Monthly Archives: November 2010

Poppy day.

So it took me way longer than it should have to figure out why I keep seeing men here waring red poppies in their little jacket pinholes. It was shocking how many people wearing a poppy had no real idea what it stood for. One guy told me it was to help the orphans, but most seemed to understand it as a symbol of peace.

November 11, Remembrance day, marks the official end of World War I in 1918, when the Germans signed the Armistice at the 11th hour on the 11th. It is celebrated by all Commonwealth countries, or rather any country formerly part of the British Empire… Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and Hong Kong! The red poppy symbolism comes from In Flanders Fields: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row…”

The poppies brought up a lot of controversy when David Cameron visited China earlier this month and refused to take off his poppy. The Chinese government asked his envoy to not wear poppies because they would remind the Chinese people of the nineteenth century opium wars.

David Cameron and Premiere Wen Jiabao (right) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Photo: PA

The basic story is that when the Chinese governor of Hong Kong closed down trade with England and others because of what opium was doing to his people, the British government sent in their warships and took over Hong Kong for the next 70 years.

Wearing poppies, David Cameron, George Osborne, Vince Cable and Michael Gove drink a toast at a contract signing in China. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Despite refusing to take of his poppy, Cameron was still a lot weaker than I expected him to be on human rights, particularly the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo. I think he mostly cares about upping trade with this new behemoth.

Even just last week some sweet old ladies in a mall tried to sell me a poppy–the donations go towards veterans. I was given one today at a British lunch spot. Was I the only person not aware of this apparently fairly entrenched European tradition?

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China right now: Polygamy in China.

So the Mr. and I are out to dinner the other night and he begins to tell me about the dinner he had the night before with a colleague, who I had met before. In fact, not only had I met him, but I’d also met his super model wife and four super cute little kids before. Apparently, this exec had told the Mr. that he’s actually a polygamist–not only does he actively practice it, but he’s very involved in advocating for its return in China. He says that after thousands of years of this lifestyle, there’s no way that a couple of decades of altered social norms will have any effect on making men satisfied with just one woman for the rest of their lives. I don’t really see myself as the ‘easily threatened-type’, but this isn’t exactly the kind of guy you really want your husband having beers with!

Stanley with his daughter (left) and (third wife) Ina Chan (right). (I actually really like her dress, although I think it could a bit more tailored.)

The Mr.’s colleague is not a rarity here in China where multiple wives or mistresses are the standard trappings of the wealthy and powerful. Macau Casino magnate Stanely Ho’s four wives and 17 children are a tabloid institution here. Drama seems to constantly follow Ho; his first wife was killed in a car accident in 1973, and his eldest son and wife Melanie were killed in an another car accident. He is estranged from his sister Winnie, who accuses him of owing her money.  Unsolved murders also seem to follow Ho, including those of his assistant who was found with a slit throat in a Hong Kong square.

Stanley with his fourth wife Angela.

According to Forbes magazine, in 2008, Stanley Ho was at 113th place among the world’s richest men with a fortune estimated at 8 billion dollars. In the past few years Ho has moved to transfer more power to his favoured wife Angela Leong, a savvy businesswoman and now a Macau legislator, and his daughter Pansy Ho.

Pansy Ho

Pansy is chief executive of her father’s listed company Shun Tak holdings. Her brother, Lawrence, runs Melco – the Hong Kong-listed company that his father brought for him – that is partner with James Packer’s PBL in Macau.

Macau tycoon Stanley Ho, daughter Pansy Ho (left) and wife Angela Leong (right).

A fun Stanley Ho fact: Ho once bid and won a 1.5 kilo truffle for $330,000 dollars.

And a little background on polygamy in China / Hong Kong, courtesy of Wikiepdia:

  • Polygamy was banned in HK in 1971–not so long ago!
  • Communist Party Leader Mao (who founded the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949) created the “Marriage Law” in 1950 that banned polygamy and forbid child brides.
  • Polygamy in China is considered to be a by-product of the tradition of emphasis on procreation and the continuity of the father’s family name.
  • In Confucianism, the practice of taking concubines was allowed, but a man must have just reasons for doing so. For example, if his wife is not able to give birth to a son, he would be allowed to take a concubine. If a man wants more wives for sexual indulgence, it would be unacceptable. It is illegal in modern China to have more than one spouse for either sex. Polygamy, however, remains seen and tolerated in southwest China among Chinese minorities such as Tibetans etc.
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Friday’s proverb: Patience

“With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.”

This picture just makes Hong Kong in the fog / pollution we’ve had a lot of lately look so beautiful! And it is true, after a few cloudy days you really do appreciate a crystal clear day.

The picture is from Lane Crawford, a high-end Hong Kong department store… And on the subject of silk gowns… In honor of their 160th anniversary they asked famous designers to “give a new spin to the classic and ultra-feminine silhouette of the Cheongsam.”

From Thakoon:

From Agent Provacateur (I’m unsure whether this is a negligee or if there is white backing under the lace and its a dress! Either way, it’s impressive.)

Globetrotter naturally took the inspiration to a trunk…
I really want to buy a  trunk… I try to say I will travel with it and then it will become an end table, but I can’t quite get up the gumption to do either. But I do love this one, especially the Hong Kong tram lining. And it appears to have a normal luggage type handle so maybe it’s actually on wheels?

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Second life curtains.

When the Mr. got married, a partner at his company said he had two words for him: Window. Treatments. Potentially the biggest female line item expenditure so he should tightly monitor the situation once accounts were combined. Which, for someone like me who isn’t a big bag or shoe person… is probably true. Except for with these curtains.

So this was our living room in San Fran… tear… and the curtains were actually a steal. I got them at Cost Plus in the clearance section for $9.99 a panel. And I think they went perfectly with out other things!

I didn’t even intend to bring them with us to Hong Kong–the movers just packed them up and I hadn’t even thought about them again until I opened up a box months later.

But I got to thinking about how much I love the pattern and how I wasn’t ready to let them go… and then it occurred to me how inexpensive labor is here. So I thought, why not see if the upholsterer can use these again? It seemed like it would be tough with the circles cut-out for the bar and our windows here being so much larger than those in SF.

But we were able to do it by turning them into roman blinds for our dining room!

I love the lush jungle outside, but at night when it’s just dark out… drawing the blinds makes things so much cozier.

Happy almost Turkey Day!
(The Mr. brought home the orchid for me yesterday… I think the orchid + the pumpkins + tropical tablecloth = a very HK Thanksgiving!)

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China right now: Nobel Peace Prize.

Everyone in Hong Kong is here because of China. You stare at her just across the harbor all day long. Every line in the paper chronicles her steps forward… and also backwards. So I pretty much spend all day wondering whether China is the be-all, end-all, and will soon eclipse the West… or whether her shortcomings will keep her power in check. We all hope that China’s star will continue to rise, but not so far as to eclipse our home countries. The question I ask myself all day long is will she peak next year… or never? This is the first of a mini-series on what you need to know about China right now.

  • Human rights still don’t exist and there is growing civil unrest, which the Party is petrified of.

China’s hissy fit after jailed dissident Liu Xiabou was awarded the Nobel Peace prize last month is perfect evidence of this. Liu published Chapter 08 in 2008, which called for a myriad of human rights reforms. It angered the government enough to sentence him to a 11-year prison term.

After he won the award, China blocked all key word internet searches and SMS text messages under his name—just the fact that they can even do that shows how far-reaching their power is. They also immediately began pressuring other countries not to attend the ceremonies as it is seen by Beijing a “challenge to China’s judicial systems” and they threatened that it will impede “developing economic relations.” The Chinese instantly responded by creating code words for Xiabou to use in social networking, which I think is pretty clever.

Just recently, a journalist was jailed for two and a half years for seeking justice for his child and other children harmed and killed by the melamine tainted milk. The charge was “disrupting social harmony.” All he had done was create a website so parents whose children were effected could network to share information and resources. Unbelievable right?

Police in southern China have arrested and charged a rights campaigner with subversion for handing out flyers announcing Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize win, fellow activists said Wednesday.

His wife, also an activist, Liu Xia has been placed under house arrest and so issued an open letter inviting 100 of her husband’s friends to receive the award on December 10th. The Chinese have detained the entire list, but one environmental journalist was in Canada at a conference and so she will go receive the award on his behalf. I can’t wait to hear how everything will go down on the 10th and will be following this closely.

Either way, it’s worth remembering why the Chinese are fighting like the dickens on this one; “the average Chinese person doesn’t know that Liu Xiaobo has won the prize, or even who he is.” Here are some enlightening tweets from after the award was announced from China Geeks:


Seething with excitement, everywhere is seething with excitement. It’s just that a big group of idiots don’t know what’s happened. It really makes you fucking feel for them…

Ai Weiwei:

Tell your friends, family and classmates who Liu Xiaobo is and why he is loved and respected by “anti-China” forces.

Wang Zhongxia:

Norway is badass [牛逼], I’m crying in the car right now [on the way to visit Liu Xiaobo’s wife].

Liu Xiaoyuan:

I bet some officials are regretting it now. Perhaps they’re thinking, if we hadn’t given Liu Xiaobo a harsh sentence, would the Nobel Peace Prize still have come to China?

Note: You have to use a VPN to hide your computer’s location when you are in China to be able to Tweet, Facebook, or even access your Google Docs… made it quite slow for me to work while we were in Beijing earlier this month.

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