Friday, July 31, 2009

Esquire -- not the usual suspect for Chinese censorship

The Hong Kong Journalists Association, which usually saves its ire for censorious governments, is lashing out at one of its own -- in this case, a Hong Kong media outlet with links to a U.S. company.

The HKJA says it "condemns" South China Media's Esquire magazine for sacking Daisy Chu for working on a feature story about the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

"The decision underscores the spread of self-censorship within the Hong Kong media industry," the HKJA said. "Even worse was that the burden was borne by a front-line journalist. We urge South China Media to honour its duties as a media company and the decisions of professional journalists. We urge the owner of the Esquire brand, the Hearst Corporation, to review its contract with South China Media"

According to the HKJA statement, when Ms. Chu was fired on June 29, her company said explicitly it was because of 6/4. Her 16-page feature story was barred from publication with no discussion. The reason South China reportedly gave was that her work was "seditious."

****

Did the Esquire team really comment on this issue, on the record, to a working journalist, using the term "seditious?"

"Sedition" is a legal term that generally refers to an active scheme to overthrow a government. If Daisy Chu were, say, amassing a rebel army in the Esquire offices, somewhere behind the designer shoe samples, that would be sedition. If, after reviewing "Top 10 men's grooming products!" she turned her attention to hacking the Chinese government computer system, that would be sedition. "Seditious libel" -- a charge hardly ever used in developed nations -- would be, say, Daisy Chu using an Esquire article as a call to arms to storm the Politburo.

I doubt any Esquire feature would qualify for sedition, at least not in the way any developed nation defines it. (The Chinese definition -- "anything that pisses us off" -- is broader).

The funny thing is, practically every publication in Hong Kong wrote about 6/4 -- without trouble -- and nobody would have called anything Esquire did "seditious." Apple Daily practically had a funeral wreath as a front page, and the government didn't call them seditious. Esquire came up with that self-confession all by itself. This is classic "self-censorship." Esquire jumped before anyone pushed them.

****

When I was doing my thesis on how Chinese censorship was affecting Hong Kong media, I looked at several of these cases. from the 1990s to the present day. The difference, before, was that media companies would at least make the effort to pretend they were not being censorious. Journalists who produced critical works toward China might lose their jobs, but it was explained through budget cuts, staff issues, etc. An enterprising reporter or editor would be called in for a lecture about "corporate restructuring." Then the censorship hard to prove.

With this case, a company is going out of it way to show it is sacking someone for political reasons. The facade has come down. Why? Has it become more socially acceptable to censor content? Are companies that desperate to prove their politically correct chops to China, or China-based advertisers? How much are U.S. or Western business partners aware of these issues?

*****

I don't know exactly what the article said, as it never came out, nor do I know what happens behind doors at Esquire. (And if anyone from that magazine is reading this, I would love to hear your point of view).

But I can say this as a professional editor. No staff writer -- no-one, no matter how ambitious -- plunges into a 16-page feature article without go-ahead from an editor. Even staff writers have to pitch stories before they start. If your boss doesn't schedule the time and resources to do a big job like this, it would be impossible. And why would you bother? 16 pages is alot of "real estate" in a publication. If an editor hasn't set aside the space for it, if there aren't photos being prepared and pages being designed, it's not going to happen. There is some flexibility in media (like us) who deal in daily breaking news. But glossy fashion or features mags are planned months in advance.

My guess is that Daisy was given the go-ahead by someone, got halfway through the project, and then some higher power pulled it.

NB: South China Media -- which publishes local, Chinese-language versions of light magazines like Jessica, Marie Claire, HIM and CarPlus -- is not the same company as the South China Morning Post

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cabbage soup diet soup, made palatable (possibly delicious)

The original Cabbage Soup Diet recipe makes a mushy, weird tasting soup that everyone who's ever done the diet ends up hating.
Here's my recipe.

Heat a little olive oil in a big soup pot.
Add a handful of garlic cloves (chopped roughly, skins off)
Add 1 onion (thinly sliced)
And 1 pack button mushrooms (sliced)
Keep on low-medium heat, so they soften and turn a little brown. Add salt and pepper
Finely chop 1 cabbage, so it almost looks shredded.
Add to the mix.
Pour in 2 cartons of chicken stock (You can get it in any Hong Kong supermarket.)
Bring to a full boil for a few minutes, or until the cabbage starts getting soft. Don't boil to a mush!
Add fresh rosemary sprigs and freshly ground black pepper. (The chicken stock is already salty, so careful adding salt).
Add water to taste.

(Sometimes, when I pack this for work, I'll bring in a very thick version, and add water in the office kitchen)

The slight caramelizing of the onion gives a sweet flavor, and the sauteed mushrooms give it a nice earthy color.
My version is a bit higher in fat from the olive oil (but you only use a spoonful to coat the bottom of the pan and keep things from sticking) and the fact that I use chicken stock instead of chicken powder. But it tastes miles better, which means you actually have a chance of stomaching it for a week.
One of the problems with the original soup is that it tries to cram in every ingredient under the sun. (I'm skipping the bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots and ugh, V8 juice). You're better off having my soup, and then a bell-pepper, carrot and tomato salad. Or, start with this soup, and add various ingredients later, so there's variety to what you're having.
I've actually served this to (non-dieting, non-suspecting) dinner guests, and it was fine. Some even asked for seconds.






Typhoon Molave -- I shouldn't have tempted fate

On Thursday, my boss came over to my desk and asked for a typhoon contingency plan.
"Bah," I said. "Those typhoon warnings usually mean nothing. I've been working here for almost four-and-a-half years and have never missed work for a typhoon." (This is true. There's only been one big one since 2005, and I managed to taxi in from Hung Hom, where I used to live.)
Perhaps I was too dismissive too soon.
"Bah," I said to colleagues, many of whom are relatively newly arrived Americans who looked to me for local advice. "Hong Kong Observatory is just overly sensitive. Don't pay any attention. I've ridden a horse up to a Typhoon 3."
And, for the most part, that is true. I don't know how many "Typhoon 1"s have been sunny and clear. In fact, Marc the Metrosexual and I complain when our building management close down the pool for Typhoon 3s, when it's gorgeous and warm, without a cloud in the sky. (Rather hilariously, they also set up sandbags as soon as there is a 3, rain or no rain. Sandbags!)
But by 5 p.m. on Saturday, I was getting worried. Maybe this was a big one. So I rang by boss. But it was too late. In case it did hit, there was no contingency plan. Since I'm a Mac user, I can't access the IHT editing system from home. I'm responsible for being the early Sunday news editor. And there would be nobody in the Paris office to fill in for me.
Huh.
In case you're wondering why I'm up, I was awoken at 3 a.m. by the sound of wind absolutely thrashing the side of the building. I live in one of those giant, giant, residential high-rises with, like, 250 apartments. The kind that are supposedly typhoon-proof, unlike all the poor village houses and island boat-houses that get slammed.
The doors are rattling. The windows are rattling. The fans in the two bathrooms are spinning like crazy, even though they're off. I looked outside and saw a real hurricane -- trees blowing over, buckets of rain moving sideways.
I suddenly remember old typhoon pre-cautious from childhood, like taping big X-s over glass panes in case they blow in. I checked to make sure Hugo the Kitten, who loves sleeping in the window, was far from them. (Good animal instincts. He's been crouched in the safety of the hallway all night).
I'm also worried about my brother and his wife, who were supposed to move to the family village house in the New Territories today.
That's so me, up at almost 4am, worried about things I cannot possibly control.
Here is a video taken from my bedroom window.


Me, my cat and my new hair

I read an article on how to attract more blog traffic. Apparently, I've been doing everything wrong until now. I write long, well-though-out posts, instead of endless, mindless short bits.
I don't use much multimedia, like photos and video, to distract people from actually having to read.
Nor do I choose popular topics, like fashion, beauty, cute animals or recipes. (Censorship? Chinese dissidents in prison? Pollution? Practical advice on mortgages? Who cares?)
At least until now. This week's experiment in Joyceyland Lite has proven to be a traffic-builder.
So for all of you waiting with baited breath about my expensive haircut by Philip George, here are some pix. I even roped poor, camera-shy Hugo the Kitty into helping me with extra "awwww" points.
(These were taken with my Mac's built-in camera. In case you're wondering why I'm positioned like that, I had to grab the cat, press the "photo" key, then quickly retreat into position).




Philip the Stylist, an old long-time Brit in Hong Kong (you know how I love 'em), was very good. He spent time to talk about my hair prep time (none), lifestyle (busy) and the shape of my face (I think it's as round as Hugo the Kitten's. Philip the Stylist doesn't think so.)
He offered two choices. One was a shorter, modern, angled bob -- cropped in the back and longer in the front. The other was longer, softer and more layered, like The Little Black Dress of Hair I described below.
Philip the Stylist even held up a magazine cover with Drew Barrymore, whose photo I use below. What's up with that? Is Drew Barrymore the new Jennifer Aniston of hair?
I went for the latter. Then I got distracted reading Vogue, and nodded absently when Philip the Stylist asked if "collarbone length" was OK.
When I looked up, my hair was short. Really short by my standards. What happened to my long, wavy, sexy, messy Drew Barrymore locks? Where are my collarbones exactly? Oh, there they are. Way up there. Right.
Marc the Metrosexual is happy. He loves that neat, chic look.
I'm. Well. I'm happy my hair grows quickly. Another six months of neglect, and I'm confident it'll return to that big, long mess I had before.
By the way, it's not supposed to look like this. I'm supposed to blow-dry it with a big round brush, then spray hairspray onto a plastic comb, and then comb up the bangs and sides at the roots. (Philip's spray-on-the-comb technique is used to avoid that shellacked look). If I'm really ambitious, I can use hot rollers.
"Please," Philip the Stylist said, after making an effort not to look appalled that I had gone six months without a cut. "Please don't tie it up wet, and then tuck it behind your ears when it's dry."
Guess what? Running out of the house to go to work, I tied it up wet. When it dried in the office, I tucked it behind my ears because it was getting in the way of my staring at the screen. Then I ran to TST, where it got all sweaty and rain-soaked and dirty. Then I took a photo of it for the whole world to see, while grappling with a cat.
Poor Philip the Stylist. He deserves better than this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Nina Wang Trial

Photos by Paul Yeung/Reuters

Tony Chan, right, claims to have been the longtime lover of Nina Wang, left, who was once Asia’s richest woman.

The New York Times, July 15, 2009

Hong Kong Journal

A Feng Shui Master and a $4 Billion Estate

HONG KONG — It began with a head rub for $6,500, and ballooned into enormous “feng shui holes” burrowed around the city, buried gems and truckloads of cash worth millions of dollars.

So went the apparent love affair between the eccentric billionaire and her feng shui master — two characters who have made headlines here.

Since May, there has been a public courtroom fight over the will of Nina Wang, who was once Asia’s richest woman thanks to a fortune amassed in real estate mostly by her late husband. Mrs. Wang died in 2007 at 69 and had no children, so the battle pits the Wang family, including her siblings, against a feng shui master named Tony Chan, who claims to have been her longtime lover.

Public fascination has come from the enormous sum at stake — estimated to be at least $3.9 billion — and from the quirky, though disputed, details about Mrs. Wang’s relationship with a married man 23 years her junior and their superstitious rituals. Asia has had its share of flamboyant tycoons, but never one quite like Mrs. Wang. A petite woman with a dimpled smile, she went by the nickname “Little Sweetie” and wore pigtails and miniskirts well into middle age. But her innocent image was shadowed by decades of intrigue.

Speculation over the Wang fortune started in 1983, when Teddy Wang, Nina’s husband, was chained to a bed by kidnappers until his wife paid the ransom, according to news reports at the time. He was rekidnapped in 1990, and never seen again.

After the courts declared him dead in 1999, Mrs. Wang became the self-titled “chairlady” of the Chinachem Group, which has built hundreds of Hong Kong high-rises.

Wrangling over versions of Mr. Wang’s will lasted for years, pitting his elderly father against Mrs. Wang. She was charged with forgery, but the charges were dropped and she won in the end.

Now her own fortune is no less contentious. At the crux of the fight are two wills: A 2002 Chinese-language one gives the assets to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which is linked to the family’s privately held company; and a 2006 English version, which Mrs. Wang drafted while she was suffering from cancer, gives it to Mr. Chan.

The proceedings have had a circus atmosphere. Photographers have mobbed the court’s entrance, and the curious have lined up for ringside seats inside.

The sensational nature of the case sometimes feels out of place in a court where, as a throwback to Hong Kong’s British heritage, the judge and barristers wear powdered horsehair wigs and long black silk gowns. Justice Johnson Lam has had his hands full reining in the endless delays, insults, name-calling and bickering.

Mr. Chan’s case rests largely on his relationship with Mrs. Wang.

“For a long period of time — 15 years — from 1992 until Mrs. Wang’s death, Mr. Chan was her close friend, confidant and lover,” said Jonathan Midgley, one of Mr. Chan’s lawyers.

Many details come from Mr. Chan himself, though he has long been married and has three children (one of whom is named “Wealthee Chan”).

Mr. Chan earned headlines when he testified that he and Mrs. Wang “enthusiastically” engaged in “the events in paragraph 32,” referring to part of his witness statement that described intimate physical activities.

He also related Mrs. Wang’s pet names for him which, when translated from Cantonese, included “Hubby,” “Hubbykins” and the rather unfortunate sounding “Hubby-pig.”

According to Mr. Chan’s testimony, sparks began flying in 1992, when he gave his feng shui client a head rub for $6,500. Treatments turned into full-body massages, then an affair and growing amounts of cash, which was reportedly used to help pay for Mr. Chan’s wedding banquet at the luxury Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Hotel.

Mr. Chan detailed “married couple” activities that drew him and Mrs. Wang together, like cooking, traveling, building model helicopters and digging “feng shui holes,” into which they would throw jade, coins and other objects for good luck. According to testimony by hired workers, the couple had as many as 80 such holes dug around Hong Kong, some measuring 30 feet deep.

On the other side is the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which is largely controlled by Mrs. Wang’s siblings, though company representatives did not respond to requests for comment about what charity function the foundation performed.

Chinachem and the Wang family have painted Mr. Chan as a con man who preyed on Mrs. Wang by promising her eternal life as she became older and sicker. In separate appearances, two of Mrs. Wang’s sisters compared Mr. Chan to a eunuch serving an empress dowager, while their lawyer called him a “toy boy.”

Some of Mrs. Wang’s relatives, friends and longtime employees testified that they had not even heard of a Tony Chan, or of any romantic relationship with him.

The Chinachem team also claims that the 2006 will was a “feng shui will” for ceremonial purposes. This would not be out of keeping with local practices, in which fake money, miniature homes and cars are burned in ceremonies for the dead.

The Chinachem legal team has tried to prove that Mrs. Wang was mentally unstable and incapable of making important decisions at the end of her life; the 2006 will was written less than six months before she died. Medical experts described the tycoon as being weak, pale and incapable of keeping food down or walking unaided.

But other testimony showed that she was making financial deals, even on her deathbed. A Goldman Sachs executive, who worked with Mrs. Wang for years, claimed in court that she had ordered him to help her buy $48.5 million worth of shares in RCG Holdings, a company that news reports described as partly held by Mr. Chan. On April 2, Mrs. Wang confirmed the transaction, the executive said. The next day, she died.

By his own admission, Mr. Chan has already enjoyed a lot of Mrs. Wang’s fortune. Her payments to him totaled an estimated $258 million over the years, he said, though the figure could not be independently confirmed.

Mr. Chan’s two brothers testified that they helped him bundle away more than $1.5 million from the Chinachem offices, in cash-stuffed bags and carried out in several trips.

News reports of the court proceedings also said that Mrs. Wang had arranged trucks to make late-night deliveries of three cash payments worth $89 million each to Mr. Chan.

Before meeting Mrs. Wang in the early 1990s, Mr. Chan was sporadically employed and living with his girlfriend and her extended family in a public housing project. Whatever the outcome of the case, his life was drastically changed by what he calls Mrs. Wang’s “gifts of love.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Urgent Joyceyland Poll: Do I Cut My Hair?

Tomorrow is my day off, and my beauty day. I'm going to the Essential Spa in Kowloon, so a masseuse can work on my ever-painful neck (I've had this problem since HK Magazine). Then I'm getting a manicure and pedicure, mostly to take care of my feet, which have always been so cracked that my Canadian ex compared them to "dried potatoes in the dirt."
I swear, I moisturize daily, but there are visible huge cracks in the skin, which sometimes falls off in clumps. My heels are so rough, I could sand furniture with them.
My husband, Marc the Metrosexual, had the ultimate foot treatment the other week, the hot parrifin wax pedicure at Sense of Touch in Central. His feet are soft as a baby's. And it's kinda embarassing to be out-prettified by your man.
****

But the big event is that I'm getting my hair cut. I get my hair cut probably less than any professional woman in Hong Kong -- twice a year.
I'm blessed with hair that just grows straight, silky and strong, with no broken ends. But still, twice a year is insane.




Also, I'm beginning to wonder if that old adage is true -- that older women no longer look good with schoolgirl locks. It looks like you're trying too hard to look young. Now, I'm not old. I'm 34. But Marc the Metrosexual feels like I've outgrown my hippy-girl, waist-long, pin-straight hair. He wants something sleeker and shorter. Meanwhile, my London friend, The Skinny Bitch, says I look like Suzie Wong. And she doesn't mean that in a nice way.
For a wild moment, I thought I'd go all the way and get The Anna Wintour. But then I read that it's a horrible shape for someone with a round face, which I have.



I'll probably settle for The Little Black Dress of Hair, which is the gently waved, gently layered, shoulder-length cut. Here are three celebrity examples, from Drew Barrymore, Mandy Moore and Thandie Newton.
What do you think?



Nina Wang -- sex, scandals and cash

A Feng Shui Master and a $4 Billion Estate

Photos by Paul Yeung/Reuters
Published July 14, 2009
By Joyce Hor-Chung Lau

HONG KONG — It began with a head rub for $6,500, and ballooned into enormous “feng shui holes” burrowed around the city, buried gems and truckloads of cash worth millions of dollars.

So went the apparent love affair between the eccentric billionaire and her feng shui master — two characters who have made headlines here.

Since May, there has been a public courtroom fight over the will of Nina Wang, who was once Asia’s richest woman thanks to a fortune amassed in real estate mostly by her late husband. Mrs. Wang died in 2007 at 69 and had no children, so the battle pits the Wang family, including her siblings, against a feng shui master named Tony Chan, who claims to have been her longtime lover.

Public fascination has come from the enormous sum at stake — estimated to be at least $3.9 billion — and from the quirky, though disputed, details about Mrs. Wang’s relationship with a married man 23 years her junior and their superstitious rituals. Asia has had its share of flamboyant tycoons, but never one quite like Mrs. Wang. A petite woman with a dimpled smile, she went by the nickname “Little Sweetie” and wore pigtails and miniskirts well into middle age. But her innocent image was shadowed by decades of intrigue.

Speculation over the Wang fortune started in 1983, when Teddy Wang, Nina’s husband, was chained to a bed by kidnappers until his wife paid the ransom, according to news reports at the time. He was rekidnapped in 1990, and never seen again.

After the courts declared him dead in 1999, Mrs. Wang became the self-titled “chairlady” of the Chinachem Group, which has built hundreds of Hong Kong high-rises.

Wrangling over versions of Mr. Wang’s will lasted for years, pitting his elderly father against Mrs. Wang. She was charged with forgery, but the charges were dropped and she won in the end.

Now her own fortune is no less contentious. At the crux of the fight are two wills: A 2002 Chinese-language one gives the assets to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which is linked to the family’s privately held company; and a 2006 English version, which Mrs. Wang drafted while she was suffering from cancer, gives it to Mr. Chan.

The proceedings have had a circus atmosphere. Photographers have mobbed the court’s entrance, and the curious have lined up for ringside seats inside.

The sensational nature of the case sometimes feels out of place in a court where, as a throwback to Hong Kong’s British heritage, the judge and barristers wear powdered horsehair wigs and long black silk gowns. Justice Johnson Lam has had his hands full reining in the endless delays, insults, name-calling and bickering.

Mr. Chan’s case rests largely on his relationship with Mrs. Wang.

“For a long period of time — 15 years — from 1992 until Mrs. Wang’s death, Mr. Chan was her close friend, confidant and lover,” said Jonathan Midgley, one of Mr. Chan’s lawyers.

Many details come from Mr. Chan himself, though he has long been married and has three children (one of whom is named “Wealthee Chan”).

Mr. Chan earned headlines when he testified that he and Mrs. Wang “enthusiastically” engaged in “the events in paragraph 32,” referring to part of his witness statement that described intimate physical activities.

He also related Mrs. Wang’s pet names for him which, when translated from Cantonese, included “Hubby,” “Hubbykins” and the rather unfortunate sounding “Hubby-pig.”

According to Mr. Chan’s testimony, sparks began flying in 1992, when he gave his feng shui client a head rub for $6,500. Treatments turned into full-body massages, then an affair and growing amounts of cash, which was reportedly used to help pay for Mr. Chan’s wedding banquet at the luxury Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Hotel.

Mr. Chan detailed “married couple” activities that drew him and Mrs. Wang together, like cooking, traveling, building model helicopters and digging “feng shui holes,” into which they would throw jade, coins and other objects for good luck. According to testimony by hired workers, the couple had as many as 80 such holes dug around Hong Kong, some measuring 30 feet deep.

On the other side is the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which is largely controlled by Mrs. Wang’s siblings, though company representatives did not respond to requests for comment about what charity function the foundation performed.

Chinachem and the Wang family have painted Mr. Chan as a con man who preyed on Mrs. Wang by promising her eternal life as she became older and sicker. In separate appearances, two of Mrs. Wang’s sisters compared Mr. Chan to a eunuch serving an empress dowager, while their lawyer called him a “toy boy.”

Some of Mrs. Wang’s relatives, friends and longtime employees testified that they had not even heard of a Tony Chan, or of any romantic relationship with him.

The Chinachem team also claims that the 2006 will was a “feng shui will” for ceremonial purposes. This would not be out of keeping with local practices, in which fake money, miniature homes and cars are burned in ceremonies for the dead.

The Chinachem legal team has tried to prove that Mrs. Wang was mentally unstable and incapable of making important decisions at the end of her life; the 2006 will was written less than six months before she died. Medical experts described the tycoon as being weak, pale and incapable of keeping food down or walking unaided.

But other testimony showed that she was making financial deals, even on her deathbed. A Goldman Sachs executive, who worked with Mrs. Wang for years, claimed in court that she had ordered him to help her buy $48.5 million worth of shares in RCG Holdings, a company that news reports described as partly held by Mr. Chan. On April 2, Mrs. Wang confirmed the transaction, the executive said. The next day, she died.

By his own admission, Mr. Chan has already enjoyed a lot of Mrs. Wang’s fortune. Her payments to him totaled an estimated $258 million over the years, he said, though the figure could not be independently confirmed.

Mr. Chan’s two brothers testified that they helped him bundle away more than $1.5 million from the Chinachem offices, in cash-stuffed bags and carried out in several trips.

News reports of the court proceedings also said that Mrs. Wang had arranged trucks to make late-night deliveries of three cash payments worth $89 million each to Mr. Chan.

Before meeting Mrs. Wang in the early 1990s, Mr. Chan was sporadically employed and living with his girlfriend and her extended family in a public housing project. Whatever the outcome of the case, his life was drastically changed by what he calls Mrs. Wang’s “gifts of love.”



Friday, July 10, 2009

Thank god for open courts -- sex and scandal in the Nina Wang trial

My Nina Wang trial story appeared on the front page of the IHT. Hurray! So run out and buy a copy, partly to support my flagging industry, and also because there doesn't seem to be an online version yet. : )
I was so worried about it, but I think it turned out OK. Of course, it's pack full of sex, scandal and feng shui superstition.
*****
Everyone knows -- theoretically speaking -- that the Hong Kong judiciary is fairer and more open than China's.
But it really hit me when I went to cover the trial.
I was nervous as first, as I was thrown into the assignment weeks after the trial had started, with little notice or background info.
I hadn't done court reporting before. I didn't know the deal with getting a press pass, or when hearings would be. (I found out on the judiciary website).
But when I arrived for my first day of reporting, I basically just handed the guard a business card, signed a form and walked in.
Other people -- people off the street -- could get in by waiting in line and sitting in the public gallery.
It is really is an open, transparent system. The media are not fed anything through the government or a spokesman. You can hear and see it with your own eyes -- even when the lawyers and judge are arguing about legal technicalities. And if you're a member of the public who doesn't want to trust the media, you can go see it yourself.
****
Sometimes, I read reports on court cases in China -- the ones we pay attention to are usually dissidents, censored writers, etc. Sometimes, even the person on trial can't attend the trial. Or that person's lawyer can't. Never mind journalists or members of the public. Sometimes, we can't even confirm if and when a trial is taking place.
In comparison, the Hong Kong judiciary lists every single trial in every major court on its web site.
The Nina Wang trial is a circus. I'm keeping my hands off any opinion on which side is right or wrong, or whether justice will be done or not. But, at the very least, Hong Kongers can make their own judgments. If someone in the case tries to lie or bribe their way, it's on public view.
****
Daisann, of the Learning Cantonese blog, once joked with me that Hong Kong's justices and barristers looked like "Chinese Thomas Jeffersons," due to that old British tradition of wearing powdered wigs. (I don't wish to misquote her, but I think she was talking about Martin Lee).
Daisann had attended some hearings about Long-Hair Leung. Like me, she just walked into court and listened to the whole thing.
She's been out of town and hasn't blogged from Hong Kong from a while, but her most recent post was about watching Legco (the Legislative Council) debate live on NOW TV, which has a channel similar to America's C-SPAN.
Like C-SPAN, it's probably little watched. Most congressional work -- in any country -- is really, really dull.
Believe it or not, even large parts of the Nina Wang inheritance trial were dull. The newspapers pick out the juciest bit, but watching two barristers and a judge debate one paragraph is mind-numbing.
I have to say, though, that watching the testimony, I have never seen so much greed in my life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Job posting - art editor

Orientations magazine is looking for an associate editor.
Candidates should be native English speakers with a serious interest in Asian art.
Editorial experience, a degree in art history, and Chinese and / or Japanese language ability are all pluses.
Email your cv to yifawn@orientations.com.hk.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Arts journalism fellowship

The deadline for the University of Southern California (USC) Anneneberg / Getty Arts Journalism fellowship is July 14. It is for mid-career journalists (writers, editors and producers) covering arts and culture.

Fellows will be taken on about two dozen art exhibits, architectural sites and performances. The organization will cover costs for round-trip travel to L.A., basic room and board, and school materials.

For more information, go to http://annenberg.usc.edu/getty

A link-back, or whatever kids are calling it these days

To do the polite thing, here's a link back to a blog that links to me.
The anonymous Precarious seems to be a Malaysian kid who's about to start school at Chinese U.
Much of his (I presume, his) blog is probably not so interesting to Joyceyland's, ahem, more elderly readers. (That means you, too).
There's minutae about exam-taking and school-entering. Lots of photos of techie stuff. And sneakers. More sneakers than any uni fresher (or college freshman, if you are adverse to the Britishism) would ever need. Precarious seems to be something of a sneakerhead.
It's refreshing to see someone so very excited to start school. He's even posted pix of the dorm hallway. Was I ever this excited to start school?
That was a long time ago, but I probably was. I probably spent just as much time agonizing over personal essays, and what to pack to go to Montreal.
Though my focus was mostly on clothes, and his is on school-related stuff like laptop cases.
Of course, as I am about 457 years old, we didn't have laptop cases when I started school. We had to carve pencils out of wood or something.
His blog is here: http://justanotherhollowshell.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hong Kong's National Day -- kinda, sorta.

Today is the cumbersomely named Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day, a.k.a. Handover Day. (I always think of it as a celebration of a long and complex bureaucratic process, which is not entirely untrue. It's like Chinese Red Tape Day).

It's not a holiday that conjures up much emotion (or much positive emotion). It's not like Independence Day in the U.S. on July 4, which overseas Americans celebrate with hot dogs, flags, BBQs, etc. It's not even like Fete Nationale in Quebec on June 24. (Je me souvien. I ate a poutine from Big Bite in North Point. If you're ever stuck in these neck of the woods, remember that they do a mean hamburger.)

Most Hong Kongers don't associate July 1 with childhood memories, or snack foods, since it's only been marked since 1997, when Chris Patten tried to hug every Hong Kong man, woman and child before sailing away as our last British governor. At that time, Hong Kongers were torn about being handed back to Chinese rule. There was pride at not being a colony, and being reunited with a country that shares our language, culture and history. But there was also apprehension about what would happen when a big Communist nation took over a small place with far greater political freedoms.

(That was the reason behind the huge pre-97 exodus to Canada, as people desperately tried to secure passports to Western democratic nations, in case the People's Liberation Army came rumbling over the border and Queen's Road was re-named Great Mao Avenue or whatever. That didn't happen, though Vancouver real estate prices did spike).

For me, July 1 is Protest Day, coming in second only to the June 4 (Tiananmen Square Crackdown Day) as a date for hitting the streets.

On July 1, 2003, there was a huge demonstration of a half-million participants, who were incredibly well behaved considering their number. But that was a peculiar year. The city was just recovering from the killer SARS epidemic. The government was trying to ram through legislation that could potentially limit free speech and press freedom. Adding insult to injury, there was the feeling that those laws were being slipped onto the books without public consultation, when people were still terrified by SARS. It made the administration look callous and cowardly.

The city was being run by two deeply disliked figures, Tung Chee-hwa and Regina Ip, both of whom were burned in effigy on that hot and crowded day.

Today, Tung and Ip are gone. SARS is over. And legislation releated to Article 23 has been put on the back shelf. (It will rear its ugly head again, but not yet). Because of all this, the July 1 protests have lost energy and focus. Today, there were 25,000 to 100,000 demonstrators, depending on whether you believe the police or the organizers. That's a far cry from 500,000.

People are still asking for basic rights, like the one to elect our own leaders instead of having them appointed by Beijing. But My Friend Who Should Really Have His Own Blog reports that financial woes were on the top of the list.

Here's his post:

"I just got back from the July 1 demonstration at Victoria Park.

"Among the first group of demonstrators, possibly the first, was a very long line of people bearing signs asking the chief executive to step down. These people carried many black signs saying 'Donald Tsang Step Down,” “No Wimp No Moron,” and “Lehman Bond Issue Not Resolved.”

"This shows that the widespread dissatisfaction with Tsang is linked to the Lehman bond issue

"It was a very long line of such people carrying the same black signs asking Tsang to step down in English and Chinese.

"I wonder if this strong showing of unhappiness at Tsang by many Hong Kong people will affect Beijing’s view and treatment of Tsang?

"Then again, Beijing allowed an unpopular figure with a bad reputation, Fernando Chui, to be Macau chief.

"Given this, I don’t think Beijing will dump Tsang."

*****

This seems like a good time to revisit one of my all-time favorite stories: "Mr. Know-It-All's Guide to Article 23."

"Mr. Know-It-All" is an advice column that still runs today in HK Magazine, an alternative weekly. (I wrote alot of "Know It All" columns from 2000-2003).

It's done in the voice of a cigar-smoking, fedora-wearing cartoon character who helps readers with quirky daily-life issues: Where to find extra-large ladies shoes? A locksmith at 2 a.m.? A tango instructor?

In 2003, I used Mr. Know-It-All to illustrate an almost 4,000-word article on this important -- but difficult and convoluted -- legal issue.

That's when journalism works, when it takes something that affects people, and explains it in an accessible, entertaining way. Our art director at the time did some great cartoons -- Mr. Know-It-All blindfolded, Mr. Know-It-All gagged. And I wrote it in a question and answer format, just like I did to answer drag queens wanting to go shoe-shopping.

The article was actually lost for a while. In 2003, HK Magazine did not have a good website and it was never posted. Later, the nice, diligent people at the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor retyped it and posted it online.