Recent news items which have made us chuckle and/or despair, plus click here for HK Top 5 and "You know you've Lived Here too Long:
A tenant has won half his rental deposit back in the small claims court. Hong Kong is a place where the landlord is usually King and tenants have to put up with 'what you see is what you get'. This case proves that in fact the tenant is protected where 'what you can't see' is a spook. The Wongs had signed the provisional agreement to rent the apartment from the owner, Mr. Lee who susbsequently denied knowing that a previous occupant had plunged to his death from a window in the flat. When the Wongs discovered this fact, they wanted to withdraw from the contract and according to the Court, were entitled to do so. They had already refused to move in to the apartment when Mrs. Wong "felt there was something wrong" with it, back in June this year.
The weather has turned a few degrees colder from the low 30's (centigrade) to the mid 20's mid month, as it does every year. Intrepid TV camera crews were out in force last week trying to get footage of people in their winter coats. Sadly they did not have to look far and news reports continued that evening with dramatic dialogue of "temperatures plummetting to 21 degrees centigrade". The true test that winter is here, whatever the temperature, is the stench of mothballs on the MTR as fur coats are brought out of cold storage for the winter.
ExHongkongers rejoice (that you're not in HK any more). ParknShop that wannabee Western style supermarket is now selling live frogs from it's fresh (live) fish department. Ugh. I might call them and suggest they place some recipe cards nearby for the uninitiated...
On Chinese National Day (1st October) our local English newspaper treated us to a full page interview with a local 'eccentric' who wishes to get into the Guinness Book of records with his large piece of skin (removed from his chest by his sister after a nasty bout of sunburn 21 years ago) and which is shaped like a map of mainland China. Quite why the English-speaking public needed to read the ramblings of this strange person, we're not quite sure.
Some Gems this month.
The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival came and went this week (12/13 Sept) and the moon shone brightly. The Consumer Council changed their annual warning about Mooncakes being bad for you due to high cholesterol. This year they were bad for you because they may not be cooked at a high enough temperature and therefore could poison you. Still, mooncakes rolled out of the shops and were recycled as gifts all over Hong Kong in offices and during family gatherings as is normal.
We've heard about the fuel crisis/protests in the UK and France recently and, as if to cast a single finger in that direction, local TV reported that taxi drivers in Hong kong were filling their diesel powered cabs with Canola Oil. Apparently as it is not classified by the HK Gov't as a fuel, it is very cheap. A car mechanic warned during the report that using Canola oil instead of diesel in one's car, may not be good for it.
29.8.00 The SCMP reports that a juror was removed from a court case yesterday for poking his tongue out at the defendant, an alleged murderer. . The juror is a primary school teacher and he gave no explanation for the episode.
Just across the border a report has emerged of the latest craze of Guangzhou children - keeping cockroaches as pets. The fad was inspired by a HK tv programme which includes a pet cockroach. Apparently, the creepie crawlies are selling at 65 Yuan per 250 grams (ugh). Having seen some rather similar looking creatures being prepared for the cooking pot in Guangzhou, I hope these youngsters are keeping their pets under lock and key around mealtimes.
Another Consumer Council gem concerns a lady who paid a fee of US$1,000 to a beauty centre in Tsim Sha Tsui for a treatment which promised to add 10cm to her height in five days. She has so far been refunded most of her 'investment' as the treatment, not surprisingly, failed to work. I did think it rather amusing that she was having her case heard at the SMALL Claims court.
15.8.00 The Consumer Council held one of their regular press conferences (apparently to remind Joe Public they do exist), and announced with fanfare on all local TV Stations, that "Drinking Tea is Safe". Despite three brands out of a couple of hundred being slighly higher in lead content, in general the local Hong Kong public can be assured that, as long as they don't eat tea leaves or drink more than 15 LITRES a day, they should not lose their marbles due to lead poisoning.
It was reported this week (26.07.00) that authorities in Guangdong have banned the importation of chicken's feet which they fear will spread disease. The chicken's feet are a useless by-product in Europe and the US where poultry producers have no market for them, therefore this ban could be a kick in the teeth to the poultry industry. Depressed chicken prices in Western countries have meant that the poultry producers have had to scratch a living elsewhere and up to now, no quarantine procedure has been required for the importation to China of the delicacy which is much loved here in Asia. Since the report, both Beijing and the Guangdong authorities have denied such a ban, so it could all have been a flap about nothing.
A new website has appeared in the past week according to a press report on 27.07.00 (no link from this site as I am completely neutral on this issue! - HP) run by the so-called "Dump Tung Coalition" which does not identify itself further although is reportedly hosted from the USA. Amusing items include the "Dump Tung Fund" which will accumulate cash by donating $10,000 for every 100,000 clicks on an advertisement at the website and an anonymous chatroom where participants are recommended to choose an identity from the following: dump-Tung little girl, pro-Tung old man, dump-Tung little boy and pro-Tung old woman.
At a Council By election held at the weekend it was reported that some elderly voters were being limousined to the polling office. On their arrival it was reported that they had stickers placed on their hands, printed with the number of a candidate. Officials made them remove the stickers as they constituted advertising within the polling station which is not allowed.
These are my ficticious Tung Chee-Hwa headlines that you won't ever see in the HK English press (and if by some weird chance you think they are funny and wish to copy and send, then please include a link to this site - thanks!): Tung Pokes Fun at Anson Chan/Betty T./Beijing * Tung in Chic Mao Suit * Housing: Tung in Sandwich Class Row * Chile Burning Issue for Tung * Tung Dampened by Poll results *
You have to have to be here.... (any others you can think of pls email to me)
The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is renowned for its strange advertising hoardings found in its tunnels. Past campaigns include various items of ladies underwear including push-up bras, pull-in tummy/bottom contraptions in life-size in-your-face style, prosthetic legs (yes, really), and strangely named companies from Wanko (boutiques) to Sogo. Today (17.7.00) I saw an advertisement for 7-Eleven. A poster of a girl's face with a rather large mole on her left cheek. The mole served as the "Dot" in dotcom. The rest of the advertisement said something in Chinese - I am intrigued to know what.
A Feel Good Story. After two months apart a 90 year old man, Chan Yat-biu, and his companion pet monkey Kam Ying will be reunited. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confiscated the cheeky chappie (ahem, the monkey) after someone complained Mr. Chan was keeping a wild monkey, even though he had kept it since it was a baby. After 11,000 people signed petitions on behalf of Mr. Chan, a magistrate thankfully saw sense and ordered the monkey to be returned to him. After the hearing, Mr. Chan said he would prepare a welcome home feast of beer, ice-cream and chicken - and looking at the photo of the dear, toothless man, I guess the chicken is for the monkey. (Update 19.7.00 - Monkey still behind bars - AFC Dept stalling). Update 21.7.00 - reunite and media frenzy planned for Monday when special licence to be granted for Mr. Chan to legally keep the monkey. It involves a microchip to be inserted into its neck. Don't ask me, ask the AFC Dept. Update 25.7.00 - Mr. Chan is in hospital being treated for exhaustion and missed his monkey's return home yesterday. He was reportedly making monkey noises and signals at the gathered media pack at his bedside. I think Mr. Chan ought to be careful about doing this - he may well not be released until his monkey obtains a licence for him.... "Get well soon Mr.Chan!"
Highlighting the superstitious nature of HK people, a new hotel in North Point is erecting a 10 storey high, 5 metre wide sign to block guests view of a funeral parlour next door. The hotel spokesperson is quoted as denying that the sign is for this purpose and explains it away as purely an advertising sign. A Feng Shui expert quoted in the SCMP said, "It's more that you suppose something is clean when you don't see it. It's a psychological effect. Collective grief emitting from mourners can form a strong electromagnetic field which undesirably affects the brain waves of individuals in the surrounding [area]."
In the courts this week, a golfer was ordered by Mr Justice Seagroatt to pay a caddie HK$88,970 plus interest in respect of injuries Ms Chau received when she was hit in the mouth by a golf ball at Fanling Golf Club. "Whatever his experience, it quickly became apparent that his ability was severely limited," Mr Justice Seagroatt was quoted as saying. It was reported that Mr Lee Chi-ming missed the ball seven consecutive times and it had taken him up to 20 strokes to reach the green on the first hole before he gave up. The accident happened when his ball veered towards the trees where the caddie, Ms. Chau was taking cover behind the golf bag, which proved to be an ineffective shield. the judge was quoted: "Anyone in front of him on a wide arc was at risk. He took no precautions in the light of his awareness of his erratic, unpredictable play. He owed a clear duty of care to all in front of him including the three caddies. He should have required them to be well out of range. He posed an obvious danger. He was negligent."
The Government has finally agreed to trial an electric-powered mini bus, which if successful will one day replace the fleet of smoke-belching mini-buses currently contributing to the urban air chemical-soup. It's trial run carrying journalists as passengers, turned into an unmitigated disaster. In the Summer heat, the air-conditioning broke down first, followed by a complete engine cut-out resulting in journalists being evacuated from the bus, and said vehicle having to be towed away.
There's Always One...
Hong Kong society is well-known for its consumerism, an almost fervent need to acquire wealth and a prevailing attitude that anyone of any age can be wealthy overnight - be it from the right investment or a get-rich-quick scheme, or gambling. This, combined with an unhealthy dose of superstitions, has created the perfect environment for the World's oldest and newest scams.
A few for you to ponder:
Prior to the New Year 2000 and the YK2 fever that it generated, it was reported that a woman in Aberdeen, Hong Kong was offered tablets that would cure the 'Millenium Bug'. The woman, having heard of the affliction, but not having a clue as to what it was, parted with a substantial lump sum to purchase these pills, which turned out to be over-the-counter pain killers.
Similar cons have been carried out by swindlers selling batteries or technical looking electronic parts, promising to eradicate computer 'viruses'. Other scam items include, fake Chinese medicines, gold, fung shui 'Masters'.
A Fool and His Money...
A true story. A young man in Wanchai on a recent Saturday night, met a friendly young Thai lady in a less than salubrious night-club and, well, decided to take her to a local hotel for the rest of the evening. On the way, he went to the ATM for some cash. Hours later he awoke in the hotel room, the young lady had left for breakfast. He checked his wallet lying on the bedside table and found all to be in order and cash still there. Later in the day he went to the bank and discovered to his horror (but surely not to his surprise) his account had been cleared. I hear from a reliable source that his long-term girlfriend is giving him rather a hard time over this. I do hope she's only staying around to clear out his account when he replenishes it again.
HK Creative Debt Collecting Methods
Snakes Alive - A way to ruin any restaurant's reputation with the ophidiophobic. HK media reported in September 1999 that a gang of debt-collectors flung a bag of snakes and insects into a local restaurant during the busy lunch hour. A snake catcher had to be called to capture the reptiles and somehow very amusing photos were taken by the press of a large distraught woman on the back of her skinny husband during the fracas.
They say that HK is a stressful place to live. Here are a couple of reports of a few unfortunates who seemed to have 'lost the plot' but in such an entertaining way:
In May 1999 a woman became obsessed with the sight of men sporting a bare chest in public places. Ms. Cheng claimed that they were sexually harrassing her and took her complaint to court. It was thrown out by the High Court after a 45 minute closed door (and assumedly shirty) hearing. However, Ms. Cheng has made a difference in her own neighbourhood, where she was quoted by the SCMP as saying that naked chests had disappeared. She was seeking around US$42,000 from three defendants she had identified as exposing their chests to her whilst they were working as stallholders.
A Mrs. Wong decided a couple of years back that comfort shopping in her local mall just wasn't satisfying enough. So she decided to attend one of the HK Government's land auctions where she bid against Hong Kong's big developers for a piece of prime commercial land in Kowloon. Her winning bid of HK$890 million was accepted and only discovered to be worthless, when it came time to cough up. It was quickly evident that Mrs. Wong was not the daughter of HK tycoon Li Ka-shing and she was promptly 'taken away' by the boys in green (and probably handed over to the men in white coats).
For more entertainment, go to the South China Morning Post The 'Letters to the editor' page in the internet edition is always a source of cynical amusement.
Copyright © 2000 to 2004 Helen Phillips All rights reserved