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Nuclear standoff and that appalling United flight incident

At times, it may seem as if the world is a farce, what with all the crazy political developments and societal mishaps. Except the problem is that this has long stopped being funny and people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.

The latest crisis in Asia is the ongoing standoff between North Korea and the US that hopefully will remain just that, without breaking out into nuclear war. While I really don’t believe that could happen, despite North Korea’s warning of “thermonuclear war” and a U.S. fleet deployed in nearby waters, it is still possible violent conflict can break out. Especially as the two key actors are a callous buffonish tycoon who leads the world’s most powerful country going up against a rotund tyrant whose cartoonish appearance masks the fact he heads one of the world’s most despicable regimes.

Meanwhile, I know it is kind of old (last week) news but I’m still trying to get over the shocking scene from of an Asian-American doctor being dragged off a United Airlines plane bloodied and unconscious. When I first saw the news and hadn’t read all the details, I thought maybe it was a case of excessive force being used on a passenger who had done something violent. Instead, it turned out he did nothing wrong  but had merely been chosen at random to get off because the airline had messed up and needed to squeeze four of its crew onto the flight. Because he refused, he earned the right to be forced from his seat, pulled violently towards the ground, thus knocking himself unconscious after his head hit a seat armrest, and dragged like a corpse through the aisle.

What made it worse was that despite the clear video footage and multiple witnesses, the United CEO came out and made some boldfaced lies about the customer having been “disruptive” and “belligerent.” It took growing outrage from the public before the CEO was able to admit anything, in what were his third and fourth statements after the incident.
Frankly, this is one situation where everyone involved from the security personnel who forced the victim out of his seat and pulled him out violently, rendering him unconscious in the process, to the airline crew to the CEO was wrong. You have to wonder what was going through the minds of those security men, who seem to have escaped blame given all the attention on the airline, when they did all that. “Just doing their job” isn’t a good-enough excuse.

I don’t know, there’s an enormous lack of decency in society today in how we treat each other and what is scary is how much it permeates all levels, from top to bottom.

Hong Kong

Looking back at 2016 and hoping for a better 2017

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With just hours to go (in Taiwan, that is), 2017 is almost upon us and I think most of us will be glad this year is almost over, because we can’t handle any more shocks, tragedies and turbulence that blighted the world in 2016. While it is obvious that a lot of people are enduring tough times worldwide, due to a bad economy and wars and conflicts, the result of the US Presidential Election in November really caused a deeply profound shock even to the most cynical among us. That something which many people, including myself, take for granted, which is that the US is the world’s superpower that is stable and stands for ideals that is an example to the world, can be destabilized by someone like Donald Trump winning its highest office.

The joke stopped being funny and come January 20 it will be reality, but what is more disturbing is what his win meant. If even tens of millions of citizens in the world’s mightiest nation and largest economy can be so disillusioned or enraged or ignorant to vote for such an absurd and callow candidate as Trump to be president, what does it mean about the rest of us. In Hong Kong, this disillusionment also exists as can be seen by the rise of anti-establishment localist parties and their strong support, which saw them win seats in September’s legislative elections. A lot of other countries, such as the UK whose populace voted for Brexit in June, another deeply shocking result, France, Turkey and of course, the Philippines, who voted in an inane president themselves, have seen a rise in nationalism which has been reflected in their politics (Brexit, Duterte etc). And let’s not exclude China, where Xi Jinping has continued his strongman act domestically while engaging in provocative actions overseas in the South China, and puerile talk about how offended and hurt they are everytime Taiwan does something.

For me, 2016 was memorable because I finally moved to Hong Kong to work. Though that was my aim at the beginning of the year, after leaving China in 2015, I still find it surprising how fast the months have passed since I came to HK, that I’ve been working here for three-quarters of a year. It wasn’t easy getting accustomed to how different it is working and living here compared to just visiting, as the crowds, high costs of rent and food, and fast pace of life wear on you a bit. Also, it was challenging starting a new job with several main responsibilities, but that is going along better now.

In terms of travel, I went to Sri Lanka in January and then went back to Taiwan for the end of December. In between, I went back to China for the first time in over a year in September to neighboring Guangdong, then crossed over to visit Guangzhou and Guangxi, both of which was my first time.

All that said, I hope things will improve in 2017 and that the world doesn’t become significantly worse. I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and a great 2017!
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Took a very decent trip to Sri Lanka back at the start of the year, amid the job-hunting. Was a good omen because I would soon get a job within weeks after returning.
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Hong Kong is fantastic to look at from afar, but close up, as you can see below, things don’t seem quite as sunny.
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Spent Christmas in Guangxi, China, where I enjoyed the fine karst scenery despite some fog and rain