Monthly Archives: September 2013

High derailment risk for PRC-made South Rail trains

Source: Sharp Daily

Left: The axlebox (left circle) and the gearbox(right circle) used on the SIL trains.  Right: the axlebox as viewed from the side of the train. (Source: Sharp Daily)

Note: My personal interpretation of the events is that the trains Changchun delivered do not match the specifications it originally told the MTRC, which is why they won’t fit in the tunnels.  If so, the MTRC should definitely sue for its losses.  But that’s the risk you take when working with the Chinese: the standards there are lower.

The Hong Kong Government has a 76% majority stake in the MTRC, according to Wikipedia.

(Sharp Daily) The MTRC’s South Island Line has been hit with a safety scandal, as Apple Daily has obtained company documents showing design flaws in its new China-manufactured driverless trains, leading to a risk of the vehicle hitting the edge of the tube and causing a potentially fatal derailment.  The report states that the MTRC is trying to rectify the mistake, and that a delayed opening of the line could cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.  The MTRC denied that there was any safety problems and stressed that the South Island Line would be completed within budget and on time, entering operations in two years.

The MTRC had in 2011 ordered 10 driverless trains from China’s Changchun Railway Vehicles Company for use on the South Island Line (SIL), at a cost of 541 million Hong Kong dollars.  Internal MTRC documents show that parts of the train, including the axlebox and gearbox, exceed the maximum allowable kinematic envelope (KE), the outline of the space occupied by a rail vehicle when in motion.  KE calculations are designed to ensure that the train never hits its surroundings under any conditions; however, the report reveals that the SIL trains exceed the KE requirement by 25.8mm for the gearbox and 46.8mm for the axlebox.

A senior engineer said that the KE “is absolutely critical to train safety.  Any collision could result in a derailment.”  The protruding axlebox could potentially strike the tube’s electrical, signalling, or other installations, while the gearbox could strike debris on the track.  The gearbox could also affect operations by collecting water.

The engineer stated that the as the above errors are inexcusable as they endanger public safety.  However, he/she also admitted that repairs would be extremely difficult, as basic work on some sections of the track has already been completed.  If the design of the offending train parts were to be changed, “it would be equivalent to redesigning the entire train, involving a repeat of the entire testing process,” which would usually take three years.  It is reported that an MTRC engineer proposed relaxing the KE safety requirements to allow the train to operate, but the proposal was shot down this month by Chief Electrical & Mechanical Engineer Leung Chi-Lap, and a solution to the problem has yet to be found.

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TV recommendation: The Legend of Korra

Here are some quotes from the latest episode of The Legend of Korra.  People familiar with the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997 will find familiarity in these phrases:

Korra: I understand why you brought your troops here, but I’m afraid it’s sending the wrong message.
Unalaq: Your father has been talking to you.
Korra: Not just him, Varrick too. There was a meeting at my parents’ house. A lot of Southerners feel like their tribe is being invaded.
Unalaq: I am their chief. I am uniting, not invading.

The People's Liberation Army entering Hong Kong for the first time in 1997.  For "unity", not invasion, of course.

The People’s Liberation Army entering Hong Kong for the first time in 1997. For “unity”, not invasion, of course.

Unalaq: As the Avatar you must remain neutral in this conflict. You will naturally want to help your people, but showing favoritism will not help our tribes find unity.

[Korra rides in as a fight is about to break out]
Korra: Stop!
Southerner: Tell these thugs to go back to the North. They’re not welcome here anymore!
Northern soldier: These Southerners need to stay in line!
Korra: Everyone calm down! You’re all part of the same tribe, start acting like it!
Southerner: You’re taking *their* side? We thought you were one of us!
Korra: I’m not taking anyone’s side!
[Korra gets hit by a snowball]
Korra: Hey!
Young Southern girl: You’re the worst Avatar ever!

Korra: Everyone’s trying to hold me back! Unalaq is the only one who believes in me.
Senna: That’s not true, Korra.
Korra: No? Then why is everyone in the South turning against me when all I’m trying to do is help them?
Senna: The problems between the North and the South started long before you were born! You can’t expect to undo them in a day.
Korra: So I should just sit back and let the water tribes go to war?

It is worth noting that after a long war, the Southern Water Tribe of the Legend of Korra series was completely decimated.  (Similarly, the population of Hong Kong had fallen from 1.6 million to 500,000 during the Japanese occupation, euphemistically called “the Three Years and Eight Months” by locals.)  Almost all the population of the Southern tribe are settlers from the north, much as in Hong Kong.  And yet, a unique Southern identity has emerged.  While Korra and the North talk about a singular Water Tribe, it is clear to everyone else in the South that there are two.  The series’ parallels to real-world politics has always been strong, and I have always loved it for that.

And I highly recommend it for everyone.  It’s for kids, but it’s not specially dumbed down for them either.  And they take their Asian culture seriously.  They have a martial arts consultant.  They have a Chinese calligraphy consultant, Dr. Lee Siu-Leung.  Of course, every fan of the series knows that the movie version was the worst case of whitewashing in history, but for the most part we pretend that movie doesn’t even exist.

On immigration and population policy

Although the Hong Kong immigration debate has probably already been beaten to a bloody pulp, it refuses to die.

RTHK, 20 Sept 2013:

A People’s Daily editorial has defended the one-way permit system for mainland immigrants to Hong Kong.

It says critics complaining about too many mainlanders settling in the territory are only trying to find a scapegoat for social problems.

The article said that some Hong Kong people had complained that mainlanders are putting a strain on resources meant for local residents. But it said that it was too simple to think these problems could be resolved by reducing the number of mainlanders coming to live in Hong Kong.

The one-way permit system allows a maximum of 150 people per day to move to the territory. The editorial points out that the Basic Law grants mainland authorities the right to issue such permits, so there’s no question of the Hong Kong government “taking back” this power.

More people means more space needed to accommodate these people.  So what is a city to do? Continue reading

News roundup

Screenshot from SCMP, 17 Sept 2013

Screenshot from SCMP, 17 Sept 2013

Busy time in local politics, no?

As one can see, two of the articles above have to do with mainlanders’ increasing presence in Hong Kong, both as visitors and as residents.  The article on immigration bluntly points out that mainland immigrants since 1997 now make up a full ten percent of Hong Kong’s population, and that Hong Kong has no say in who these people are, meaning that even convicted killers are being allowed into Hong Kong.

As for Leung and Beijing’s reaction to British foreign office minister Hugo Swire’s comments on Hong Kong democracy, I don’t see why China needs to act so threatened.  By reacting at all, China is only proving the validity of Swire’s position.  Which is, by the way, very tame.  Thus far, no foreign government has come even close to saying the truth: China is actively DESTROYING Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms.

But nothing takes the cake like the article regarding Hong Kong’s police chief, which contains the golden quote: “You cannot do something simply because it’s not illegal.”

In non-SCMP news, Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung claims that mainlanders are not the cause of Hong Kong’s housing problems, and that the rate of population growth in Hong Kong was relatively slow, and was “less than that of New York, Singapore, and major mainland cities”.  He convienently forgets that mainland cities don’t have to worry about space issues, not being confined to a fixed area like Hong Kong is.  As for Singapore, at least they have the ability to change their policies if ever they do run out of space.  Hong Kong’s policies are dictated by Beijing.

Meanwhile, regarding Paul Chan’s suggestion that Hong Kong could reallocate some of its country park land for housing, it turns out that such nefarious acts are already taking place in Hong Kong.  The House News reports that Small House Policy villas are being built in Plover Cove Country Park.  Never mind that the villagers who applied to build in the area will probably never live there, instead having already made under-the-table deals to sell their Small House Policy rights to property developers.

Don’t blame us, you’re the same

Some of you will recognize the following from the 1961 West Side Story film adaptation:

Riff: Okay, now listen! Now, we fought hard for this turf and we ain’t just gonna
give it up.
Snowboy: Yeah, but these PRs are tough.
Baby John: They multiply.
Action: They keep coming!
A-Rab: Like cockroaches!
Riff: Yeah. What are we gonna do,huh, buddy boys? l’ll tell you what we’re
gonna do. We’re gonna speak back. We’re gonna move like lightnin’… and
we’re gonna clean them Sharks up once and for all… so they ain’t never
gonna set foot on our turf again. And we’re gonna do it, in one, all-out
fight.
Action: A rumble! Chung! Cha!
Riff: Now, cool, Action boy. The Sharks want a piece of this world, too. And
they’re real down boys. Now, what’s your mood, Jets?

Replace “PRs” with “PRCs” and “cockroaches” with “locusts” and you’d get a dialogue not out of place on the modern-day streets of Hong Kong, don’t you think?  I’ve actually thought long and hard about this one.  In the movie, the Jets are portrayed as bad people, making life hell for the Puerto Ricans who simply want a better life for themselves.  Are we Hong Kongers just as bad?  Do Hong Kongers have a superiority complex as people say or are we simply protecting our home?

We’re hardly the only ones.  Terms like “economic migrant” and “anchor baby” are used everywhere. In 2006, a poll revealed that 68% of Americans thought U.S. immigration levels are too high.  Australia won’t process refugees on its own shores, sending them to Paupa New Guinea and Nauru.  Canada has long been sharply divided between the Anglophones and the Francophones.  France bans the hijab in all public institutions including schools.  In China, this infamous sign appeared:

racist-sign-thumb-640xauto-777958

Protectionism, localism, the “us vs. them” mentality, it’s all natural.  So stop looking at us funny when we 7 million Hong Kongers seem a little wary of the 1300 million PRCS up north.  You’re the same.

And keep in mind that the immigration problem is much worse in Hong Kong than almost anywhere else.  In other places, immigrants are often criticized for forming their own little enclaves rather than integrating into their adopted city.  Here, though, instead of enclaves, PRC immigrants are basically taking over the entire city.  Just think for a second about the 150 daily quota for one-way permits from China.  That’s 54,750 people each year.  Add to that 35,736 “double-negative” children born here in 2011 alone.  Together, that is almost half the population of Richmond, BC in a single year!  One can see that this is no longer a matter of Hong Kong being unaccommodating.  The numbers are simply too much.  We are not talking about a flow of immigrants but a flood.

The word “locust” was initially applied to PRCs not as an insult implying that PRCs are less than human, altough I admit it has taken on such connotations.  It is simply a commentary on how the insane volume of PRCs in Hong Kong feels like a biblical-sized swarm.  Since the PRCs are complaining, I’ll offer an alternative higher in the evolutionary ladder: the cuckoo.  Like the parents of “double-negatives”, cuckoo birds typically lay their eggs in the nest of others.  The surrogate parents are then forced to cater to the needs of a chick that is not their own, the way Hong Kong is forced to play host to the PRCs to its own detriment (see this earlier article I wrote for examples of this).

Reed_warbler_cuckoo

Oh wait, to call someone “cuckoo” is to call them insane or mentally ill. I guess out of political correctness I can’t use that term either.

Ancestry and the ambiguity of the word “Chinese”

In Chinese culture there is the concept of an “ancestral home” or 鄉下 in Cantonese.  But how is this defined?  My father was born in Hong Kong.  Is that my 鄉下?  My father’s father was born in Dongguan.  Is that my 鄉下?  The first Chans were originally from the state of Chen, near present-day Zhoukou, Henan.  Is that my 鄉下? How many generations does one go back?

A memorial to the alleged founder of the Chan clan.

A memorial to the alleged founder of the Chan clan.  The left column says “Founder [of the] Chan surname, [his] numerous descendants [are now] scattered [among all the] Five Continents.”

Seeing that my granddad came from the PRC, and his dad was born in “China”, and so on and so on back to before the founding of the Qin state itself (never mind that the idea of a Chinese entity transcending the change of dynasties is a relatively new concept), one may say that I am Chinese.  But if we consider anyone with “Chinese” ancestry to be Chinese, we start running into problems.  Looking at just the surname Chan, we will find that the character is also the origin of the Vietnamese surname Tran, as in the Tran dynasty emperors, and the Korean surname Jin, as in South Korean athlete Jin Sun-Yu (진선유/陳善有), who won 3 Olympic gold medals for her country in 2006 in speed skating.  Would one, based on her surname, conclude that she is “Chinese”?

We also have, of course, the Tans of Singapore (from the Hokkien pronunciation), for example current President Tony Tan Keng Yam (陳慶炎).  While irrefutably of Chinese descent, having once been the CEO of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, he and other “Chinese” Singaporeans are not Chinese citizens.  This is the problem of confounding ethnicity with nationality by using the term “Chinese” to refer to both.  Thus Tibetans and Uyghurs in China are “Chinese” despite their ethnicity (and the fact they are heavily oppressed by the Han majority), while people like Vancouver broadcast journalist Cindy Leong, whose father, father’s mother, and father’s mother’s father all lived in Canada, are “Chinese” despite their nationality and long history outside of China.

This ambiguity of the word “Chinese” is a major problem in Hong Kong when PRC Chinese use the phrases “we are all Chinese” and “blood is thicker than water” to silence critics of the CCP regime.  It is worth noting that Hong Kong was primarily built by refugees from the CCP.  Why should Hong Kongers be expected to show any loyalty to the entity that they and their forefathers came here to escape in the first place?  Most post-handover immigrants, on the other hand, are CCP loyalists (how else do they get priority under the 150 daily quota?).  They have come not to become Hong Kongers, but instead to make Hong Kong more and more Chinese.

I have been to my grandfather’s home in Dongguan as a kid, but I don’t remember much about it.  I don’t have any ties to the place, I don’t know anyone from that place other than my grandpa, and I have absolutely zero emotional attachment to that place.  Truth be told, I don’t feel much attachment to the man himself, who currently spends most of his time back in his place of birth.  To me, the idea that I am “from” Dongguan simply because my grandfather was born there is quite absurd.

The CCP have made it so that Chinese ancestry = “Chinese” = PRC Chinese and loyalty to “the Chinese” = loyalty to the PRC = loyalty to the CCP.  Anyone who denies these equalities is seen as a traitor of “the Chinese”, a 漢奸.  So call me a 漢奸.  I don’t care.

Abandon hope? Never

Sorry for the lack of update last week, as I was sick.  (I mean, I’m always sick of Hong Kong politics, but this time I was physically sick.)

I came across this article in the SCMP today:

After a stellar performance in the British and international secondary exams, Justin Cheng Yan-yiu, 16, should be looking forward to a good career and life in his home city.

But the English Schools Foundation pupil, who scored eight straight A*s in the General Certificate of Secondary Education and its international equivalent, says he is so disillusioned with Hong Kong’s divided society that he might consider emigrating.

[…]

Justin said he saw the city’s political situation as hopeless, but was against the civil-disobedience movement Occupy Central as it would cause only unrest and chaos. “It just won’t work,” said Justin, who supports universal suffrage. “It won’t force the central government to back down as long as it has an iron grip on Hong Kong.”

He said he saw “no civil solution” to Hong Kong’s problems such as its divided society and wide wealth gap. “I won’t suggest revolution either, because Hong Kong has no military forces,” he said. “I think one possible way is through foreign diplomatic talks. Emigration is something I would consider when this place has no freedom of speech any more.”

Fleeing does seem an attractive option, I admit.  Many Hong Kongers have done it before, in the post-Tiananmen pre-Handover days.  But it doesn’t really work the way people think.  One is always conscious of being a “guest” in a foreign land.  Canada and Australia are nice places, but they were never “home” to the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who eventually returned.

I’m quite Westernized.  I watch Western TV shows like Glee. I’m even more fluent in English than Cantonese.  But I don’t know the Tories from the Liberals from the NDP.  I don’t get excited over hockey or baseball.  I have a driver’s license, but have no real interest in driving, which is an effective death sentence overseas.  And what if I overcame all that?  What if I assimilated?  Then I would no longer be a Hong Konger.

Granted, I often feel like I don’t really fit in in Hong Kong either.  That is the fate of one who has grown up in both cultures.  You never belong anywhere.  But I was still born here.  Some ties one just can’t break.  And as long as there is still a Hong Kong to speak of, the fight to keep it alive continues.  It is a fight that seems unwinnable.  But it is one that must be fought nonetheless.

Well that was short.  More to come this week, perhaps.  I do have a degree to finish, after all.

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