China As It Is Hong Kong As It Is

Top Secret Means Leader’s State of Health

The spying case of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has sent shocks to the Hong Kong community. The seasoned journalist known for his patriotism was sentenced to jail for five years by the course in China on charges of spying. Upon hearing the verdict, a sense of frustration and pessimism prevails, espescially among the journalists here, and those having believed that China is well on the way to modernity.

First of all, the trial is clouded in secrecy. No evidence is clearly presented and there is no clear explanation of why Ching is accused of spying and what intelligence he has leaked.

Secondly, there is contradiction in the court papers.  The court says Ching surrendered himself, which appears to be a total fabrication. Ching did not surrender but was arrested when visiting China. Also, in the first court paper issued, Ching was accused of leaking top secret state information. In the second court paper, the intelligence he leaked was classified as secret only.

I found out because of the case, that in China there are three classifications of “secrecy” of state intelligence. The top secret goes to state information such as military move, important diplomatic and economic information, and the state leaders’ STATE OF HEALTH.

The second level of secrecy goes to information such as news of resignation of the state leaders, their temperaments and expertise.

The third level of secrecy goes to news of plagues, corruption of local officials, etc.
So it is obvious that if you are a journalist in Hong Kong or China, you can easily step into the trap and report something that belongs to state secrets and land in the jail like Ching Cheong. No wonder the sentence of Ching Cheong has sent a chilling shock to the local journalists.

Hong Kong has been a major outpost in reporting China news of depth and a wide range of topics. If Hong Kong’s journalists are silenced because of the threat of spy charges, the news about China are doomed to be unexciting and more pro-government.

China As It Is

Premier Wen’s Sneakers

China’s premier Wen Jiabo’s sneakers are worn out and repaired and worn out again, and repaired again. It is praised as setting an examplary of being thrifty, a traditional Chinese virtue. But China’s rising economy also means that maybe this virtue is no longer what China needs today. 

Here’s a report from South China Morning Post dated 31 July 2006: 

…the story has also raised interesting questions on whether mainland leaders also need to set an example to boost consumption, the weakest link in the economy.

Just as a manager of the Double Star group, a private mainland firm which produced the premier’s shoes, reportedly suggested, Mr Wen should have bought a new pair of shoes – which cost only 100 yuan – instead of having his worn-out shoes repaired several times.

If everyone emulated the premier by repairing worn-out sneakers, the shoemaker could be in trouble, the manager said.

Indeed, the mainland media should make a big deal of Mr Wen finally deciding to swap the shoes for a new pair because the significance should be just as great.

For Mr Wen and other mainland leaders, turning domestic consumption into an engine of economic growth has been an important priority issue to rebalance the economy, which for the past 20 years has been powered mainly by exports and fixed-asset investments.

But they appear to be at a loss on how to encourage people to spend more, and many government policies appear to discourage spending. The latest example is the central government’s hot-headed policies to crack down on property speculation.

As property prices in major cities soar, the leadership has released a series of measures, including one ridiculous policy of 70/90, ordering local authorities to make sure 70 per cent of new residential properties contain flats of no more than 90 square metres.

It remains a mystery just how the magical figures came about, but the policy is causing controversy among officials and homebuyers, particularly in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou…

China As It Is

The Old and New China

I am constantly struck by the stark contrast of pessimism expressed by China’s literati and intellectuals and optimism expressed by those wanting to study and live in China.

Yu Hua, a popular writer whose most recent novel “Brother” is a big hit on the mainland, says this when attending Hong Kong Book Fair:

“The Cultural Revolution is a tragedy; The modern China is a farce.”

“The Cultural Revolution is an era of unprecedented pressure; The modern China is an era of unprecedented sleaze.”

I guess you will understand how cogent his comment is if you know the history of China.

China As It Is

Back in Guangzhou

I spent the day in Guangzhou in order to pick up a friend and accompany him to Hong Kong. Guangzhou is my birth place and strangely, I do not seem to have any nostalgic feeling about the city. Maybe it is because it has changed so much that I can hardly recognize it any more.

The city population has undergone great change and become very much mixed, a result of government’s migration policy. You hear mandarin on the street all the time nowadays. Back to 30 years ago, the din of cantonese was the order of the day.

People were simpler in those days. Now the allurement of material wealth is giving rise to a host of problems, including bad security and thefts.

Sitting in a MacDonald’s restaurant to wait for the arrival of my friend, I found two guys acting suspicious. They were not eating or drinking anything, just taking in the customers who walked in, and moving from one table to another. I was in no doubt that they were thieves when one of the guys moved to a table next to a businessman with his suitcase placed on the ground. He kept turing around and peering at the suitcase, gauging the chance and success rate to steal it.  There were quite a few customers sitting right across from them and it was hard for him to do anything, so he left after a while.


I was at the west end of the square of Guangzhou Train Station, waiting for my friend to come out of the exit gate. I could not help but recall my childhood when I was eager to come to the same train station to greet my big auntie from hong kong who would bring  with her a lot of nice candies and clothes. Those nice candies and clothes were great excitements for a kid living in a time of simplicity. Anything from Hong Kong, a capitalist place, was looked upon as exotic and precious.

At that time, the exit gate was at the other end of the square…probably the same clock overlooking the square….

China As It Is Travel in Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai

A Fine Line btw the Rich and the Poor – Hangzhou

You may not know, Hangzhou is among the richest cities in China with its property price the second highest among all China cities, only after Shanghai. Zhejiang Province, whose capital is Hangzhou, is a main production base for garments, textiles and shoes. The wealth is created mainly from exports of items like garments and shoes. Wenzhou, Ningbo and other cities around Hangzhou are where you can find many manufactuing factories and cheap labor force which works day and night to generate wealth for the new rich.

The wealth generated will then be spent in Hangzhou, where higher-end housing projects are underway on a large scale and luxury shops and restaurants are many.


The picture here features Hangzhou’s emerging prime business area – Yellow Dragon and the high-rise building is World Trade Centre. The banners and flags hanging in front of the center promote an up-scale housing project. This is typical. Everywhere in the city is promotion and show rooms of housing properties.


This one shows a residential property in Yellow Dragon. I lived there for a short period of time. The property is a good place to live in with reliable security system in place, good management and state-0f-art infrastructure. This, coupled with its prime location, means that its rent is not cheap. For a one-room apartment, the rent goes up to 3,000-4000 Yuan. A 4-room furnished apartment costs about 8,000-10,000 Yuan. Given that the monthly salary of the local residents is about 1,000-2,500 yuan, the place is no doubt not for the poor.

Having this in mind, you will understand these two photos.

IMG_0671.JPG IMG_0669.JPG

Take the upper left photo first. See the up-scale residential property mentioned above? It is at the background in the photo. And see the blue shed in the front? That is the housing quarter for construcion workers who were working on an up-scale office high-rise just next to the up-scae residential property. The photo at the upper right is a close-up of the construciton workers’ housing quarters – the blue shacks.

I recalled passing by the shacks and a stale smell wafting into my senses. It was summer time. The shacks are rows of small rooms with six people crammed into one, along with bunk beds and their luggage. Workers had to bare their upper bodies and wearing shorts in the sweltering heat and humi weather. Sweat and body smell mingled with the hot air, exhuming suffocating stink. Just a little further away, lies the luxury residential housing with all modern conveniences an comforts. The worlds of the rich and poor is glaringly close, yet so painfully different.