HK indie dystopian film outperforms Star Wars VII on opening night, disappears

HK indie dystopian film outperforms <em>Star Wars VII</em> on opening night, disappears
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA — An independent film set in a dystopian Hong Kong of 2025 opened last month, and outsold the latest Star Wars episode. Then, it quickly disappeared from theatres, probably because it’s very critical of the mainland government. Ten Years (十年 shi nian) consists of five shorts, all set ten years in the future, when Cantonese has been outlawed and an oppressive government rules with 1984-like efficiency. One short depicts the self-immolation of a protester, which has been a common form of protest on the mainland by Tibetan and other dissidents. There’s no evidence the Beijing government has banned the film in Hong Kong. But its disappearance may be a form of “self-censorship” by theatre operators unwilling to deal with government censors. Links for further information: CNN Jan. 20 Radio Free Asia Feb. 10 Wikipedia entry Filmmakers’ interview with HK magazine TimeOut

USA, UK, Sweden also wonder what happened to 5 Hong Kong booksellers

USA, UK, Sweden also wonder what happened to 5 Hong Kong booksellers
US State Department officials have joined British and Swedish counterparts in questioning mainland Chinese authorities about the sudden disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers during the last several months. The five men are part of a publishing house and bookshop specializing in gossipy exposés about officials of the Chinese Communist Party, including current president Xi Jinping. According to the “one country, two systems” rule established after the return of Hong Kong to the mainland in 1997, the Beijing government is supposed to honor the autonomy of the former British colony and guarantee Hong Kongers’ rights of free speech and free press. However, Gui Minhai, who holds Swedish citizenship, turned up on China’s national TV last month, saying he had turned himself over to mainland authorities voluntarily for a decade-old fatal drunk driving accident. Gui had been vacationing in Thailand when he mysteriously disappeared last October. Lee Bo, who holds dual Chinese and British citizenship, turned up on the mainland after disappearing from Hong Kong on Dec. 30. His wife met with him at a mainland resort, saying he was part of an investigation. The other three men are also believed to be detained somewhere on the mainland. [UPDATE Feb. 5, ...

The Malaysia trip, part 1

The Malaysia trip, part 1
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — With a five-week holiday break coming up, I decided in November not to dilly-dally like I did last year, and make a plan for an extended trip to someplace warm. I settled on Malaysia for the most emotional of reasons — a friend posted photos of Malaysian palm trees and blue seas on WeChat. I haven’t quite made it to the blue seas yet — that comes next week — but there have been plenty of palm trees, and so far, mostly sunshine so far. It’s going well. Last year, I postponed buying air tickets to Indonesia until prices were too high, so this time I booked early. From Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur was only $182 roundtrip on AirAsia, including trip insurance and a $20 checked baggage fee. That was well within my budget, but I had to juggle departure and arrival times to avoid the price hikes around Chinese New Year (Feb. 7 and 8 this year). Air fares fell off dramatically for a long stay of four weeks. I bit the bullet, and booked the tickets. This will be the longest vacation trip I’ve ever taken, and one of the first adjustments I’ve ...

Hong Kong wonders what happened to 5 missing booksellers

Hong Kong wonders what happened to 5 missing booksellers
Despite the promise of “one country, two systems” when the British handed Hong Kong back to China, it seems the mainland has a different interpretation of the agreement than Hong Kong does. Five Hong Kong booksellers have gone missing, and Hong Kong authorities suspect the mainland government has something to do with it. The book dealers sell gossipy and very popular books that are highly critical of Beijing leaders, including President Xi Jinping. From the South China Morning Post: Lee Bo, 65, was last seen on Wednesday in the Chai Wan warehouse of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore. He vanished weeks after his four associates went missing in similar circumstances. Gui Minhai, owner of the publishing house, disappeared while on holiday in Thailand. Missing person reports were made about three others who disappeared after visiting the mainland separately: bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei; general manager of the publishing house Lui Bo; and business manager, Cheung Jiping. Lee’s wife has said her husband called her from Shenzhen the night he disappeared. He told her he was “assisting in an investigation” about the missing associates. She found it strange that Lee talked to her in Putonghua instead of Cantonese. ...

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit
Since I’ve already started in the middle of my travels, I’ll finish telling about my two days in Hong Kong. To recap, my friend, Sophia K., and I had traveled together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen for a week. That was all the time she had, and so had to return home. I, on the other hand, didn’t. But the question was, where to go next? Shenzhen and Hong Kong are separated only by a river, and a political boundary. I really like Hong Kong, but the hotel prices there are normally too high for my modest teacher salary. Yet, even though I had already spent five days in HK in December to hang out with my son, it beckoned to me. Quite by chance, Hotels.com sent me a low, low price offer for hotels in major cities. Most of the Hong Kong deals, though, were either still exorbitantly priced (for my budget, anyway) or shoeboxes that make my university flat seem palatial. Most were in Kowloon and the north side of Hong Kong Island, where I’ve stayed before. But one caught my eye: two nights for the price of one at the Ovolo Southside in Aberdeen. Even at 50% off, ...

Winter holiday 2015: A Hong Kong pro-democracy rally

Winter holiday 2015: A Hong Kong pro-democracy rally
HONG KONG SAR — There was some newsworthy events happening in Hong Kong while I was there, Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, so I’ll start in the middle of my holiday travels. As you may have heard, Hong Kong has seen lengthy, largely peaceful protests in favor of universal suffrage, which was promised in the agreement between the UK and China when the British government handed its territory back to China in 1997. When I was in Hong Kong in December, the Occupy Central sit-in protest had just ended. Another protest rally occurred on Feb. 1, the same day the Hong Kong government announced the composition of the nominating committee for the next Chief Executive of the Special Autonomous Region. I happened to walk right into the rally in Causeway Bay before it began as I was on my way out of Hong Kong to Shenzhen. I snapped these photos with my cellphone as i walked to the MTR station from the bus stop. The former reporter in me wanted to stay and watch, but I also needed to move along to my next destination, so I resisted the urge to whip out my camera and play the journalist. The ...

Slideshow of protesters and police in Hong Kong

This is one photo in the slideshow at Yahoo.com To see more, go to Yahoo News.

One country, two systems, and a border

JISHOU, HUNAN, Sept. 2 — You would think getting to mainland China from Hong Kong would be a piece of cake. Well, it is, up to a point. The problem is that Hong Kong is not completely part of the rest of China. Yet. When the British lease to Hong Kong ran out in 1999, the Chinese government vowed to keep Hong Kong’s freewheeling capitalist economy and society intact, after reunification. “One country, two systems,” was the slogan. So, what does that mean, practically speaking? The vigorous mercantile and commercial economy of Hong Kong remains in place. (In fact, the mainland economy is doing a good job of imitating it.) The local government still holds elections as before — I saw campaign signs up everywhere, ads on the TV, and supporters in the street handing out flyers. As near as I could tell, Hong Kong is operating just as it had before the handover, without any sign of the Union Jack or Her Majesty the Queen anywhere, of course. Hong Kong still has its own currency, so the Queen’s likeness still gets carried around in one’s pockets, but Hong Kong dollars cannot be spent officially in the rest of China. ...

Tell Jackie Chan I like Hong Kong

HONG KONG, August 29 — OK, I’m a city boy, having grown up near New York City, so big cities don’t freak me out. In fact, Hong Kong has some advantages over New York; it’s generally cleaner, the metros are faster and quieter, and the streets are safer to walk on. On first impression, then, Hong Kong gets my thumbs up. Awaking at (for me) the uncharacteristically early hour of 5:30 am, I had plenty of time to clean up and organize my day before taking a Western style breakfast (HK$118 or about US$15) in one of the hotel’s restaurants. I had several matters to take care of. 1. Get a new battery or charger for my digital camera, which arrived dead as a doornail. 2. Turn my traveler’s checks into local currency. 3. Figure out how to get out of Hong Kong and into mainland China. It’s not as straightforward as one might think. 4. Do touristy things: take the Star Ferry across Victoria Bay and take the Peak Tram up to the top of Victoria Peak. 5. Scope out the neighborhood. After breakfast, I set out into the unknown. The CityView in the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood of ...

Over the top of the world

HONG KONG, August 28 — My flight from the USA to here was a tedious 15-hour affair. Those of you who fly coach know what I mean: hard seats, minimal legroom, insufficient recline angle. To make it worse, while I arrived in Chicago well ahead of schedule, the plane to Hong Kong sat at the gate for an hour while the maintenance crew fixed some undefined mechanical problem and topped off the tanks. Now, I agree it’s important to make sure your 747 works right while cruising 11 km (35,000 ft) up in the air and has enough fuel to arrive at its destination, but it seems these standard fix-its could have been done either quicker or before boarding the passengers. Poo on you, United. I did travel further north than I have before, since we went over the top of the world. Whether I should count that as a personal travel milestone depends on whether I bend my own rules. Marking the farthest points north, east, west or south I’ve traveled on a map has meant I have actually touched land, not flown over it or wandered around an airport. The farthest north I’ve been has been Reykjavik, Iceland, ...

China travel plans, take 1 2

With visa in hand, my next step is to actually get to China. In June I booked flights through a discounter, www.cfares.com. You can join for free and search for and book domestic and international flights, as well as hotels. There are three main choices for arriving airports in China: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. As it turns out, the HK prices were somewhat lower and placed me somewhat closer to my final destination. Besides, I figured that landing in HK would ease my transition, since they speak English in HK. My ticket cost $663 one-way to Hong Kong. I fly out of Louisville Wednesday morning and cool my heels in Chicago-O’Hare for a couple of hours, before boarding a 15-hour nonstop to HK. Crossing the International Date Line means I arrive Friday afternoon (local time). Originally, I was all gung-ho about immediately boarding a plane or train bound for Hunan. After some reflection, it seemed wiser to stay at a hotel after so long a journey. So, returning to the wonders of the Internet, I went to www.hotels.com and www.lonelyplanet.com to scope out a reasonable compromise between cost and amenities. (In other words, I didn’t want a hostel or ...
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