China As It Is Hong Kong As It Is

Inconceivable and conceivable: Margaret Chan picked to head WHO

Margaret ChanThe news that Margaret Chan, the former health director of Hong Kong, becomes the new director -general of World Health Organizaton(WHO) appalls me. For those living through the SARS and bird flu epidemics in Hong Kong, they know pretty well how competent Margarete Chan is and I am sure they all find, just like me, the fact that she is picked to head WHO is inconceivable and not justified.

Well, to some extent, it is not inconceivable – she is picked because china is campaigning hard on behalf of her and the other countries have to give “face” to China, a rising economic power on the world stage. That is real sad. Because an organization as important as WHO should be headed by one who has passion, integrity, capability and experiences, especially of dealing with developing countries. Margarat Chan doesn’t seem to me a person who possess any of the attributes.

She hided the truth from the public when dealing with bird flu and SARS crisis so as not to alarm the society; She refused to go to the orginating place of SARS to make inspections for fear of getting infected; she was slow in taking actions to stem an epidemic like SARS, resulting in many deaths; she has no experience in dealing with developing countries which desparately need to grapple with urgent health crisis such as AIDS. 

And my criticism is not alone –  she was even criticized in the government-commissioned reports reviewing the government handling of the SARS and Bird Flu crisis.

The irony is, she has no chance to be promoted to such an important international post if not for her poor performance in her HK government post and subsequently being transferred to work in WHO as head of a sub-section.  

The whole fanfare awakes me to a bare fact: the order of the day is politics – not about merit, justice or fairness. At the end of the day, the global players don’t care if the world will be better. They care only what is good for them.

China As It Is

Golf Drive and Gay Student Union

golf course in china“The highest embodiment of the education system is producing socially elite people with the best education,” said the president of Xiamen University in Southern China. His university, therefore, requires golf a compulsory subject for law, business and computer students. The university is also building China’s grandest on-campus golf course.

When hearing the news, I was wondering again where China is heading to when an university’s president can be so vulgar and vision-less in his view about higher education. To produce elites who can play golf is the highest embodiment of the education system? Give me a break. When the world is globalizing, what we need are students who are able to be critical in thinking, creative and aspire to engage the world. And this president is talking about social elite who can play golf!

I am not very surprised, though. In rich cities like Beijing, the parents spend thousands of RMB each month to send their children to golf courses or social manner classes – the aim is nurture them to be the social elites who can play golf, piano, etc. and know the western manner.

Being in the ranks of elites is what distinguishes the rich from the poor, and those with power from those powerless. It is a weapon of defense against competition and the encroaching of current elite status, so the uinversity is offering the weapon to its students, and parents are making use of it on the behalf of their children.

There is some exciting news about China in the past week though. The Sun Yat Sen University in Zhuhai, also in the southern China, has approved the establishment of the first gay/lesbian student union on campus – it is a great breakthrough in the scene of China’s higher education, and even in the the whole China. Wonder if this is the first time that a gay organization is recognized by an authority in China.

Travel in Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai

Travel around Hangzhou – A good place to start

yellow dragon sports centre
yellow dragon sports centre

If you plan to travel to Hangzhou and from where explore some sightseeing places, there is a good place you can start – the govenment sponsored tourist service centre near Yellow Dragon Sports Centre.

Day tours depart from the Centre every day to surrounding scenic spots, such as the water towns ZhouZhuang and Wuzhen, or the historic and cultural city Shaoxing, or the thousand-island lake. Tour price ranges from 200-300 RMB (inclusive of entrance ticket, transport fee and guidance fee).

tourist centre near yellow dragons sports centre
tourist centre near yellow dragons sports centre

They also organize 3-day tours to Yellow Mountain. The tour also departs every day. Price, inclusive of main entrance ticket, transport fee, guidance fee and hotel accommodation, ranges from 540-900 RMB, depending on the kind of accommodation you choose.

Be prepared that the tour groups accommodate mostly local Chinese. If you can’t speak Chinese, it is hard for you to mingle with them. But if you want to make use of the opportunity to observe the local custom or interact with the local Chinese, it may well be worth it. In particular, if you come to China to learn Chinese, it will be a good opportunity for you to practice Chinese and listen to lots of Chinese, as the tour guide will speak in Chinese only.

Also take note that the staff manning the information counter or ticket office can hardly speak English. Be prepared for a tough time if you can’t speak Mandarin.

Travel in Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai

The most memorable restaurant in Hangzhou

hangzhou restaurantI think the English name of the restaurant is called Chate. Well, that is the name I recall whenever I think of the restaurant anyway. In Chinese its name is literally “one tea one seat”. It has a few branches across Hangzhou, with one ideally located at the West Lake. The outdoor seating is shaded by trees, and overlooks the lake. If you look for a nice place to chill out near the West Lake, this is the one.

The restaurant has a menu of delicious drinks, including cold tea drink and ice shake. Look out for the mango ice shake – a real treat in the sweltering hot of summer.

outdoor seating of the restaurant
outdoor seating of the restaurant

The restaurant’s boss is taiwaness, so no wonder that the food and drink offered are quite taiwanese flavored. I must say all the food I have tried taste delicious, especially the taiwanese dish “rice with minced pork”.

The snacks, coming in a wide variety, such as fried yam, dumplings, etc are also wonderful.

Besides West Lake, there is a branch restaurant near Dragon Sports Centre. I was once a frequent customer there, as my office was around. I had a horrible time doing business in China, and that horrible time was associated with this restaurant – whenever I was stressed, I would go out for dinner, here in this restaurant.

Hong Kong As It Is

Secondary students not happy with him

donald tsang, chief executive of hong kongHong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang attended a meeting with secondary students this past week. It was an informal occassion where students would have opportunity to interact with the head of their government. It was reported that the students were not happy with the meeting because they found Mr Tsang not a sincere speaker.

Why did the students have such an unfavorable impression? Let me show you the kind of answer Mr Tsang gave the students in the Q&A session.

Q (a student): What advice do you have for us?

A (Mr Tsang): You should make use of the “one country two systems” to wring from the Central Government (ie. Beijing Government) what is advantageous for Hong Kong.

Is this a “person” talking? It sounds more like an official giving lecturing to his/her subordinates, as in the mainland China. His answer is so boring and so impersonal. And I assure you this style is very typical of him. 

Whenever I hear Mr Tsang talk like a top official in the Mainland China, I conjure up a bleak picture for Hong Kong. He never succeeds, in his public speeches, in convincing me that he is a leader of imagination and humanity, not to mention the ability to inspire in people. 

Hong Kong is sadly a city without leadership. Will the city have one day? I doubt it, under the current “one country two systems”.