High-class people taking things too seriously


Stan-TearsTormentWhen I was seven, I lusted after various exotic-looking but forbidden brands of chocolate displayed behind a glass counter in the local store. In terms of longer-term ambition, I had hazy notions of being drummer for these guys, though the nuns who ran my school dismissed the idea as ‘a waste of a fine mind’. I neither knew nor cared what Harvard was, let alone felt a need to go there.

Not so Jonathan Lu. Even back when he was in short pants, he already had his heart set on the ivy-covered halls and spires of that pinnacle of American academe in New Jersey/Delaware/wherever the hell it is. But his hopes were cruelly dashed when he was ‘Head Boy’ at Hong Kong’s elite/exclusive/tedious-sounding Chinese International School. Another student’s mother wrote emails co-signed by her husband accusing Jonathan and his twin sister of cheating in an economics test, and claiming the kids’ dad Carl Lu, handily a school governor, of covering it up. The Lu family are now suing, so we can all watch the fun.

By suing, the Lu’s may make us wonder if the cheating/cover-up allegation is true. The innocent, we might think, would surely shrug it off and get on with their lives. But it could be that they are enormously thin-skinned – and also obsessive about the Schools Thing, so the boy’s failure to get into Harvard has caused anguish of wrist-slashing proportions. In a city where two-year-olds attend special prep classes for kindergarten admission interviews, it’s all too possible. (They claim the stress caused the kids’ anorexia.)

So we turn to the other parent – the mother and accusatory emailer, Frieda Hui. If there is any time to shrug and get on with your life, it must be upon hearing rumours that a classmate of your own child was cheating in a test. But instead she sent nasty emails to other parents about it. Her position is that she acted out of love for the school; the Lu’s say she was driven by envy and spite at Jonathan’s status as a mega-high-achiever. Either way, we are talking of unhealthy extremes of emotion.

It is an everyday story from one of Hong Kong’s fascinating sub-cultures. This city has a tycoon caste, who just pay for their kids to get into and graduate from brand-name schools. It has its true-born patriots, who traditionally treat Western-style education with disdain and get ahead through groveling and networking.

And then we have this social-climbing upper-middle-class possessed by the need to acquire a specific list of hackneyed and tawdry status symbols to prove to themselves, I would guess, the worth of their existence. The shiny Alphard, the Jockey Club membership, the wine collection, the golf, the hankering after a ‘Justice of the Peace’ tag, and – seemingly – a consuming angst about not only one’s own genius and multi-talented children, but other people’s. While members of this milieu may have risen partly by their own efforts, much of their self-perceived rank depends on others not rising.

SocialRegister'You get this everywhere in some form, no doubt. The Hong Kong version is just that bit more hilarious, if a bit puke-inducing. The story in this case, of course, is that frustrated Frieda’s husband is Paul Chan, who, since co-signing vicious emails, has gone from being a legislator to a government minister.

I declare the weekend open with the satisfaction of knowing Frieda must be so proud.

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13 Responses to High-class people taking things too seriously

  1. dopey says:

    I love this story and wish it would never end.

  2. gumshoe says:

    I’m just glad Paul made it to the courthouse safely in a vehicle! Apparently those mandatory driving lessons helped him out.

  3. Stephen says:

    Dopey here’s another …

    Once upon a time there was once a young halfwit called Richard, so devoid of fatherly love, he often dreamed that he graduated from Harvard. The dream seemed so real that he included it on his resume. With this being Hong Kong that is of course fine and dandy until a Dastardly David exposed it was only a dream.

  4. john says:

    1 word – Solipsism! .. Anyways when I was 7, I fought to watch Robotic Human #17, Siu Lo Po and favorite ‘Gegege Kitaro’ coz in tenements there is 1 TV with many children

  5. Maugrim says:

    Paul Chan is the gift that keeps in giving . If, one day, a museum exhibit was required in the future to describe the behaviour of middle class Hong Kongers at the turn of the 21st Century, The Chan family’s exploits will be worthy reading . A well written piece above Hemmers, well done. Btw, has a Government Minister ever sent their offspring to a local school?

  6. PD says:

    And Kiasu to the nth degree.

  7. JM Hatch says:

    Alphard? That’s for the lowly cross boarder factory owner or possibly the servants use. These children would consider a Mercedes S-class slumming.

    “By suing, the Lu’s may make us wonder if the cheating/cover-up allegation is true. The innocent, we might think, would surely shrug it off and get on with their lives.”

    While hardly as bad as getting on Rupert Murdoch’s bad side, apparently the slander seriously effected their life, how ever narrow it looks to us peons. Probably more damaging is many institutes, not just Harvard, don’t want the head ache of dealing with this sort of petty hatred, and would rather just pitch the children in the reject pile. After all there are so many “qualified” applicants to get, why invite trouble by taking on one hunted by nutters with power. Also, I can just see all those Chinese versions of Jiff and Buffy at Chinese Int’l (as well as possibly the children of the FILTH) being told by their parents to avoid Jonathan & his sister out of fear of getting on the bad side of two rabid nutters with Wolf power.

  8. Henry says:

    Stephen – He dreamt of graduating from Stanford.

  9. Scotty Dotty says:

    Good article.

    As a breeder I can confirm this uber-parenting is freakingly common in the International and English schools. Granted it doesn’t get to court usually but manipulative emails from mommy and school haranguing by daddy, that’s routine.

  10. PCC says:

    This Hui-Chan duo are truly nasty people.

  11. Joe Blow says:

    Paul Chan is one person I would love to see fall flat on his smug face and break at least some of his front teeth.

  12. Knownot says:

    “By suing, the Lu’s may make us wonder if the cheating/cover-up allegation is true.”

    If ‘By suing’ is changed to ‘By not suing’, the sentence is equally plausible.

    Alternatively: if ‘true’ is changed to ‘false’, the sentence is equally plausible.

  13. cur mudgeon says:

    Integrity does not seem to be Paul Chan’s or his wife’s strong point:


    It is interesting that the Chan pot called the Lu kettle black, without evidence. While at the same time, there is factual evidence of the pots’ own ethical limitations.

    Petty sleaze in HK never ceases to entertain.

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