Thursday, August 27, 2009

One For All Seasons Flew Over the Inglourious Basterds

By Chip Tsao | published Aug 27, 2009

Hong Kong’s political life is getting more cinematic everyday. The government’s compulsory drug testing in schools policy is playing out like a cheap remake of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but with a decidedly unattractive cast. Although the proposal says that schoolchildren and their parents will be “consulted” before they decide to take the test, the police will be involved and gather information about all those who refuse it, no doubt putting their names on some kind of watch list.

Adding a dash of Tarantinoesque flavor to the verbiage in the row, privacy commissioner Roger Wu has done the government’s nut in by writing an open letter warning about a raft of legal problems and potential lawsuits that could follow the implementation of this rushed-out policy. Wu comes off like a postmodern version of Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons.” The government whined about Wu’s disloyalty through a few poorly spin-doctored mouthpieces last week, questioning why the commissioner decided to put on a show of, to borrow a Cantonese saying, “chickens fighting each other in the same cage,” by making his dissident views embarrassingly public. A wink-and-nudge behind closed doors would’ve done just fine, they seem to suggest.

Wu is a Queen’s English speaking lawyer with an old Etonian elegance, who insists on maintaining an immaculate dress code while continuing to dine in the very top tier of respectable social establishments such as the Red Room in the Hong Kong Club even after the so-called “handover.” He would certainly not be amused about being framed in the commonly used Chinese agricultural metaphor about a couple of noisy chickens.

But what’s wrong with publicizing his views? It’s all the political fashion these days, so much so that even Cheng Yiu-tong, one of Donald Tsang’s handpicked executive councilors, has openly voiced his objection to the government’s pay cut for senior civil servants. Leung Chun-ying, a leading member of Tsang’s cabinet tipped as the crown prince to succeed him for the top job, has even struck a dissident chord by calling for a minimum wage. Many people have benefited from generating their single sound bite, earning themselves a one-night stand as a hero of public opinion, despite the fact that this causes the death of the administration’s popularity by a thousand cuts.

Biting the hand that feeds them, the ungrateful Cheng and Leung can enjoy more freedom of speech because of their long-standing reputation as Beijing’s favorite children, while Wu, like Thomas More, is a lone man against the system. The government doesn’t need to hide its grudge against Wu; on the contrary, like Henry VIII, they can demand the head of their lord chancellor.

Making cinematic references is both a useful and trendy exercise in understanding modern political reality, especially in Hong Kong, a place where an intelligent minority is ruled by a particularly inglourious group of people. Or, as Donald Tsang and Henry Tang might see it, vice versa.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yes We Care

By Chip Tsao | published Aug 13, 2009

As “Asia’s World City,” Hong Kong should seize every opportunity to demonstrate its self-aggrandizing title, like how Jean-Bédel Bokassa loudly justified himself as the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Central African Republic after the French colonizers left.
Well, we have a fashionable global headline-grabbing case right here, a golden opportunity. That is, if only Hong Kong women have the smallest amount of feminist awareness to show some sympathy with Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese journalist facing a public flogging if a Khartoum court finds her guilty of wearing a pair of trousers to a party.

Sudan’s police swooped in and charged Hussein and 12 other similarly clad women in the Khartoum café with “violating public decency,” according to harsh Islamic law. Ten of the women pleaded guilty and accepted their punishment—10 lashes and an $800 fine. But Hussein is so outraged she has brought the case to court. She is a former United Nations press secretary, which would ordinarily give her immunity from prosecution, but instead of walking freely out of court, Hussein resigned from her UN job to challenge the charge, much to the confusion of her so-called jurors.

Now women and human rights groups in Malaysia, Pakistan and even Afghanistan have come out in support of Hussein. A placard held by protestors outside of the Khartoum court last week rightly proclaimed that “Lubna’s struggle is every woman’s struggle.” Yet where are our female Hong Kong politicians—such as Regina Ip or Emily Lau—who have an obligation to answer this call of conscience from the cause of international sisterhood?

Are Hong Kong women too busy playing mahjong, shopping for LV handbags or watching cheap local soap operas? A demonstration by tens of thousands of Hong Kong women in the streets shouting “down with the filthy Sudanese chauvinist pigs,” joined hand in hand by our large domestic helper population, would go a long way to promoting Hong Kong’s image in the world.

And imagine how fascinating it would be if China’s tens of millions of sisters could join in. Think of how China-bashers like Nancy Pelosi and Mia Farrow would be moved to tears if factory girls, college students, foot massage workers—led by Madam Wu Yi—the much feared former minister of foreign trade, also took to the streets in Beijing and Shanghai.

It’s up to the liberals and feminists from all around the world, including Hong Kong’s if there are any, to teach the Sudanese dictators a lesson. Yes, we may have a little bit of a repressive sex industry in Shenzhen and Mongkok, built to serve the pleasures of men, but at least our sisters are given the choice of either undressing their skirts or unzipping their jeans. If there is a lashing or two served as well, you can be sure it won’t be given without equitable negotiation beforehand. We are lucky to have been born Chinese.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009











但是當今經濟不景,父母要雙雙謀生,沒時間管教啊。不,這只是藉口。謀生的擔子太重,敬請不要生育,真的要生,就效法灣仔街市那個賣梨子的女小販 ──這是我很小時親眼目睹的──一隻紙皮箱,拉扯大三個子女,長大了還一個當了律師,一個醫生,最沒出息的那個,還當了文學系教授。強制驗毒?別開玩笑了。小孩和王八蛋,記住,在慈愛的造物主眼中,眾生平等。自己賣力氣爬呀爬,老鷹在上,加油呀,大海就在前方,那一片藍色的希望。

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Settling the Box Office Account

By Chip Tsao | published Aug 06, 2009

China is going to be the new global giant in the 21st century. Its GDP is expected to overtake that of the United States in 2030. We all know that. But how are the Chinese people going to benefit? Ask some Chinese male movie stars who seem to have a brilliant career in Hollywood.

In the year 2009, when China’s foreign reserve has reached US$2 trillion and overtaken that of Japan, why are our Chinese kung-fu heroes like Jet Li and Jackie Chan still rigidly denied a mild and brief kissing act, let alone a juicy and steamy love-making scene in a flashy B-grade Hollywood film? A Warner-Brothers producer may stubbornly respond with the century-old stereotype that such scenes would have little emotional impact on American and European audiences. Even in the early stages of planning a screen synopsis, they are likely to be vetoed by Hollywood financial executives under the pretext that Asian men look too feminine and have little sex appeal.

But American movies have penetrated into China. Even Harry Potter has been allocated a Chinese girlfriend in his latest adventure, in a dramatic stunt clearly designed to please the 1.3 billion potential audience members. As a Chinese consumer, I solemnly protest on behalf of all my male compatriots in the American film industry about this huge sexual surplus long enjoyed by on-screen white heroes from William Holden to Pierce Brosnan, whereby they, in the role of a poor American painter or a horny James Bond, can always drag a Chinese woman to bed as freely as they might pick up a cheap banana at a fruit stall. Meanwhile, a humble-looking Chow Yun-fat, as the king of Siam, only gets as much as a long humdrum dialogue in broken English with a contemptuous Jodie Foster (as Anna the English teacher), without the pleasure of even touching her fingertip.

Oh please, no more accusations about anyone having a chip on the shoulder. It’s a simple economic equation. There are visibly more Chinese men now than there were thirty years ago walking haughtily with their arms around the waists of Western girlfriends on the streets of Hong Kong and Beijing. When they do so, judging from the proud look on their faces, you may reasonably guess that they have the blessing of a powerful China with a spectacular sum of US bonds firmly locked into its US$2 trillion foreign reserve. They are the real-life heroes struggling hard to straighten a cinematic sexual balance sheet against Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, who have given away so much.

If Hollywood wants the China market, just give us the double bed with stars like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston and we’ll sort things out.

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