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Showing posts from 2015

10 Years in Hong Kong 香港十年

This past Saturday marked my 10th anniversary in Hong Kong
To be precise, it was the 10th anniversary of my repatriation to Hong Kong. I left the city in my teens as part of the diaspora which saw hundreds of thousands others fleeing from Communist rule ahead of the 1997 Handover. For nearly two decades, I moved from city to city in Europe and North America, never once returning to my birthplace in the interim. Until 2005. That summer, I turned in the keys to my Manhattan apartment, packed a suitcase, and headed east.

My law firm agreed to transfer me from New York to their Hong Kong outpost half a world away. On my last day of work, Jon, one of the partners I worked for, called me into his office for a few words of wisdom. He told me that there was no such thing as a right or wrong decision, and that people could only make life choices based on what they knew at the time. “I assume you’ve done your due diligence,” Jon gave me wink, “in that case I should wish you good luck. Boldly…

The City that Doesn’t Read 不看書的城市

The Hong Kong Book Fair is the city’s biggest literary event, drawing millions of visitors every July. The operative word in the preceding sentence is “visitors,” for many of them aren’t exactly readers. A good number show up to tsau yit lau (湊熱鬧) or literally, to go where the noise is.

In recent years, the week-long event has taken on a theme park atmosphere. It is where bargain hunters fill up empty suitcases with discounted books, where young entrepreneurs wait all night for autographed copies only to resell them on eBay, and where barely legal – and barely dressed – teenage models promote their latest photo albums. And why not? Hong Kongers love a carnival. How many people visit a Chinese New Year flower market to actually buy flowers?

If books are nourishment for the soul, then the soul of our city must have gone on a diet. In Hong Kong, not enough of us read and we don’t read enough. That makes us an “aliterate” people: able to read but not interested in reading. According to a…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 2 走在崎嶇的路上-下卷

Jason Y. Ng sat down with Ray Chan, the city’s first and only openly-gay lawmaker, last Saturday. They talked about the state of sexual equality in Hong Kong in the wake of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
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JN: What does the Friday court ruling mean to you?
RC: It means everything. It sends a powerful message to the world that marriage is a right for all and not a privilege for a few. It pains me to say that in Hong Kong we face tremendous pushback from conservative groups and bureaucrats on even a simple piece of anti-discrimination legislation to protect the LGBT community. Same-sex marriage is still many years away.
JN: What initiatives are you working on at Legco [Hong Kong’s legislature]?
RC: As you are well aware, individual lawmakers don’t have the right to initiate new legislation at Legco. So we must wait for the government to draft a bill and present it to us before we can debate it and propose amend…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
With those simple words, Justice Kennedy made marriage equality a constitutionally prote…

Butterfly Effect 蝴蝶效應

I woke up one morning to the buzz of an incoming email on my phone. “Dear Jason,” the message started off disarmingly innocuous, “we are delighted to invite you to our 13th Annual Student Awards ceremony.” The sender was the chairman of a respected NGO that supports underprivileged children in Hong Kong. But the invitation took a sudden, horrifying turn: “It would give us great pleasure if you would be our keynote speaker to address 500 honor students at City Hall. We look forward to your favorable response.” Gulp, gasp, gag. I threw my phone across the bed and leapt to the bathroom. I was ready to hurl.

Surveys have shown that most people, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, fear public speaking more than they fear death. Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that the average person at a funeral would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy. The phenomenon is called glossophobia, derived from glossa, the Greek word for tongue. The symptoms are those associated with the classic fig…

Season Finale 大結局

Hong Kongers are used to duopolies. Every day, citizens choose blissfully between Wellcome and Park’n Shop, Café de Coral and Fairwood, Fortress and Broadway, oblivious and powerless to the glaring absence of choice. This false sense of consumer freedom is legitimized by the government’s corportacratic propaganda telling us that too many options can lead to confusion, cut-throat competition and an economic apocalypse. Nowhere is this phenomenon more pronounced than in the realm of free-to-air television – broadcasting that requires no paid subscription and commands high viewership especially among the low income demographics. Our television dial can only toggle between the complacent TVB and the languishing ATV, two unequal adversaries that nowadays offer numb viewers the Hobson’s choice between bad programming and the unwatchable.

For months, ATV – the world’s first Chinese language television station – has been dying a slow and torturous death. Its financial troubles first surfaced…

Of a Distant World 遙遠的他

My assistant Alisa came into my office one morning and sat down without being prompted. “I’m going to have to come in late every Monday and Wednesday morning,” she declared, her eyes welling up. She said she needed to take her four-year-old Mark to therapy twice a week or else he would be transferred to a special needs school. Mark was diagnosed with autism 18 months ago.
“Of course,” I said, “I know how it is.” 

I know because I too have an autistic member in the family. Seth is my nephew and my parents’ first grandson. The Hebrew name I picked for him means “the appointed one” – and he is, in more ways than one. Seth has always been a special kid on whom everyone dotes. He loves toy trains and knows every detail about buses and sports cars. He enjoys cycling, playing video games and watching 80s movies on YouTube. He delights in all modes of public transport and gets restless when the driver skips a stop or takes a different route.
The first case of autism was diagnosed in 1943 by …