(SCMP)  Independents seen as vote stealers.  Eva Woo, November 10, 2007.

The pan-democrats are worried that self-styled "independent democrats" could cost them votes in the district council elections.  Pan-democrats said at a press conference they were worried about the "lukewarm" atmosphere of the elections next Sunday.

"It is worrying that there may be a low turnout rate," Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, of the Power for Democracy, said. "The winning chances for pan-democrats would be at a discount if the turnout cannot meet the previous figure." The turnout in the 2003 district council elections was 44.1 per cent.  Mr Tsoi said a low turnout in the election might be interpreted as Hongkongers not supporting universal suffrage in 2012.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the number of candidates who called themselves "independent democrats" had increased this year.  Most of them, contesting one fourth of the constituencies, said they supported universal suffrage in 2012.

(Apple Daily)

臨 近 11 18 日 區 議 會 選 舉 投 票 日 , 泛 民 主 派 近 日 頻 遭 左 派 和 「 突 然 民 主 派 」 區 議 員 候 選 人 夾 擊 , 選 情 嚴 峻 , 昨 日 舉 行 「 民 主 告 急 」 大 會 , 呼 籲 市 民 在 當 日 踴 躍 投 票 撐 真 民 主 。 民 主 動 力 召 集 人 蔡 耀 昌 指 出 , 左 派 今 屆 在 多 個 選 區 一 反 常 態 , 未 有 高 調 拉 票 或 宣 傳 , 「 佢 左 派 鐵 票 根 本 唔 使 點 拉 , 如 果 民 主 派 選 民 唔 出 投 票 , 民 主 派 選 情 一 定 勢 危 。 」

民 主 黨 主 席 何 俊 仁 指 出 , 不 少 選 區 近 日 都 出 現 一 些 突 然 表 態 支 持 2012 雙 普 選 , 並 以 此 作 為 唯 一 政 綱 的 「 突 然 民 主 派 」 候 選 人 , 相 信 有 人 想 在 目 前 勝 負 差 距 僅 有 一 至 二 百 票 的 選 情 下 , 拉 散 民 主 派 票 源 。 

[in translation]

This is getting close to voting day (November 18) for the district council elections.  The pan-democrats are being attacked on both sides by the leftists and the "suddenly democratic" candidates and their positions are critical.  Yesterday, the pan-democrats held a "democracy under emergency" rally to ask the citizens to vote for true demcoracy.  Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, convenor of the Power for Democracy, pointed out that the leftists have taken an unusual position of not canvassing for votes or publicizing in many districts.  "The solid leftist votes do not require much effort to get.  If the democratic voters do not come and vote, the situation for the democrats will be perilous."

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan pointed out that there have appeared many "suddenly democratic" candidates who support universal suffrage in 2012 in many districts.  He believes that when the election comes down a margine of one or two hundred votes, these people will split up the votes for the democrats.

Exercise:  How do you tell a "faux democrat" from an "independent democrat"?  Or is the only "true democrat" someone who has signed up with one of the known political parties or organizations in the pan-democratic camp?
Reference: Ralph Nader in Wikipedia

Flat cat? (credit: Zhou Zhenglong)

A few weeks ago, tiger researchers celebrated the news that a South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) had been spotted--and photographed--in the wilds of Shaanxi Province. But netizens in China and elsewhere have declared it only a "paper tiger" after scrutinizing the two available images.
Although the species has been declared "functionally extinct," reports of tiger activity in the heavily forested Qinba Mountains prompted Shaanxi officials to offer a reward to anyone able to photograph one of the tigers.

At a 12 October press conference in Xian, Zhou Zhenglong, a former hunter, told a rapt audience of his quest to photograph the beast, crawling to within 20 meters of one and snapping 71 images. When the camera's flash went off, the tiger roared and disappeared, he said.

Skeptics, citing factors such as the tiger's tame-looking expression and unreal coat color--as well as the fact that the two photos portray exactly the same tiger but differently positioned foliage-- think it's more likely that someone planted a cardboard tiger in the bushes. Fu Dezhi, a botanist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, adds that the plants are not to scale in relation to the tiger. Zhou, who was paid 20,000 yuan ($2666) for the images, says, "I guarantee with my head that the photographs are authentic."

The Shaanxi Forestry Bureau is pushing ahead with plans for a thorough survey and a tiger reserve. "It's tremendously exciting news, if it can be substantiated," says tiger expert Gary Koehler of Washington state's Department of Fish and Wildlife (Science, 7 September, p. 1312). But first, "they need to look for hair snags or scat" for genetic verification.

The Science report is factually wrong in the second paragraph.  There were two cameras, one using conventional film roll and the other is a Canon digital camera.  The digital photographs contain EXIF information that includes the time as well as equipment.  The flash was used earlier on in the sequence, not the last one.

At my Hong Kong University talk about my "Auntie Eileen" (see Comment 200711#008), I said that Eileen Chang was just one of many adults who passed through my household.  If I knew that she would become one of the greatest figures in Chinese Literature fifty years hence, I would have recorded every action that she took when she stayed with our family during 1961-1962.  But there were other apparently more significant adults who passed through around the same time.  Who?  There were many but one of them was recently illuminated by the media limelight.
In 1967, the actor Wang Yu (
王羽) starred in a Shaw Brother's movie <<One-armed Swordsman>> and soared into superstardom.  Previously to that, he was just an underpaid contracted actor with lots of time on hand and no money to spend.  So he spent a lot of time playing cards and table tennis with me (who was a teenager but whose father was a significant player in the movie industry as an executive producer/film script writer/supervisor).  Can you understand my priorities at the time?

Fast forward a few years and Wang Yu has moved on to Taiwan to develop his career beyond Shaw Brothers and right into gangster world.  According to this TVBS report, Wang Yu attended the grand opening of the casino ran by Four Seas gang and lost NT$1,000,000.  Wang paid his debt promptly.  When the Four Seas gang invited Wang to come again, he refused.  This was considered a gross insult and the Four Seas gang sent out members to assasinate Wang Yu, who managed to escape with several non-fatal stab injuries.
Wang Yu did not think that he was capable of dealing with the onslaught and therefore he asked for help from Chen Chili of the Bamboo United gang.  As a result, the Four Seas gang was assaulted in kind with fourteen non-fatal stab wounds.  This matter was ultimately amicably resolved among all parties.
So what?  This leads to this Taipei Times article:

One of the most reputation-ruining sights Taiwan can offer is a gangster funeral. Attended by hundreds of black-shirted young men and senior politicians from both ideological camps, these events prove that democratic accountability and social standards don't mean the same thing to all people.

What makes the funeral of Chen Chi-li ( 陳啟禮 ) noteworthy is that this Bamboo Union icon was a textbook example of a criminal employed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in years gone by to intimidate and kill dissidents and anyone else who dared stand up to the dictatorship of the Chiang family and their goons.

He wasn't just a standover man taking protection money from street vendors; he was a tool of state oppression. But the revisionism in the print and broadcast media in recent weeks has portrayed this thug as close to heroic; a man who died in exile in Cambodia, far from family and friends. At the same time, no one weeps for the man he killed, Chiang Ching-kuo ( 蔣經國 ) biographer Henry Liu ( 江南 ).

In the course of mourning Chen, the sight of a string of celebrities, ne'er-do-well politicians and retired security agency officials lining up to pay their dues played itself out. Of the former, pop singer Jay Chou ( 周杰倫 ) was the most conspicuous, and he has gutted his reputation -- and raised questions about who he owes and how much -- by paying his respects. Chou should be ashamed, but we are not sure if he has the depth of character to feel it.

But it is the politicians -- and their seniority -- that should be of enduring concern. How astonished and enraged Americans would be if House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the organizing committee for the funeral of a notorious mafia boss. Yet that is exactly what has happened here: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( 王金平 ) of the KMT blessed Chen by having his name added to the list of honorary funeral officials. Again, one might ask, what does Wang owe, and to whom?  The KMT, it seems, can't get by without cavorting with criminals.

But this is not a partisan cancer. Even more despicable is the presence on the honorary list of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus convener Ko Chien-ming ( 柯建銘 ), who warrants expulsion from the party. We're not holding our breath.  Ko's presence is revolting because he trivializes the sacrifice of Henry Liu, who allowed people like him the freedom to represent the DPP.

This easy association with criminality continues to plague the legislature, too, with an attempt to restrict candidates for public office to people with no criminal record or a minor criminal record being defeated in recent days.

Both parties have acted shamefully and shamelessly on this matter. President Chen Shui-bian ( 陳水扁 ), as chairman of the DPP, deserves censure for not intervening to ensure that DPP support for the changes did not eventuate.  And Wang Jin-pyng deserves an equally strong rebuke for blithely dismissing this debacle as being worthy of any concern.

KMT politicians who attack the president and his family for alleged illegal conduct while saying and doing nothing about legislative misconduct are damned hypocrites. Likewise, DPP politicians that complain of judicial persecution of the president while saying and doing nothing about legislative mischief -- or its protection -- lack all credibility.

It is all too easy to say "a pox on all their houses" or some such, but the fact is that all of this behavior is tolerated by a large number of voters who will put any lowlife into office as long as it is not someone from the opposition. Thus continues this collapsible morality in the face of criminal connections to the political, security and entertainment establishments.

In Taiwan, DPP presidential candidate Frank  Hsieh addressed the American Chamber of Commerce yesterday.  

"Until May 20, 2008, Chen [Shui-bian] is still the country's chief policymaker, but after I am elected as the president, I will carry out my promises and things will be different.  After all, the whole point of electing a new president is to implement new policies that will move the country forward."

In his speech, Hsieh said that national identity is "extremely important" while economic development is "important."  Presently, there is nothing more important than maintaining Taiwan sovereignty and status quo.

The first member of the audience (from Pricewaterhouse Coopers) to ask a question said: "I'm sick of hearing the KMT blaming the DPP for everything, and I have also had enough of listening to the DPP blaming the KMT for everything.  Give me a fucking action!"

So why is national identity "extremely important" while economic development is only "important"?  Here is a short Apple Daily editorial:

After seeing Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou talking about the economy, Chen Shui-bian could not stand it and bellowed: "Even if the economy is doing well, there is no guarantee of winning the election."

That is interesting.  This is like saying: "Even if your health is good, there is no guarantee that you won't die."  "Even if you take drugs to get an erection, there is no guarantee that you will last."  "Even if you pick your nose clean with your finger, there is no guarantee that you can breathe smoothly."  "Even if we vote to enter the United Nations, there is no guarantee that they will let us in" ... perhaps Hsieh and Ma are touching a raw nerve of Chen Shui-bian when they talk about the economy, and that is why he is talking sourly out of anger.

Of course, Ah Bian is speaking from experience.  He won elections by leveraging group emotional identities and not about the economy.  It means that he understands too well those immature voters in Taiwan who are willing to go hungry in order to love Taiwan.  But the experience in the mature democratic nations show that in a time of peace, the economy should be one of the top priorities, if not the only one.  President Bush Senior won the First Gulf War but lost to Bill Clinton (because it's the economy, stupid!).  Ah Bian is being irresponsible when he behaves like a politician who only cares about the electoin.  The economy is about the livelihood of the people.  We would rather listen to Ma and Hsieh reply sincerely to Ah Bian: "If the economy is good, I will have no regrets even if I don't win the election."

In November 2003, the DAB did not understand the blowback from SARS and the July 1st march and then overextended their battlelines by sending more than 200 people to contest the district electoins.  The huge change in public opinion and the unexpected high voter turnout caused many of their stalwart members to lose.  It was a dreadful outcome to have only 63 DAB candidates elected at a 30% success rate.  DAB chairman Jasper Tsang resigned to accept responsibility.

In 2005, the DAB failed to carry shepherd through the government's political reform package.  But the pan-democrats also damaged themselves by refusing to compromise.  At that point, the DAB went into the attack because the pan-democrats had ignored the public will.  

For the 2007 district council elections, the DAB should have these strategic goals:
- A success rate of getting more than 50% of its candidates being elected
- Recover those DAB seats lost to the pan-democrats in 2003 as a result of the July 1st effect
- Take down the top pan-democrats and minimize the number of pan-democrat seats in the district councils, so that they become marginalized because their votes have no influence
- If the pan-democrat candidate is too strong, then the DAB will go after the weaker pan-democrat candidate in the district council, because one or two pan-democrat will make no difference
- Become the largest party in the district councils, and therefore control the district council leadership positions
- Obtain more votes than the pan-democrats and affirm their popular support, so that the pan-democrats can no longer claim to represent the people's will
- De-politicize the election and reduce the chances of the pan-democrats invoking political issues as the main themes of these elections

Such being the goals, it is not hard to figure out what the DAB strategies are:

- The DAB supposedly has 10,000 members and is quite capable of fielding candidates in every district council.  But they have opted to field less than 200 candidates.  They will not send their best candidates to run against the best pan-democrats.  Instead, they send their best candidates to run against the weaker pan-democrats in order to ensure victory.  When the pan-democrats are the minority in the district councils, they will have no influence.

- Those DAB stalwarts who lost unexpectedly in 2003 stayed in the same place and performed local work for the next four years.  The voters had the chance to compare what they did against those pan-democrats without any significant work to show for. 
-In other pan-democratic middle-class strongholds, they send in good quality, well-educated young porfessionals.  
- In the grassroots districts where the DAB is traditionally strong (such as public housing estates), they send massive numbers of candidates.
- In the middle-class areas, the DAB used the tactic that they successfully used in the by-elections leading up to now.  They supported friendly apolitical professionals, with six victories out of six tries to show.
- In this campaign, the DAB puts an emphasis on people's livelihood and accumulated political capital slowly while the pan-democrats spent so much time on the political reforms.  In these elections, the DAB is decidedly 'apolitical' and they want the voters to use the local work done by the candidates as the primary factor to be considered.
- Since the DAB has the advantages in district work and community ties, they make sure that they provide no opportunity for the competitors to gain any exposure and create a crisis.  Therefore, very few DAB candidates will do public or media debates.  This reduces the chances for the pan-democrats to appear in the media and gain points.

A request from Anson Chan Fang On-sang for today's televised debate between the Legislative Council by-election candidates to be held in English has been rejected.  The debate among the eight candidates will be mainly in Cantonese. A spokeswoman for Mrs Chan's election office said her camp made the request to reach a wider audience. The spokeswoman said Mrs Chan was most fluent in English, followed by Putonghua and Cantonese.

Kenneth Tsang Ho-him, external vice-president of the Hong Kong University Students' Union, said the organisers had considered Mrs Chan's suggestion. But they decided to hold the forum in the mother tongue of most Hongkongers for more direct interaction between the candidates and the audience.  However, the audience can ask questions in English, Putonghua or Cantonese and there will be simultaneous interpretation.

Political analyst Ma Ngok of Chinese University said Mrs Chan's request might have indicated she was less confident in using Cantonese to speak in public as she generally performed better when using English in speeches.

I want to bring your attention to the reason given by the spokeswoman for Mrs Chan's election office: The request was made in order to reach a wider audience.  How is speaking in English going to reach a "wider" audience?  According to Wikipedia, "Most Chinese Hong Kongers speak Cantonese at home and approximately 33% know English as a second language."

(Huashang News, November 5, 2007)

On November 1, the Shaanxi provincial government removed 17 highway toll gates in the province.  The Shangzhangdu bridge in Weinan city accordingly no longer has a toll gate.  But at the same time, motor vehicles are now banned on the bridge.  According to information, the bridge had undergone a 20-day emergency repair between December 6 and 26 in 2006.  The average daily traffic was approximately 500 vehicles, so that this is an important access route.

Comment by Wang Houzai:

The provincial government ordered the elimination of 17 highway toll gates.  The Weinan city department of transportation did not dare to resist the order.  The toll gate was removed, but the road was also sealed.  This is the typical case of "the guys above issue policies, but the guys below comes up with counter-measures 上有政策、下有对策" in which the provincial government's order was perverted.  Was this supposed to benefit or harm the people?

Comment by Yang Fengxia:

One must admit that there is a reason for sealing off the bridge because someone would be held accountable in case of accident.  But is this what the case is about?  Previously, because it was possible to collect toll fees, traffic was allowed even though there was a height restriction for vehicles and emergency repairs had to be made.  But it was important to earn money.  Since there was no toll gate anymore, why shouldn't it be sealed off to vehicles?

There is no reason for us not to applaud the Shaanxi provincial government for removing the 17 toll gates.  But the local governments are unhappy because they lost one of their income sources.  Since this bridge was in bad shape, why not close it down?  Maybe the traffic would have to go through another bridge that charges toll?

[in translation]

Before I entered university, I worked for several years.  That was not because my family was poor.  Like many other young persons, I had poor grades, I could not get into a school, I could not find a career and I had no life goal.  My academic results were bad but, worse yet, I had no English-language skills and no job experience.  Therefore, I had a hard time finding a job.

Over time, I was an apprentice at a garage and then a furniture maker.  Obviously, I did not earn enough to support a family.  I was an introvert and I could not get along with my co-workers.  Therefore, I was very unhappy.  I continued to look and then a middle-class restaurant agreed to interview me for a job.

I remembered that day when the restaurant manager looked at me, who had never carried a tray in my life, and asked: "The economic conditions are terrible now.  Can you give me a reason why I should hire you?"  I could see that there was another older young man sitting at the reception area breaming with confidence.  I hesitated half a second and then I wondered: How can someone with no experience and no academic credentials hope to persuade an employer?  But I desperately needed this job and so I answered: "I am asking for a lower wage!"  The manager looked at my application form and read the requested salary.  He asked: "How can you live on this salary?"

I said: "All I want is an opportunity to work!"

So I got this job.  I worked 54 hours a week for wages that the unions would describe as "shameful."  After accounting for my transport fees between Kowloon and Hong Kong island and my contribution to the family budget, I had little left.  But what I got was the experience of dealing with people and incidents, the opportunity to speak to customers in English and putonghua and the various skills of the trade.

After working for more than a year, I decided to go to study again.  One course at a time, I made my way into a local university.  Based upon the experience of my full-time job, I was able to work part-time at a hotel to earn my tuition and living fees.  Today, I have completed my degree.  I have a job that will allow me to pay the rent, meet the expenses and even enjoy some leisure.

... When I read about the minimum wage debate, I have to ask: If the minimum wage existed back then, would I get the chance to work, obtain experience, learn skills and practice my foreign language skills?  What could motivate a "rational" boss to give a "fair wage" to an "unqualified" worker?  Wouldn't the manager who gives an opportunity to a young person be betraying the trust of the owners?  Wouldn't a mandatory minimum wage drive those inexperienced and uneducated young people into the abyss of despair?

In the 2005.12.8 issue of Next Weekly, this photograph was accompanied by the caption: "This box contains the possessions of Eileen Chang.  He did not say what we can photograph or not.  He held this American 'green card' of Eileen Chang in his hand and said that this has been published previously.  So we took a photograph."

In the 2007.10.3 issue of East Week, this photograph appeared in an article that began this way: "One would think that it is a big deal to have Eileen Chang's possessions in one's home.  But Roland Soong just casually hauled out two cardboard boxes from underneath the reading desk.  Inside there were some letters wrapped with plastic garbage bags plus some notebooks that were falling apart.  These are the possessions that Eileen Chang left behind."

So this talk, plus the fact that I am embarrassed about the state of things, has made me put in the effort of organizing the material.  Here is how they look today.

The format of this talk was that there would be thirty separate items about Eileen Chang as derived from personal memories and the possessions (see list).  There is no overall flow in the presentation, beyond an artificial sectioning into topics such as Birth, Ageing, Illness, Death, etc.  The reason is that I have only barely begun to understand what these contents mean.  I am sure that if I have to make a presentation three months later, say, I would have a structure (or several structures) that would have better focus.

Media Coverage:
張愛玲的手稿  葉一知,刁民公園
二續小貝勒與枕草子之迷  船山筆記
像酒後的涼風一樣醉人  makuranososhi
Assailed  Thus and So
宋公子與他的Auntie Eileen  拯救 Auntie Eileen  makuranososhi
不過想豐富其資產又何妨  船山筆記
《難為了公子》  粉墨登場