecher. Well, at least, he knows who and what he is. He then demands to know who I am.

Do I know who I am? Do I want to know? John Dewey once said that he could not reveal more of his early life without more untruth than he was comfortable with. (I will obtain my source for this). I think most of us are like that. We want to present ourselves in the best light possible. But, we need to get past our ego. We need to see that we may be drunken, potty mouthed, violent, lechers. Or, we may be really as good as we think we are. Most of us are probably somewhere in between.

Who am I at a little more abstract level? I think I am as Jaspers would say, “what I am becoming” and “what I have become” All of us are works in progress. History moves on and so do we. Interestingly what we are does not stop evolving even after death. Our reputation, our deeds and the memory of our life in those we knew continues to change and grow for some time even after we ceased to be alive. That is why you cannot normally see a good biography of a famous person until they have been dead for about 50 years. Biographers need time for the complete definition of the person to stop evolving. This should give us pause. Perhaps we should not ask “Who are we?” but, “What will become of us?”

Who am I? I am an existential, pietistic, mystically inclined, fideistic, Christian who worships in a non-Pentecostal, protestant tradition. I am a librarian by profession, a philosopher by training, a crank by habit and nature. What will I become? I am not sure I can say. Perhaps I should pay more attention; or, perhaps I should stop listening to The Who.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger Who Wonders Who He Is

Monday, July 03, 2006

July 1st - Handover day

Saturday was the 9th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC.

The day was basically filled with demonstrations. In the morning there was a very nice, well choreographed parade by those who support the government . It had PLA troops marching, bands and all sorts of normal parade type things. There were about 20 to 28 thousand participants. It was odd to me that this was the first year that the government supporters had done this.

The afternoon was finished off by the annual protest march sponsored by the people that have problems with the government. There were over 50-thousand people at this march. The protesters were a really eclectic bunch. There were people that oppose the governments' lack of transparency, those that want a more universal suffrage, the Fa-Lung Gung goofballs and assorted anti-communist groups as well as those that do not think the PRC is communist enough. While the protest march was not as glitzy as the pro-government parade it was still an impressive event because of its shear size.

I have been and will continue to remain quite critical of HK government. However, I did not join the march. I watched from the air-conditioned comfort of the R-66 restaurant dining room 62 floors above street level.


Several reasons.

  1. Eventhough a I live here I still look like a foreigner. The Chinese, appear to me to be a very racist group for the most part and I do not want the process of political reform to be torpedoed by because someone looks at me and says "See, this is plot to return us to the British or make us like the Americans."
  2. The opposition to the government is not focused. There are too many groups with too many agendas. I cannot in good conscience support some of the groups in the opposition. Indeed, I can whole heartedly support many of the government positions. Therefore, I was somewhat conflicted. Not necessarily satisfied with the way things are but not completely outraged either.
  3. My wife wanted to go out and eat at this restaurant and I put my wife above my politics.

However, it occurs to me that there are several things that political groups in the US and Europe could learn from Hong Kong.
  1. There was no violence. One side rallied its forces and held its parade complete with waving banners and placards and then the other side had its turn.
  2. Everybody was polite.
  3. No windows were broken.
  4. Nobody was arrested.
  5. Nobody needed to be arrested.
  6. No cars were burned
  7. Each side got its point across.
If you think that the issues involved were of less importance to the people here than the issues involved with rioters in France or the political thugs in the US you are wrong.

We have less freedom here but behaved in a more tolerant manner.

If the "anti-war" or "anti-abortion" or "pro-war" or "pro-abortion" or "anti-Bush/Cheney/Haliburton" or "anti-CFR/Builderburgers" or the "The democrats are traitors" groups in the US would act this way I think the world would be a better place. Here in Hong Kong we are basically a free people. But, we live with the constant shadow of the repressive PLA government. There is a niggling fear that one day the tanks will roll down our streets because we refuse to tow the PRC line on every issue. China proabaly executes more prisoners every month than the US does in two or three years. Many more People in China are placed in horrible jails for simply speaking out against the horrible corruption and inhuman practices of the PRC government. We live under a threat, both real and implied that one day our freedom could be taken away. Yet, here were the people of Hong Kong engaged in peaceful, organized protest with no stones, no bullets, and no violence.

Yes, the people who wish to protest in the US and Europe could have learned a lot from us on Saturday. The WTO protesters should take a few notes.

Good job Hong Kong! I'm proud of you.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger Who doesn't Go To Political Marches