Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Picture of the Day: Incomprehensible Propaganda

At the Guangzhou train station where the taxi queue is, the billboard is covered with propaganda.

This one made my mainland colleagues laugh because they didn't know how to translate it for me.

But the first line talks about how it is good to be able to take care of your basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing.

That's a far cry from the late Deng Xiaoping's motto of, "To get rich is glorious". President Xi Jinping is aiming to alleviate poverty by 2020 which is a very tight deadline. But he seems determined to make it happen.

The second line of this poster talks about China going to war and winning the battle with socialistic characteristics.


How the two lines are related we may never know...

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

What's Left of Old Macau

Leal Senado Square in Macau by day on a Sunday morning
I visited Macau on the weekend and it was nice to finally visit the old parts of the casino town. Usually I am there for work and literally go in and out of hotel complexes in the quickest time possible.

The square is deserted in the evening with shops closed
But this time my friend and I wandered around after dinner on Saturday night and Sunday morning. We were on the Macau side and walked to Leal Senado Square that was quiet. The Christmas decorations were being taken down so there wasn't much of a lively atmosphere.

We wandered down the street and most of the shops were already closed, but we managed to find a 24-hour supermarket and bought some Portuguese olive oil.

The next morning we went back again, hoping to find other shops open, most of them sold snacks, clothing or pharmacies selling milk powder -- much like Hong Kong.

In the small lanes many of the shop spaces were empty or even moving out of the area -- rising rents were probably the culprit.

Many of the shops have shuttered
The last time I visited around the ruins of St Paul's Cathedral over three years ago, the shops below used to be mostly ones selling antiques, but they were all replaced with snack shops -- Macanese egg tarts, pork chop buns and beef jerky.

It is disappointing to see Macau's old flavour disappearing, but perhaps it's the sign of the times. They are all catering to the mainland market, which is looking for delicious souvenirs.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Hong Kong Must Protect Children

A memorial for five-year-old Chan Sui-lam who suffered horrific child abuse
In recent days Hong Kong has been reeling from a shocking child abuse case that led to the death of a five-year-old girl.

Chan Sui-lam was allegedly thrown at the ceiling many times and poked in the chest with scissors at home. Her father, 26, is a transport worker, and stepmother, 27, a housewife, were both charged with murder last Monday.

But this was not the only incident -- four more cases of child abuse were reported in three days, and parents and foster parent were arrested.

The Social Welfare Department's Child Protection Registry has 2016 figures that show 107 of 892 incidents of child abuse against children under the age of 18 took place is the New Territories, followed by 102 in Kwun Tong, 85 in Tuen Mun and 77 in Kwai Tsing.

But social welfare workers believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. A study by the University of Hong Kong from 10 years ago estimated about 70,000 children were subjected to "severe violence", or corporal punishment by the parents each year and these cases were most always unreported.

Social workers say stress factors like financial hardship, estranged relationships, living in small quarters like sub-divided flats, and for new immigrants, the struggle to integrate in Hong Kong can lead to parents taking their frustrations out on their children.

Lee Yu-po, service manager at Against Child Abuse, said the districts with higher numbers of child abuse cases had more low-income families.

"Many live in cubicle apartments... they might not be able to rest properly and the tight living space could also result in more family conflicts."

Also, of the low-income families, some are immigrants, mostly from the mainland, who may be poorer and less educated.

"Some new immigrants tend to have a more traditional Chinese mindset, thinking that beating a child is part of their upbringing," says social worker Raymond Fung Hing-kau.

Other traits of abusers include drug addiction, mental health problems, teenage pregnancy and a history of being abused.

Guidance and counselling on issues such as home safety, managing emotions and taking are of children are being advocated, but there aren't enough resources for these services done by volunteers.

Child protection advocates also say the government isn't tough enough on abusers, and that other adults should be empowered to rescue children from these dangerous situations.

Then there is the problem of not enough social workers in schools to help identify cases -- they are underpaid and the turnover rate is high at 30 percent. Because of the heavy workload, the social workers end up prioritizing cases that seem more serious.

In addition teachers aren't equipped to deal with child abuse cases -- currently the guidebook is 300 pages long -- and advocates say there needs to be clearer guidelines.

And then strangely, because kindergarten education is not compulsory, there is no need for the bureau to follow up on cases where a child has been missing classes.

So it seems Hong Kong has many holes in the system that need patching up, but advocates say it's also just as important for neighbours, relatives and friends to step up if they see something wrong.

There has been talk for years of having a child advocate for the city and it's about time the government appoint someone to carefully look at this sad and horrific issue from top to bottom and put children's needs and safety first.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Picture of the Day: Fresh Beef Hotpot

Cabbage, beef, potato, tendon and tripe ready to be put in the hotpot
A few days ago I was in Guangzhou for work and on our final day there, my colleague and I finished our work early and had lunch in a popular hot pot place called Shantou Bahelihaiji beef shop.

It apparently specializes in serving fresh beef from cows that have been culled only four hours earlier. I find that a bit hard to believe as it takes time for blood to be drained from the carcass, and how can fresh beef be distributed that quickly around to the various branches in Guangdong within that time frame?

Nevertheless we had to wait for about half an hour with a ticket in hand, so it must be pretty good. We were hungry watching diners walk in and getting their fill.

Our number was finally called and our table was on the second floor in a cramped space. But we were here! The menu is focused on all kinds of beef from various parts of the cow, to beef meatballs, tendon, tongue, brisket and so on.

To balance it out we also got some turnip, potato and cabbage. Strangely there was no tofu on the menu. A few steps away was a sauce station for diners to create their own sauce to dip the cooked food in. There was the usual array of fresh chilli peppers, minced garlic, coriander, spring onions, oil and soy sauce, but no sesame oil which seemed a bit strange.

The hotpot with clear broth was placed in an induction burner and it took a while to heat up, but finally when it was boiling we were in business. The beef balls were very bouncy -- unlike the frozen ones I've eaten so many times, making freshness the defining factor.

The menu also suggests how long each item should be cooked for, ranging from seconds to minutes. We followed the directions which made sure the meat was cooked just so, resulting in a very tender texture. My colleague was in meat heaven.

While the beef tendon looked shriveled up and dry, once they were cooked, they were fantastic, chewy and flavourful. Another was tripe that was cooked within 10 seconds and was very crunchy. What looked like an endless number of meat dishes, turned out to be just right, along with our vegetable dishes.

Did I mention my colleague mistakenly ordered a giant 1.5 litre bottle of juice, so I had to help him finish it -- well most of it. In the end the bill for our hotpot meal was 270 yuan for two!