Strip searches and the boys in blue

What are these accusations of improper and demeaning strip searches all about?

It seems the police and officers from the Correctional Services and the Immi-gration Department are spending a lot of time strip searching (including removal of underwear) those in their custody: so much time, in fact, people are beginning to complain.

Yu Mun-wah, the Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police, is probably puzzled by it all. He says strip searches are usually performed only in suspicious cases involving possession of drugs, and a metal detector is used to search for con-cealed weapons.

So, why are these officers strip searching asylum seekers, domestic workers, social activists, and sex workers? A Sri Lankan asylum seeker claims he was strip searched sixty times in two months! Perhaps the officers involved thought he was a Colombian drug lord?

I think, however, there’s nothing sinister behind it; I think it’s something quite innocent.

In my view, the officers were probably just bored and wanted to inject a bit of gaiety into their dull routine. You know, just having a bit of fun, a bit of a laugh; nothing more. I certainly wouldn’t suggest they were strip searching people for sexual gratification – that would be an extremely serious allegation to make.

No, I think it’s just a case of “boys will be boys”. Sometimes, you give a man a blue uniform and it goes straight to his head.

Anyhow, seven asylum seekers have complained to the Ombudsman about the treatment they received, so the boys in blue will have to find some other way to get their jollies, won’t they?


Fighting against a minimum wage


… Why is it the most vociferous opponents of a minimum wage are those on mega-buck salaries?

The Beijing Games awakens the Chinese soul

Tomorrow, thank god, will see the back of the Olympics for another four years.

In Hong Kong – as in the rest of the world, no doubt – it’s been almost bloody impossible to escape from “The Games”.

The Games’ ubiquity has nearly driven me crazy: the TV channels and the local newspapers have been virtually taken over by it; images of the athletes, and The Games’ commercial sponsors and their products are plastered over all the bill-boards and posters; and The Games is the main (often, the only) topic of conver-sation.

Yet, of all the effects The Games has had on Hong Kong life, the most significant (in my view) is the way it has aided the rise of Chinese nationalism within Hong Kong’s Chinese population – something I first noticed with the arrival of the Olympic torch.

Let me be clear on this point: I don’t think it’s wrong or strange the Hong Kong Chinese are supporting and cheering the mainland Chinese athletes – in fact, I would think it strange if they didn’t; I just think the sudden apparent increase in intensity of support for any athlete wearing the Chinese flag is a development worthy of comment.

You see, when I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1995, most of the Chinese I worked with had a BNO passport. Some of them even applied for, and received, Australian or Canadian passports: I didn’t do a survey, but I gained the impres-sion the Hong Kong Chinese thought (at that time) they were different and separate from the mainland Chinese.

This impression was reinforced (perhaps, with hindsight, erroneously) after the 1997 handover when so much effort went into controlling and restricting the influx of mainlanders into Hong Kong.

However, I now realise the process of “reassimilation” of the Hong Kong Chinese is one of the logical and inevitable results of the British withdrawal from Hong Kong. I’m not suggesting the Beijing Games was the first step in this process – nor do I expect it to be the last – but I’m confident, when historians look back at these Games, they will credit it with awakening the Chinese soul within the Hong Kong Chinese heart.

Silk-stocking milk tea

Wherever I live (and I’ve lived in many places) I always support local heritage and traditions. Not blindly, only if it adds value or something special to local life.

On Hong-Kong-side, where Gage Street meets Lyndhurst Terrace, you’ll find the Lan Fong Yuen restaurant, which, since the 1950s, has served a drink called “silk-stocking milk tea” from a little green booth just outside its front door.

Lan Fong Yuen

Lan Fong Yuen

The booth, a registered dai pai dong (an outside eatery), is owned by Lum Muk-ho, a man well into his eighties; but government policy does not allow a dai pai dong owner to pass the licence to another person, so someday it will have to close.

From the booth, they sell the “milk tea” to go, but I wanted to check out the restaurant inside. It was smaller than I expected – but very busy – and is frequented mainly by workers from the local shops and offices. Snack-type dishes seemed popular, so I ordered some French toast and, of course, a glass of the legendary milk tea.

However, when the tea arrived, I was reminded of the old saying: ‘If it looks like a duck … then it probably is a duck’. To my eyes, it looked like tea with con-densed milk. It even tasted like tea with condensed milk. So, it probably is.

To say I felt disappointed would be an understatement.

The day Mr. Lum goes to the great restaurant in the sky will be a sad day. But, after he’s gone, I shall not support any effort to save the little green booth.

I’m guessing this booth became a fixture simply because nobody could be bothered to remove it. In my view, it has no real heritage value, and adds nothing special to local life. At the appropriate time, someone should remove it.

I won’t tell you how to get there as I don’t want to waste your time.

Time to lance this boil?

Since I posted What sets off your “spider sense”? (6-Aug), the ongoing contro-versy surrounding Hong Kong’s former housing director, Leung Chi-man, and his lucrative new job with property giant New World Development is – like a boil on the backside – growing bigger and more painful each day.

Our beloved Chief Executive has requested a report from the Secretary for the Civil Service, Denise Yue Chung-yee, to clarify why she ratified the decision by the impressive-sounding Advisory Committee on Post-service Employment of Civil Servants (ACPECS) to allow Mr. Leung to take up his new job.

As I write this post, the report has not yet been produced, and the delay is making matters worse.

A whole raft of (current and former) politicians, civil servants, and political analysts and pundits is asking questions out loud and – by doing so – raising suspicions in the public mind of incompetence, jobbery or some other skull-duggery within the civil service.

I presume, before allowing Mr. Leung to join his new employer, ACPECS examined his application against the list of ‘approved criteria’ laid down by the government.

The list includes the following two criteria:

  • Whether the officer’s taking up of the proposed work would give rise to public suspicion of a conflict of interest or other impropriety
  • Whether any aspects of the proposed work would embarrass the government or bring disgrace to the civil service

It makes me wonder if these two criteria were even considered.

And there’s something else puzzling me: Why didn’t Justice Pang Kin-kee, the ACPECS chairman – and a lifelong friend of Mr. Leung – recuse himself from this case?

In my view, this boil needs to be lanced without further delay.

The Blake Pier

Most visitors to Hong Kong know that Queen’s Pier, dismantled last year and now in safe storage, was once the designated landing point for royalty, gov-ernors and other VIPs; and, rightly in my view, it deserves its place in the history books.

The Blake Pier in its new Stanley home

The Blake Pavilion in its new Stanley home

Yet, not many know that, before the original Queen’s Pier was built, the reception point for visiting digni-taries and colonial governors was the Blake Pier, built in 1900, at the end of Pedder Street – which shows just how reclamation has changed the harbour front.

At first, the Blake Pier had no cover. But, in 1909, an Edwardian-style, structural steel pavilion was built on top, providing grateful travellers with shelter from the elements.

However, nothing in this world is permanent, and the pier was demolished in 1965 – but the pavilion was preserved: it was dismantled and rebuilt in Morse Park, in Wong Tai Sin, where for the next forty years it served as a rather grand park shelter.

A view showing the steel roof trusses

A view showing the steel roof trusses

Then, in 2006, as part of the plan to beautify and revitalise the water-front at Stanley, the Blake Pavilion (as it’s now called) was again dis-mantled and relocated. Now fully restored to its original condition, and standing proudly next to Murray House (another example of Hong Kong’s heritage), it once again shelters a ferry pier.

The Hong Kong government is not famous for preserving the heritage of Hong Kong (in fact, it has often shown great insensitivity on the subject) but – praise where praise is due – it’s done a good job of work in Stanley.

When you have a day to spare, I recommend you visit Stanley … it’s well worth the trip.


Take the No.6 bus from the Central Bus Station, which is under Exchange Square, next to the IFC building.

For the best views going to Stanley, sit on the upper deck on the right-hand side. Left-hand side on the way back.

What sets off your “spider sense”?

Most of you know I’m old enough to remember Spider-Man before he was a TV and movie star.

He first came into my world as a cartoon character from a Marvel comic book, and, at the time, I thought he was cool – well, I was only in my early teens …

Anyway, of all his special powers, the one that most amazed me was his “spider sense” – you know, where he feels a strange tingling sensa-tion when something is wrong.

I liked that power because I’ve always felt I somehow shared it – that I also have a spider sense which gives me a **tingle**tingle** feeling when I hear, see or feel something’s not quite right.

Here are some things which set off my spider sense:

  • When the nurse says, “This won’t hurt a bit” – **tingle**tingle**
  • When the salesman says, “Sign here. You won’t regret it” – **tingle**tingle**
  • When I see all those 70-year-old-plus Chinese politicians without a single white hair on their heads – **tingle**tingle**
  • When Hong Kong’s former Housing Director retires at the end of his controversial tenure, during which local property developers received generous treatment and made billions of dollars easy profit, and is then almost immediately recruited as a director (on a nice salary, no doubt) by one of those property developers – **tingle**tingle**

Question: What makes your “spider sense” tingle?