Thursday, September 28, 2023

Nine years on from the beginning of the Umbrella Movement

My blog entry from nine years ago today.  And seven years ago today.  And six years ago today.  And four years ago today.  And three years ago today.  And two years ago today.  Suffice to say that I've not forgotten the (start of) the Umbrella Movement.  And that remembering it is something that is part of ensuring that Hong Kong will not be a part of the People's Republic of Amnesia (which, for me, is not only about forgetting what happened in Mainland China on June 4th, 1989, but, also, what's happened  to Hong Kong since its Handover by the British to China).            

In the words of Milan Kundera (which, of course, was quoted in the recently banned short story Our Time): 'The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting".  And for the record, this is what preceded those lines: "The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was..."
So, remember, remember... not just the 5th of November and 4th of June but also the 28th of September, the 9th, 12th and 16th of June, the 21st of July, the 31st of August, etc.  And, also, remember that "Resistance is not futile" (and even the Borg can be, and were, defeated)!.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Political prisoners in the news, and press freedom under threat some more in Hong Kong

Hopefully, they can't imprison us all too!
Old habits can die hard. Often, when I pass by a newstand, I find myself looking at tthe copies of the South China Morning Post (and thinking "Wow, the newspaper looks so thin now compared to what I was used to seeing of it").  I also find myself looking for copies of Apple Daily and it still can be a jolt to remember that it is no more, and that its founder-owner, Jimmy Lai, is behind bars.
As it so happens, "Jimmy Lai marks his 1,000th day in Hong Kong’s Stanley Prison on Tuesday [i.e., today], an ignominious anniversary that should remind the world of Mr. Lai’s bravery and China’s disdain for international treaties and the rule of law.  As the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board reminds us, "What makes his sacrifice so compelling is that Mr. Lai could have avoided a prison cell by fleeing to one of his homes abroad. China and its Hong Kong factotums have sought every way possible to target Mr. Lai for daring to advocate for freedom for Hong Kong’s people. 
"The 75-year-old has been convicted for his peaceful participation in three protests, including a vigil to commemorate the Chinese victims of the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square.  He was also convicted on business fraud charges the U.S. State Department has rightly denounced as “spurious.” But his biggest trial, on national-security charges that could carry a life sentence, is scheduled for December. The government has denied Mr. Lai his choice of lawyer in the case." 
A reminder: Hong Kong's national security law trials are jury-less trials. Instead, three judges handpicked by the government try the cases. Consequently (and tragically): "Everyone in Hong Kong knows he will be found guilty—an example of how Hong Kong is following China’s dictates despite the promise Beijing made to Britain of autonomy for 50 years after 1997 in a formal treaty."
Speaking of China: this really is a country with so many political prisoners -- the global leader, in fact!  Another prominent political prisoner recently in the news due to a sad anniversary passing: Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, held incommunicado since 2017 and whose 9th anniversary of sentencing was on September 23rd.  Also in the past week came confirmation that another Uyghur (AKA Uighur) scholar, anthropologist Rahile Dawut, has been sentenced to life imprisonment -- and has, in fact, been behind bars since 2017, when she was "disappeared" by the Chinese authorities.
And lest it be not realized that it's not only people in the "periphery regions" (be it Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia or Hong Kong) who are made political prisoners, my Twitter timeline today also contained information about jailed human rights lawyer, Li Yuhan, being in ill health ("walking w difficulties due to spinal injury, eye sight deteriorating, looking gaunt and aged, depressed, sorrowful, and helpless").  For the record: Li Yuhan is 74 years old; just one year younger than Jimmy Lai.  So yeah, I'd understand fears people have of elderly folks like them dying in prison.  

Bringing the focus back to Hong Kong: yesterday saw Ronson Chan, the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), sentenced to five days of jail for obstructing a police officer who asked him for his identification card last September in Mongkok.  But he's lodged an appeal against the decision and -- somewhat surprisingly, given what Hong Kong is like these days -- was granted bail in the meantime.
By the way: Chan’s arrest occurred two weeks before he was set to pursue a six-month journalism fellowship programme at Oxford University. He was granted bail then without travel restrictions, so that he could indeed go to Oxford, and his trial was postponed until after his return.  
I remember Ronson Chan stating when he was in England that he would definitely be returning to Hong Kong and some people labelling him foolhardy and having a marty complex for doing so.  But, like Jimmy Lai, he really obviously f**king loves Hong Kong -- and I truly hope that their doing so will not be in vain and, instead, pay off in the long run.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Looking ahead to some upcoming events without being inclined to celebrate all of them!

What's that blue inflatable object in Victoria Harbour?
On closer look, I'm guessing it's supposed to be a blue moon! :D
Some days ago, I read a post over on Bluesky (which I'm now also on!) from a man living in the USA complaining about how he's already seeing lots of Halloween decorations up in stores and such in his area.  I've already seen some here too in Hong Kong but, for the most part, their numbers (still) pale in comparison to the decorations for two other events that will take place before October 31st comes along.  

The first of these is variously known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Lantern Festival and Mooncake Festival and is one of my favourite Chinese traditional festivals even though Hong Kong's temperatures whenever it comes along never strike me as autumnal, never mind mid-autumnal!  I do love mooncakes though, and also the lantern displays that are set up in locales such as Victoria Park.  An added bonus for this mid-autumn: the fire dragon will be parading through the streets of Tai Hang again for the first time since September 2019!

A few days after the Mid-Autumn Festival will come an anniversary that I'm not all that inclined to celebrate.  Some people and organizations are though -- or, at least, seek to look to be -- and have opted to bypass putting up lantern displays in favor of those involving the flags of the People's Republic of China (and sometimes -- but not always -- the flags of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region).  On even an aesthetic level alone, I tend to find this disappointing and, often, horrifying.
Maybe my mind's playing games on me but I can recall a time not so long ago when, even on October 1st, PRC flags weren't flying or hanging about in so many parts of Hong Kong.  In any case, as I told a few friends yesterday, I am planning to celebrate World Sake Day on that day since it also falls on October 1st, and -- let's face it -- I would be lying if I were to deny that I love sake far more than I love the People's Republic of China!

Friday, September 22, 2023

The sad, the ludicrous and the inspirational in contemporary Hong Kong

Freedom (graffiti and otherwise) can be hard to see in Hong Kong
Some months back, a friend and I were talking about a political prisoner she knows and has visited in jail.  When she voiced her worries that he might die in prison, I didn't know how to comfort her; this not least because the possibility does exist.  Here's the thing: a number of Hong Kong's political prisoners are not in the best of health.  And it's also the case that some of them are not only senior citizens but also facing the prospect of lengthy, even life, sentences.  
Just look at the ages of some of the Hong Kong 47, which ranges from individuals in their 20s all the way to the late 60s.  And then there's Jimmy Lai -- whose son, Sebastien, was quoted in an AP article that came out yesterday as saying "I don’t want to see my father die in jail. He’s 75, he’s in prison, he does risk just dying. It is very worrying"

As readers of the piece are informed, reminded, Jimmy Lai "has been in detention since he was arrested in 2020 under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing. The Hong Kong businessman faces up to life in prison if convicted. He has already been sentenced to five years and nine months in a separate case.  He also is a former media mogul who has a whole host of people waging a campaign to free him (albeit, sadly, thus far to no avail).
At the other end of the spectrum are political prisoners who are not household names and considerably younger in age -- yet also have got caught by Hong Kong's web of (in)justice thanks to their involvement in the anti-extradition bill-turned-pro-democracy protests.  Individuals whose names we only learn about if their cases are so ludicrous, and/or the verdicts involving them so unjust, that they end up being reported by news outlets.
Take, for example, Carrie Lui, a 30-something-year-old woman who has already served the nine month sentence that she was given but had sought to appeal her conviction anyway, only to be denied that opportunity at the Court of Appeal.  In view of the far lengthier sentences that many Hong Kong protestors have been given or are facing, hers doesn't sound all that harsh on the face of it.  But consider this: her nine month sentence came about after she was found guilty of possessing articles with intent to destroy property because she was found to have three spanner -- yes, SPANNERS -- on her at the time of her arrest in Central on November 13th, 2019!
As per the Hong Kong Free Press report on her case: "Lui’s legal representative said on Thursday that the District Court had erred in refusing to consider Lui’s testimony. During the trial last October, Lui testified that she was on the way to Central that day to meet her colleagues, and that she took three spanners from a toolbox with her because she needed to adjust lighting appliances." (Lui is a designer by trade.)  "She said she also wore a mask to protect herself from tear gas."  Something that, frankly, many people were doing at the time since the police was unleashing so much tear gas in Hong Kong at the time!
"Her representative added on Thursday [i.e., yesterday] that videos showed that the scene was quiet at the time of the offence and that there was no violent behaviour observed. Therefore, Lui did not necessarily know that people were taking part in illegal acts. She also stayed on the pavement and avoided the roads, her representative said."  (Reading that last line made me nostalgic... for a time -- which really existed not that long ago! -- when we truly believed that doing such would help us to stay on the right side of the law.)
Another case that has caught people's attention is an on-going one involving a pair of students who have pleaded not guilty to rioting near a university campus in late 2019.  Fan Tsz-suet and To Mei-yi were Hang Seng University students at the time of their arrest on November 12th, 2019.  Early that day, some 10 to 20 people had set up roadblocks outside Tate’s Cairn Tunnel, which Hang Seng University's campus is located close to.  After the police arrived at the scene, people sought to run away upon catching sight of them.  
Among the people bidding to flee from the police were Fan, who was heading in the direction of an academic building, and To, who was making her way towards a university dormitory.  The prosecution has admitted that " There was no evidence that Fan and To engaged in any violent acts".  Yet they are on trial for rioting, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years (although jail terms delivered for District Court cases -- which is the level of their trial -- are capped at seven years)!
Truly, when you look at the details of many of the cases involving "rioting", "sedition" and the national security law here in Hong Kong, the "crimes" don't seem to merit the punishments being meted out to those found guilty of them.  Take Wong Yat-chin, the 22-year-old former convenor of Student Politicism (a now defunct pro-democracy student group), who just came out of prison after serving a 2 year sentence for chanting protest slogans on the street that were deemed to "incite subversion".  

Upon his release on Wednesday, Wong was reported as saying about Hong Kong that "I'm inseparable from this land....I'll try my best to stay here & share its joys [and] sorrows."  Truly, I'm in awe -- that he appears to have emerged from prison being able to still think, believe and assert this.  
When reading about the likes of him, and Jimmy Lai, I can't help but thinking of the following lines from Nelson Mandela's favorite poem, Invictus
I thank whatever gods may be
  For my unconquerable soul...
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

And long may that continue for these incredible people, and many others who really f**king love Hong Kong.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Thinking of Jimmy Lai even as Hong Kong continues to add to its total number of political prisoners

This sight got me thinking of Jimmy Lai... and I wouldn't be 
surprised if that's the case for a number of others too
A 20-year-old Hongkonger was sentenced today to two and half years imprisonment for "rioting" when she was 16 years of age.  The case of Tsang Ling-yi revolved around a protest which took place on October 6th, 2019, the day after the government’s controversial Face Covering Regulation – meant to deter pro-democracy protesters from hiding their identities – came into effect
A Hong Kong Free Press piece on Tsang's case reported that "Tsang’s sentencing was previously pushed back to allow more time for mitigation and for the judge to decide an appropriate punishment. Given her age, the court had twice sought background reports to assess if Tsang should be sentenced to a training centre, according to local media. Training centres are an alternative to imprisonment for young offenders and place emphasis on rehabilitation."
The following remarks by Goose Lee prompted by the news of this case also hit home for me: "People outside of Hong Kong regularly ask me how things are now and I tell them that people are still being arrested and imprisoned EVERY DAY. It’s unrelenting and extremely depressing. They’re generally stunned to hear this".   And add to this that there already are so many political prisoners behind bars in Hong Kong; some of them because they have been denied bail rather than having actually been found guilty of any crimes.

Among them is, of course, Jimmy Lai -- whose name was mentioned a number of times in the British government's Six-monthly report on Hong Kong: 1 January to 30 June, 2023 released today. An example: "British national Jimmy Lai’s national security trial has been further delayed. His prosecution is highly politicised and I raised his case in Beijing last month. We continue to press for consular access. The international community is paying close attention to his case and many others. We urge the Hong Kong authorities to uphold the rule of law and to comply with international norms and standards."
Still, Jimmy Lai's supporters are persisting in ensuring that he is not forgotten and that his story will be known to more people.  For example, yesterday saw a thoroughly sympathetic National Review piece on him, a number of whose sections I'm quoting here:
He is a legendary businessman. A champion of liberal democracy. And a political prisoner in Hong Kong. His story is heroic...
He is an ardent democrat, yes. A freedom fighter, in a sense. He is also an ardent Catholic. Lai wanted to devote himself to what he held to be the higher and most important things in life...

Jimmy Lai has been in prison since the last day of 2020. The authorities raided his newspaper, twice — first with 200 agents, then with 500 — shutting it down and arresting various executives, in addition to Lai.

[Jimmy Lai's son,] Sebastien points out that [the Apple Daily staff] worked valiantly till the end. “Reporters were staying up until 5 in the morning, because 5 is usually when they knock on your door and grab you away to the police station...
The Chinese authorities have invented charges against Jimmy Lai... They have convicted him of fraud. They have convicted him of unauthorized assembly... They want Lai out of the way and shut up. They are also sending a message: “If we can do this to the great and famous Jimmy Lai, we can do it to anyone.”
According to reports, Lai is kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. He is in his mid 70s. What the government is doing to him, as Sebastien says, “is cruel. Just cruel.”
Sebastien is a key part of the worldwide campaign to highlight Jimmy’s case and win his release. The Chinese government has put bounties on the heads of Hong Kongers in exile — exiles who continue to speak out against tyranny in their home city. Asked whether he is taking precautions, Sebastian pauses. He then says, “Look, my father does not deserve to be in jail, and I’ll keep fighting until he’s out.”...

He admires his father a great deal, and he understands his father’s decision to stay: to be imprisoned, rather than seek exile. “You don’t get to choose where you were born,” says Sebastien. “But often you get to choose where you call home. And Dad chose to call Hong Kong home, and when someone comes for your home and your people, you stand firm.(my emphasis)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Hong Kong after dark in the national security law era and Covid times (Photo-essay)

As the famous saying goes: "A picture says a thousand words".  So while I've already blogged about Hong Kong's reduced nightlife, here's offering the following photo-essay of photos taken on different evenings this past week that will help give an idea of what different parts of urban Hong Kong look like after dark these days.  And yes, ironically, I was out at night more than usual this week as it so happens -- include earlier this evening, in fact! ;b

From a distance, the lights look far from out in Hong Kong

And the views of Victoria Harbour from the Star Ferry
still can look downright magical

But when one turns one's attention to the interior of the 
Star Ferry though, I'd wager that Hong Kong's status 
as Asia's World City doesn't look super solid :S

I really wish it were otherwise but many of Hong Kong's
neon signs have seen better days  -- and we're talking here 
of those that remain (as opposed to have been taken down) :(

have highlighted but few locals under the age of 60 (or is it 70?)
would seriously think of spending an evening in!
As for Four Seasons Pot Rice: the queues are long gone -- seemingly due 
to a combination of jacked up prices, the food no longer tasting all that special, 
and people not dining out that much anymore at night in these Covid times
Still, what really hammered home how quiet Hong Kong now is
after dark was seeing how empty Times Square was this evening
I realise that this was a Sunday (as opposed to Saturday or Friday) 
night -- but even so, right??!!  (Put another way: I'd never have
imagined a sight like this in the pre-national security law era)

Friday, September 15, 2023

Hong Kong's reduced nightlife and further governmental cultural faux pas are yet more signs that Hong Kong is not "back to normal"

A neon sign being renovated -- or, as is more likely
these days, about to be removed?
Last night, the Hong Kong government launched a campaign to "spice up Hong Kong's nightlife". For those who've been in Hong Kong before: can you imagine this: i.e., this city that I used to think exemplified the "city never sleeps" ethic as much as, if not more than New York, needing to have a “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign?  We're talking, after all, of a city with 24-hour McDonald's and supermarkets, and which used to have -- but no longer, and here's the rub -- bookstores and cha chaan teng. 
Here's the thing though: It used to be that I had places to go eat and drink at after viewing (classical music) concerts which began at 8pm (and would end around 10.30pm) at Hong Kong City Hall or the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.  And more often than not, I'd head over to my favourite sake bar in Hong Kong, which opened at 5.30pm and closed at around 2am -- or later, if there were clients who wanted to stay past that time -- and which also served food (as the Japanese tend to eat while they drink, as opposed to just drink the way that the Brits are wont to do).

In our Covid times though (yes, Covid is NOT gone!), I still don't go to concerts. And I don't go to bars even 1/20th as much as I used to do. And Sake Bar Ginn closed down more than a year ago now (and its Japanese owner has left Hong Kong).  And while "Club 7-Eleven" may have played a part in its demise since it was located in Lan Kwai Fong -- whose most popular drinking spot has, for years, been outside a branch of that convenience store located in a prominent corner of that section of Hong Kong which ceased being "Party Central" ages ago -- it's worth noting that in recent years, I've also seen branches of 7-Eleven which no longer are open 24 hours as I had previously assumed that all of them were!
But while I've not been to a concert in years and no longer spend that much time in bars (including to watch Arsenal play -- since I now watch their matches on cable TV at home!), I still go to cinemas and film screenings.  Pre-Covid, after an evening screening at Broadway Cinematheque, I'd sometimes go for a late night claypot rice dinner at Four Seasons Pot Rice, an eaery I first started going as a tourist back in the early 2000s when it was located in Temple Street (rather than on Arthur Street, as is the case now).
Broadway Cinematheque is still around of course -- and, frankly, remains my favourite cinema in Hong Kong.  The Four Seasons Pot Rice place. But while I think the former's doing okay, I was shocked to see when I passed by the latter last night that whereas it used to be a super popular, bustling spot (with long queues waiting to get into the place), it no longer attracts customers -- locals and tourists alike -- the way that it used to.  Is it because the quality of the food went down, its prices got jacked up too high or the combination of the two?  In any case, there's no denying that it looks like its days are numbered.
On a more general note: for many people, Hong Kong used to be a city of lights -- specifically neon lights. But the authorities are actually getting people to TAKE DOWN the neon signs, saying they are dangerous (as they are big and heavy and could fall down in such as typhoons); rather than, say, appreciating and preserving, never mind encouraging, the existence of what for many are/were integral parts of Hong Kong life
A further indication of how out of touch/culturally ignorant the authorities are: their campaign last night featured what appeared to be white dancing lions. As more than one person pointed out over on Twitter: white dancing lions are associated with/supposed to only perform at funerals! 
Another school of opinion had it that the dancing lions in question were actually nocturnal silver lions -- which would make more sense given the theme of yesterday's event.  As Kevin Yam has pointed out though: "usually the silver lion pairs with a gold lion to avoid confusion with white lion, but... [the Hong Kong government] can’t really do that because a gold lion Ka yellow and in Cantonese a yellow lion is pronounced the same as yellow ribbon, which makes it politically sensitive."  Pathetic, right?  Well, that, in a nutshell, sums up the authorities efforts to get -- as well as pretend that -- Hong Kong back to "normal"!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Hong Kong's new "normal" is not what people who care for human rights and freedom think is normal

Is this a seditious image in Hong Kong now?
As the blogger behind the Big Lychee, Various Sectors noted this morning: no sooner does the flooding subside than it’s back to "National Security" concerns.  Yesterday, the rain stopped long enough so that there was a beautiful sunset over Hong Kong.  Yesterday also saw exiled former legislative councilor Ted Hui’s parents- and siblings-in-law become the latest to be accorded the ‘taken in for questioning’ treatment
This ploy has become so familiar that it's no longer news as far as many foreign news outlets appear to be concerned.  Okay, thus far, the relatives of the eight people on whose heads the Hong Kong government have put HK$1 million bounties "only" end up spending a number of hours in police stations without ending up being arrested for the most part.  But how terrible is it that this is something that appears to have become so "normalised" and that we're becoming used to?

The worst thing about this "normalisation" is that like the slow boiling of the frog who doesn't notice what's happening to it, the ante does get upped over time.  Just look at what's been happening with regards to the government's views and actions against people who commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre -- something which had been assumed for decades to have been entirely within the right of people in Hong Kong.

As was reported in the Hong Kong Free Press: "The postgraduate student was said to have obtained the [nine-meter-long vertical] banner through mainland Chinese human rights activist Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader during the 1989 democracy movement who is currently based in the US.  The banner display was part of a global campaign led by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, whose eight-metre sculpture commemorating the victims who died in the 1989 crackdown – the Pillar of Shame – was quietly removed by the University of Hong Kong citing safety concerns in December 2021."
Note: in December 2021, the pretext for removing the Pillar of Shame involved safety concerns. But now we're talking sedition for displaying a banner of the same piece of art. For shame!
Quoting again from the Hong Kong Free Press piece: "Police found the Tiananmen monument banner inside a parcel from the US at Zeng’s residence following her arrest. Printed on the banner was an image of the Pillar of Shame with phrases including “The Tiananmen Massacre 1989.  The magistrate said the content of the banner was “pointed” and could “evoke emotions,” especially when its target audience was “like-minded individuals” whose “emotions could be easily triggered.”"
A reminder: Large, PEACEFUL events were held in Hong Kong to commemorate the June 4th Massacre for 30 years.  The emotions triggered at the candlelight vigils involved sorrow, remembrance and solidarity. I guess they aren't the kind of things the Hong Kong government wants from Hong Kongers -- pretty sad, and ironic when you consider that the solidarity includes that with Mainland Chinese people: that is, the very people that Hong Kongers have often been accused of not having familial feelings for! 
Something else worth noting: Zeng Yuxuan originally hailed from Mainland China but chose to come over to Hong Kong to study law.  I've friends of Mainland Chinese origin who came to Hong Kong to study journalism.  These are people who felt that they would be more free and have more (human) rights in Hong Kong.  Sadly, even though/if this is still the case, it's still not as much as they probably thought or wanted for it to be so; a sentiment they have in common with many Hong Kongers, of whom I also would not be surprised that they now would consider themselves to be too.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Focusing on Hong Kong matters 22 years after 9/11

Remaining flood debris at Sham Shui Po earlier today
Half a week after the Hong Kong Observatory first put out the black rainstorm signal late on Thursday night, people are still talking about the catastrophic flooding that Hong Kong has experienced in recent days.  And while the worst does appear to be over (for much of the territory -- with the Hong Kong Observatory finally cancelling the landslip warning at 8.15pm today, 92 hours and 30 minutes after it was first announced!), the weather forecast for the next nine days has rain in it still and there has been more flooding today in the likes of Kwun Tong, the Sai Kung District and Tseung Kwan O!
I'm not sure whether I'm in the minority with regards to not actually having personally experienced a flooding situation in the past few days.  But as I said to an overseas friend who enquired how I was doing here in Hong Kong, I feel like I've been living in a parallel world of sorts since I've not even personally seen significant flooding -- as opposed to mere "localized water accumulation" -- when out on the streets in recent days. 

Of course, I've not deliberately gone over to known disaster areas for photo ops or what-have-you the way that certain government officials have done so.  (A message to those government officials who think they can fool people by posing for photographs that are supposed to look like they're involved in the cleanup: you need to look more sweaty, muddied and actually dirty!)
At the same time, I've also not completely stayed cooped up in my apartment for all of these past few days!  Yet it was only over in Sham Shui Po this afternoon that I saw not (completely) cleared flood debris -- with it being entirely possible that the flood debris I saw was fresh from more floods today!  Also, interestingly enough, today and yesterday, I've seen buildings that have experienced power outages and other problems.  

Still, most of the city looks to be back to "normal"/business -- including, alas, the law courts.  Consequently, news from the courts today includes four former student leaders of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), who originally faced one count of advocating terrorism, having pleaded guilty today to a less serious alternative charge -- one which still see the quartet of Kinson Cheung, Charles Kwok, Chris Todorovski and Anthony Yung being handed sentences of up to seven years imprisonment each!  All of which seems really excessive since their "crime" -- committed at a HKU student union council meeting on July 7th, 2021, involved the student body passing a resolution expressing sympathy for the death of Leung Kin-fai, who took his life shortly after he stabbed a uniformed officer six days previously on July 1st, the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover by the British to China!
Also today at another law court, Fung Ching-wah, was "handed a four-year jail term for rioting and perverting the course of justice"; with the offences concerned being related to a protest in Tsuen Wan on October 1st, 2019.  (Yes, many people are still being tried and sentenced for actions that took place in 2019 some four years on.)
Fung's case caught the public eye by way of his being one of four protestors who, knowing that they were sought after by the police, had hidden in safehouses for two years ahead of a planned escape to Taiwan that was foiled when the quartet were arrested in Sai Kung in July of last year -- and one of that quartet being Tsang Chi-kin, the student who was shot by a police officer at point black range in Tsuen Wan on October 1st, 2019.  (Tsang, and the two others who were also in hiding, Ansen Wong and Alex Wong, will submit their pleas on September 28.  Tsang, Pang, Ansen Wong and Alex Wong have been on remand for over a year since their July 2022 arrests.)

I totally can remember where I was when I heard of Tsang Chi-kin having been shot.  Specifically, I was at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (on the invitation of a friend) when another friend (who's a member there) told me about it, told me to "be careful out there" and had explained that after news came of Tsang having been shot, his news company had asked him to get off the street.
Tsang's shooting is one of those shocking events on a long list of ones that I totally can remember where I was when I learnt about it.  And yes, the shocking events that involved planes flying into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and the World Trade Center's twin towers' destruction -- on September 11th, 2001 are on that list.  And it's kind of shocking by itself to realise that 22 years have now passed since that day -- though it's also true enough that they also can feel like they occured in another lifetime; one that existed before such as September 28th, 2014, and June 12th, 2019.   

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Much of Hong Kong left high and dry after record rainfall and flooding this past Friday!

 Super Typhoon Saola's visit -- as opposed to today!
After I finished writing my review of Everyphone Everywhere (Hong Kong, 2023) on Thursday night, I checked the Hong Kong Observatory's website and found that a Black Rainstorm Warning had been issued earlier that night.  Although it's the highest level of rainstorm warning (with amber and red being the other colors of lower levels in Hong Kong's system), I didn't think too much about it as that was by no means the first time I've seen it issued.
Also, I remember having gone to attend a Hong Kong International Film Festival screening some years back when the Black Rainstorm Warning signal was on. (For the record: film screenings tend to take place as scheduled during a T8 or what's colloquilly known as "Black Rain" in cinemas and such; though people can exchange unused tickets within seven days for others.  And yes, I've also gone to view films during a T8!)
As it so happened though, the rainstorm was so major and loud that it led to my sleep being fitful and my waking up a few times in the night.  Still, I did not expect to see that the Black Rainstorm Warning would still be in effect when I checked the Hong Kong Observatory website again on Friday morning.  Nor did I expect to see the dramatic photos and videos of flooding in various parts of Hong Kong (including Wan Chai and Chai Wan -- which, for all of their name similarity, are not located close to each other! -- and Wong Tai Sin) that the social media was full of!  Oh, and landslides and road subsidence too!
In the end, the Black Rainstorm Warning was in effect for an unprecedented16 hours and 35 minutes.  But by the time I headed out of my building to see what my neighborhood looked like (at around lunchtime yesterday), whatever flood waters there had been -- which an acquaintance told me had been ankle deep late on Thursday night -- had subsided, only leaving a bit of debris over on the main road, part of which is close to a hilly area, but really not much at all elsewhere.  Also, at least half of the shops and restaurants had opened for business -- with a number of the eateries that had been closed at lunch time having reopened for dinner service when I went out again in the evening.
Still, I feel for the small/local businesses who must have lost quite a bit of business and money on two consecutive Fridays; with it being a T10 two Fridays ago, and then black rain yesterday.  And then there in other parts of Hong Kong that did get flooded; with among the worst hit being those at the Temple Mall North over at Wong Tai Sin, whose basement level was almost entirely underwater at the height of the flooding!
Yesterday's floods made the international news.  I guess it should be no surprise since it produced dramatic visuals and the rainfall that caused it is the heaviest Hong Kong has had since records were first compiled (in 1884).  I wonder though if the pretty amazingly rapid cleanup that has been undertaken (and that has made it so that, say, the Wong Tai Sin MTR station is back in operation today) will be as widely reported.  Otherwise, it might get people outside Hong Kong thinking that the city is in the same boat as the sections of Greece that (also) has experienced major flooding in recent days -- and sounds like it might never be the same again as a result.  

Of course, this is not to belittle what Mother Nature unleashed on Hong Kong as many of us were asleep on Friday.  In addition to what must be hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, at least two lives were lost as a result and some 15,000 people over at Yiu Tung Estate are currently without water.  For comparison: There were no fatalities due to  Super Typhoon Saola.  Hell, even Typhoon Manghkut back in 2018 left ZERO people dead in Hong Kong. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Everyphone Everywhere has its heart in Hong Kong and remembers the good old days (Film review)

A poster for the film that actually tells a lot about it!
Everyphone Everywhere (Hong Kong, 2023)
- Amos Why, director, co-scriptwriter (along with Frankie Chung and Kong Yu-sing) and co-producer (with five others)
- Starring: Endy Chow, Peter Chan Charm-man, Rosa Maria Velasco
Prior to viewing Amos Why's latest (and fourth) film, I didn't look very closely at its poster.  (This is not least because I don't tend to decide whether or not go watch a movie based on how its poster looks!)  But after doing so though, I'm struck by how much it reveals about -- and mirrors -- Everyphone Everywhere.  
It's not just that the poster makes clear who are the film's main personalities: a Cheung Chau resident named Kit (played by Endy Chow sporting a similar hairstyle to Cheung Chau resident Amos Why!); a besuited property agent named Raymond (played by Peter Chan Charm-man) whose imminent emigration to the UK prompts a reunion of a trio of old school friends; and Ana (Rosa Maria Velasco), Chit's old sweetheart as well as his and Raymond's former schoolmate.  But the #GoodOldDays hash tag also provides a clue as to where the ultimately pretty touching movie's true heart lies.
At the same time, Everyphone Everywhere also does have stories involving -- you guessed it -- phones: old and new; and predominantly mobile phones though an older desk set and a cordless telephone set also make appearances in the movie!  But although the early part of this dramedy presents a number of subplots involving newer phones and the problems that they can cause (e.g., when one is accidentally left at home or has been hacked but, also, when they are used to scam people or spy on them), my sense is that their primary role in the film is to act as as macguffins more than anything else.
Instead, again, remember the #GoodOldDays hash tag and wait for the appearance of a trio of phones that were first in use 25 years ago, when Kit, Raymond and Ana were younger -- and in their final days at school, typed and saved a series of answers to a series of questions they had posed one another.  And, in the process, used their phones in a way that comes across as pretty novel: specifically, as time capsules!
If truth be told, I'd have been fine with Everyphone Everywhere being a three-hander because I found Kit, Raymond and Ana interesting characters whose depths were not completely plumbed to my complete satisfaction!  And while they may not be big names in the Hong Kong film world, I also find Endy Chow (who I saw most recently before this in The Sunny Side of the Street), Peter Chan Charm-man (who held his own in the more star-studded likes of Table for Six and Mad Fate) and Rosa Maria Velasco (who I first saw years ago in a Hong Kong Repertory Theatre production directed by Stan Lai) to be very watchable performers.
In any case, the best scenes in the movie for my by far had this trio interacting with one another -- and, ironically, on an indoor set that could have been set anywhere in Hong Kong, or even the world!  I say "ironically" because, in addition to depicting personal human relations very well, Amos Why -- one of those people who I know really f**king loves Hong Kong -- also is adept at making Hong Kong itself a character in his movies (and, when shot, as in this film by Leung Ming-kai, look really beautiful). 
Put another way: my main criticism of Everyphone Everywhere is that it could -- and should -- have been less crowded and busy and, instead, more streaminlined.  If so, it wouldn't have taken so long to get to the heart of the truly affecting story.  But I get the feeling that this was because, among other things, Amos Why wanted to make room in the film for other topics he wanted to address, and fun guest appearances and cameos (including by Cecilia Choi as Chit's wife, Petra Au in not one but two different roles(!), and director Adam Wong as a Japanese chef with an unusual piece de resistance!). ;b
My rating for this film: 7.0