Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sick jokes at the expense of those on both sides of the Hong Kong-Mainland Chinese border who seek democracy and dignity

the others is in danger of meeting the same fate
And even being Hong Kong's "king of votes" may not be able
to save Eddie Chu Hoi Dick from the same fate :(
The Hong Kong and Communist Chinese governments appear to be combining to making sick joke after sick joke at democracy's expense.  On Bastille Day last Friday, it arranged for the disqualification of four elected lawmakers on technicalities. On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law in Taiwan, news came from across the Mainland Chinese-Hong Kong border that Liu Xiaobo had been denied a burial on Chinese soil and, instead, had had his ashes scattered into the sea

Their supposed crime?  Would you believe that it's not having taken their oath of office, as can be seen by their adding words at their swearing-in that ranged from slogans calling for true democracy, self-identifying as a Hong Konger and demanding the resignation of then Chief Executive, Leung Chun Ying to a proclamation that the Umbrella Movement had lost but not died to calls for democratic self-determination for Hong Kong and the death of tyranny?  And if you think this all sounds pretty farcical, join the crowd!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hiking in a quiet, out-of-the-way part of Hong Kong (Photo-essay)

As hiking becomes an increasingly popular activity in Hong Kong, it's become rarer and rarer to feel like you've got the trail to yourself.  As I've found to some surprise though, it's still actually possible; this especially if you venture along a hike route that's not a part of any of the territory's famous four "long" trails (i.e., the Maclehose, Wilson, Lantau and -- especially -- Hong Kong Trails).

Take, for example, a section of a trail on Lantau Island that's not a part of the Lantau Trail which a friend and I chose to hike along one Sunday afternoon a while back, during which we didn't see another single person!  Part of the unpopularity of this trail on the Chi Ma Wan Peninsula stems from its trailhead not being near any bus stop, minibus stop or MTR station.  And while one can catch a ferry from or to a public pier located on the eastern side of the peninsula, the limited service makes it so that you have to time it right; otherwise, you're faced with a rather draining trudge back to civilization!    

As it so happened, we got to the pier too late to catch the ferry we were hoping we'd be in time to take us out of the peninsula that afternoon because we had spent so much more time stopping to admire the stunningly quiet scenic views to be found along our hike.  Consequently, we had no choice but to walk all the way back to Pui O.  But even though my pedometer showed that I ended up walking over 25,000 steps that day, I still will maintain that all that (extra) effort  actually felt worth it -- and I'm trusting that my hiking companion that day felt similarly! ;b      

Looking out onto a peaceful scene at 
the southern edge of Pui O beach
Yes, there really are parts of Hong Kong that are 
on the distinctly rural side and bereft of crowds! ;b

My secondary school art teacher was so right when
she told us that the sea isn't just one shade of blue...
 So far away was that Macau ferry that we could see
but not hear it speeding along to its destination
Back in the 1970s, the Sea Ranch development came about
because it was thought there'd be a market out there for people 
to live in splendid isolation on Chi Ma Wan Peninsula...
On the water's edge at Shap Long Irrigation Reservoir
The pier, with its lights on, located near two now disused
correctional institutions, and from where we'd have 
caught the ferry if we had been on time! ;S
Lights on and tide in at Pui O on our way back there!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Politics and beer in Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong's days as Hong Kong's 
Party Central look to be behind it...

To be sure, stereotypical party-goer types can be found among

But in the main, the crowd and mood is mellower 
these days than previously :)

Back in the fall of 2014, when sections of Hong Kong were being Occupied, I accepted the invitation of a friend to go to a Hong Kong celebration of Oktoberfest.  Even while I enjoyed my friend's company as well as the food and drinks on offer at the event, part of me felt guilty for being at it rather than out in "Occupied" space.  

To make me feel better, my friend agreed to head over with me to the protest areas at Central and Admiralty after we had our dinner.  There we found a lot more people that evening than had been the case at the Oktoberfest event; prompting my friend to ask me whether this made me happy -- to which I replied with an emphatic "Yes!"

Those memories came back to me last night as the route for the candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo took participants (including myself) close to Lan Kwai Fong, where I knew this year's beer and music festival was going on.  And I got to thinking about them once more when I headed over this afternoon to what used to be a crazy party area that I avoided like the plague for years but now has become a mellower place that's home to my favorite bar in Hong Kong and an annual beer and music festival which I had fun chillin' out at last year.   

After three days and nights of high emotion (and political activism), I felt a need to decompress.  In view of bad weather being predicted for today and also my having walked over 19,000 steps yesterday, I figured that a hike wouldn't actually be the answer this time around to my de-stressing needs.  And although part of me wanted to just stay at home and maybe even lie in bed all day, I decided that it would actually be psychologically healthier for me to venture out to enjoy good company -- and also some alcoholic beverages -- at this year's Lan Kwai Fong Beer & Music Festival.

As it so happened, I spent pretty much all of my time at the fest at just one stall: that operated by Sake Bar Ginn!  Ideally, in a setting and event like this, I'd have been drinking ice cold Kirin Ichiban beer topped with frozen beer foam.  In its absence, I made do by alternating drinks of Kirin Ichinan beer with frozen sake mojitos -- and found it to be a cooling combination that also successfully got me pretty relaxed over the course of the afternoon!

Something else that helped put me in a good mood was that there appeared to be fewer people at this event than had been at yesterday's candlelight march!  For one thing, I don't like crowds as a rule; and at events and venues where alcohol is in the mix, my sense is that the mood tends to be more mellow and pleasant when there's ample space to move, breathe, and for sound to be able to travel without people needing to shout.  

For another, it confirms that the turnout at yesterday's candlelight march was actually really respectable.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that it was pretty impressive; with at least one respected news outlet having underlined its importance by noting that last night's march was the only -- not just most -- large-scale commemorative event for Liu Xiaobo on Chinese soil and the fact of it having taken place actually sends a powerful message to Beijing that the rulers there may not want to hear but can't help seeing. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hong Kong's candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo

I lit a candle for Liu Xiaobo at Chater Garden this evening
In the company of thousands of others, I walked candle in hand 
from Chater Garden to the China Liason Office
It may not be an eternal flame but it's been
captured for posterity by my camera
Earlier today came news that the ashes of the late Liu Xiaobo were scattered at sea in a move widely seen as the Chinese government seeking to deny those who loved and admired him a place of pilgrimage.  For many people, it further confirmed the Communist Chinese regime's heartlessness and I totally would not be surprised if it angered people and gave a number of Hong Kongers (further) motivation to turn up for this evening's candlelight march in memory of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Arriving at Chater Garden half an hour before the march got going, I was surprised to see this space get filled to the brim by the time the assembled crowd began moving out along a designated route that would take us from Central through to Sheung Wan all the way to the China Liason Office in Sai Ying Pun.  And while I normally would be able to complete that walk in less than an hour, the fact that I was walking along with thousands of others -- and consequently subject to crowd and traffic control by the police that ensured that there'd be lots of stops and starts along the way -- made it so that I didn't get to the (temporary) memorial space set up for Liu Xiaobo in front of the China Liason Office until close to three hours after I began my journey.
So long did the candlelight march take that my candle got way too short and its light burned out just before I rounded the final corner to the march's designated end point.  Also, I have to admit that my candle's flame was snuffed out two times before then; no thanks to the strong breezes that occasionally blew our way but were no way the worst bits of weather that we had to deal with -- instead, that'd be the rain that I initially dismissed as mere showers before it got to absolutely pelting down as my group of marchers stood waiting to pay our respects before we concluded our march.
In retrospect, I find it symbolic that the candle I lit for Liu Xiaobo was not able, like him, to fully complete its planned journey while alive -- but, hopefully, still may be able to achieve its goal with the help of another.  As for the downpours this evening: I see the rain as the tears shed by heaven for a highly principled individual who had the misfortune of living under a regime whose rulers felt so threatened by his ideas that they decided to view him as a criminal rather than patriot.  
In their treatment of Liu Xiaobo (and also his wife, Liu Xia), the Communist Chinese government have shown how heartless and despicable it is.  Shame on it!  And may Hong Kongers keep on opposing and resisting its attempts -- be it using soft power, what are effectively monetary bribes or menacing intimidation -- to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city, where such as the freedom to protest and the freedom to be critical of the government (in an effort to make it better) is no longer allowed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Disappointment in Hong Kong one day after tragedy struck in Mainland China

A space to mourn Liu Xiaobo's premature death set up 

in front of "Civic Square" this evening 

This afternoon, I went to the China Liason Office in Hong Kong to pay tribute to the late Liu Xiaobo.  Or, rather, I went to the area set up in front of the Liason Office for mourners that has been bedecked with white flowers and signs urging people to remember the Nobel Peace Prize winning pro-democracy activist and demanding his widow, Liu Xia's freedom, and where a condolence book also is available for people to sign.

Not surprisingly, a rally was organized this evening to protest the decision and also to show support to disqualified lawmakers "Long Hair" Leung Kwok Hung, Nathan Law, Law Siu Lai and Edward Yiu.  With many of its speakers being the same ones who also had spoken at another rally this past December, I couldn't help reflecting sadly on how the mood has changed.

Then, there was jubilance in the air since that event at Chater Garden had come in the wake of Leung Chun Ying's announcement that he'd not be seeking re-election as Hong Kong's Chief Executive.  This time around, at the rally in front of the still closed 1,000-square-meter forecourt to the Central Government Offices at Admiralty popularly known as Civic Square, there were notes of defiance struck but along with Liu Xiaobo's death casting a shadow on things was a sense among the assembled crowd that the battle for democracy for Hong Kong is not going to be won anytime soon.

This is not to say, however, that people in Hong Kong have decided to give up the fight.  Especially considering that tonight's event was effectively a one and half hour press conference and had been organized and announced at pretty short notice, the number of people who turned up was surprisingly high.  

One of the folks who turned up to voice their disappointment and unhappiness at what's happened today in Hong Kong was quoted in a Hong Kong Free Press report as follows: "There is no point in protesting when an oppressive government won't listen to you. But I still felt that coming here, contributing to the headcount, was better than staying at home and typing up a status on Facebook. At least I was here."  To which, I'd say, "Hear, hear -- and that's the (Hong Kong) spirit", at least to the latter part of that statement!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

RIP, Liu Xiaobo -- and free Liu Xia!

A great man died today.  Rest in peace, Liu Xiaobo.  And we won't forget you, Liu Xia!  Among other things, it's not something her husband would have wanted.  Remember what he said about his beloved: "Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you." 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dealer/Healer serves up a seemingly tall tale that's actually rooted in reality (film review)

Detail from an artwork located in Kowloon Walled City Park
highlighting the high density of the walled city once located there

Dealer/Healer (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2017)
- Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon), director
- Starring: Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Gordon Lam Ka Tung, Jiang Yiyan, Max Zhang Jin

While I was away in Malaysia and Indonesia this past May, a Hong Kong movie I first heard about more than a year ago and have been eager to check out opened in Hong Kong cinemas.  Eager to view it upon my return to the Big Lychee a fortnight or so later, I was rather perturbed to see that screenings of it had already been gone done to one a day at just a handful of theaters. 

We're talking, after all, of a dramatic offering helmed by a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Director nominee and starring a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor winner.  And, actually, post viewing it, I'm also surprised that Dealer/Healer did not feature in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival; this since I truly do feel that it is a good deal better in quality as well as possesses a more compelling narrative than 2017 HKIFF entrants The Sleep Curse and Love Off the Cuff. 

Telling the story of a drug dealer turned drug rehab worker (who also takes to mediating between rival Triad factions, and underworld figures and the police on the side), Dealer/Healer's tale may seem like a unbelievably tall one if not for it being based on the biography of its executive producer.  Set in the 1970s and 1980s, the film focuses on a couple of eventful decades in the life of Peter Chan Shun Chi -- or, as he's referred to in the movie, Chen Hua. 

Portrayed for the most part by Lau Ching Wan, this product of the Tsz Wan Shan public estates is shown developing from being a playground terror (who headed a group that called themselves the 13 Warlocks of Tsz Wan Shan) into a mid-level gangster whose turf extended to the Kowloon Walled City, but then was undone both by his trying to help out two long-time buddies Bullhorn (played by Gordon Lam Ka Tung) and Cat (essayed by Max Zhang Jin) get some of the drug-dealing business controlled by his bosses and having become addicted to the narcotics he would have done better to just sell.

In retrospect though, his getting found out and slapped into prison for five years actually turned out to be the making of Chen Hua rather than his undoing.  Genuinely reformed while behind bars, he emerged from the correctional facility vowing to not only stay clean but also help others to kick the habit.  Against the odds, he also looks to reconnect with the love of his life (played by Jiang Yiyan) -- and befriends his former enemy, a crooked cop turned powerful drug lord (portrayed by Louis Koo).

Also rather improbable on the face of it is what director Lawrence Lau and co managed to accomplish throughout Dealer/Healer: that is, transport this film's viewers back in time by way of surprisingly detailed and authentic-looking period visuals, and also into parts of Hong Kong (notably the Kowloon Walled City) which actually are no more.  Ironically, however, these aesthetic accomplishments may actually have negatively affected the movie's appeal: because, let's face it, the 1970s and 1980s were pretty stylistically awful decades!

Another paradox laid bear is that whereas it's gratifying to learn about a bad guy genuinely turning into a good one, people who behave badly often are more colorfully and interestingly portrayed in movies than the virtuous.  Put another way: the scenes of Dealer/Healer featuring the pre-reformed protagonist were a good deal more exciting and interesting than those taking place after he found God and got redemption.  Consequently -- and I realize its makers (and executive producer, in particular) may not be happy to hear it -- I honestly felt that this movie actually worked quite a bit better as an entertaining crime drama than as a morality tale about a man whose story genuinely is admirable! 

My rating for this film: 7.5