Archive for November, 2008

Still alive

November 10, 2008

It’s been just over two months since the previous post. There’s no real reason for a lack of posting other than life has been pretty normal since then. Had I only arrived a couple of months ago then obviously everything would seem new and unusual and worth writing about. 18 months in and I guess Hong Kong is now home and there doesn’t seem to be so much to write about now.

Thankfully, or perhaps disappointingly from other people’s perspective, I am now avoiding the more unpleasant food that can be on offer here. Even my office colleagues don’t seem to throw themselves into ordering ‘weird’ food for me with the same enthusiasm as when I first arrived. This is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

So what has been going on in Hong Kong? We recently had a Bledisloe Cup match hosted. Unfortunately the actual Cup had already been decided with the All Blacks beating the Wallabies in Brisbane a couple of weeks beforehand. Despite this, it was a very enjoyable match [with the All Blacks coming back in the second half to win 19-14]. Initially it was assumed tickets would be in high demand, as occurs for the Sevens. This never turned out to be the case. There certainly doesn’t appear to be a massive local market for rugby in the same way that there would be for football, specifically English Premier League football. The vast majority of the crowd were expats or Aussies/Kiwis who had flown over for the game, and being a one-off match there was never the same atmosphere as happens at the Sevens.

There was also some sort of election held here in September. I’d been meaning to write something about elections, government, and democracy here for some time, but thought I’d wait until I had a better understanding of how it all works here. This will never happen. To say it is confusing is a bit of an understatement, so here goes with an attempt … There’s a Legislative Council (LegCo) which is responsible for running Hong Kong SAR. Not really too sure how many members this has, but that’s not especially important. Permanent Residents (i.e. not me) get to vote. However, some people get more than one vote, because there are ‘special voting categories’ (this isn’t the correct terminology) for things like finance, law, and other sectors of the community here. And by community, I really mean business community. You can probably see that these communities therefore have a much bigger say in the vote. It’s actually possible to have lots of votes by being associated with plenty of voting groups. Like I said, I really have not figured how all this works, and probably never will. LegCo isn’t fully elected (as far as I can tell), with some of it’s members (possibly up to half) being appointed by Beijing. Of course, the ‘party’ names here are Monty Python-esque, with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (yes, seriously) being pro-Beijing, and the Social Democrats being more pro-democracy. There still isn’t universal suffrage here, although that is a provision of the Basic Law agreed between China and the UK at the time of the handover.

So, we have LegCo as a mix of Beijing appointees and members elected by some of the Hong Kong population. LegCo members then elect a Chief Executive who is pretty much the head honcho. At the moment it’s Sir Donald Tsang. He was knighted by the UK prior to the handover, but now doesn’t like to use the title of Sir as it obviously demonstrates that he was part of the governing regime when the UK were nominally in charge. The choice of Chief Executive can be over-ruled by Beijing, as far as I know. LegCo pretty much control the running of Hong Kong with a few major exceptions like defence and foreign policy etc. Clearly the make up of the Council is tilted in the favour of business and Beijing. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few odd-balls who manage to get elected. There is one member who is nicknamed Long Hair on account of his having long hair. He’s even referred to in the press as Long Hair. Another member is nicknamed Mad Dog. I’m not sure if he owns a mad dog, but he apparently threw a bunch of bananas at Donald Tsang as he gave a speech in LegCo as a means of protest. So at least he lives up to the mad part… I’m really not sure of the siginificance of the bananas but a few days later another member of LegCo was beaten up in the street (not a laughing matter) and force fed a banana by a random person. This person has since been collared by the police and locked up in a lunatic asylum psychiatric hospital. The press were quick to link the two incidents in an attempt to make LegCo behave ‘more properly’.

There was a comedy night held here last week which had a few comedians brought over from the UK, one of whom had appeared on Mock the Week. We get all the highest calibre performers here! It was a setup that anyone familiar with Jongleurs/The Comedy Store in the UK would recognise. A few beers, and seats round a stage with a compere who introduces the acts. Again the audience was 99% expat, mostly Brits with a fair number of Aussies and Kiwis and some Americans filling out the numbers. It totalled about 2 hours worth of comedy and was a good fun night out, with the Americans getting some stick (and the rather predictable ‘well done on electing Obama’ comment). There was also the obligatory person with the cackling laugh who got thoroughly ripped into by one of the comedians … only for him to find out she worked for one of the night’s sponsors. That didn’t seem to slow him down though.

The most unintentionally funny part of the night was watching the look on the face of a Chinese girl who was obviously the girlfriend of a British guy sitting across the room. Sometimes British humour doesn’t travel well, and it’s fair to say she looked totally bemused and puzzled for the entire 2 hours.

I’ve also got a ticket booked to see Manic Street Preachers (a popular beat-combo, Mum/Dad) towards the end of November, who I’ve seen at the V festival before, but figure it should be a good night out.