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And I Finally Exhaled 終於呼口氣

I stayed up till 2 am last night to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama on live television. Two million cheering fans packed the Washington Mall and turned the quadrennial domestic ceremony into a global celebration. Reporters and pundits talked ad nauseam about the historic significance of the first African-American president. But this transformative moment in history defied narration and words. It speaks for itself. 

As one administration ends and another begins, I can finish my obituary of George W. Bush’s failed presidency.

A historic inauguation

Bush is not a terrible person per se. In fact, W seems to be an all-around nice guy. In the 2000 presidential election, the Republican machine sold the boyish Texan to the American public as the kind of Joe Six-Pack you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane, in contrast with the professorial and sometimes awkward Al Gore. Weeks of cliff-hanging vote recounts and millions of hanging chads later, the average Joe stumbled into the Oval Office and began running the country like a dude. Overnight, a football-watching, beer-drinking, pretzel-choking Ugly American became the leader of the Free World.

W never belonged in Washington. It was like putting a bus driver in the cockpit of a 747. Our average Joe mangled his speeches, fumbled in front of world dignitaries, and froze when a national crisis broke. Ordinary people too would have stumbled under the same intense media scrutiny and daily bombardment of partisan politics. That’s why ordinary people don't become president. That’s why we leave it to extraordinary people like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to pick up the mantle. 

Unfortunately for W, national crises kept landing on his desk. Our average Joe naturally turned to his ex-president father and Washington old hand Dick Cheney for help. Unfortunately for W again, Bush Senior never got over his 1992 loss to Bill Clinton, and Cheney turned out to be the evil Sith Lord. With neither the experience nor the intellectual capacity to understand, let alone solve, complex policy questions, the president succumbed to the artful persuasion of unscrupulous advisers and dropped the ball on nearly every major issue. 

Domestically, America has regressed on every front: social security, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and energy independence. The country's social insurance program is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Millions remain uninsured and find themselves one medical emergency away from losing their life savings to hospital bills. Grades are falling across the nation and inner-city schools are as lawless as Chicago in the 1930s. Bridges and highways are falling apart, sometimes literally. From coast to coast, citizens scramble to adjust their daily routine to gasoline prices that soared and plunged at the whims of OPEC and commodity speculators. 

Internationally, America’s reputation has hit rock bottom. The military superpower and economic engine of the world has become a wounded behemoth, universally hated and diplomatically ostracized. Asleep at the switch, the Bush administration let the deadly sub-prime virus spread in his country and infect the world, leaving Iceland bankrupt and the rest of the European economies seriously weakened. Then there are the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a double-trouble that turned America from a tolerable Big Brother to a schoolyard bully. The star-spangled banner has never been burned more frequently or desecrated more spitefully in the past eight years than  in any other time in its history. It would make Betsy Ross roll over in her grave.

Never quite fits in

W’s first term was a patchwork of monumental blunders and embarrassing gaffes. The world might have forgiven America for its collective lapse of judgment in 2000, but handing the lone ranger a second term was as unforgivable as it was unbelievable. You know what they say about being fooled twice. Shame on you, America!

Better late than never, however, citizens eventually came to their senses last November and told the Republican Party that enough is enough. Struggling to salvage his tattered legacy, W defended himself in his farewell speech last week. “You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions," he said, sounding like a fifth-grader who flunked his math test but wanted credit for attempting the questions. Just the same, our average Joe must be relieved to be finally out of the White House and content with spending a quiet retirement at his Texas ranch, riding horses and brushing up on grammar and spelling.

America’s love affair with the average Joe is over, and it has been a costly lesson for the country. But if luck is on America’s side, President Barack Obama will spend his first term undoing all the damage his predecessor did and focus his second term on restoring the country's international image. Perhaps that was the one only good thing that W did for America: he created such a hunger for a liberal leader that it opened the door for an African-American president. If the liberals’ prayers are answered, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be elected the first woman president in 2016 and continue Obama’s work to nurse America back to health. But I shouldn't get ahead of myself. I should count my blessings.

So I did. On 20 January, the Obamas moved into the White House and renewed the American Dream. At the precise moment of 12:05 pm Eastern Standard Time when Obama took his oath as the 44th President of the United States, I finally exhaled. 

The world's most unpopular nation

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About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK).

Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Revie…

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

Book Review: "Generation HK" 書評:《香港世代》

Unpacking the young generation in Hong Kong is a tall order, not least because a singular, archetypical “Hong Kong youth” does not exist. The cohort is as diverse and divergent as it comes, from socioeconomic background and upbringing to education and exposure to the wider world, to values, ideals and aspirations. It defies stereotypes and generalisations.

Ben Bland, a British correspondent for The Financial Times, is in a unique position to take on that ambitious project. Whereas Bland’s extensive experience reporting in Asia—including stints in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar—has given him a broad field of view, his relatively short tenure in Hong Kong—just over two years—allows him to look at its people through a long-range lens.
It is that unadulterated objectivity and his unquenched curiosity that make Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow a discerning and refreshing read. Released last summer under Penguin Book’s inaugural “Hong Kong series” to mark the 20…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

Upcoming events and speaking engagements in 2018


Commencement of spring semester at Faculty of Law of University of Hong Kong, LLM program
Course: International Securities Law
Venue: Centennial Campus, Pokfulam
Dates: 26 January - 27 April

Book launch of HK24 (2017 anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle)
Venue: Bookazine, Prince's Building
Date: 13 February
Time: 6:30 - 8:30pm


Speaker for Enrich HK's "Ask the Experts" series
Topic: TBD
Date: February

Talk at Kellett School
Topic: "Faith"
Venue: Wah Fu, Pokfulam
Date: February
Time: TBD

Moderator at screening of documentary "The Helper"
Venue: BNP Paribas, Two IFC
Date: 28 February
Time: 11:30am - 2:30pm

Speaker at Wimler Foundation legal workshop
Topic: "Understanding Hong Kong Culture"
Venue: Philippine Consulate General, Admiralty
Date: 18 March
Time: TBD

Book launch of 《香港二十: 反思回歸廿載》, Chinese translation of PEN Hong Kong anthology Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place
Venue: TBD
Da…

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…

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

The Joshua I Know 我認識的之鋒

When I shook his hand for the first time, I thought he was the strangest seventeen-year-old I’d ever met.
It was 2014, and considering how much Hong Kong has changed in the last three year, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Joshua sat across from me at a table in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, with his iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other. I ordered him a lemon iced tea with extra syrup.
He was eager to begin our conversation, not because he was excited about being interviewed for my article, but because he wanted to get it over with and get on with the rest of his jam-packed day.
During our 45-minute chat, he spoke in rapid-fire Cantonese, blinking every few seconds in the way robots are programmed to blink like humans. He was quick, precise and focused.

He was also curt.
When I asked him if he had a Twitter account, he snapped, “Nobody uses Twitter in Hong Kong. Next question.”
I wasn’t the least offended by his bluntness—I chalked it up to gumption and precocity. For a te…

When Free Speech Isn't Free 當言論不再自由

The school year had barely begun when two incidents—both testing the limits of free speech on campus—unfolded at Chinese University and Education University and sent management scrambling for a response.
On Monday, at least three large banners bearing the words “Hong Kong independence” were spotted in various locations at Chinese University, including one that draped across the famous “Beacon” sculpture outside the school’s main library. Within hours, the banners were removed by the school authorities.
A few days later, a sign “congratulating” Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin (蔡若蓮) on her son’s recent suicide appeared on Education University’s Democracy Wall, a public bulletin board for students to express opinions and exchange views. Likewise, the sign was taken down shortly thereafter.


That could have been the end of the controversies had university management not succumbed to the temptation to say a few choice words of their own. In the end, it was the reaction from the schoo…

Past Events: 2017年活動

Media coverage and speaking engagements in 2017


Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報
Title: "下月8日提訊 料親身上庭 [Patrick Ho] to be arraigned on 8 January, expected to appear in person"
Publication date: 22 December

Interview with Ming Pao Daily 明報
Title: "依法限提訊後70日開審 律師指變數仍多 [Patrick Ho to be tried within 70 days of indictment, but timing is subject to change" Publication date: 21 December

Interview with Ming Pao Daily 明報 Title: "何志平案1月8日提訊 或3月中開審 料獄中過農曆年 Patrick Ho to be arraigned on 8 January pending trial in March, expected to spend Chinese New Year in prison" Publication date: 21 December

Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報 Title: "起訴書:何志平倘罪成須充公財產 Indictment says Patrick Ho's assets to be seized upon conviction" Publication date: 20 December
Radio Interview with BBC Radio Title: "Censorship and freedom of expression in China and Hong Kong" Show: The Cultural Frontline Presenter: Tina Daheley Broadcast date: 11 December
Moderator at Enrich HK panel …

The Hundredth Post 第一百篇

This month marks the third birthday of my blog As I See It, a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in Hong Kong. The occasion coincides with the 100th article I have written under the banner. Having reached a personal milestone, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on my still-young writing career and wallow in, dare we say, self-congratulatory indulgence.

It all started in November 2008 on the heels of the last U.S. presidential election. I was getting ready to create a personal website as a platform to consolidate my interests and pursuits. To do that I needed content. That’s how my blog – or my “online op-ed column” as I prefer to call it – came into being. 
Before I knew it, I was banging it out in front of my iMac every night, going on and off the tangent and in and out of my stream of consciousness about the odd things I experienced in the city, the endless parade of pink elephants I saw everyday that no one seemed to bat an eyelid at. Though singi…