Friday, March 30, 2012

Malaysian Qing Ming (Chinese All Souls' Day)

The Qing Ming Festival is a Chinese traditional festival, which is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Chinese All Souls' Day. It's usually occured around 5th April of the Gregorian calendar, which is mainly observed and participated by Chinese communities from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

During the Qing Ming festival, all the Chinese families and close relatives will visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors or the loved ones. Traditionally, the elderly and young family members must arrive at the grave sites early in the morning in order to clean and sweep the tombs before the praying ceremonies can be started. The family members will offer some food, tea, wine, incense and joss paper (also known as ghost money or hell bank note) in front of tombs of their ancestors and the departed loved ones. 

Gold and silver joss paper ingots for the ancestors  (Source:

These are some of the hell notes that are commonly used as part of the offerings to the deceased ones  

Chinese communities in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia still continue the ritual and customs by offering and burning spirit money (or hell bank note) and paper replicas of material goods such as luxury cars, bungalows, latest gadgets (i.e. Iphone, Ipad, 3D TV, cable satellite decoder, LCD TV), paper servants, clothing, shoes, bicycle, laptop etc. for their ancestors and the departed loved ones and hoping they would live comfortably and wealthy in the afterlife.

In Chinese culture, it is believed that people still need all of those things in the afterlife. Then family members start take turns to kowtow three to nine times (depending on the family adherence to traditional values) before the tomb of the ancestors. The Kowtowing ritual in front of the grave is performed in the order of patriarchal seniority within the family. After the ancestor worship at the grave site, the whole family feast on the food and drink they brought for the worship either at the site or nearby gardens in the memorial park, signifying family reunion with the ancestors.

You would be surprised to see some of the paper replicas of luxury items such as Ipad and Iphone, which are shown in this video clip. These paper replicas of luxury items are offered and burned for their ancestors and the departed loved ones during Qing Ming festival in Malaysia:

(Source: Diagonal View, Malaysia)

Fit and slim in the afterlife

Photos by GOH GAIK LEE

Wednesday March 14, 2012  Source: The Star, Malaysia


STAYING fit, slim and healthy is not only a concern among the living, but apparently among the dead as well this Qing Ming Festival (Chinese All Souls’ Day).

Getting around in the underworld: Lim comparing the different sizes of car replicas made for Qing Ming festival. (Source: The Star)
Chinese prayer paraphernalia shop owners in Penang have reported an increased demand for paper replicas of full-sized bicycles as well as slimming suits for departed female loved ones who might still be conscious of their figures.

Lim Say Saik, 48, a shop owner in Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, said many customers have bought the paper bike replicas for their departed loved ones, especially for those who loved to cycle when they were alive.

Looks so real: Tourists from Denmark impressed by a paper replica of a bicycle made for the Qing Ming festival. (Source: The Star)
“The bicycle paper replicas are brought in from China because the quality of the ones made locally are not good.

“That is why these replicas are sold at RM138 (US$46) each,” she said, adding that she brought four such replicas for the festival this year and sold two so far.

Other popular items this Qing Ming are replicas of pet dogs placed next to kennels inside a box, which are priced at RM20 (US$7) each.

“Some customers show their filial piety by burning the items as companionship for their departed family members,” Lim said.

Another shop owner G. H. Teh said replicas of slimming suits for women at his shop in Burmah Road were selling like hot cakes.

“Out of 10 customers who visit my shop, seven will buy it for their departed mothers, sisters and aunts.

“The items, which are imported from China, have been selling like hot cakes since last week,” he said.

Well-made: Angeli Choo, 45, a worker at a shop in Burmah Road showing a paper replica of a wheelchair imported from Thailand. (Source: The Star)
Teh also said new models of wheelchair replicas from Thailand were also available.

“The replicas, priced at RM80 (US$27) each, look very much like the genuine ones,” he said.

Qing Ming festival, or also known as Pure Brightness Day and Tomb Sweeping Day, will be celebrated on April 4, 5 or 6.

It is a time for holding memorial ceremonies at the graves of departed loved ones where food and hell money are offered to the dead to keep them happy. 



What? Paper offerings for dog lovers?

Along Lorong 27, Geylang, one shop is helping dog lovers prepare for their afterlife.

Incense shop It Tian Heong has been catering to people who mark Qing Ming for the past 50 years.

This year sees new additions: Dogs, dog food, food dishes and even kennels, all made of paper.

Said shop owner Ang Chee Kiong, 53: "These products are for people to give to their dog-loving late relatives."

He arranged to order the pet materials from a Shanghai manufacturer late last year, following many requests he received from customers over the years.

Mr Ang said: "I didn't see the same demand for other animals."
He doesn't own a dog.

Of the 20 paper dogs he ordered, about half have been sold so far. They sell for $10 each, with breeds like dalmatians and welsh corgis in stock.

He decided against cats, although they were available from the manufacturer. But he does sell cat food. Pet food goes for $5 a pack.

Other Qing Ming offerings include innovations in female costumes like qipao, make-up and accessories; male innovations include Western-style suits.

Check out the iPhone and iPad2 too, retailing for about $4 each.

Another highlight is a paper bungalow, which comes with a car, furniture, air-conditioning, domestic helper, security personnel and a guard dog. Such a bungalow goes for between $20 and $45. The tomb sweeping festival falls on April 4 this year.

Said account executive Sherry Chua, 22, who owns a golden retriever: "I guess it would be comforting for those who believe in the afterlife that their deceased relative can not only be with their human loved ones, but also with their pets whom some treat as surrogate children."

That paper dogs were the latest sacrificial offerings did not surprise student Kamen Ng, 22, who owns a jack russell terrier.

He said: "There are a lot of things people burn nowadays like watches and Louis Vuitton bags. But I'm against burning paper symbols of living things.

"For example, if somebody's grandfather likes his grandchildren, you can't just burn a picture model of those grandchildren."
This article was first published in The New Paper.


Qing Ming for pets, too

By LIM WEY WEN Sunday April 1, 2012  Source: The Star, Malaysia

SEMENYIH: As the number of people treating their pets as family members increases, the Qing Ming Festival has become a time to remember the dead pets, too.

The festival, which falls on April 4 this year, is also called the Chinese All Souls Day and families visit their relatives' graves and columbariums to perform prayers and pay their respects.

Since the Nirvana Pet Memorial Garden in Semenyih opened five years ago, it has become common for people to visit the graves of their dearly departed pets after paying their respects to their relatives and ancestors.

“We have had customers visiting their pets after offering prayers for their family members,” said NV Alliance Sdn Bhd general manager Reeno Kong, whose Shih Tzu Fiffy is buried in the pet cemetery.

Gone but not forgotten: More and more pet owners are visiting the graves of their animals after paying respect to their ancestors and relatives during the Qing Ming Festival. (Source: The Star, Malaysia)

He expects some of the pet owners to visit the cemetery this weekend as the rituals for the Qing Ming Festival can be performed 10 days before the actual day.

While he does not perform similar prayers for Fiffy as he does for his relatives, Kong said some visitors even burned paper replicas for their pets.
“Most use the same type of paper replicas they burn for their departed relatives because there are still not many who want to buy replicas made specifically for their pets,” Kong added.

He said about 40 to 50 pets were buried in the pet cemetery and most of them were dogs.

“However, many pet owners have bought burial plots and our first phase of the cemetery, of about 300 lots, have already been sold out,” he said.
He added that the price of a lot was about RM4,800 (US$1,600) and the package came with burial services.

Since there have also been requests for pet cremation, Kong said his company was studying the possibility of building a columbarium at the pet cemetery.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Virgin Boys' Urine Soaked-Eggs in China

Believe it or Not! This tradition and uniqueness of Chinese egg delicacy can be found in Dongyang, China only. It's also my first time, to know that there is such kind of food delicacy on the earth. Most Chinese in other parts of the world (outside of China) don't practise similar custom of urine-soaking eggs like what the residents in Donyang, China do. We normally soak the hard-boiled eggs in a boiling pot with tea bag or tea leaves which is known as 茶葉蛋 (Cháyè dàn in Mandarin).

Urine-soaked eggs a spring taste treat in China city

DONGYANG, China | Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:40am EDT  Source: Reuters
DONGYANG, China (Reuters) - It's the end of a school day in the eastern Chinese city of Dongyang, and eager parents collect their children after a hectic day of primary school. But that's just the start of busy times for dozens of egg vendors across the city, deep in coastal Zhejiang province, who ready themselves to cook up a unique springtime snack favored by local residents.

Basins and buckets of boys' urine are collected from primary school toilets. It is the key ingredient in "virgin boy eggs", a local tradition of soaking and cooking eggs in the urine of young boys, preferably below the age of 10.
There is no good explanation for why it has to be boys' urine, just that it has been so for centuries.

The scent of these eggs being cooked in pots of urine is unmistakable as people pass the many street vendors in Dongyang who sell it, claiming it has remarkable health properties.

"If you eat this, you will not get heat stroke. These eggs cooked in urine are fragrant," said Ge Yaohua, 51, who owns one of the more popular "virgin boy eggs" stalls.

"They are good for your health. Our family has them for every meal. In Dongyang, every family likes eating them."

It takes nearly an entire day to make these unique eggs, starting off by soaking and then boiling raw eggs in a pot of urine. After that, the shells of the hard-boiled eggs are cracked and they continue to simmer in urine for hours.

Vendors have to keep pouring urine into the pot and controlling the fire to keep the eggs from being overheated and overcooked.

Ge said he has been making the snack, popular due to its fresh and salty taste, for more than 20 years. Each egg goes for 1.50 yuan ($0.24), a little more than twice the price of the regular eggs he also sells.

Many Dongyang residents, young and old, said they believed in the tradition passed on by their ancestors that the eggs decrease body heat, promote better blood circulation and just generally reinvigorate the body.

"By eating these eggs, we will not have any pain in our waists, legs and joints. Also, you will have more energy when you work," said Li Yangzhen, 59, who bought 20 eggs from Ge.

The eggs are not bought only at street stalls. Local residents are also known to personally collect boys' urine from nearby schools to cook the delicacy in their homes.

The popularity of the treat has led the local government to list the "virgin boy eggs" as an intangible cultural heritage.

But not everyone is a fan. Chinese medical experts gave mixed reviews about the health benefits of the practice, with some warning about sanitary issues surrounding the use of urine to cook the eggs.

Some Dongyang residents also said they hated the eggs.

"We have this tradition in Dongyang that these eggs are good for our health and that it would help prevent things like getting a cold," said Wang Junxing, 38. "I don't believe in all this, so I do not eat them."

(Editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Casciato)


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hong Kong Election Tensions with China Government

Over the past one week, there was a strong debate going on over Bloomberg Asia News. The foreign investors were arguing about the pros and cons, to invest either in Hong Kong or Singapore for the financial hub in Asia region. For those who followed the debate and comments about Hong Kong and Singapore from the investors, it's really surprising that both countries have their strong selling points and attractiveness to sell, which are hard to ignore. As the connection and location between Hong Kong and China is close, this has become the main point for the investors to set up business as the base office in Hong Kong. However, Singapore promotes its country as clean environment (free from pollution), cheaper property costs and lower living expenses than in Hong Kong.

I think, this year's Hong Kong Chief Executive election will create a lot of news attention as the newly elected Chief Executive (will be announced on 25th March 2012) needs to work harder to win Hong Kongers' trusts in improving the living standard among the poor and middle classes as well as to control the costs of over rising property, which becomes unaffordable for the people to buy in Hong Kong. On top of that, the newly elected Chief Executive has to convince the investors about the healthy growth and stability of the country in order to keep investing in Hong Kong as the financial hub in Asia region.

Similarly, it will become more interesting to watch out for the debates on how to improve the U.S. economy and poverty gap, between Democratic and Republican Parties during the U.S. Presidential Campaign 2012.

Hong Kong Middle Class Bitter as Tycoons Choose Leaders

Stephen Chung gave up on buying an apartment in Hong Kong after realizing it would take him 10 years to save the $115,000 deposit for a two-bedroom box in the northern part of the former British colony. He isn’t expecting any help from the city’s next leader.

“In this place there are only two kinds of people -- those who can afford to buy a home and all the good stuff, and those who can’t,” said Chung, 25, who quit his advertising job last year to start a tourism firm. “There’s no more middle class.”

Hong Kong Middle Class Backlash Fed by Tycoons Chosing Le
People look at the illuminated night skyline in Hong Kong, China. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg 

Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang
Leung Chun-ying, left, and Henry Tang during a chief executive candidates' forum in Hong Kong on March 16, 2012. Source: Sing Tao/AFP/Getty Images 

Hong Kong Chief Executive Candidate Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying, a candidate in Hong Kong’s chief executive election on March 25. Photographer: Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images 

Chung’s bitterness reflects a broader disillusionment with the city’s leadership ahead of a March 25 election, which will see a 1,193-member committee of billionaires, businessmen, lawmakers and academics choose a new chief executive for the next five years. While China’s tacit approval is seen as necessary to win, the campaign -- with two candidates dogged by personal scandal and conflict of interest allegations -- has exacerbated public discontent over collusion between business and politics and fueled accusations that leaders are out of touch with regular people.

The new chief executive will inherit a city with the biggest wealth gap in Asia, which has been spawned by an influx of money from mainland China and eight years of rising property prices that have made Hong Kong the world’s most expensive place to buy a home. At stake is the city’s ability to maintain its status as the best place to do business and as a gateway to the world’s fastest-growing region, as the new leader tries to balance China’s demands for stability with the aspirations of Hong Kong’s 7.1 million residents.

‘Lack of Accountability’

“The lack of accountability in Hong Kong probably increases the disaffection of the electorate,” said Razeen Sally, visiting associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.“Beijing should be pragmatic enough to take account of the concerns of the Hong Kong people, which are real and are voiced regularly, if it doesn’t want to incite some kind of backlash.”

While the economy has grown 62 percent since the handover of British rule in 1997, median monthly household incomeremained unchanged at HK$20,000 ($2,576). London-based Savills Plc (SVS) said the price of an apartment in Hong Kong is almost two times higher than in London, which placed second on the property broker’s list of most expensive places to buy a home.

Policeman’s Son

Even though most Hong Kong residents won’t get to choose the next leader until universal suffrage is introduced in 2017, the candidates have directed their campaign messages at the issues that most irk them. Henry Tang, the city’s former chief secretary, said in a March 8 interview he will expand public housing by a further 60 percent in five years, spend HK$6 billion more annually on schools, and create 100,000 jobs for the middle class if he wins.

“The middle class has been squeezed,” said Tang, 59.“Every government in the western world is reexamining its role in the market place. I would say government can be more proactive.”

The election pits Tang, the son of a textile tycoon, against Leung Chun-ying, the son of a policeman and the popular choice in opinion polls. Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho is also running.

The University of Hong Kong is running an alternative poll, allowing all residents to cast votes in a mock election by smartphone, at polling booths and online. The project’s computer server crashed at around 7 a.m. today in a second suspected cyber-attack, said Joyce Chan, a research executive at the university project. Two days ago, the site experienced a million hits a second, overloading the computer system.

Polling Booths

“We are encouraging people to use the polling booths, which are not affected,” Chan said.

Leung, 57, was backed by 43 percent of respondents in a poll of 957 people published March 16 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Tang got 18 percent support. Two-thirds of the respondents in a Feb. 23 poll published by the South China Morning Post said Tang should quit the race after he admitted to knowledge of a basement built illegally by his wife.

“The election isn’t really about public opinion,” said James To, a Democratic Party lawmaker. “It’s about what the establishment want. But Henry is still wary about how the public view him because, if he’s elected, it’ll be difficult to govern with such low popularity.”

China’s Leadership Woes

China, which is undergoing its own leadership transition later this year, hasn’t formally indicated its preference. Its rulers, who have their own leadership troubles with the ouster of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai last week, have signaled concern over the prospect of growing unrest in Hong Kong.

“We have to have the confidence that Hong Kong people can manage Hong Kong well,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at a March 14 press conference. “Hong Kong must continue to work hard, to develop the economy, improve people’s lives, advance democracy and maintain social harmony.”

Thousands took to the streets March 3 to demand that current Chief Executive Donald Tsang resign after it emerged he had taken trips on yachts and planes of his tycoon friends. Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa resigned after half a million people protested in 2003 against a proposed anti-subversion law they feared would curtail personal freedoms.

‘Slow Us Down’

“All the things that have been happening over the last few weeks will unfortunately slow us down in tackling the real dividing issues,” said Bernard Chan, President of Hong Kong-based Asia Financial Holdings Ltd. (662) and a member of the election committee. “Whoever wins this Sunday will have a very difficult time even getting started.”

Leung may have won the backing of China. Officials at Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong have been calling committee members to encourage them to vote for Leung, the city’s public radio station RTHK reported March 20, citing James Tien, the honorary chairman of the Liberal Party. Liu Yandong, a member of China’s Politburo, has met Hong Kong businessmen to persuade them to vote for Leung, the local Sing Tao Daily reported the same day, without citing anyone.

Electric Cars

Leung has pledged to build more public housing, increase land supply and provide tax-breaks to help residents buy their own homes. He also promised to speed up public projects like expanding the city railway system and encourage the use of electric and hybrid cars.

Leung has not been free of scandal. The city’s Legislative Council is investigating claims he had a conflict of interest in helping select an arts hub in the city in 2002. Leung, a former adviser to chief executives Tsang and Tung, has denied any wrongdoing.

The city’s next leader, who takes office July 1, will have to navigate growing tensions between Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese. Tour operator Chung embodies the ambivalence of his fellow Hong Kongers: While some of the customers who buy his Secret Hong Kong packages are mainland Chinese, he blames the influx of money from the mainland for pushing up property prices and forcing him to put his plan to buy a 600-square-foot apartment on hold.

‘Not Healthy’

“Our whole economy relies on Chinese tourists,” said Chung, whose company organizes tours in Hong Kong. “This is not healthy.”

The tensions have spilled into the open. An advertisement placed Feb. 1 in the local Apple Daily newspaper, controlled by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, portrayed mainland Chinese mothers who entered Hong Kong to give birth in local hospitals as locusts for sucking up the city’s resources. The number of births in the city almost doubled in the decade to 2010, thanks to 232,536 babies born to mainland mothers, according to the city’s Census and Statistics Department.

Kong Qingdong, a professor at Peking University, called Hong Kong residents “dogs” on a television talk-show, in reference to the city’s colonial history and the use of Cantonese, instead of Mandarin, by its residents.

The economic pressures buffeting Hong Kong’s leaders echo those across the region, where voters elected an opposition party in Thailand that gets its support from the nation’s poor and in Singapore where the ruling party last year won its smallest majority since independence in 1965.

Dollar Peg

The discontent in Hong Kong “fits a broader pattern in the region,” said the National University of Singapore’s Sally.“The smaller economies that are highly dependent on the world economy, those with very high trade to GDP ratios, are seeing much wider income gaps in the last 10 to 15 years or so. Globalization has impacted them much harder than elsewhere.”

Hong Kong has limited tools to rein in inflation, which averaged 5.3 percent last year and has hurt the poor. With the local currency pegged to the dollar, the city takes its cue on monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has keptinterest rates at close to zero since December 2008. Tang said in the March 8 interview that it wasn’t in the interest of Hong Kong to depeg from the U.S. currency.

Closer ties with China have been a mainstay of Tsang’s policies, as he pushed for a 72.9 billion yuan ($11.5 billion) bridge to the mainland and Macau, and encouraged Hong Kong to become the country’s offshore yuan center. Still, the city’s economy was surpassed in size last year for a second year by Singapore, which competes with Hong Kong for financial talent.

Pollution Levels

A deterrent for executives considering a move to Hong Kong is the city’s pollution levels, which causes more than 3,000 premature deaths a year, according to Civic Exchange. The research group said in a statement on Jan. 12 that 49.26 million doctor visits “can be attributed to Hong Kong’s persistently poor air quality” during Tsang’s term of office from 2005.

Hong Kong’s low corporate tax rate of 16.5 percent, compared with the U.S.’s 35 percent, is one of the sweeteners that have attracted international firms and helped ensure that 15 years after its return to China the city has retained its status as a financial hub. HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) is one of the financial titans listed on its stock exchange and Gap Inc. (GPS) is among global retail outlets attracted by Chinese visitors to Hong Kong.

Best for Business

Data compiled by Bloomberg show Hong Kong’s free-market policies and low corporate taxes make it the best place to do business. The city, which serves as the main gateway to China, placed top in the Bloomberg Rankings index based on six factors, including the degree of economic integration and the costs of setting up business. The Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K. andAustralia occupied the next four slots.

“With Hong Kong, compared to Singapore, the connection with China is much closer,” said Richard Vuylsteke, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong has evolved from the gateway to China to the gateway out of China for Chinese companies and their investment. Western companies are using it as a base, so are Chinese companies.”

Chung isn’t convinced of the advantages of growing mainland influence on Hong Kong’s economy. It doesn’t matter who gets elected because not much will change, he said.

“The problem lies in the system, the system that relies too much on the mainland,” he said.



Hong Kong's elite vote for city's next leader

Leung Chun-ying is seen as the preferred choice in a poll that involves a small number of successful business leaders.
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2012 01:50  Source: Aljazeera English

Activists who see the poll as an elitist process have been protesting the vote [Reuters] 
An election committee of 1,200 Hong Kong notables is voting on Sunday for the city's next leader, as pro-democracy activists rallied outside, in the hardest fought election since the handover to Chinese rule.

Leaders of the regional financial hub's business, labour and political communities convened the 1,200-member election committee that is responsible for selecting a replacement for outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang.

The vast majority of Hong Kong's seven million residents have no right to vote in the "small circle" poll, according to the One Country, Two Systems arrangement by which China has ruled the former British colony since 1997.

Hundreds of pro-democracy activists packed the streets around the harbourside convention centre where the committee meeting was taking place, shouting slogans demanding "direct elections".

Former government adviser Leung Chun-ying, 57, is tipped to win an overall majority after his campaign was boosted by the last-minute support of the city's biggest pro-Beijing party.

His main rival, former businessman Henry Tang, 59, on Saturday dismissed reports that he was considering bowing out of the race.

Initially seen as Beijing's preferred choice for the job, his gaffe-ridden campaign disappointed his backers among the city's powerful tycoons and saw his public approval ratings plunge below 20 percent.

Polling opened at 9am (0100 GMT) and results are expected around 12.30pm (0430 GMT), officials said.

Election committee members, which include Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing who backs Tang, will cast their vote through paper ballots.

A second vote will be held later on Sunday if the first fails to produce a clear winner. If that fails, a fresh election will be scheduled for May.



Hong Kong's race at the top ignites democratic desires

22 March 2012 Last updated at 21:11 ET

In an airy auditorium at Fung Kai Number One Secondary School in Hong Kong, about 900 students sat and listened as one of their teachers gave them a civics lesson.

The right to select their next leader is a key part of citizenship, they heard, as photos were shown of the three men running to become the city's next chief executive.

After the lecture, the students returned to their classrooms, where everyone took turns using computers to cast votes for the three candidates - Henry Tang, CY Leung or Albert Ho - as part of a city-wide mock election.

Hong Kong residents do not yet have the right to directly select their top official, but the desire for universal suffrage is strong, according to students and teachers at Fung Kai, one of the biggest schools in Hong Kong. 

Eunice Leung, 16, is sharply critical of the current system, in which fewer than 1,200 electors largely loyal to Beijing will choose the Chinese city's top official on 25 March.

"They are given the right to choose the chief executive, but the decision they are going to make cannot represent all Hong Kong people. That's why it is a very unfair election," she said, after casting her vote.

Though it was meant to be a secret ballot, Ms Leung revealed she voted for Mr Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party, whose main platform is universal suffrage.
Because of his outspoken pro-democracy stance, Mr Ho is widely seen as being unacceptable to Beijing.

His two rivals are more familiar to the establishment.

Two systems

When Hong Kong rejoined China in 1997 after 150 years as a British colony, certain rights and freedoms not granted on the mainland were guaranteed here. 

Students at Fung Kai Number One Secondary School  
Students at Fung Kai Number One Secondary School cast mock votes for candidates (Source: BBC News)

Among them was the right to elect the chief executive, a position roughly equivalent to mayor of Hong Kong, China's most international city and a global financial powerhouse.

But Beijing has dragged its heels on actually giving Hong Kong citizens that right.
Robert Chung, an influential pollster who organised the city-wide popular vote, said the desire for universal suffrage has been whipped up even more by a series of embarrassing scandals revealed during two months of campaigning.

"As it turns out, the election is getting more and more exciting. The candidates themselves are really trying to face the general public to gain support," he said.
Even though the candidates are not elected directly, they must win some level of popular support.

Otherwise, people may take to the streets to protest against a deeply disliked leader foisted on them, as they did in 2003, creating a crisis for Beijing.

While Hong Kong may lack some of the rights and institutions guaranteed in a democratic system, it does have a lively, free-wheeling press as competitive as any in the West.

In February, an enterprising Chinese-language newspaper published what it said were details of an enormous and illegal luxury basement belonging to the family of Henry Tang, one of the three contenders.

The news eventually set off a media frenzy, rare even for Hong Kong.
The candidate denied the accusations for days before finally confessing in an emotional press conference, where he blamed his wife.

"I apologise to the people of Hong Kong," the then-frontrunner said, adding he hoped the public would give him another chance.

Mr Tang, who had trailed the more populist Mr Leung in opinion polls, saw his public approval ratings sink further.

While "basement-gate" was probably the most memorable scandal uncovered by the media, Mr Leung has also been targeted.

Newspapers reported that some of his aides had attended a dinner in which a well-known gangster was present, leading to charges of triad involvement in politics.

Mr Leung has denied those charges.

More protests?

What was meant to be a carefully choreographed leadership race has been upended by Hong Kong media.

From left: CY Leung, Henry Tang and Albert Ho  
CY Leung, left, Henry Tang and Albert Ho are running for chief executive in Hong Kong (source: BBC News)

The outcome of Sunday's election appears uncertain. 

Some lawmakers have said that Beijing is now actively lobbying for the relatively more popular Mr Leung instead of Mr Tang, the previous favourite.

But election committee members have also been urged to cast blank votes to protest against the unprecedented mudslinging, amid concerns none of the three candidates are fit to run Hong Kong.

Several political parties and dozens of civic groups have vowed to take to the streets on Sunday to challenge what they call a "small circle election" decided by Beijing and the tycoons loyal to China.

Thousands of people are expected to take part.

The students at Fung Kai secondary school follow the news with interest. Ms Leung, the 16-year-old student, said she did not trust Mr Tang and Mr Leung because of the scandals that came to light.

"I think our future leader should have some important qualities. He should be honest. As you know, honesty is the best policy," she said. 

Beijing has said it may allow Hong Kong citizens to choose their chief executive in 2017.

If that happens, then some of the students at Fung Kai will have the right to vote by the time they graduate. 


Hong Kong paper runs ad insulting mainland 'locusts'

A group of Hong Kongers published a newspaper ad Wednesday insulting mainland Chinese as "locusts", amid seething resentment over rising mainland influence in the southern city.

The full-page advertisement in the widely-read Apple Daily also demanded the government take action to stop the "infiltration" of mainlanders into the former British colony.

It features an enormous locust overlooking Hong Kong's iconic skyline with the words "Hong Kongers have had enough!" and "This city is dying, you know?"

Online group Golden Forum funded the page-11 ad with donations from users of its Internet chat service.

The group "strongly demands... a stop to the unlimited infiltration of mainland Chinese couples into Hong Kong," it said in the ad, referring to the thousands of mainland women who come to Hong Kong to give birth every year.

Many Hong Kongers also dislike the shadowy role that Beijing plays in local politics, along with the flashy displays of wealth by mainland Chinese tourists who are coming to the city in increasing numbers to splurge on luxury goods.

Last month Italian clothing chain Dolce & Gabbana apologised to the people of Hong Kong for allegedly discriminating against them in favour of wealthy mainland shoppers.

The upmarket clothing chain had faced weeks of angry protests at its showcase Hong Kong store after a security guard allegedly told local people that only mainlanders were allowed to take photographs there.

In a similar vein, an audio file uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday claims to expose health and beauty products retailer Mannings for discriminating against locals in a sale of baby formula.

A shop assistant is heard telling a local woman that the sale is only available to people with mainland Chinese passports. A Facebook page calling for a boycott of Mannings already has 133 "likes".

"How can stores in our own Hong Kong discriminate against us... this is spread of hate mentality," reads a comment on the YouTube clip.

Over 100,000 people have "liked" a Facebook page dedicated to forcing the government to stop mainland Chinese women from giving birth in the city.

Local women have taken to the streets in protest at shortages of beds and soaring maternity costs.

"Officials are to blame for this mess that impacts each and every Hong Konger. Shame on them!" reads one comment on the Facebook page.

The "Anti-Locusts" campaign follows remarks by a Chinese professor in January calling locals of the former British colony "bastards", "dogs" and "cheats".

Kong Qingdong said Hong Kong people were "used to being the dogs of British colonialists -- they are dogs, not humans".

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the One Country Two Systems arrangement giving it limited autonomy and enjoys civil freedoms not seen on the mainland.

The professor was furious at a video that went viral online showing Hong Kongers scolding a mainland girl for flouting rules against eating on the city's subway trains.

A recent survey found that more than 79 percent of Hong Kong people identified themselves as Hong Kongers instead of Chinese. More identified themselves as "Asians" than as citizens of the People's Republic of China.

A senior central government official criticised the University of Hong Kong's poll as "illogical", saying respondents should have been asked if they saw themselves as "British citizens" or "Chinese citizens".


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Secrets to Healthy & Youthfulness

This post is continued from my previous related post; Top 10 Countries with Longevity.

The residents in Okinawa, Japan share some tips and guidelines in order to stay healthy and youthfulness in the article as below.. To recap from my earlier post, staying healthy is very important to you and your family thus, it's crucial that you should emphasize healthy lifestyle:
  • To consume more vegetable and fruit than meat each day. It's suggested to consume more home cooked food in order to maintain low calories and to cut down from taking too much fatty, salty and oily food. 
  • Daily exercising such as walking around neighbourhood for about 30 minutes per day.  
  • Avoid excessive liquor and smoking as well as to prevent from taking too much of junk food, fast food, sweet dessert and cake including soft drink.
  • Coping well with stress also helps to reduce the risk of health problems.

How to live over a hundred and still be in the pink of health?

Text and images by Catherine Ling @ Makansutra
How to live over a hundred and still be in the pink of health? The elderly proprietors of Emi no Mise eatery at Ogimi Village love to dance away their worries

Okinawans are among the world’s longest-lived people. They have the highest number of centenarians and it’s almost inspiring how most of them are active, alert and not stuck in some wheelchair. Cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease is almost unheard of in the elderly. Instead, these sprightly seniors are plucking fruit, making pottery and farming their own vegetables.

Part of their longevity is attributed to their diet and philosophy of “nuchi gusui” or “let food be your medicine”. They treat their food as a source of healing power. The food combines influences from China, Japan, Korea, and even South-east Asia.

It’s a diet that’s largely plant-based, low in fat, salt and sugar. You’ll see that it is almost frugal. But despite being low-calorie, the food is quite filling and nutrient-dense.

More greens less meat
There is a focus on whole grains, vegetables and soy, which provide flavonols, isoflavones and bioflavonoids (powerful compounds that help prevent cancer). They emphasize the right amount of protein (just 10%), usually fish rich in omega-3 oils. Meat (notably pork) is consumed, but in limited quantities and most often during festivals.

“Kuten gwa” – to eat little portions of many different foods – is the other guiding principle for eating. This helps them net a good variety of nutrients.

How to live over a hundred and still be in the pink of health?Bittergourd stir-fried with carrots, onions and egg  

Add colour to your veggie palate
The wide range of ingredients they like include “goya” or bittergourd, one of Okinawa’s signature vegetables. It is often stir-fried with egg and other vegetables. Dark leafy greens and yellow-orange vegetables not only add more carotenoids and antioxidants, but also help to make the dish more colourful and pleasing to the eye.

Interestingly, papaya is eaten as a vegetable, not a fruit. It is often included as part of a “champuru” (mixed stir-fry).

They also love ucchin or turmeric, which has medicinal and antioxidant properties. Pickled turmeric is served with rice, and turmeric is also used to marinate seafood.

Shikuwasa (an Okinawan lime much like calamansi) provides a big boost of Vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes like beni-imo and satsuma-imo provide fibre, minerals, calcium, potassium and essential vitamins. Rice is eaten in smaller portions than they are in mainland Japan.
Given that Okinawa is surrounded by sea, they eat quite a lot of sea vegetables (rich in iron, folate, magnesium and lignan, a cancer-fighting phytoestrogen).

Dairy is not a traditional food; they get their calcium from leafy greens, soy products and seaweed.

How to live over a hundred and still be in the pink of health? Seaweed is an integral part of the Okinawan diet 

Don’t stuff yourself
The Okinawans also practise “Hara hachi bu” or eating until you are 80% full. This makes sense because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to register that it is full. You would have eaten just enough if you had stopped before you felt full.

Don’t Worry Be Happy
Of course, plenty of other factors contribute to longevity such as exercise, optimism, good preventive healthcare, and strong community support. But the right kind of food is still what nourishes them and keeps Okinawans healthy and happy. Every meal is a cause for celebration – they eat mindfully, and joyfully. “Nan kuru nai sai” – don’t worry, be happy, they often say. That, along with their healthy diet practices, is surely worth emulating.



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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Top 10 Countries with Longevity

Earlier, when I was staying in Malaysia, I never took health seriously. I didn't care much about the way I eat and the way I live until I moved to the United States of America and begin to see the danger of health problems among the Americans who suffer from obesity, cancer diseases, high blood pressure and diabetics due to highly consumption of junk food, fast food, processed food and soft drink.

In order to stay healthy, you should emphasize healthy lifestyle:
  • To consume more vegetable and fruits than meat each day. It's suggested to consume more home cooked food in order to maintain low calories and to cut down from taking too much of fatty, salty and oily food.
  • Daily exercising such as walking around neighbourhood for about 30 minutes per day.  
  • Avoid excessive liquor and smoking as well as to prevent from taking too much of junk food, fast food, sweet dessert and cake including soft drink.
  • Coping well with stress also helps to reduce the risk of health problems.

Top 10 Hotspots for Human Longevity

In 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León set sail in search of Bimini, a mythical land said to house a spring that restored youth to anyone who drank from it. After scouring the Caribbean and Florida, he returned empty-handed, and the Fountain of Youth remained undiscovered. Perhaps he was just looking in the wrong place.

As part of their data collection for the World Factbook, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) combs through death certificates, recording race, gender, cause of death, and other factors to estimate the life expectancy of a nation's entire population. Calculating the average life expectancy of the world's total population at 67.59 years, the CIA has determined which societies live longer.

In the United states, average life expectancy is 78.49 years, well above the world's norm. Many experts attribute this to ongoing medical developments, which have dealt with conditions that used to mow us down early. Meanwhile, nations without advanced medical care report a much shorter life expectancy. For instance, citizens of the Republic of Chad in central Africa are only expected to live until their late 40s.

Despite the fact that the average American lives into his or her late 70s, the United States ranks 50th on the CIA's life expectancy list. According to the World Factbook, these 10 nations seem to have discovered the secret to longevity--no magical spring water required.

10. Italy
Average Life Expectancy: 81.86 years
Italians live an average of 3.37 years longer than Americans. Many experts draw a connection between their longevity and diet--which is more than just pasta, meat, and cheese. The Mediterranean diet is credited with lowering the risk for all sorts of diseases. The antioxidants found in olive oil and red wine--two key features of an Italian meal--can improve cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and stave off heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Italians also rely on spices like basil, oregano, and garlic to flavor their cuisine, while Americans depend heavily on salt. As such, Italians improve their odds against high blood pressure and stroke.

9. Australia
Average Life Expectancy: 81.90 years
Australia's long life expectancy can be attributed to several factors, including relatively low smoking and obesity rates, as well as an active lifestyle enjoyed by its citizens. But many Australian medical experts insist that the secret to Aussies' longevity is universal healthcare. While the ability to obtain healthcare in the United States depends heavily on employment status and personal wealth, Australians have access to necessary care no matter how much they make. That said, Aussies shouldn't get too comfortable; the obesity rate is steadily climbing, which could undercut their longevity in years ahead.

8. Hong Kong
Average Life Expectancy: 82.12 years
Hong Kongers can expect to live nearly four years longer than Americans. Like Italians, people from Hong Kong can partly attribute their longer lives to their diet--rice, vegetables, and tofu are staples--and active lifestyle. Hong Kong reports a much lower obesity level than the United States does, as well as fewer instances of obesity-related health conditions, like diabetes.

7. Guernsey
Average Life Expectancy: 82.24 years
This small island in the English Channel is not a member of the United Kingdom or the European Union, despite being a British crown dependency. Its independence means Guernsey has not been affected by its neighbors' flailing economies. How does this tie into the long life expectancies of Channel Islanders? One theory: Guernsey residents live longer because they are wealthy, which affords them above-average healthcare and better nutrition. Channel Islanders are well-off, thanks to Guernsey's extremely low tax rates and high-paying jobs.

6. Andorra
Average Life Expectancy: 82.50 years
Several factors may explain why Andorrans outlive residents of other countries. First, this tiny nation, sandwiched between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, promotes an active, outdoor lifestyle. Residents have easy access to hiking trails and ski resorts, while clean and well-maintained parks are often used for friendly games of soccer and rugby. Its citizens spend lots of time outside, which experts say can lower stress levels and consequently, cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure. Secondly, the CIA states that 100 percent of Andorra's population is educated. High education levels account for Andorra's extremely low unemployment rate. This means most Andorrans can afford high-quality nutrition and healthcare.

5. San Marino
Average Life Expectancy: 83.07 years
Europe's third smallest state--behind Vatican City and Monaco--and the world's oldest republic has a life expectancy that trumps the United States by 4.5 years. Money plays a major role here, as it does in both Guernsey and Andorra, but another key ingredient could be the nation's work environment. This enclave on the Italian peninsula didn't rake in its riches through manual labor. San Marino's primary industries are banking and tourism, with the majority of the Sammarinese working in office settings. This drastically reduces the number of work-related deaths--a big problem elsewhere.

4. Singapore
Average Life Expectancy: 83.75 years
A sound diet and a clean environment contribute to the longevity exhibited by the population of this fast-paced city-state, located on the southern edge of the Malay Peninsula. Like in Hong Kong, Singapore's cuisine centers on rice and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients that help keep residents healthy and active. Singapore's government also enforces a strict code of cleanliness--such as heavily restricted smoking areas--to ensure that all residents live in healthy surroundings. Interestingly, back in the 1980s, the government recognized that the nation's population was aging steadily, and with careful planning, Singapore now features excellent healthcare facilities and programs for the elderly.

3. Japan
Average Life Expectancy: 83.91 years
Japan boasts an impressive obesity rate: 3.1 percent compared with 33.9 percent in the United States. Much of the credit is owed to the Japanese diet, which revolves around fresh vegetables, rice, and most importantly, fish. Fresh fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids encourage healthy brain function, helping prevent diseases like Alzheimer's. The Japanese also make healthier lifestyle choices: They tend to walk more and not overeat.

2. Macau
Average Life Expectancy: 84.43 years
Like several other nations on this list, Macau can attribute its high life expectancy, at least somewhat, to its fruitful economy. But why this tiny nation in the South China Sea is so prosperous might surprise you: Gambling is its main source of revenue, and 70 percent of the money generated on the casino floor is reportedly invested by the Macau government in public healthcare. The island boasts a variety of casinos, many of which are owned by the same bigwigs who gave Las Vegas its "Sin City" reputation. In January 2012, Macau welcomed 2,461,640 visitors looking to test Lady Luck.

1. Monaco
Average Life Expectancy: 89.68 years
Residents of Monaco live, on average, 5.25 years longer than the second longest-living nation, Macau; that's approximately a decade longer than the average American. Monaco shares several aspects with other long-living nations, including an abundance of wealth and state-funded healthcare. Monaco residents also live on a Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a reduced risk for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. But many say it's Monaco's relaxing atmosphere that keeps residents hanging on until a ripe old age. Its location along the Mediterranean Sea and clean environment do their part to reduce stress, which can lower immunity and contribute to cardiovascular diseases. Maybe Ponce de León should have stayed closer to home in his search for the Fountain of Youth.


Red meat: What is a 13% increase in the risk of death?    
By Ruth Alexander 16 March 2012 Last updated at 07:11 ET   Source: BBC News 

Eating an extra portion of red meat every day will increase your risk of death by 13% annually, according to a new study. It sounds scary - but is it? 
(Photo: BBC News) 

Harvard Medical School researchers have concluded that a diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy.

They studied the diets and health of more than 120,000 people over the course of more than 20 years and found that red meat is associated with an increased risk of fatal heart disease and terminal cancer.

Over the study period, an extra portion of unprocessed red meat was associated with an overall 13% increased risk of death annually (and the figure for processed meat was even higher).

But what does this mean?

The easiest way to understand it is to think of how this might affect two friends who live very similar lives, according to David Spiegelhalter, a Cambridge University biostatistician, and the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.

Imagine that the two friends are men aged 40, who are the same weight, do the same amount of exercise and do the same job.

The only difference between them is that one eats an extra portion of red meat every day - an extra 85g, or 3oz.

"Let's say that every work lunchtime one of them had a hamburger and the other didn't.

"What the study found is that the one who likes the meat had a 13% extra risk of dying. They're both going to die in the end, but one has got this extra annual risk of dying."

But what does that extra risk amount to in practice - for these two average people? The paper doesn't say.

Spiegelhalter has been working it out.

"The person who eats more meat is expected to live one year less than the person who doesn't eat so much meat. You'd expect the 40-year-old who does eat the extra meat to live, on average, another 39 years, up to age 79, and the person who doesn't eat so much meat, you'd expect him to live until age 80."

So all those headlines, and it turns out we are talking about whether you might live to age 79 or 80.

Maybe you feel willing to sacrifice that year in order to enjoy a life full of roast beef and steak sandwiches.

But Spiegelhalter says there is another way to look at the statistics, which might make the issue seem more urgent. That one year off the life of this 40-year-old hypothetical burger eater is equivalent to losing half an hour a day.

"On average, when he's sitting eating his extra burger, that person is losing half an hour of life because of that meal. On average, it's equivalent - scaled up over a lifetime - to smoking two cigarettes a day, which is about half an hour off your life.

"Or, it's equivalent to being a bit overweight - about 5kg overweight - which I am, so I'm losing, on average, every day, half an hour off my life expectancy."

Which is why Spiegelhalter had just been out for a run when he spoke to the BBC. (And perhaps why he became the first OBE to take part in BBC Television's Winter Wipeout assault course challenge.) Tasty, but too many of these could shorten your life

So, that's the numbers explained. But should we really believe the findings of this study?

Does eating red meat and processed meat cause cancer and cardiovascular disease and shorten life? Well, no we can't say there's cause and effect here.

All that can be said is that there appears to be a strong correlation between eating this kind of meat and having these health problems.

So another question springs to mind - could eating red meat just be perfectly healthy in itself, but correlated with some hidden health risk?

The researchers at Harvard couldn't run a randomised controlled trial where half the participants ate burgers for two decades and the other half didn't, but they could use statistical techniques as the next best thing.

They statistically controlled for a wide number of other potential risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, calorie intake, activity levels, and family history of cancer. The link between red meat and cancer may still be a coincidence - as there may be other factors the researchers haven't controlled for - but they have certainly tried to rule out confounding factors.

In addition, Spiegelhalter points to the fact these findings chime with those of other studies.

Personally, he is going to eat more fish in the future and think of red meat as a treat. But, in the same breath, he confessed to be harbouring some tasty looking sausages in his freezer.


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