Saturday, 27 August 2016

Picture of the Day: Election Literature

Who would you choose to represent your interests from this lot?
Next Sunday is the Legislative Council elections. In the geographical constituency for Hong Kong Island, there are 15 candidates vying for six seats.

These are all the flyers I have received from the candidates -- who would you pick?

This year is going to be very interesting, as people seem tired of the traditional pan-democrats and many shades of democrats have emerged, including localists who are even advocating independence which has been mooted.

Radicals like Leung Kwok-hung or "Long Hair" and Wong Yuk-man are considered passe these days, though localist parties aren't getting much traction beyond some young people.

This vote splitting only makes it easier for the pro-Beijing DAB to potentially gain even more traction.

Nevertheless there are some notable candidates for Hong Kong Island.

First up is Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, founder and chairperson of the New People's Party and her "Team Regina" slogan. At a glance her platform looks pretty mainstream. Who doesn't want to improve air quality and reduce students' stress?

Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosisto escaped jail time recently following his conviction of inciting others to join in unlawful assembly almost two years ago which sparked the 79-day occupation of Admiralty.

The party's main platform is to hold a referendum in 10 years, asking Hong Kong people about how they want the city to be governed come 2047, when "one country, two systems" expires.

Independent Paul Zimmerman is the only gweilo running. He's been involved in local politics for a few years, and in the past year has been pretty active in trying to improve aspects of Hong Kong's environment, from suggesting seats at bus stops, cleaning up beaches, and cracking down on land abuses in the New Territories.

The Dutchman definitely manages to shine a light on these issues, and shows up at major rallies even if he doesn't understand everything that's been said.

Finally there's Ricky Wong Wai-kay another independent, who has campaigned on "ABC" or "Anybody except CY Leung".

His campaign material is pretty comprehensive and bilingual too going through 12 main issues advocating small class sizes in schools, reforming the MPF scheme and more transport subsidies.

It's interesting this businessman is keen to run and we'll see how he does. But he has definitely thought out how he'd like Hong Kong to be run with his 99-page policy platform.

So another week to decide... decisions, decisions...

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dramatic Twist to Elections

Ken Chow claims there were threats against him if he campaigned further
There is over a week to go before the Legislative Council elections and things have already gotten bizarre with one candidate running in the highly contested New Territories West abruptly announced he was not running anymore during an election debate on Cable TV last night.

Liberal Party candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan said he feared for the safety of people close to him after he received threats that 20 or 30 people would "pursue" him at an election forum "until he had no mood for such forums anymore".

"As I don't want my loved ones to be in even higher level of trouble or pay any price, I will suspend all campaign activities for getting voters' support," he said reading a statement as part of his opening speech.

Junius Ho says the claims against him are to smear him
He then bowed in front of the camera to apologize to friends and volunteers who supported him.

Later Chow even distributed the voice clip of the threat to the media.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, another candidate running in the same geographic constituency, admitted the voice on the clip was one of his volunteers, and immediately claimed he had no knowledge of the apparent threat.

Ho hit back, claiming Chow was trying to smear him, as both seem to be fighting for the same voters. Ho also questioned how Chow managed to get a copy of the clip, that was part of a Whatsapp group chat.

"Where did he get hold of the clip? They were not talking to you. Why are you overreacting like this? You told the media you were scared but you said you would not talk anymore... Isn't he smearing [me]?" asked Ho.

But there's no way to contact Chow to find out more -- he has left Hong Kong and apparently won't be back until after the elections.

Last week E Weekly Magazine reported someone tried to bribe Chow with HK$5 million for him to not stand in the elections but he refused. The amount was double his election spending. Some are speculating the bribe may have come from pro-Beijing supporters.

In his concluding speech at the debate, Chow said, "Death doesn't frighten me. The most horrible thing is that you can't protect those who are important to you.

"I am not afraid of becoming a broken egg, but I fear that those who are close to me will be harmed."

The strange thing is that one you are an approved candidate, you can't just quit. And there was no indication that Chow and his family were in any danger...

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sliding in Hong Kong

Enjoy the thrill of sliding down and taking in the view of the city too
At the Central waterfront there's a giant 10-metre long slide for people to beat the heat, though according to the Chinese lunar calendar, summer was officially over on Tuesday.

Slide in the City had a delayed start yesterday
Slide in the City was supposed to open at 9am yesterday until Monday, but was delayed until 2pm because it was waiting for approval from the Hong Kong government's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Karen Kwok Ka-yan, project director of event organizer Dreams Salon Entertainment Culture, conceded the company had underestimated the time it needed to win government approval for the installation.

As a result, many people who had tickets for the morning session were disappointed they couldn't play on the slide, though they were happy to return at a later time and get a free bottle of water each.

This is the second year Slide the City has come to Hong Kong. The American outfit first installed temporary slides in the United States in 2013 and has since gone to Canada, Japan, Columbia and Malaysia.

Visitors can hang out in the make-shift beach...
There were over 16,000 people who visited the site in Hong Kong last year and organizers are hoping for 6,000 a day for six days.

While people can enter the site for free, they have to pay HK$180 to HK$580 to use the slide for two hours, depending on the time of day. There's even an artificial beach complete with deckchairs and large plastic balls.

Sound like fun? Join the line...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beijing's 1st Tibetan Search Engine

New search engine Yongzin looks very similar to Google, no?
China recently launched its first search engine -- in Tibetan called Yongzin, which means "teacher" or "master". State media outlet Xinhua says Yongzin is a "unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China".

The search engine has been in the making since 2013 and cost 57 million yuan (US$8.7 million) to produce. Eighty percent of the 150 developers are ethnic Tibetan, and the site is expected to benefit 2 million users.

You will be hard pressed to find images of him on Yongzin
With an entire population of over 1.2 billion, why would the Chinese government bother to set up a search engine for such a small percentage of people?

"[It will] meet the growing needs of the Tibetan-speaking population and facilitate the building of Tibetan digital archives and the expansion of databases in the Tibetan language," an official said.

Or how about trying to control the information flow Tibetans can access in their own language?

Tibet watchers outside of China seem skeptical about this latest development. "After decades of effectively suppressing the Tibetan language, China now puts emphasis on being seen to support it," observed Alistair Currie of the Free Tibet Movement.

"As with everything in Tibet, language is tainted with political connotations, and Beijing wants to control any development rather than permit it."

And there are problems trying to find images of Tibetan tea
Some media asked Tibetan-speaking users to try out the portal and found searches for the Dalai Lama didn't even show his official website. "None of the top results [on Yongzin] are particularly relevant," a researcher said.

When the search switched to images, the results showed images from a defunct website compared to Google, which had lots of pictures of the Dalai Lama.

Another search was made for "Tibetan tea", and those results showed Chinese officials drinking tea, whereas Google had images of the actual beverage.

Currie noted there were many more blogs, websites and social media from Tibet that were not accessible through the search engine.

So what's the whole point of this 57 million yuan exercise when hardly anything is accessible?