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A Walk in Hong Kong's Wan Chai District: Old Post Office, Blue House, Hung Shing Temple, and Pak Tai Temple

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine at a Thai restaurant in Central . After we finished our meal my friend went back to work. Since the weather was quite pleasant that day, I decided to take a walk to Tin Hau . During my walk I took a few pictures of some interesting old buildings in Wan Chai District . Surrounded by modern skyscrapers, these old structures are among the few ones that have withstood the urban development frenzy of the post-war era. Wan Chai In the morning of 26 January 1841 Sir James Bremer of the British Royal Navy, accompanied by army officers and Royal Marines, landed on the north-west part of  Hong Kong , a spot that came to be known as Possession Point  (which is now the site of the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal ). He toasted Queen Victoria and took formal possession of the small island in her name.  Hong Kong had been ceded to the British by the Qing Empire during the First Opium War . London secured the naval base through the  Convention of

Western Values vs Asian Values: Benito Mussolini and Western Collectivism

In two of my earlier posts I talked about the myth of Asian collectivism and Western individualism . In future articles I will examine several aspects of this myth. Here I would like to show an example of Western collectivism, in order to demonstrate that individualism is by no means a 'Western' concept, but simply one of the many values developed in the West over the course of its long history. In fact, a civilisation is never a homogeneous and coherent whole, but a combination of different cultural phenomena. The idea that East Asia is more collectivist than the West is based on the wrong assumption that family ideology , epitomized in the principle of filial piety , is the only true form of collectivism. While it is true that a Confucian-style family ideology never existed in the West, it would be a mistake to overlook the fact that the West developed its own collectivist worldviews and systems of thought. The four most important ones are: Christianity, nationalism, Co

Hong Kong's "Umbrella City"

When I left Hong Kong back in September,  Occupy Central had just begun. I went to Admiralty and Central on the first day of the protests, which was the 28th. The following morning I flew to Taipei.  I was very sad, not only because I was leaving a city which I love more and more each time I return there, but also because I had seen history unfolding before my eyes and yet I was suddenly cut off from those events. While I was sitting on the express train to the airport, I had already made up my mind that I would go back to Hong Kong as soon as possible.  And I was right. What I have seen in Hong Kong over the past few days is amazing, and I feel glad and privileged that I could be part of this historic moment. At least I'll be able to tell my grandchildren that I was here. 

YouBike - Good or Bad for Taipei?

In 2008 Taipei City’s Department of Transportation launched the Taipei Bike Sharing Pilot Program , which evolved into the highly successful YouBike , a bicycle rental project with over 30 million users as of October of this year. I welcome the use of bikes as a cheaper and eco-friendly alternative to scooters and cars. However, I think that the YouBike so far has had a negative impact on Taipei. There are three major problems that need to be addressed: 1) the government has failed to make the population aware of the risks of riding their bikes on sidewalks; 2) as the city lacks an extensive network of bicycle paths, pedestrians now have to share the same, often narrow spaces with a growing number of bikes; 3) YouBike riders are not required by law to purchase an insurance, like scooter and car drivers do. As you can see from the video below, some cyclists (in my experience, the great majority of them) have absolutely no sense of responsibility when riding their

My Pictures of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

Yesterday I arrived in Hong Kong and, despite being extremely tired - I had slept for only one hour and a half in two days -, after leaving my stuff at the hostel I immediately went to see how Occupy Central had transformed the city centre.  However, I was way too exhausted and hungry to go to Central, so I just had a look at the Causeway Bay site of the protest, which is quite close to where I'm currently staying. The 'Occupiers' have by now settled permanently in some limited areas, one of them being a section of  Hennessy Road , formerly a bustling traffic artery, now turned into a sort of 'encampment' with tens, colourful pictures, collages and posters. Actually, Hennessy Road has never been as beautiful as it is today, and the occupation does not seem to affect shops or normal life. The only thing it has affected is traffic, but, well, does Hong Kong really desperately need more cars and pollution?  The atmosphere is quiet right now, and very lit

Customer Service in Taiwan: A Day At Guanghua Digital Plaza

When I lived in Germany many Taiwanese I met there told me that service in Taiwan is much better than in Europe. " The customer is king ," they often said. I heard this opinion so many times that I obviously came to believe it. Since I myself considered service in Germany and Italy - the two countries in Europe where I lived longest - overall pretty bad, I was looking forward to coming to Taiwan and experiencing an entirely new level of customer service. I will write in another post about the myth of Taiwan's customer service. Here I will just share my experience at Guanghua Digital Plaza (光華商場) which is, I believe, the most famous consumer electronics market of the Taiwanese capital.  I'd been thinking about buying a new laptop for quite some time. Today my old one was so slow I could hardly use it, and I decided to buy an "emergency" laptop before purchasing a better one in Europe (if you're wondering, computers in Taiwan are not cheaper than

Why Hong Kong's 'One Country, Two Systems' Was Doomed to Fail

The concept of ' one country, two systems ' is the cornerstone of Beijing's policy towards Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, three areas that remained outside of the control of the People's Republic of China (PRC) after the successful revolution of 1949, but which the Communist state claimed as part of 'China's territory'. In this post, I would like to show how the 'one country, two systems' policy developed, and what contradictions it entailed from the very beginning. We will see how the reaction of the current leadership in Beijing to the ' Occupy Centra l' movement echoes Deng Xiaoping's understanding of 'one country, two systems', and that some of Hong Kong's pan-democrats are wrong when they claim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is betraying Deng's promise to grant the former British colony a high degree of autonomy. Taiwan and Two Systems in One Country After Deng Xiaoping rose to power in the late

The Contradictions of Deng Xiaoping's Thought and Their Impact on China's Development

Deng Xiaoping is rightly considered one of the greatest statesmen in modern Chinese history. His " four modernisations " paved the way for mainland China's astounding economic boom that continues to this day. Deng's policies have realised at least one of the the dreams of the Chinese people: the creation of a strong, independent, modern state. However, Deng Xiaoping's legacy is complex and controversial. It is hard for us to fully grasp the mindset of a man born in 1904, in the poor, weak China of the final years of the Qing dynasty , a man who grew up at a time of violent struggles and revolution, in a world dominated by ideologies that fought each other bitterly, a man who in his early youth in France had joined the ranks of the Chinese Communists. Throughout his life Deng never disavowed his faith in Communism and never repudiated  Mao Zedong  as the undisputed founding father of the People's Republic of China (PRC). This is all the more astounding a

Communist China's Unbearable Propaganda

I think the People's Republic of China (PRC, I consider it a mistake to equate the Communist state with China, so I will just use its official name) deserves to be understood and judged fairly. I have met Chinese who are members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ; many of them are nice, rational, reasonable individuals whom I consider good friends. The CCP has its own logic, and it is fair to try and understand it, to listen to the arguments, opinions and points of view of the Chinese political elite. However, oftentimes the CCP makes it very hard for us to do so. Manipulations and shameless propaganda cannot but anger and embitter even those who would like to have a dialogue with the citizens of the PRC. The CCP does not allow free speech, it cuts off the country from the rest of the world by blocking social networks where intercultural dialogue could and should take place. And, most importantly, its state media engage in a style of propaganda that is nauseating, based on

Wang Dan, a Veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Protests, Writes Open Letter to the Hong Kong Students

June 4, 1989. In the predawn darkness we were forced to evacuate Tiananmen Square. Negotiations with the army were completed. The terms we agreed upon were simple: We should leave before daybreak. A peaceful conclusion to the occupation of this largest of public gathering places in all of China seemed within reach. Helmeted soldiers allowed us to pass through the narrow corridor at the southeast side of the square, all the while pointing their bayonets, as if we were prisoners of war. Army commanders had promised to give the demonstrators an opportunity to disperse.   The process, time-consuming because the crowd was huge, seemed under way. “Fascist!” a female student cursed furiously. Immediately, several soldiers rushed at her and beat her down with the butts of their rifles. Her male comrades hurried to help her back into the march . And thus commenced the last phase of a major confrontation between nonviolent demonstrators led by university students and the armed forces of

Old Houses in Taipei

A while ago I wrote a short post about an old house in Taipei's Roosevelt Road which I'd been often passing by, wondering if it was a building from the Qing Dynasty or from the Japanese era . I thought there weren't many such old houses left in that area, but, while taking long walks around Gongguan, Taipower Building Station, Guting and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall , I found out that I was wrong.  In fact, there are several of them, scattered all around this part of Taipei City. However, they are not very visible, and if you don't look carefully, chances are you won't even notice them. There are three reasons for this. First, they usually stand isolated among modern buildings, sometimes sandwiched between or hidden behind them. Second, they are usually surrounded by high walls. Third, they tend to be so decrepit and neglected that they lose much of their charm.  Just a few days ago, I found a house that might be from the Japanese era. It is so far one of th

Real or Fake News? - Mainland Chinese Boy Pees At Restaurant Inside Taipei 101

On October 19 Apple Daily published an article about a mainland boy who peed in public at the famous restaurant Ding Tai Feng (鼎泰豐, often spelt 'Din Tai Fung') inside Taipei 101.  According to the report, at the beginning of October a group of 5 tourists from China's Shanxi province went to Ding Tai Feng, a chain of restaurants renowned for its xiaolongbao (小籠包, a kind of dumpling). During the meal, a 3-year-old boy had to pee and his mother let him urinate inside a plastic bottle in public. Although there is no toilet inside Ding Tai Feng, there is one just about 100 meters away from the restaurant but still inside Taipei 101. Allegedly, other customers saw that the boy had pulled down his pants to pee and felt shocked. Moreover, the boy 'missed his target' and sprinkled the table and the food.  The group consisted of a 37-year-old mother and her two children, her 73-year-old father and her 41-year-old sister-in-law. They arrived at the restaurant at ar