Friday, February 28, 2020

More political ructions in Hong Kong and Malaysia, and pertinent historical lessons for both its peoples

If the new Mainland Chinese officials for Hong Kong think that these actions will serve as a deterrent to the pro-democracy camp, however, they really must not know Hong Kongers.  And this especially since no member of the Hong Kong police force who attacked civilians inside Prince Edward MTR station that same terrible August day last year has yet to be arrested and brought to justice.    

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Taking a break to clear the head and lungs in southwest Lantau (Photo-essay)

Every day this week, I've read something that got me wondering whether my head would explode as well as threatens to break my heart.  On Monday, came news out of Malaysia that the country's prime minister had resigned and, in so doing, caused the dissolution of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) government that formed after the May 2018 General Elections, and plunged the country into a crisis that is ongoing.  On Tuesday, the world outside Mainland China previously Hong Kong-based author-publisher-bookseller Gui Minhai has been jailed for a further 10 years (on presumably further trumped up charges) by the Communist Chinese regime.  

Amidst it all, the Wuhan coronavirus continues to rage, and has now spread to South America.  And while the authorities over in Mainland China may trumpet the country's having its lowest death toll in three weeks (thanks, I'm sure, in no small part to its changed tabulation methods for Wuhan coronavirus cases), consider the human tragedies happening there, like that involving a young boy found home alone in a town in Hubei province, afraid to venture out of his abode after his grandfather died, presumably from the Wuhan coronavirus

Rather than give in to feelings of being overwhelmed by the sad state of so much of the world though, I decided to go and get some fresh air along with evidence that there are still parts of the world that are beautiful.  Put another way: I went off with a friend and embarked on a 16 kilometer trek around southwestern Lantau (along .  Some 27,200 steps later, I returned home feeling bone-tired but also with a clearer head and happier mood.  And yes, I know that hiking can't always be the answer; but here's nonetheless hoping that people will get some respite and pleasure from checking out the following photo-essay chronicling my latest hike from Shek Pik to Tai O...

The first couple of kilometers or so of the hike is along a catchwater
but was prevented from being entirely boring by such as
the possibility of coming across feral but placid cows
About one and a half hours into the hike, the hitherto gloomy
skies turned bright blue and helped brighten up my mood :)
Even better, I started to catch sight of breathtaking vistas like this!
I've been here before, but never when the sun shone so brightly :)
 A scenic part of Hong Kong few people have ever ventured to and seen
a section of the Lantau Trail -- but, happily, no longer, it seems!
Nearing hike's end: the village of Tai O!
Really close to the hike's end now -- and yes, I decided 
to leave the mountain in the distance for another day! ;b

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Enjoying the relative calm even while gearing up for an impending political storm

Way fewer yachts and other vessels than I'm generally used 
Not many boats about in Victoria Harbour these days too!

 One reason is that, unlike the outer island ferries, the Macau ferries have 
The past few days have seen the gloomy weather seen last weekend replaced by bluer skies and bright sunshine in Hong Kong.  Rather than go hiking up in the hills once more, however, I've been drawn again to walking along the Victoria Harbourfront; with my opting to strolling from Causeway Bay to Tin Hau one afternoon and from Kennedy Town to Central on another occasion.            
While traipsing past the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, I felt like something was amiss after seeing way fewer yachts moored in the area than usual.  I'm not sure if it's Wuhan coronavirus outbreak related but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case; what with there being talk of quite a number of people (especially expats) having decided to leave Hong Kong in recent weeks.  And on my second harborfront walk this week, it was impossible to not notice how less filled with boats Victoria Harbour was -- in large part because there aren't any ferries whizzing by to and from Macau every few minutes like is usually the case.    

Unlike in a number of Mainland Chinese cities (and now also some Italian towns -- with 79 people in that European country having been confirmed to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus there and two deaths being attributed to it), Hong Kongers who have not been diagnosed as infected by the Wuhan coronavirus are not confined to their homes -- as yet.  Restaurants, bars, all manner of shops and stores, and even cinemas remain open.  And both urban and country parks remain largely accessible to the public -- some of whom are staying at home a lot more these days than they normally do but others of whom feel it better for their mental as well as physical health to venture out and outdoors.

Amidst all this, I think the following Tweet by lawyer-political commentator Kevin Yam is worth quoting in its entirety:- 
A wise observer of #HongKong politics once told me: CY Leung may be more vile, but Carrie Lam is more dangerous - her decades in civil service means that she knows the machinations of government very well, which enables her to do more damage in a more efficient and effective way.
We can but hope that the woman who tried, but failed, to push through a dangerous Extradition Bill will be similarly unsuccessful with regards to her efforts to curry favor some more from Beijing by blaming others for Hong Kong's woes and deflecting criticism from her admistration.  Otherwise, the outlook for the Big Lychee is not going to be as sunny as the recent weather for some time to come.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Still more reasons to distrust the Communist Chinese regime and looking for the truth in Hong Kong

on August 31st but the words are applicable to so much more

 An organization that tries to bury so many truths

Even while the numbers of people in Mainland China killed by the Wuhan coronavirus or even confirmed cases of infection are now in doubt, this much is clear: Earlier this month, Li Wenliang, a doctor who tried to sound the alarm about the new SARS-like virus, ended up succumbing to it (as well as the pressures of the authorities to stay silent for a time about it); and this week, two other doctors have also died after being infected by the Wuhan coronavirus.

Liu Zhiming was not only a medico but the director of the hospital at the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreakA video clip showing his grieving wife, who is head nurse at the same medical institution, distraught as his body was being driven away from the hospital really hammers home how heartbreaking a tragedy this virus epidemic is.  And with Peng Yinghua, a "front line" doctor who was just 29 years old, succumbing also this week, it really goes to show that otherwise healthy younger folks as well as medical personnel are not exempt from falling victim to this deadly disease which I truly think there's good reason to be fearful of.    

More than incidentally, those who think otherwise should realize that Hong Kong's dissatisfaction with Carrie Lam's government and Beijing have most definitely gone away.  How can they when these people continue to be so useless (in the case of the local administration) and inflammatory (with China Liason Office chief Luo Huining referring to Hong Kong "troublemakers" as "political virus")?

As a matter of fact, a series of protest took place today, the seven month anniversary of the (first) Yuen Long MTR attack.  And while there are Hong Kongers celebrating what they see as karma befalling some members of the local constabulary, I am taking particular satisfaction in the recent discovery by HK01 of the entire Yuen Long Nam Pin Wai village office building being an illegal structure (and the authorities consequently being legally bound to demolish a major structure in the very village that the Yuen Long MTR attackers retreated to back on that dark night of July 21st)!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wuhan coronavirus fatalities, fears and resistance in Hong Kong

Surgical masks on sale along with oranges 
and dried foods at a Shau Kei Wan market stall

Hand sanitizers being sold at a market stall whose more usual items
include preserved duck, preserved sausages and root vegetables!

A second Wuhan coronavirus patient has died in Hong Kong.  Adding to the 2,006 recorded in Mainland China and one each in Japan, France, the Philippines and Taiwan, that brings the total number of confirmed deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus to 2,012 reported on the Johns Hopkins University tracking site as of today.  But even while Hong Kong currently has the second highest number of Wuhan coronavirus fatalities, its number of confirmed Wuhan coronavirus cases -- now up to 65 -- is still actually lower than Singapore's 81, Japan's 74 as well as Mainland China's 74,188. 

Early on, I wondered whether the government was hiding some cases; this particularly since Thailand and Japan, which lie further away from Mainland China than Hong Kong, announced their first Wuhan coronavirus cases before that which shares a border with Mainland China.  There also have been suggestions that Singapore may have a better standard of detection against the Wuhan coronavirus than Hong Kong

Latterly, I'm inclined to credit the lower-than-expected number to regular Hong Kongers' vigilance against diseases.  Some people might scoff or laugh at Hong Kongers' mask fixation but I reckon that, along with other preventative measures learnt from the 2003 SARS experience (including the washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers, etc.), is helping keep people in Hong Kong safer than otherwise would be the case.

To be sure, the desperation to ensure that one has an adequate supply of masks and other essential supplies has resulted in the disappearance from shop shelves in recent weeks of items including rice and toilet paper as well as masks and hand sanitizers.  The fact that the humble loo roll has become a rare and prized commodity in Hong Kong was illustrated by three armed robbers deciding to steal hundreds of rolls of what's not exactly an expensive item this past Monday!  And yes, Hong Kong has seen a spate of face mask thefts too: with 25,000 masks having been stolen in a single case  last month and more face mask heists having taken place this month.

From personal observation though, these sought after items are becoming available again.  Over the past few days, I've managed to restock my supply of rice (after getting down to having just a cup's worth!), toilet paper (after starting to worry when I got down to four rolls) and hand sanitizers (which I previously had only been able to come by thanks to a friend who had gone to Australia over Chinese New Year).  Even surgical and N95 masks are no longer super scarce -- though the prices (still) being asked for them still are seriously off-putting -- as in way above what they had been going for before Hong Kong had its first confirmed case of the Wuhan coronavirus. 

For all of their scarcity and high price, however, most Hong Kongers no longer venture outdoors without a mask on their face.  Indeed, I'd say that, in my area, mask usage is at around the 90-95 percent rate.  In contrast, mask usage appears to be lower in those parts of Hong Kong (such as Central or Soho) where Westerners -- be they tourists or expat residents -- are more likely to be found.  Alternatively put, Westerners -- even those who live in Hong Kong -- do seem far more reluctant to wear masks than the locals; with some arguing that face masks are just cosmetic rather than actually medically helpful, even though local medical experts have said otherwise.  

To be sure, I have seen some unmasked Asian people out on the streets of Hong Kong in recent weeks too.  If they are not in the company of similarly unmasked Westerners though, these individuals tend to be on the elderly or seriously eccentric side -- and given to other questionable habits such as spitting (be it rubbish bins or -- really ewww -- through the grates of storm drains) or smoking!  

In all honesty, I rather be on the side of the masked majority.  Better safe than sorry, I figure.  Also, if nothing else, putting a mask on surely can't hurt -- and, in fact, often helps to allay the fears of others plus communicate to fellow Hong Kongers that we are in this together. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Reflections on a harbourfront stroll from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hung Hom

Wheelchair and surgical mask -- but where's their user?
Would you believe it if I told you he was out exercising? ;b

And yes, some people are wearing surgical masks even when
jogging (or, for that matter, hiking) these days in Hong Kong

There have been plenty of gloomy gray days in Hong Kong these past couple of weeks or so.  And, of course, we also happen to be in the middle of a community outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus that has further darkened moods.  Throw in an as yet unresolved political crisis and it's fair to say that there are plenty of things to get people living in the Big Lychee feeling down these days
Rather than lock oneself up and feel sorry for ourselves all day and week though, some of us have opted to venture outdoors to regularly take in some fresh air and exercise.  And even while the Leisure and Services Department has closed its sports and cultural facilities, Hong Kong's cinemas are still open and there remain spaces for people to go about maintaining or building up their physical fitness.  
As it so happens, I went to watch a movie in a cinema yesterday afternoon.  Afterwards, rather than head straight home, I decided to go for a stroll along the harbourfront promenade that links Tsim Sha Tsui (where the screening I attended had taken place) and Hung Hom before catching a ferry that would take me across Victoria Harbour over to Hong Kong Island.  
In doing so, I found that I was retracing part of the route I had taken back on December 1st, when I had taken part in a pro-democracy protest march that, fairly early on, became a rather chaotic affair after the local constabulary decided to declare it illegal and fire tear gas into a crowd that included a good number of children and senior citizens, not to mention peaceful, unarmed protestors!  But despite the weather threatening to worsen on occasion, there was no raining on my parade this time around and I really did have a considerably more pleasant and refreshing experience. 

Unsurrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of worried and upset people (or, for that matter, the tourist horde that used to be found in Tsim Sha Tsui until recently), I was able to leisurely drink in the views of what must be one of the most beautiful harbors in the world and its surroundings, and also indulge in a bit of critter spotting -- specifically, of some of the birds that like to hang out by the waters of Victoria Harbour.  Doing so helped lift up my spirits quite a bit.  And even more cheering was the sights I came across in Hung Hom -- of area residents out keeping fit with a bit of brisk walking or more energetic jogging under a sky whose clouds would part every once in a while to reveal beautiful blue sections.
As is usual in Hong Kong, the people going about exercising included both the pretty elderly as well as young children.  Less usual (though, I suppose I'm going to come to think of it as normal these days) was that a good percentage of them were masked.  Even more unusual was my coming across a wheelchair, on one of whose arms a surgical mask was hanging, but which was sans user. 
Casting my gaze about for its owner, I got to realizing that he was a good distance away from the device: having elected to go about and determinedly get by for a time on his own two feet.  In all honesty, watching him in action was really inspiring; not least since it struck me that I was seeing the Hong Kong spirit personified there.  
"I may seem down but I'm actually not out, and still determined to put up a fight and live" he seemed to be saying with his actions.  All in all, it was a timely reminder that Hong Kongers have quite the will along with stubborn streak -- and, against the odds (which includes a government that doesn't care for its people as much as it should), do lead the world in the life expectancy stakes!   

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hong Kong's political and Wuhan coronavirus woes

How long more before the fog lifts in Hong Kong?

Sadly, I foresee the outlook being gray, even dark, for some time :S

Suffice to say that the portends are not good for already suffering Hong Kong.  Sure, Carrie Lam did announce a HK$25 billion package of subsidies for various Hong Kongers this afternoon.  But even while HK$25 billion is not an amount to normally be sniffed at, the fact of the matter is that so much of the trouble that Hong Kong is in/facing has been her doing.  And should anyone need reminding, think: high speed rail co-location; extradition bill; the Hong Kong police allowed to run wild; anti-mask emergency law; and her refusal to close Hong Kong's borders with Mainland China (the last, like with the extradition bill, despite experts and people from different sides of the Hong Kong political equation urging her to do so).      

Almost needless to say, all these items never were things I worried about not being able to find to purchase just a few weeks ago.  But that's how much of an impact the Wuhan coronavirus has had on life here in Hong Kong.  Oh, and for good measure, here's pointing out that -- even while cinemas remain open in the Big Lychee (unlike over in Mainland China) -- it was anounced yesterday that the Hong Kong International Film Festival (which normally takes place in the spring) has been postponed to the summer; this following the announcement on Monday that this year's edition of the Hong Kong Arts Festival has been cancelled outright.

One last point for today with regards to that deathly coronavirus: it's recently had the name Covid-19 bestowed upon it; but even while that can be deciphered as standing for "China Originating Virus In December [20]19", I'm going to continue referring to it as the Wuhan coronavirus because, that way, it's more obvious which part of the world it did originate from rather than risk obscuring the fact.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lies, damned lies, Mainland Chinese statistics, and Hong Kong signs of the times (Photo-essay)

The Johns Hopkins University site monitoring the global Wuhan coronavirus spread has the numbers currently at 1,117 recorded deaths and 45,206 confirmed cases of infection.  Of the recorded deaths (all of which have thus far taken place in Mainland China, bar for one each in Hong Kong and the Philippines), 95 were reported overnight versus 108 reported on Monday.  In addition, 1,696 new cases of infection were reported for Mainland China this morning -- a number that's significantly lower than the peak of over 3,000 new cases on February 4th.

Some news sites ((including the at times surprisingly gullible The Guardian, which had an article out some weeks back prematurely applauding the Chinese government's efforts to contain the virus) have trumpeted as "good news" this fall in the rate of deaths and the spread of the disease in Mainland China.  But readers would be better served, actually, if they were to note that yesterday, the Taiwan News reported that: "The daily reports of Wuhan virus infections in China will likely begin to drop as the government has decided to stop counting patients who test positive for the disease but do not exhibit symptoms as "confirmed cases."

Few in Hong Kong need to be told that they should not take information tendered by the Mainland Chinese authorities on face valueAnd the same applies for the utterances of the Hong Kong government -- which, if anything, have tended to sow panic far more than reassure.  Consequently, there is a sense that Hong Kongers need to save themselves (with welcome help from the likes of "two naughty boys"); including by implementing measures at places such as cinemas, restaurants and hair salons that can seem overly drastic or even downright paranoid to outsiders but understandable and eminently sensible to the vast majority of the local populace...

 Sign posted at the entrance to a multiplex (and yes, there really 
was a staffer checking people's temperatures there)

Signs posted on the door of a neighborhood restaurant

Sign posted on the door of a Hong Kong hair salon

Sign posted inside a supermarket/grocery store

Monday, February 10, 2020

More bad Wuhan coronavirus news on a day of celebration for South Korea's Parasite

The centerpiece of a hotpot meal I had with friends
to mark the start of winter early last year

The table at a hotpot dinner I had with a friend early this year
that will be my last hotpot meal for some time... :S

If these were normal times, today's blog post would have been dedicated to Parasite -- the South Korean film that came away with four Oscars, including for Best Picture, at this year's Academy Awards.  A sense of how major and unprecedented an achievement this is can be gained from it not only being the first entirely non-English language film to win the top prize at the Oscars but that it also is the first South Korean film nominated for an Oscar, never mind four. 

Small wonder then that I had friends from the U.S.A., Canada, Malaysia and Hong Kong posting about Parasite on Facebook today.  At the same time though, my Facebook newsfeed was also full of posts about the Wuhan coronavirus -- which, as of this morning, was reported as having been responsible for 908 recorded deaths and at least 40,314 confirmed infections.  

A little less that three weeks after Hong Kong announced that the Wuhan coronavirus had come to the city, the Big Lychee's tally of confirmed cases has climbed up to 38.  The number went up significantly today thanks in large part to what was originally reported as nine -- but later amended to ten -- members of the same family having been infected by the coronavirus after sharing a hotpot and barbecue dinner on January 26th (the second day of Chinese New Year). And yes, because of the virus' lengthy incubation period (which medical experts are saying could be as long as 24 hours) and symptoms that can be mistaken for that of the flu or cold, it's taken that long to confirm the infections.

Almost the first reaction of a number of people I know were along the lines of: "That's it, we're not eating hotpot anymore!"  So it stands to reason that the shares of Chinese hotpot restaurant chains would fall dramatically in the wake of this news involving a favorite cold weather communal meal for many in this part of the world.     

Also definitely noted is that a number of family clusters are getting infected by the deadly coronavirus. Amy Qin (the New York Times' China correspondent) reported on Twitter about a family of three generations she had met outside a hospital in Wuhan:- 
The mother and her 2 children were all hooked up to IV drips. Their anger was palpable. Grandma had been waiting 12 days for a bed & in the meantime, the grandfather had died and 3 more family members were infected. “What kind of government is this?” said the mother in a rapid-fire local dialect, her voice carrying across the hospital courtyard. “The news is always talking about how good everything is; they don’t even care about the ordinary people.”
 I could be wrong but I'm getting the impression that whole swathes of Mainland Chinese people are belatedly realizing that their government isn't what it's made itself out to be.  In contrast, the vast majority of Hong Kongers figured that out about Beijing and also Carrie Lam's administration a good while back.  

The Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong is facing a shortage of masks, toilet paper and leadership headline of a South China Morning Post opinion piece is pretty damning.  So too are the administration's actions, including its ridiculous quarantine ruling pertaining to arrivals from Mainland China that came into effect this past Saturday and already has seen two violations: as in two people having gone on the run after flouting the quarantine rules that are intended to contain the [further] spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in Hong Kong.

In the wake of this occurence has come the announcement that the police have been tasked with tracking down those rule violators.  I wonder how assiduously the local constabulary will go about performing these duties: that is, will they be as dedicated to doing so as they are to physically harm unarmed protestors or go after armed Triad thugs?  If one were to judge based on recent suggestions made by health minister Sophia Chan, it seems that once again, justice will not be truly served in Carrie Lam's Hong Kong. :(