Monday, April 13, 2015

A Monster in Shenzhen

Part of a promotion at the COCO Park shopping center in Futian District, Shenzhen

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Time to Go in Hong Kong

I have seen many "stop" signs in the world. The other day in Hong Kong, I was reminded I have seen far fewer "go" signs.

"go" sign placed behind a "stop" sign at a street corner in Hong Kong

According to Hong Kong's Transport Department the green sign in the above photo is a "manually operated temporary 'go' sign". Since nobody was operating it at the time and it was standing upright near a "stop" sign facing a similar direction, I could understand if passing drivers experienced some confusion.

As for myself, after pondering the scene, I decided to just follow the sign's advice.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Feline Minibus in Hong Kong

It isn't a Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro but instead a minibus in Hong Kong with a veterinarian ad:

Hong Kong mini-bus with cat eyes on the front as part of an advertisement for the Shatin Animal Clinic

Trams in Hong Kong aren't the only form of transportation offering a platform for creative advertising.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chairman Mao Wants More Change

A Hong Kong bookstore sells the perfect item for anyone who believes that no matter how much money they save, they will always need Mao.

Chairman Mao Money Bank for sale at a bookstore

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Little By Little: More Expression at a Hong Kong Pier

Where there was a temporary Tiananmen memorial in Hong Kong earlier this week, today the pedestrian area was back to its usual state.

people walking at the Kowloon Public Pier

Nearby, also as usual, several musical groups were performing — including Poco A Poco.

musical group Poco A Poco performing at the Kowloon Public Pier

Next to their sign was a QR code to the Poco A Poco Facebook page which expresses:
Positive Message x Hong Kong!
Spread Love
Spread Smile
Spread Happiness
Although their goals differ from those who built the memorial, Poco A Poco's use of Facebook, popular in Hong Kong but blocked in mainland China, is also a sign of how there is less censorship and more free expression in Hong Kong than almost everywhere else in China.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Temporary Tiananmen Memorial in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Kowloon Public Pier offers a stunning view of Hong Kong Island and is a popular destination for tourists, including many from mainland China. When I walked by this past Sunday afternoon on a traditional Chinese holiday, Qingming (Ching Ming) Festival, otherwise known in English as Tomb-Sweeping Day, I saw displays about the violent crackdown which occurred around Beijing's Tiananmen Square nearly 26 years ago. There was also a monument for those who died and posters advertising the yearly June 4 Tiananmen candlelight vigil held in Hong Kong. It was organized by The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. Their website at does not appear to be accessible at the moment, but a Wikipedia entry describes their goals as:
. . . supporting patriotic democratic movements in China, putting an end to the current one-party dictatorship established by the Communist Party of China, and building a democratic China. It has become the largest grassroots pro-democracy advocacy group in Hong Kong, comprising over 200 base-level members from labour, councillor offices, religious, students, women and political commentary interest groups.
While I was at the pier, the displays caught the eyes of numerous passersby, some possibly from mainland China where such information is heavily censored. Here is a bit of what could be seen:

Booth for Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China at Kowloon Public Pier

sign:" Offer a flower to those who died for democracy in China, especially the Tiananmen Martyrs of June 4th 1989 on Ching Ming Festival today when the Chinese people commemorate their deceased dear ones.'

statues and memorial by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China

man and boy reading stories of people who died near Tiananmen Square

men reading information posted by Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China

people reading information about Tiananmen Square

a sign with an image of Tank Man

sign:"Remember June 4 and Spread the Truth, the Tide of Democracy Cannot be Stopped!

young woman reading formation about Tiananmen Square

Young man photographic information post by Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China with his mobile phone

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sneaking a Peak at The New York Times in China

sign with words "ON SALE HERE — International New York Times"

The above sign currently appears near a newsstand at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier in Hong Kong. It caught my eye since since The New York Times is not easy to read in mainland China, especially since it is blocked online.

Despite the challenges, here is one way the Times has tried to reach people in China as described by Heather Timmons:
Every time a new article appears on the Times’s Chinese language website, three or four copies of it appear on “mirror” sites scattered around the internet. While these mirrors, like this one of the company’s home page, are often quickly made inaccessible by censors, new ones crop up constantly, often made or sanctioned by the Times. The recent hacking attack on GitHub targeted a “mirror” of the New York Times’s Chinese-language site was not set up by the Times itself, but the strategy is the same—create a webpage that points readers in China to New York Times’ Chinese language content, and circumvents censors.
For more about the situation and other methods used by the Times, read the full article by Heather Timmons on Quartz.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hanging Around at a Hong Kong Mall

An unusual sight now confronts people at the Miramar Shopping Centre in Hong Kong.

large hanging stuffed toy

What do you see? At first, I thought it sort of looked like a squid or an octopus but the appendages weren't quite right. A more complete examination after stepping back provided the answer. It was of course a giant upside down rabbit.

multistoried stuffed pink Mi Rabbit hanging upside down

Added note: More about MiRabbit, the "bubbly extra-terrestrial Easter bunny", and the "limited edition MiRabbit Mania selfie stick" can be found on the the mall's website here.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Day of Good Air

Today as I left Zhongshan, the air was "good" by U.S. standards for the first time during my month-plus stay there. For what it's worth, Zhongshan's air is much better on average than many other cities in China.

Later in the day after a 3 hour trip which included my bag coming into contact with somebody else's inadvertently-dispersed liquid that smelled like fermented rotten prune juice, I was able to enjoy a blue sky with clouds elsewhere.

clouds in a blue sky in Hong Kong

And as best I can tell, the air was "good" or close to it — not bad for Jordan Road in Hong Kong.

Friday, April 3, 2015

More on the GitHub Attack, a Breach of Trust, and Feminist Activists Detained: Assorted Links

Once again, here are some excerpts from pieces worth checking out, this time a mix of tech and non-tech:

1. Robert Graham further narrows the source of China's attack on GitHub:
Using my custom http-traceroute, I've proven that the man-in-the-middle machine attacking GitHub is located on or near the Great Firewall of China. While many explanations are possible, such as hackers breaking into these machines, the overwhelmingly most likely suspect for the source of the GitHub attacks is the Chinese government.
2. Dan Goodin explains a move by Google and Mozilla which will not thrill the Chinese government:
Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox browsers will stop trusting all new digital certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Center following a major trust breach last week that led to the issuance of unauthorized credentials for Gmail and several other Google domains.

The move could have major consequences for huge numbers of Internet users as Chrome and Firefox, the world's second and third most widely used browsers respectively, stop recognizing all or many website certificates issued by CNNIC. That could leave huge numbers of users suddenly unable to connect to banks and e-commerce sites.
3. In "Dark Days for Women in China?" ChinaFile hosted a conversation including 14 people about the recent criminal detention of five feminist activists. Here is a portion of Leta Hong Fisher's response:
The last time I met with Li Maizi (as Li Tingting likes to be called) at a small dumpling restaurant in Beijing, I asked if she was optimistic about the future of women’s rights in China. “I am an idealist, but I am not in a hurry to see real change,” she said. “It will require a long, drawn-out period of struggle to see any progress, especially when it comes to gender issues.” These are not the words of a dissident trying to challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power. Rather, Li and the other young activists she worked with went out of their way to avoid “politically sensitive” issues and chose causes that would resonate with the mainstream Chinese population. Take the “Occupy Men’s Toilets” campaign they organized in 2012, which called for more public toilets for women. “This issue isn’t that politically serious,” admitted Li, “but it’s a problem every woman has to deal with every day, so many women and men were able to see the inequality and to support the cause.” Little did I imagine that a year and a half later, Li Maizi and four other fun-loving feminists would wind up criminally detained, facing a possible jail term for planning to distribute stickers about sexual harassment on public transportation.

The fact that these young women—detained in three different cities on the eve of International Women’s Day—have still not been released suggests a disturbing escalation of Chinese government paranoia about public demonstrations and a chilling environment for Non-Governmental Organizations and non-profit groups.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Perhaps There Aren't Cigarette Face Masks

I received a range of comments in response to yesterday's post about pollution face masks in China with a special hole for smoking cigarettes.

One person expressed their admiration: "That's pretty cool."

Another seemed humored: "Funny."

One suggested a modification: "They should make three holes in that mask or else they are re-inhaling the smoke from the cigarette. Better yet, how about not wearing the mask at all!"

And finally, one person expressed puzzlement: "I'm trying to figure out whether this is an April 1 post..."

Now seems like a good time to respond to the last point, even though I have not done so for similar posts in past years. Perhaps I can restore a tiny bit of harmony to the world. So, yes, the post was written in the spirit of April Fool's Day.

The person posing in the first photo is somebody I recently met. He was familiar with April Fool's Day, and after I explained what I had in mind he agreed to model the face mask using his cigarettes. I wouldn't be surprised if it was his first time to wear a face mask. The sign in the other photo is from a store in Zhongshan I fortuitously passed by yesterday. I didn't go inside, but it appeared they sold face masks and other products for construction-related purposes. All the quotes in the post were entirely fabricated. And if spoken as it would be in China, family name first, the fictional store owner's name, Renjie Yu, sounds like "April Fool's Day" in Chinese.

I have never seen anyone smoking while wearing a face mask. I wouldn't be completely shocked if someday I do though.

I suspect the seeds for the idea were planted about two years ago. While standing at a street corner wearing a face mask for the first time due to very heavy smog in Beijing, I looked to my left and met eyes with a man who was smoking a cigarette. For a few moments, we stared at each other in silence. We then went our separate ways after the crossing signal changed. It got me thinking . . .

And in addition to some humor, thought-provocation was one intended goal of yesterday's post.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cigarette Friendly Design Breathes Fresh Life Into China's Face Mask Sales

In addition to having more smokers than the entire population of the United States, China also has dangerously high levels of air pollution. As more people in China show concern over the air they breathe, this creates an obvious problem. But when I was in Maoming, a Chinese city where people are familiar with pollution from chemical plants, one night I saw how ingenuity and China's frequently mentioned pragmatism had come to the rescue again.

young man standing on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette while wearing a face mask

A young man was wearing a face mask with a specially fitted hole so he could continue smoking while protecting himself from the polluted air. He was happy to speak with me, and in response to several questions said:
Maoming's air is bad. Everybody knows that. So of course I wear a face mask, even though they bother me. But one thing I couldn't accept about masks before was they made it impossible to smoke. Last month my cousin who sells face masks in Zhongshan told me about these. Now I regularly wear cigarette face masks and only buy through him. There are many low quality imitation masks being sold. I'm concerned about my health, and I know he will only sell me the genuine ones.
Since then, I have seen people wearing the cigarette face masks in Chinese cities as far apart as Hengyang, Chongqing, and Shanghai. Today in Zhongshan, I finally had the opportunity to visit the face mask store earlier mentioned to me. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was a sign displaying a variety of masks well-suited for China's air.

store sign displaying several heave duty face masks

Inside I met the store owner. He told me he was secretly thrilled about China's pollution since business had never been better for him. And he had this to say about the cigarette face masks:
Business was slumping a little bit until these masks came out. They were an instant hit in the neighborhood and word quickly spread. Many men like to smoke and sharing cigarettes is a regular way they bond. It's important! But smoking with a regular mask is too difficult. Cigarette face masks make it easy. One important feature is that they are N90 masks. They don't filter as much as the N95 masks, so it doesn't takes too much effort to exhale the cigarette smoke.
He is not alone in finding success with cigarette face masks. They are a trending top seller online at Taobao. There are also rumors that Red Star alcohol plans to incorporate them into its pollution themed ads and that Lesser Panda, a popular cigarette in China, may soon offer branded cigarette face masks. With neither pollution nor smoking likely to disappear in the near future, analysts expect the market to only grow.

As I was about to leave the store, the owner tried to sell me a jumbo pack of cigarette face masks at a "friend discount". I explained I didn't smoke, in part due to health concerns. He pointed out I wasn't wearing a face mask and asked, "What do you think is worse for you, smoking a plant or breathing China's air?"

I had no answer, and we had a good laugh. Now I am on first name basis with store owner Renjie Yu. And I also have 20 cigarette face masks to give to friends.

Added Note: Relevant additional information for something posted on this date.