In a scene right out of classic comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, a homeless woman lay dead at a Hong Kong McDonald’s restaurant for hours surrounded by diners and staff who failed to notice anything awry. CCTV footage showed the woman had entered the restaurant the previous day at 8:39am. It wasn’t until 8:30am the following morning that a McDonald’s employee called police after finding the woman ‘unconscious and cold’. Unconscious & cold of course meaning dead as a door nail.
Say what you will about the callous and morally bereft nature of Hong Kong society…the coldness, the lack of empathy, the selfishness, the obliviousness, the disregard, the shallowness, the base ‘me first’ attitude, Antisocial Personality Disorder Syndrome, the ability to fake genuine human emotion, the obsession with personal gain and material possession, Social Blindspot Disarrangement Dysfunction…say what you like about that…but I won’t hear a word against Hong Kong McDonald’s or Wendy Lam, senior director of McDonald’s Hong Kong:
“McDonald’s Hong Kong would like to express our grief over the unfortunate incident at our Ping Shek Estate restaurant. We welcome everyone to visit our restaurants any time. In order to provide a pleasant dining environment, we would not disturb our customers, but our service will be offered promptly upon request.”
Read it an weep naysayers! From the horses mouth, Hong Kong McDonald’s categorically states its grief over the potential damage to its ‘fortunes’ with this unseemly incident. You think McDonald’s Hong Kong doesn’t care? Wendy Lam, with her finger well and truly on the pulse, assures customers still living that their dining pleasure won’t be diminished and that they won’t be disturbed even if they are dead. She then reminds customers of the ‘prompt service’ they can enjoy. How’s that for compassion and heart? This kind of commitment to business, promotion and profit, even in the face of corpses piling up in your restaurant, is really touching and sums up Hong Kong’s spirit of capitalist adventure in the face of bad luck and adversity. Take a bow while the world is watching HK McDonald’s.
To fulfill this site’s unbiased and fair reportage policy let’s take a look at what some random people have to say about the ‘incident’:
When in Rome do as the Romans do. That’s what they say. It’s an invitation to be polite and to abide by the customs of the local culture. Does it apply to Hong Kong? Do I, as a visiting expat, do as Hongkongers do? Do I behave like them? Do I conform to the prevailing opinion of larger society? Do I respect local practices? Is it possible I’ve picked up the attitudes, values or beliefs of locals just by living here over the last few years? God, I fucking hope not. I’d rather be trapped up to my nose in some Roman septic tank shit facility than synchronize my watch to the deplorable practices of these shallow, selfish assholes.
Yeah, I’ll eat a dim sum. I’ll snarl the meat off a chicken wing to ‘fit in’ if I have to. But I won’t spit saliva covered bones onto the tablecloth in full view of other guests when I’m at a wedding. And I won’t lose my fucking mind at the mere mention of chicken wings either. The locals do. They suck chicken wings like lollipops. They dance around like Santa is coming if you mention chicken wings.
A comprehensive list might break the internet so here’s a very short list of some of the things I won’t do…when in Rome…
– I don’t care how drunk I am…I still refuse to burp and fart audibly at work. It’s just not right.
– I won’t take pictures of food or pose for photos where I’m shoveling food into my mouth. The locals love this. If you’re going to take pictures of food, honour the cycle…get some shots of giant coilers floating in your toilet bowl too.
– There’s too many self-proclaimed ‘foodies’ in Hong Kong. A self-proclaimed ‘foodie’ is on par with someone who takes scatmunching ‘selfies’. A moron. And there’s a lot of them in Hong Kong. Hongkongers never, ever stop talking about food. Yeah, food. I get it. Shut the fuck up.
– I’ll never assemble my friends together and take photos where we all simultaneously jump into the air with huge shit-eating grins so it looks like we’re floating above the surface of the earth, high on life. You’d think this practice would be limited to 14yo girls in Hong Kong. But it’s not. Everyone does it.
– I won’t travel overseas as part of a Hong Kong tour group, listening to some tour guide chew my ear off with a microphone and loudspeaker every waking second of the trip. I did that once and nearly committed suicide.
– I won’t invite someone to a workmate’s wedding 2 weeks into their working contract in Hong Kong…and then hold my hand out for an $800 ‘wedding gift’. I thought you were inviting me as a kind gesture…a measure of your goodwill and generosity. Having only just touched down in Hong Kong, and not knowing the bride or groom from a hole in the wall, I kind of thought you were letting me tag along as some kind of cultural experience for the new guy…you know…to show me how humble, down to earth and friendly you all are in Hong Kong. You really slapped that innocent assumption off my face with the entrance fee you artless fuck.
– I won’t explain cheerily to my workmate that I am going on a trip to Korea over Christmas and am flying Air India because the flight is cheap…and then say, with complete sincerity…I hope the plane doesn’t stink.
– I won’t suppress anger, critical thought, empathy or my own opinions because I’m terrified of losing face or being ridiculed for stepping outside of the group think bubble.
– I won’t blindly worship the value of education or allow the future of life itself to hinge on the ability of conman celebrity tutors to get a high school kid a slightly better paying customer service job than the next kid.
– I won’t buy a slave and arrive at work every day of my life with a ‘lunchbox’ prepared by said slave then sit down and eat it like a pampered 2 year old. I won’t have the gall to refer to my slave as a ‘helper’. I won’t torture my slave. I won’t produce TV ads where locals dress in ‘blackface’ to portray clumsy Filipina ‘maids’.
I dunno, I could go on and on and on. You can read a massive laundry list of all this kind of shit here. About the only thing I will do ‘when in Hong Kong’ is walk in a straight line without budging or moving out of the way of others. Now there’s a Hong Kong custom I’ve really come to embrace. That’s how they do it here…and I’m happy to oblige. Not going to move? You oblivious ignorant fuck! Me either then. Collision course is a go…only difference is I’m ready for it.😉
WARNING: Devastatingly shrill Hong Kong whining ahead:
People flipping out in public are funny as fuck!
Like a lot of people in Hong Kong, I live in a decrepit old building full of decrepit, lifeless feet-shufflers. The elevator is broken every other week and the rubbishy stench that wafts up from the building’s central cavity stings the nostrils and makes you swoon.
Hey everyone, for the love of god…stop tossing your trash out the window! If you enjoy the hobo lifestyle and feel comforted by surrounding yourself in refuse and filth, then by all means hit the streets. There’s plenty of nooks and crannies on Nathan Road that you can crawl into and call home. But until then, there are other people living here. Don’t you get that?
The used tissues, greasy plastic bags, old band-aids, bloody dental floss and toe nails falling like rain past my window remind me of my slum days in the shanty towns outside Mumbai. I thought Hong Kong was Asia’s finest city…isn’t it supposed to be the Pearl of the Orient or something? More like the Turd of the Orient, am I right??
Anyhoo, owing to yet another elevator SNAFU in my building over the past few weeks, I’ve had to use the second elevator and reach home by getting off at the floor below mine and then taking the stairs up a flight. Not a hardship by any means. But the extra legwork has meant that more wafts of putrid stink reach my nose because I’m forced to walk past several windows that look down into the disgusting building cavity . I’m pretty sure that the woman below me throws her used earhole cleaners out into the cavity every morning because a number of them that didn’t quite make it are congealed and stuck on the window sill. Nice!
Using the stairs to get to my floor is where the WD-40 comes in to the story, because to get to the stairs you have to push open a swinging door. All of these swinging stairwell doors grind open like the gates of hell. They squeal…they creak…they moan…they wail like tortured animals…they scream like murder victims. The rusty hinges cry with such high-pitched grief you almost expect the whole building to implode in on itself in an ecstasy of horrific sympathetic resonance. It’s a sound filled only with torment and hate.
It boggles my mind that no-one seems to have ever thought it might be a good idea to oil the hinges to quieten the doors…to rescue their ears from this fingernails on blackboard horror. It’s a simple fix. Fuck. How can people live like this for any length of time without going out of their minds?
The offending stairwell doors are only a couple of feet from the doors to people’s homes and putting rubbish out means opening the stairwell door. So it’s a daily thing at least…and with broken elevators the doors open and close more than usual. I can’t be sure what happens on every floor, but here’s how things go down on mine:
1. Neighbour exits house door (which is a foot and a half from my own door) in a flail of keys and clicking and doorknob turning. TV from inside blares some ridiculous HK game show.
2. Neighbour stands in doorway furrowing brow and yells something back to someone inside at the top of her lungs. She yells it again. Then again.
3. Neighbour opens outer iron gate, smashing it against concrete wall
4. Neighbour reaches the gates of hell – the stairwell door…pushing it open and unleashing twisted, blood curdling rusty hinge screams
5. Neighbour drops rubbish in the stairwell area
6. Neighbour comes back through the gates of hell, letting the swinging door screech and then smash violently closed with a HUGE THUD
7. Neighbour slams closed the outer iron gate and viciously locks it
8. Neighbour reenters house slamming the door with enough force to rattle saucepans on my kitchen bench.
This is totally normal. She’s not angry or having a bad day. She’s just slamming doors because she’s a garden variety Hong Kong moron. All this happens between about 11-12 at night…every night. But that’s not all. 99 out of 100 times, and this is no joke, this stupid old mole repeats the entire process because she forgot to put some piece of rubbish out. So in the end she’ll do it all twice. Her subnormal, box headed minibus driver son is even worse than she is. These are the types of people you’re dealing with in Hong Kong: The ‘Pearl’ of the Orient. Stupid oblivious morons.
When I first moved in here it took me about 3 weeks before I’d finally had enough and literally ran down to my favourite shop, Japan Home Centre, and bought some WD-40. I came back and doused the shit out of the stairwell door on my floor and instantly felt relief wash over me in an awesome wave. The only sound it makes now is the HUGE THUD every time my fuckface neighbours let it slam…which is every fucking time they use it…which is multiple times a day. But fuck me if I didn’t silence the moaning…the tortured cries…the screaming of those hinges. For me, banishing those screams back to hell where they belong has been a slice of heaven.
So the elevator has been broken for some time now and I have been walking down one floor. The stairwell door below was truly diabolical before I tactically struck with WD-40. Earlier, when I went to work each morning, the screaming hinges really set a grim tone. It’s bad enough leaving your private piece of sanctuary and heading out into public areas of the Turd of the Orient at the best of times, but to do so heralded by the obnoxious screaming of a door that not a soul bothered to, or even considered fixing, is beyond a joke.
When your neighbours treat your general living environment like a sewer and when they show absolutely zero regard for the idea of noise pollution or the concept of ‘other people’, sometimes living in the Turd of the Orient can feel like you’re watching a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor…crawling, slithering along the edge of a straight razor…and surviving. It can be a nightmare…can make you lose your mind. Quite simply, that’s when you may need large doses of this:
Now when I leave for work it is almost like a dream. It’s not nightmarish like it was before – opening the gates of hell and deploying out into the Turd of the Orient like a condemned man. The door opens silently and peacefully now. It’s beautiful. Sometimes I wonder if my neighbours or anyone at all actually notices that the obscene screeching has stopped. I like to think they do…but I know they don’t. I can’t worry about that though. I just slip out the door quietly and wait for the elevator, breathing in not the filthy refuse building up like an urban landfill in the building cavity outside…but the luscious, rich, fresh scent of sweet, sweet WD-40. And I don’t let the door slam shut behind me. But why would I? I’m not a stupid ignorant oblivious cunt, after all.
I don’t know a hell of a lot about Japan Home Centre. It’s a good place to buy cheap bleach or Drano, I’ll give it that. I did find out, in looking into my grievance with the chain, that despite the name, Japan Home Centre has no relation to the country of Japan. A Hong Kong firm, it started out as ‘International Housewares’ in 1991, selling HK$10 knick knacks before going on to specialise in housewares. A quick google search shows that Japan Home Centre stores are scattered around Asia in places like the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Macau and even New Zealand. Hong Kong’s the sweet spot though, with a branch on just about every corner. When your toilet just wont flush, it’s nice to know help is nearby. In 2012, the Japan Home Centre group approached a branding agency called ‘CBA Asia’ to do something about the word ‘Japan’ in the store’s name. Apparently, research had been indicating that it was hindering the growth of the retailer in Asia in view of resonant political issues such as the ‘Daioyutai Islands’ consumer boycott. 2012 was a touchy year for China and Japan in the long history of the disputed islands. Here’s some of the highlights that had the CEO’s at Japan Home Centre going into public relations meltdown:
August 14, 2012: Hong Kong activists reach the disputed islands by sea for the first time since 1996, with seven activists disembarking onto the island.
August 19, 2012: Ten Japanese activists swim ashore and raise Japanese flags on the island chain.
September 10, 2012: Japan’s government says it has decided to purchase the disputed islands from a private Japanese owner in an effort, Tokyo claims, aimed at diffusing territorial tensions.
September 14, 2012: Six Chinese surveillance ships sail into waters around the Diaoyu Islands to assert China’s territorial claims and for “law enforcement”, leaving after seven hours.
September 15, 2012: The biggest anti-Japanese protests since China and Japan normalised diplomatic relations in 1972 are held in cities across China. The Japanese embassy in Beijing is besieged by thousands of protesters throwing rocks, eggs and bottles.
September 16, 2012: Anti-Japanese protests break out in dozens of mainland cities for a second day. In some cities peaceful protests turn violent as protesters clash with policemen, attack Japanese made cars and smash up Japanese restaurants.
September 17, 2012: Some major Japanese firms such as Toyota and Honda temporarily shut factories and offices across China.
September 18, 2012: Two Japanese activists land on the Diaoyu Islands while widespread anti-Japanese protests have been held across China at the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria.
So, with the dispute red hot, CBA Asia was called in to clean up Japan Home Centre’s image so that racists could still shop there. CBA Asia claim in their ‘manifesto’ to specialise in ‘brands with soul that can inspire our daily lives’ and in generating an ’emotional connection between brands and consumers’. Holy shit, they sound great! According to CBA Asia’s website, the masterstroke in rebuilding Japan Home Centre’s image was to design a new symbol representing 2 hands gathered into the ‘reconstitution of a roof’ and to shorten the name ‘Japan Home Centre’ to JHC. The new branding was deployed at the end of summer in 2013 and everybody went home happy…funnily enough there are plenty of branches around Hong Kong still sporting the full ‘Japan’ label. Maybe the head honchos at Japan Home Centre hit the panic button too soon and didn’t give the Daioyutai Islands dispute the couple of weeks it needed to cool down, for people to forget all about it and to go back to buying this summer’s new arrivals in rice cookery. Who knows.
While I do think it’s strange that a Hong Kong company opted for the word ‘Japan’ in the first place (maybe they wanted to impart a sense of class for their business or to bask in the perceived reflected glory of a much more sophisticated nation…or maybe they just thought Hong Kong Home Centre sounded like some sort of homeless shelter or something), I don’t think it’s really that strange that in 2012 they sought the help of expert branders to steer their image away from controversy. Chinese/ Japanese relations are on a slippery slope at the best of times…might be a good idea to get rid of the ‘Japan’ association, especially if you want to crack on into the big Chinese market as time goes by.
But whatever! I don’t have a problem with any of that. The big business issues of cultural & racial tension based consumer backlash are very ‘adult’ and a bit too high-brow or something for me. I just sit back snickering and tee-heeing at that sort of stuff. I keep imagining the geniuses at CBA Asia sitting around the old think-tank spitballing ideas about how to make ‘Japan Home Centre’ seem…less Japanese…which, to me, is pretty damn funny.
But it’s not all beer & skittles, dust brooms & cheap saucepans…I’ll tell you something that isn’t funny at all…something so mind bogglingly rage inducing it makes you want to rampage through Japan Home Centre, JHC, or the Culturally Neutral Unit Shifting Centre, or whatever the fuck it’s called, with a huge splintery baseball bat, crashing shelves and smashing glassware and bludgeoning the electrical appliance section into jagged piles of twisted steel…and that’s the hatefully loud, objectionably intrusive, in-store looped PA system hawking policy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just watch this video. I think it goes for about 4 minutes…but you wont even make it through 1.
That’s right…it’s looped hawking BLARING from speakers placed strategically around the shop to FUCK WITH YOUR EARS and make you buy paper plates, sanitary pads and a thousand other things you didn’t go in there for. It’s a relentless shopping experience. Every time I go into ‘JHC’ I’m like a lab rat that doesn’t know where to stand. I go over here and KA-SMASH, I’m being assaulted by some stupid moron yelling at me about half priced plastic spoons…I run away…but right into the teeth of another hidden speaker screaming at me about toothpicks. There’s nowhere to stand that doesn’t make my ears bleed. The decibels coming out of the speakers are almost visible. The air is rupturing all around me…being raped over and over again…tongue lashed by that horrible piercing voice and it never stops…it wont ever stop while the shop is open. For the love of god…turn it off…I’m already in your store…I’m already innnnnnn!! Stop hustling me…stop hawking at me, I’m already shopping…I’m already shopping!!
Let’s take a look at the Japan Home Centre end of quarter business report card. Zero out of 10 for your flash in the pan knee jerk culturally neutral re-branding that you didn’t even fully go through with because the Daioyutai Islands issue disappeared from the news after 2 seconds, saving you the need to have to bother to change the signage on all your branches. Zero out of 10 for you and your marketing people who came up with this boorish, blunt, typically Hong Kong sales strategy rubbish: WELCOME TO JHC WHERE WE BEAT YOU REPETITIVELY OVER THE HEAD AND STAB YOUR EARS GOOD AND HARD AND HUSTLE YOU OVER & OVER & OVER AGAIN WHILE YOU’RE SHOPPING WITH LOOPED SUPER LOUD HAWKING THAT YOU CAN’T HIDE OR ESCAPE FROM ABOUT PRODUCTS YOU DID NOT COME FOR AND HAVE NO INTENTION OF BUYING. And while I’m at it, a big fat zero for your association with flimflam artists, CBA Asia, and their stupid inanities about emotional bonds between brands and consumers. That’s a grand total of zero. Keep up the good work.
It could be worse I suppose…at least the staff in Japan Home Centre generally leave you the fuck alone, unlike so many other shops in Hong Kong where you’re stalked and eyed suspiciously by salespeople or leered at by dickheads telling you about your fantastic ‘free gift, free gift!’ with every $1000 purchase…but then again, if I was working all day in Japan Home Centre, I’d have no time for stalking customers…I’d be focusing every ounce of my energy on not going completely and utterly bat-shit-insane from having to endure the relentlessly cruel, loud, crude hawking that viciously stabs and snarls at you from every wall.
Over the past couple of weeks my neighbour’s house has started to reek more and more of dog again. She has one in there somewhere…some small, poor sad eyed thing that hasn’t seen another dog or the outside of its detestable owner’s house since it was imprisoned there many years ago. It’s a living ornament…a symbol of its owner’s selfishness and ignorant disregard for the rights of dogs to piss on tree trunks and sniff the air. Hey Hong Kong, your soulless letterbox houses forfeit your rights to keep pets. The environment isn’t suitable. Don’t you get it? Your tiny homes, cramped conditions and ugly tight spaces have turned all of you into nasty, distasteful, spite filled thorns…god knows what’s happening to the animals forced to live with you. I say ‘god knows’…but there’s really no secret. A quick look at the SPCA site or a walk through pretty much any Hong Kong pet shop will show you that ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘animal cruelty’ are as synonymous as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘despicable’. But that’s a topic for another post. Today, I want to focus on cruelty of a different kind…cruelty that Hong Kong all but institutionalizes. But first, back to that smell…
So my stupid neighbour’s house reeks of dog. Her door is so close to mine that if they both opened outward and not in, they would hit each other half way. Every time I come or go, I get a nostril full of filth. ‘Run a mop over the floor, splash some Dettol around, spray some air freshener, light a box of matches…anything you dirty old bag. Just get rid of that stench. It’s been getting steadily worse for 3 weeks.’ She lives in there with her deranged son. He’s a minibus driver. He walks in huge thunderous clomping steps because he lacks fine motor skills and his fingers for some reason are so bulbous he can’t bend them or hold a piece of paper. In summer, he likes to sit at the kitchen table in his underpants while his mother serves him some kind of Chinese slop. He’s about 40yo. Both of them have prodigious booming voices and like to slam the door as hard as they can every time they come home or go out. I know, I know…it could be worse. As far as Hong Kong neighbours go, I got lucky…but there is that issue of the smell…and I’ll get back to that, but first let’s turn our attention to the Hong Kong mother of 2 who was found guilty this week of the systematic abuse and torture of Indonesian women, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.
Hong Kong court finds Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih ‘tortured’ by former employer
A Hong Kong woman has been convicted of beating and starving her Indonesian maid in a “torture” case that sparked international outrage and put a spotlight on the plight of migrant domestic workers in the Middle East and Asia.
The verdict, read out to a courtroom packed with journalists and activists, was met with cheers by supporters of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a former domestic helper who has become the face of a campaign for improved workers’ rights in the financial hub.
Pictures of the injuries sustained by Ms Sulistyaningsih, who was admitted to hospital in her home country emaciated and in a critical condition, at the hands of mother-of-two Law Wan-tung fuelled anger in Indonesia and shocked Hong Kong.
“She was, for want of a better word, a prisoner on those premises,” Judge Amanda Woodcock said.
“She was completely isolated.
“She did not complain about the abuse because of fear…When Erwiana left Hong Kong, she was a shadow of her former self.”
Law, who was arrested in January last year, was found guilty of 18 of the 20 charges laid against her. She had denied all the charges. Law was convicted of offences including grievous bodily harm with intent, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages. The only two counts she was not found guilty of were related to her treatment of another domestic worker.
During the six-week trial, prosecutors said Law turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against her maids. Ms Sulistyaningsih has described in vivid detail how she was “tortured”, starved, beaten and ritually humiliated by Law, with prosecutors saying she was treated as an “unpaid slave”.
She said she lived for months on nothing but bread and rice, sleeping only four hours a day and being so badly beaten by her then-employer that she was knocked unconscious.
Law is due to face sentencing on February 27.
What makes this case even more deplorable is that the Hong Kong government has built the potential for this kind of abuse into the foundation of the whole ‘maid’ system…and what’s more, have taken no action to stamp out maid abuse in the wake of the case. Basically, the stance of the government is that it’s ok to pay foriegn domestic workers in handfuls of magic beans, to lie to them, fleece money from them via bogus recruitment initiatives, confiscate and withold documents, manipulate debts, create an environment where it’s ok to portray them as clumsy and inept, to sexually abuse them, to racially abuse them, to withhold holidays, over-charge them in administrative fees, work them like animals for up to 17 hours a day and give them a 14 day window to get out of town or get a job should they find themselves out of contract.
The system breeds a dangerously nochalant and negative attitude from a city made up of people notoriously at the bottom of the barrel in terms of the concept of ‘other people’ and the idea of fairness and civility. When gross disrespect is built into the system on a government level, you can imagine the kind of contempt and disregard in the minds of those who buy into the services of a cheap slave. And I say ‘slave’ because euphemistic terms like ‘maid’ and ‘helper’, after all, just don’t cut it and are really only favoured by locals and expats alike, who just can’t manage to take care of their own responsibilities and think they need…’help’. ‘Maid’ and ‘helper’ are soft words for hard labour. And employers know it. Local slave drivers are full of superiority and malice while expats glibly support the system, throwing a few extra bucks at their slave at Christmas to make themselves feel good.
So anyway, my neighbour’s a deadshit. And so’s her halfwit son. Guess what happens when the stink of their imprisoned dog gets bad enough to peel paint off the wall? Yeah, a couple of Indonesian ‘helpers’ come to clean up. Their body language says it all. The old bitch intimidates them with her ingrained sense of self importance. She holds all the aces while the maids clean up dog shit and scrub her S-bend. The workers slink in and out of her house with their shoulders hunched and their tail between their legs, as if they are expecting a short clip over the ears at any moment. They speak in hushed tones and don’t look their master in the eye. It’s pitiful. But it’s perfectly ok in Hong Kong. Everybody does it because it’s cheap. It doesn’t matter that a woman was systematically tortured, starved, humiliated and cruelly beaten under this system does it? That’s just an isolated case, isn’t it? Well sure it may be…or it may not be…but that’s not the point. The point is, that Hong Kong encourages an environment where minorities such as foreign domestic workers are treated like dogs…and sees nothing wrong with it.