Sunday, 18 March 2018

Still Wearing Skirts? It's 2018

Cathay Pacific uniforms have evolved over the years, but not the skirts
It's hard to believe but in 2018, female flight attendants on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon are asking management to be able to wear trousers as an option for their uniform.

"The stereotype of the flight attendant is very old-style already: looking pretty, full make-up and wearing a skirt. It is a good time to have a revamp of our image," says Vera Wu Yee-mei, chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union, representing 7,200 members.

Wearing skirts in a cold climate is hardly practical
The flight attendants have good reason to ask to wear trousers -- some destinations they fly to can be very cold in the winter -- snow even -- so wearing skirts is hardly practical. And how is wearing skirts a good idea in crisis situations? Hardly seems so.

Oh and also their blouses are on the short side so whenever they reach up, sometimes skin is revealed... it has been an ongoing complaint for years. Doesn't management listen to their concerns? Or was saving money on an extra inch of fabric per blouse an issue more important than someone's dignity?

The job of a flight attendant is hardly glamorous -- serving drinks and meals to passengers strapped in seats for hours on end. There's also the task of cleaning washrooms, and dealing with rude behaviour on the flight.

Hong Kong Airlines also has a skirt-only rule
But Cathay Pacific is hardly the only airline in Hong Kong to have the skirt-only rule -- Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express also have uniforms where women must wear skirts.

This just proves that men are ruling the boardroom and have no idea or empathy for what their female staff go through on a daily basis. When is this ignorance going to end?

North American and European airlines have allowed female flight attendants the option to wear trousers for years. Surely it's time for Hong Kong to catch up?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A Secret Garden in Hong Kong

Visitors are given a key... to go where?
At 5pm I made my way up to the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre for an intriguing art installation that is headed by local artist Kingsley Ng. He always has interesting projects with lots of meaning and significance behind them and are usually executed well, which is why I was keen to check it out.

This latest one is called Secret Garden and it is loosely based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the wildly popular colouring book by Johanna Basford, and is site specific, as the building used to be the former Victoria Barracks for the families of British soldiers to live in.

The exterior of the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre
The building underwent renovations in the 1970s to become a government-run place for art classes, and the families that lived here were either moved to Tamar or left Hong Kong. So Secret Garden has a fictional story of three children who discovered a secret garden here and when they had to leave, they promised to come back on the last night.

But what does the last night mean? Ng says it could be June 30, 1997 when the British handed back Hong Kong to China, or it could mean the day the families had to move. The interpretation is open to the visitor, who is led on a 40-minute guided tour through the building to see different aspects of this secret garden.

Ng explained afterwards that he coordinated the project, giving the secret garden theme to several groups of artists who interpreted it in their own way, from books with empty pages, to ceramics to items from our childhood.

Ceramic balls are placed on spotlights with dramatic effect
I don't want to give too much away in terms of what exactly you see in the installation, but it's the various things you see, touch and hear that build up multiple meanings or like a patchwork quilt, create loose connections.

When we visited for the preview it wasn't quite dark, so it'll be better when it starts in earnest tomorrow when it's shown at night.

The first batch of free tickets were snapped up right away, but Ng told me the second batch will be released on Monday March 19 at noon. Check it out at

Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre
7A, Kennedy Road
Hong Kong
(In Hong Kong Park)

Friday, 16 March 2018

Li Ka-shing Exits Stage Right

This afternoon Li Ka-shing (centre) cozies up with reporters for pictures
This afternoon was the earth-shattering announcement we've been waiting for -- tycoon Li Ka-shing is retiring.

In a live broadcast from Cheung Kong Centre, the 89-year-old said after almost seven decades in business, he is stepping down from both CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Asset Holdings and passing the reins to his younger son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi.

This was no surprise, as the younger Li has been working with his father for over 33 years, while older son Richard Li Tzar-kai "has many other businesses".

In a letter to staff that Li addressed them as colleagues, he recalled escaping war-torn China when he was 12 years old and came to Hong Kong. The famous legend of Li selling plastic flowers gave the high school dropout the capital to expand into other businesses, in particular real estate.

Li takes his final bow with son Victor on his right
"Not long afterwards, I founded Cheung Kong, the predecessor of CK Hutchison and CK Asset. That was 1950," he writes. "By 1972 I was able to grow the firm into a publicly-listed company -- stock code 001HK."

Today the conglomerate includes media, hotels, shipping, grocery stores and oil that has dealings in 50 countries.

During his announcement, Li said he would devote time to philanthropy, including the KS-LK Foundation, especially in issues related to healthcare and education.

Li finished his tenure on a high, as the companies, including Power Assets and CKI recorded higher 2017 earnings that largely met market expectations.

However, the tycoon is stepping down at a time when his influence is already waning. In 2013, dock workers went on strike for 40 days, demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

The 2013 dockworkers' strike damaged Li's reputation
At one point they occupied the front entrance of Cheung Kong Centre with a giant picture of Li's face and devil horns coming out of his head. In the end the dockworkers got a 9.8 percent pay rise, but the public's admiration for Li had nosedived because his immense wealth was compared to the lowly dock worker.

Li's reputation further spiraled during the Umbrella Movement a year later when thousands of people occupied the streets in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok for 79 days. When it first started, the business elite were silent, and then Li finally spoke.

While he said he understood the protesters "passionate pursuits", he believed they should go home, warning them not to "let today's passion become tomorrow's regret". He knew people would be punished, but underestimated that people did not regret their actions, despite the legal challenges the protest leaders in particular faced.

Li was widely admired in China, but he cashed out anyway
And his relationship with China also soured. Despite pouring millions of yuan into the country, in 2015 Li decided to cash out, which angered Chinese state media and many mainlanders, who felt the businessman was being unpatriotic.

Nevertheless, Li won't be completely retiring. While he will continue to stay on as a senior adviser, it seems Li still wants to keep an active role in the businesses.

When a reporter tried to ask Victor Li a question about the company's future investments, his father interrupted as his son was getting the microphone. "I'll answer for him," Li said.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Picture of the Day: Sevva

How can you not resist photographing this view from the 25th floor?
Today a well known high-end restaurant called Sevva is celebrating its 10th anniversary tonight and its founder Bonnae Gokson held a memorable celebration.

At first it seemed like it was just cocktails but she had other plans up her sleeve. Three Chinese lions appeared to do the traditional dance complete with the cabbage wrapped with lai see (one for each!) and confetti spewed everywhere.

But that wasn't all -- with the brigade of chefs came a singer who would only give us his name as Robert, who used to perform in musicals in London. He belted out Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast and Memory from Cats.

Gokson was so relieved the weather cooperated and so are we! The view from the 25th floor of Prince's Building was fantastic.

So here's a panoramic shot from tonight, starting all the way from Victoria Harbour to HSBC headquarters.