Tag Archives: beijing

Kenny G’s Wrong Walk: the Rise and Fall of the Saxophone Revolution

24 Oct

kenny gHong Kong’s noble, determined pro-democracy movement was dealt a potentially fatal body blow this week when easy listening sax legend Kenny G cruelly withdrew his support.

Mr G had seemed pretty sympathetic to the protesters’ calls for universal suffrage when he posed for photos with some of the locals and tweeted a selfie in front of a pro-democracy banner.

With those ever semi-permed shoulder length locks and gaily tossed cashmere sweater, G cut an almost Christ-like presence in Admiralty. In the photo his two fingers are raised as if to say “peace be with you all, my funny little Asian friends”.

Then all hell broke loose.

You see, Kenny’s a bit of a big deal in China, where they absolutely bloody love him. He played four gigs there last month and his easy listening classic Going Home is played – very much like Auld Lang Syne in Japan – as a Pavlovian cue to shoppers and bar go-ers that a venue is shutting for the day/night.

His caché is in fact so strong with Middle Kingdomers that Chinese Marxist thought refers to opium as “the Kenny G of the masses”.

A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman was forced to denounce G’s apparent love-in with the Hong Kong protesters with the following statement:

“Kenny G’s musical works are widely popular in China, but China’s position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear. We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form.”

Rather than grasp this opportunity to stand up and become a figure-head for a movement striving to achieve that basic human right of universal suffrage, he deleted the tweet and posted this bullshit to Facebook:

“Some fans took my picture and it’s unfair that I am being used by anyone to say that I am showing support for the demonstrators. I am not supporting the demonstrators as I don’t really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong. I love China and love coming here to perform for over 25 years. I only wanted to share my wish for peace for Hong Kong and for all of China.”

You looked destiny in the face, you had a chance to make history G, and what did you do? You went and listened to your publicist. The Hoff – who single handedly tore down the Berlin Wall remember – would be ashamed of you.

So there we go. Before it even had a chance to flourish into something intense and irresistible, very much like a Kenny G ballad, the Saxophone Revolution had been cruelly ended. Amen.

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Beijing: Mission Accomplished

3 Apr

chinese flagI finally got to Beijing last month. Now, a few Noodlers may remember that the last time I tried to fly there during summer 2013 I got as far as the airport before I was turned back. So my hopes weren’t high. I’ve also been a little dismissive of its somewhat dubious claims to be a genuine contender for world city alongside the likes of New York and London. Pollution, common rudeness and a somewhat robust approach to civil liberties (and journalists) did not fill me with a great deal of hope for a lovely weekend away.

Well in the end the planes flew on time; the 72-hour transit visa (flying from Macau and back to Hong Kong) worked a treat; and the miserable immigration guard only laughed once in my face, which I think is about as good as it gets in Beijing. The skies were the bluest blue I’ve ever seen in this part of the world, the locals were, well, pretty decent sorts, and the Hutong bars were an eclectic, messy, jumbled-up delight. Add in Peking duck at Da Dong and an overnighter to the Great Wall and you have just about the perfect weekend getaway.

In fact, the whole weekend made me thoroughly unimpressed on my return with the moody arrogance of parochial Hong Kongers, their shitty identikit bar/clubs, and paranoid NIMBY-fied attitude to late night licensing. For the record, I still like dim sum and junk trips though.

Here, as promised, is some gratuitous photo-porn from the weekend.

mau

forbidden city

lanterns

Lovely hutong: nanluoguxiang

Zhonglou and gulou

Zhonglou and Gulou: Bell tower and drum tower

gulou

great wall

toboggan

The only way to exit the Great Wall

chinese flag

Hong Kong’s press freedom knifed in the back

27 Feb

It’s a rather sombre Noodle entry this week after the shocking news that former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to is in critical condition after being attacked near his home by a knife wielding motorcycle “hitman”.

For those not familiar, Lau was recently removed from his role as chief editor of the independent Chinese language daily and replaced by a pro-Beijinger in a move widely seen as yet another attempt to muzzle Hong Kong’s press freedom.

Just last weekend 6,000 protestors gathered in the wake of Lau’s demotion and a growing sense that Beijing is increasingly interfering in their SAR’s affairs in a way which is undermining the “one country, two systems” ideal HK was founded on post-97.

Ming Pao has apparently put up a HK$1m reward for info leading to the arrest of Lau’s attackers, who struck around 10.30am on Wednesday as he was walking from a breakfast eatery in Sai Wan Ho Street, Shau Kei Wan.

The 49-year-old was apparently slashed three times by the motorbike passenger, once on each leg and another cut exposing his chest cavity and lungs.

Police “sources” told the SCMP “it was a classic Triad hit”, intended to “warn him”, and presumably any other outspoken journalists in Hong Kong.

So is it really a Triad hit? And in that case, are the Triads now carrying out the will of the Communist Party?

Getting local gangsters to do their dirty work would certainly enable a canny bit of plausible deniability on the part of the latter. Just as it manages to keep arms length from any cyber incursions on foreign targets, so using the HK underworld as a proxy would keep Xi and co’s hands nice and clean, whilst scaring the crap out of outspoken local editors (if there are any left).

It’s not a given though. The criminal underground gangs of Hong Kong have historically been fiercely pro-China (ie anti-British/Russian/American etc) but not necessarily pro CPC. Is it simply that, like most local businessmen, Triad leaders don’t want to see the press rile their Beijing-allied business interests?

Or is this all just a massive bit of misdirection? A third party using the MO of the Triads to confuse the cops….

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club had the following statement:

The Club reiterates its view that the growing number of attacks against members of the press in Hong Kong needs to be taken seriously by the local administration. Hong Kong’s reputation as a free and international city will suffer if such crimes go unsolved and unpunished.

No shit. There were 18 attacks on HK hacks in 2012, compared with one or two assaults in previous years, according to the HK Journalists’ Association. It’s still low compared to some repressive regimes, but then, Hong Kong is nominally a rule of law kinda place.

Either way there’s about as much chance of the perp being caught as charismatic CY Leung hosting his own prime-time BBC1 chat show. No-one really wants them caught, despite the tough words of the SAR government. Imagine the face-loss involved in HK and Beijing if they were? The police are clueless and incapable, even if they wanted to. Whoever did it probably slipped over the border many hours ago.

So where does that leave Hong Kong and its rapidly diminishing press freedom? Well, it’ll certainly be a few more positions down on RWB’s Press Freedom Index this time next year, that’s for sure.

I said last week that self censorship was the most insidious type of censorship because it’s virtually impossible for the public to find out how or why a story has been altered or spiked to suit the political leanings of its editors. Well, with the added incentive of “not getting knifed”, I’m pretty sure from now on there’ll be more journalistic punch-pulling going on in Hong Kong.

The brilliant thing about creating a climate of fear is that you only have to sanction something like this once and human nature will do the rest.

Hacked off in Hong Kong: the slow painful death of a free press

14 Feb

hackDo you hear that? That’s the sound of 1,000 Old Etonians shouting “I told you so!!” at the top of their over-privileged lungs. Why? Because of what’s happening to Hong Kong’s much cherished press freedom.

This week two reports were published and the verdict was in – this former colony can no longer be said to have a free press. There were always suspicions and concerns that Beijing would come to influence the media here post-97, but it only influences in the way that George Best drove under the ‘influence’ of alcohol – let’s be honest, it’s pretty much rolled up the white flag.

The first report, Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, now puts Hong Kong in 61st out of 180, three points down from last year, below those democratic bulwarks of Burkina Faso, Moldova and Chile. To put this in perspective Hong Kong was 34th in 2010 and 18th in 2002. So what went wrong?

It’s certainly not the fault of the hacks. Well, not most of them. Many still maintain the proud tradition of holding the authorities to account and speaking the truth – which was to be fair  a hangover of the colonial days – or at least they try. Local radio host Li Wei-Ling, who has been described as “critical” of the local SAR government, was sacked this week after nine years in her role in what she claims was a deliberate attempt to muzzle her.

No, the problem lies with vested interests. Reporters Without Borders had this to say:

The Chinese Communist Party’s growing subjugation of the Hong Kong executive and its pressure on the Hong Kong media through its “Liaison Office” is increasingly compromising media pluralism there.

The problem is that Hong Kong media is owned now almost entirely by businessmen with vested interests in China. In fact, more than 50 per cent have been given seats on major political assemblies, the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Add this to the fact no-one wants to piss off the big bucks advertisers from the mainland and you’ve got a recipe for a fourth estate not fit for purpose.

It’s not that the media is always Beijing’s lapdog – the SCMP today reported, for example, that the Town Planning Board is about to give the Chinese PLA a piece of prime harbour front land on which to build a “military berth”. However, the issue is that as readers we don’t know how much self-censorship goes on. This is the most insidious form of censorship, not like the blatant stuff that goes on the mainland, where this week the Ministry of Truth issued an order for all websites to censor the Reporters Without Borders story. This Register headline neatly sums up the irony: the censors effectively censoring a report about censorship.

Another scathing report out this week, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, quotes award-winning former SCMP hack Paul Mooney on the issue of self-censorship.

“The problem is that people on the outside can’t tell what’s being censored on the inside. What outsiders can’t see is what is being ignored, spiked or rewritten in order to play down critical stories,” he said.

The CPJ continues:

Mooney built his career on investigative and human rights reporting but during the last nine months of his employment, he had only two news stories in the newspaper, and one of them was about pandas. “I don’t believe the China editors rejected all my story ideas. I think [Wang] Xiangwei told them not to take anything from me,” he said. 

Wang Xiangwei, for the record, was the SCMP’s new editor at the time, the first mainlander to be put in charge of the venerable old rag in its history, in itself an ominous statement of intent.

Hong Kong’s press freedom is enshrined under the Basic Law, the mini-constitution drawn up as part of the UK handover deal. However, it very soon won’t be worth the paper it’s written on, and thousands more former colonisers will have the self-satisfaction to know that it was they, not the current shambles, who were in charge during Hong Kong’s true glory days.

Happy Mao-mas!

24 Dec

maoAs you’re all tucking into your turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day, there’ll be a celebration of a slightly different kind up Beijing way. Yup, December 26th will mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, the man who launched 1,000 ironic t-shirts as well as being the founding father of modern Communist China.

Considering he managed to bump off an estimated 50 million of his own people thanks to a fateful combination of woeful economic mismanagement and egomaniacal hubris it’s a wonder the old chairman has managed to retain such iconic status in the Middle Kingdom. Well, I say it’s a wonder but it’s not really, considering the party he founded and swept to victory over Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang nationalists has always put self-preservation and media control above all else.

So it is 120 years after he was born that the man who now sits in his throne at the apex of state and party, Xi Jinping, is turning the screws even more on the country’s media. You’ve got to hand it to the Party, this time last year it was difficult to see how media controls could even get any tighter.

New guidelines released this week urge the industry: “Strengthen the management of the media, do not provide channels for the propagation of the wrong points of view”. Ostensibly this is a request to self-regulate, but we all know what the alternative is: sack-cloth, unmarked van, detention.

As if that weren’t enough there are plans to put local propaganda officials in charge of the journalism programmes at 10 of China’s top universities. This takes care of the next batch of freshly pressed, brainwashed reporters, but what about those who may still harbour some desire to dig for the truth in modern China? Well, Xi’s thought of that too. Back in August the Party announced that China’s 300,000+ hacks would be sent back to school to study Marxism classes.

“I’ve studied Marxism for so many years, the more I study it, the less I understand it,” a Beijing-based journo told the SCMP.

You know what? I think that’s exactly the point.

Happy Mao-mas everyone!

Airpocalypse NOW: China’s netizens slam smog spin sham

12 Dec

smog spaceIn the world of spin there are few who can claim to have reached the very pinnacle of their art. Alastair Campbell swore and bullied New Labour to three general election victories. Fair play you horrible man. Shane Warne managed somehow to put Liz Hurley in such a spin that she had sex with him….more than once by all accounts. Then there is Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan, probably the greatest spinner of all time, who bowled himself to 800 First Class wickets.

They all pale in comparison with the Communist Party of China, who this week via state-controlled media tried to put a positive spin on the country’s airpocalyptic smog problem. The article on national broadcaster CCTV’s web site incurred such a savage backlash from the country’s feisty netizens that it was soon withdrawn, but the Streisand effect has been at full throttle ever since. The broadcaster clearly needs to learn a thing or two from the Daily Mail about link-baiting. If you’re going to post something this offensive you might as well leave it up to get the clicks.

In short, the article highlighted “five surprising benefits from China’s haze”. Not “deadly and entirely man-made fog”, you understand, but “haze” – as one might see on a hot summer’s day in Kensington Park. Whether it was a jokey attempt to play down the carcinogenic clouds that have closed down major cities including Shanghai and Harbin in recent months, is unclear. One thing that is though – if you’re a mouthpiece of the central government, don’t make light of a problem which is causing people to quite literally cough up their lung sacks.

So without further ado, here are the five benefits of cancerous smog as translated by Tea Leaf Nation (comments added by your Noodle):

  • It brings China together. Yup, smog is EVERYWHERE – it affects cities big and small, towns and villages. British people love to talk about the weather – it’s the social glue that holds the nation together. In China they can’t because, well, they can’t see the weather.

  • It makes Chinese people more equal. Kind of a development of the last point. The idea here is that choking smog is indiscriminate – all must kneel before its deadly power. The only slight problem with this argument is that the families of Communist Party members either live abroad or rarely even need to visit the outdoors. They simply glide along on floating money from one air conditioned luxury shopping mall to another.

  • It gives the Chinese an opportunity to display their fabulous sense of humour – cracking wise about the smog. Well, the author certainly misjudged that one.

  • It raises awareness about pollution. Yup, fair point. But awareness has been raised now. I think people would generally quite like their kids to begin breathing non-carcinogenic air.

  • It makes people more knowledgeable. Again, kind of similar to the previous point, but also similarly trumped by the fact that the whole choking air thing is getting a bit old now. The author apparently postulates that “our knowledge or meterology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has progressed” thanks to the smog, and locals have even learned the English words for “haze” and “smog”. Perhaps the author has learned the words for “unpaid leave” by now too.

    For the record, things have gotten so bad on the smog front that Beijing has even been forced to enlist the help of one of its supercomputers – the Tinahe-1A, to help crunch some numbers. The hive mind will be tasked with analysing what conditions foment the perfect smoggy storm so they can be avoided in the future. No doubt the power-hungry supercomputer will be fuelled by a lovely clean coal power station. Oops.

From opium to pig jizz: Cameron turns on the charm in China

6 Dec

david cameronDavid Cameron has been in China this week on the “can you spare some change?” tour. Along with an enormous entourage of business leaders, ministers and other hangers-on, he whored his way around the Middle Kingdom trying to promote a free trade agreement with Beijing and broker more lucrative financial deals for the UK.

He managed to do all of this, of course, in a spectacularly obsequious and utterly humiliating manner. No mention of human rights, Tibet, online censorship or even the increasingly vulgar attempts by the Communist Party to intimidate journalists over here. When US Veep Joe Biden is making you look wilfully out-of-touch by raising the matter with Beijing, it’s probably time for a strategy rethink. You kowtowing cock.

So what was the highlight of the week? A contender was surely China’s subtle attempt to assassinate our PM via air pollution in Shanghai that topped 400 on the AQI today – literally off the scale. But no, my top pick was Wheeler Dealer Dave shaking on a £45 million contract to export pig semen to China. Yup. Apparently the Chinese have an insatiable appetite for the stuff – pork not pig wank – and this high quality jizz will go some way to sustaining the largest pig population on Earth. Apparently Dave joked that is was like “selling coals to Newcastle”. Given that my home town hasn’t exported coal for over one hundred years, we should probably update this phrase for the 21st century. How about “like selling pig spunk to China”? Yeah, that’ll do.

In a related story – bear with me – Hong Kong’s female population is positively crying out for jizz, although presumably with the caveat it must be human, according to The Atlantic. The gender imbalance in the SAR has apparently reached epic proportions, with over 200,000 women living alone according to the 2011 Census. The depressing reality is that one in five born today will apparently stay single for the rest of their lives. Sorry girls.

My advice: go out and get drunk once in a while. Going shopping with your parents every weekend is not normal behaviour for anyone past puberty. We all know the first step towards a stable, loving relationship is getting twatted almost to the point of blindness and then pulling a random in a bar. Never did me any harm anyway.