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Lonely at the Top 高處不勝寒

The Hong Kong government likes to deliver bad news on Fridays, and this week was no exception.
HKFP revealed the bombshell on Friday afternoon that the local authorities had denied The Financial Times’ Asia editor Victor Mallet a work visa, without offering any explanation. The rejection came weeks after Mallet moderated a talk by the pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, for which the British journalist serves as first vice president.

Putting the two incidents together, the visa denial amounts to a deportation, the kind of punishment exacted by Beijing against international news organizations for behaving badly, as Bloomberg News and The New York Times experienced after running reports on the hidden wealth of top communist leadership in 2012. 
People who once thought that this sort of journalist ban would never happen to Hong Kong, and that the “one country, two systems” framework would offer some degree of protection to foreign journa…
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Unsafe Harbor 不安全港

Each July 1, the Hong Kong government pulls out all the stops to celebrate the city's return to the motherland. The pomp and circumstance on Handover Day—massive pyrotechnics, miles long street parades, and thunderous speeches at a glistening waterfront convention center—serves a singular purpose: to show the world that this former British colony, reincarnated as a semi-autonomous "special administrative region" under Chinese control, is more impressive and successful than ever.
For the rest of Hong Kong, however, July 1 is a day for lamentation, not celebration. Two decades after the Handover, 7.5 million citizens, roughly the population of New York City, can feel the political ground simultaneously shifting and shrinking beneath their feet. Since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, the Communist leadership in Beijing—and the Hong Kong government acting at its behest—has made a concerted effort to roll back freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems&…

Let the Tanhua Bloom 曇花再現

When I moderated Kevin Kwan’s book talk for China Rich Girlfriend at a Hong Kong literary event in 2015, the Singaporean-American author was in the process of casting for the Hollywood adaptation of his first book.
Three years later, Crazy Rich Asians the movie—a cross between Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and The Bachelor—is a runaway hit in North America. The romantic comedy topped the U.S. weekend box office in its opening week and proved to Hollywood studios that a film featuring an all-Asian cast can be just as bankable. 

For Asian audiences everywhere, CRA is more than a feel-good summer blockbuster. It is the coming out party a long time coming. If the people we see on the big screen look cool and sassy, we feel we all do. But god forbid if they come off as dorky or lame, we all do too.
It’s not just the moviegoers who get the jitters. The same is true for actors, directors, screenwriters, and novelists of Asian descent. Whether CRA is a hit or a flop may jumpstart or cut sh…

Return of the Wolf 狼回來了

In one of the six vignettes that make up the 2015 dystopian film Ten Years, government officials stage a fake assassination to justify tighter state control. It all works according to plan, and the story ends with an ominous news broadcast: “This incident provides ample proof to the central government that foreign powers have infiltrated our city and that a national security law can no longer be delayed.” 
The short film paints a frightening future of Hong Kong, but its story line is nothing new. Manufacturing a crisis to legitimatize a political agenda is not only an old trick in the communist party’s playbook, it is also a tactic frequently and increasingly used by the ruling elite in Hong Kong.

And nobody does it better than C.Y. Leung—former chief executive and now vice chairman of the influential National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference (政協). 

Hardly anyone batted an eyelid when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club first invited Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天)…

Here Cometh the Thought Police 思想警察來了

The notion that national security will one day be invoked to silence dissent comes at no surprise to hardened Hong Kongers. Commentators, academics and filmmakers have long prophesied that doomsday scenario. The writing has been on the wall for years, and the arrival of an anti-subversion law is a matter of when, not if. 
We just didn’t think it would happen so soon, at least not before the return of Article 23 that the city has fought so hard to keep at bay. 
But that day is now upon us. 

On Tuesday, the Security Bureau unceremoniously handed Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天), convener of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (香港民族黨), a demand for HKNP to justify its existence or be banned in three weeks. 
Attached to that ultimatum were hundred of pages of police evidence detailing the many ways HKNP has “recruited members”, “conducted propaganda” and “infiltrated schools”—allegations that are more often associated with a Beijing operative. 
The Hong Kong government’s unprecedented mo…

Who is Au Nok-hin? 誰是區諾軒?

Five weeks ago, I sat down with Demosistio’s Agnes Chow (周庭) at a Causeway Bay café to talk about her bid to fill the seat vacated by disqualified lawmakerNathan Law. Shortly thereafter, Chow herself was barred from running on the grounds that her political party had advocated “self-determination”, a stance that election officials deemed tantamount to pro-independence and therefore noncompliant with nomination requirements.

Chow’s disqualification has prompted Au Nok-hin (區諾軒), a Southern District Councillor and former Democratic Party member, to throw his name in the hat for the vacant Hong Kong Island seat. Nicknamed “agnès b” for running as Chow’s Plan B, Au has been pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time. But even with the full backing of the pan-democratic camp, the late starter must quickly close the gap in both name recognition and campaign funding.
It was déjà vu all over again when I met Au at the same coffee shop in Causeway Bay to discuss his campaign and poli…

From Street to Chic, Hong Kong’s many-colored food scene 由大排檔到高檔: 香港的多元飲食文化

Known around the world as a foodie’s paradise, Hong Kong has a bounty of restaurants to satisfy every craving. Whether you are hungry for a lobster roll, Tandoori chicken or Spanish tapas, the Fragrant Harbour is certain to spoil you for choice.
The numbers are staggering. Openrice, the city’s leading food directory, has more than 25,000 listings—that’s one eatery for every 300 people and one of the highest restaurants-per-capita in the world. The number of Michelin-starred restaurants reached a high of 64 in 2015, a remarkable feat for a city that’s only a little over half the size of London. Amber and Otto e Mezzo occupied two of the five top spots in Asia according to The World’s Best Restaurants, serving up exquisite French and Italian fares that tantalise even the pickiest of taste buds.

While world class international cuisine is there for the taking, it is the local food scene in Hong Kong that steals the hearts of residents and visitors alike. Whatever your budget and palate…

Who is Agnes Chow? 誰是周庭?

It was roughly six months ago when Nathan Law, chairman of Demosisto, lost his job. He and five other pro-democracy lawmakers had strayed from the prescribed oath during the swearing-in ceremony, and were ousted from the Legislative Council (LegCo) after Beijing issued a reinterpretation of the oath-taking provisions in the Basic Law. Many saw the unseating of six democratically-elected lawmakers, dubbed “Oathgate” in the local press, as a calculated political move to purge the legislature of the opposition.

The time to fill some of these vacated seats is finally upon us. Four by-elections will be held simultaneously on March 11, in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, New Territories East and for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector.
Barely old enough to run, 21-year-old Agnes Chow (周庭) of pro-democracy party Demosisto has thrown her hat into the ring hoping to win back Law’s Hong Kong Island seat. Her decision to run has not come without a price: she has deferred …