Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a Hangover

By Chip Tsao | published Oct 29, 2009

If the Toshiba sign accidentally visible in the background of China’s National Day military parade added fuel to the flames of China’s anti-Japanese jingoism and triggered angry online protests, we Hong Kongers are not lagging too far behind our countrymen in terms of patriotic courage.

Francis Y. S. Mak, an RTHK DJ who hosts a program about courage, staged a brave confrontation with the Japanese aboard a JAL flight from Tokyo with his family last week. Because of his late check-in, the family of seven ended up being seated far apart from each other. Mak immediately demanded his family be re-seated, but the air hostess snubbed him because it wasn’t her duty to re-allocate seats.

The Hong Kong celebrity immediately summoned the air purser, who probably told him with a most professional smile that there was nothing they could do even if it was an order from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama himself. Feeling deeply insulted, Mak organized a protest by having all his family members stand in the corridor, and then angrily informed the pilot that there would be no take-off unless the matter was resolved. The Japanese gave in, with air hostesses begging passengers to change their seats to accommodate Mak’s demands. Altogether, it was a two-hour delay in one of the most dramatic stand-offs in Asia’s aviation history.

But angry Hong Kong passengers wrote to local newspapers to complain about Mak’s “selfish and rude behavior.” Mak apologized, stressing the fact that the three-year-old kid traveling with him was a major kung fu and karate fan, making his demand nothing more than reasonable. JAL then apologized, and sent him a letter upon his request. Whether the Japanese have blacklisted him or not remains to be seen.

Sino-Japanese relations are always a sensitive matter these days, given the still-stinging memories of the Japanese invasion of the motherland in 1937, the subsequent “alleged” massacre at Nanking, and the recent occupation of the Diaoyu Islands. The Japanese are perhaps a bit uneasy as our GDP catches up with theirs. Gone are the days when we Chinese had to kneel down before the Japanese. If the same scene had taken place today on, say, an American flight in New York, the pilot would have immediately informed the security at JFK, then a couple of 6-foot, heavily muscled guards, one black one white, would rush into the cabin, twist our hero’s arms, cuff him, knock down the mini-Jackie Chan who would try to protect his father, silence the women, and have the entire clan removed within two minutes, muttering, “get back home you jerks, this is America,” in the midst of joyful applause from a flight full of global passengers who are perhaps all a bit jealous of China’s economic strength today. It never happened. Some comfort in the hangover from our National Day orgy.

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