Exciting Times for Expats

We have to squeeze in another NatSec horror for Friday – a court hearing with a distinct smell of Mainland about it. Months in a Shenzhen jail, a defendant apologizing, weird charges about conspiring in an elaborate plot with Jimmy Lai and others in colluding with foreign forces (crowdfunding ads in overseas media), no bail, trial to take place next year. 

On lighter matters, there are two subscription-TV productions in the pipeline about Hong Kong expats and their luxurious brain-dead lifestyles of yachts and Peak dinner parties. The projects have provoked extreme gnashing of teeth, especially among Westerners who call the city home and proudly consider themselves long-term Hongkongers (relatively sober examples here, here and here).

The whites understandably want to distance themselves from the Discovery Bay stereotype who can’t count to ten in Cantonese and barely noticed the protests and CCP backlash since 2014 except as an incomprehensible nuisance. The overseas-born Chinese seem, if anything, even more vitriolic about the new movies, perhaps because one was written by one of their own – plus, being conscious of their ancestry, some might feel a responsibility to complain that the productions exclude the less glamorous lives of the other 99.9% of the population. 

With the greatest respect to these groups: if you were a genuinely authentic Hongkonger, you wouldn’t care less about how some US streaming TV series portrays the place. 

Your time is precious. Don’t let this crap annoy you.

Still, since we’re here… One of these productions is actually called Expats and stars Nicole Kidman, and the other is called something else and probably stars someone else. (Had to Google her. She’s this one. I’ve never seen any of her films except the excellent Paddington, but I don’t recall her part – maybe she was in the bear costume.) Everyone is irate that Kidman was exempted from quarantine on arrival for shooting (though rest assured she will not approach you). Quartz comes to the rescue with everything on the subject. Exciting Times!

The deeper anger on Twitter and elsewhere is aimed at the perceived callousness of the movies’ focus on a wealthy and privileged elite at a time when the city is being ground down around us by Beijing. But Hollywood sells fantasy. The backdrop could have been somewhere else (see Dubai below).

So: is it a coincidence that there are two shows in the works showing Hong Kong as a vibrant, dynamic, cosmopolitan blah-blah hub, or has someone encouraged the productions as an image-boost? Maybe PR agency Consulum worked harder for their US$5.7 million than we think. I’ve no idea. The boring explanation would be that the protest movement vaguely raised US public awareness that Hong Kong exists, and the entertainment moguls are jumping on the bandwagon. Nowhere else has a skyline like this, right? For what it’s worth, Amazon – which would love to sell video on demand in China – is behind both series.

If only Graham Greene had done a ‘Hong Kong expat’ novel for Amazon to work with. Or at least Tom Sharpe – I can recommend The Ghost of Neil Diamond by David Milnes. 

Other weekend reading…

Professional Commons find nearly 2,000 hectares of land suitable for housing.

Which member of Canto-boyband Mirror starred in a haemorrhoid-treatment ad? (Clue: it wasn’t one of the ones that look seven years old.) All you wanted to know about them here.

A concise thread rebutting George Soros’ amateur-psychology analysis of Xi Jinping being anti-Deng.

On out-of-area-matters…

All you need to know about Dubai (plus a bit about Romania).

And that wonderfully vicious review of the rooftop Polo Lounge at London’s Dorchester – ‘chicken breast with the texture of value-range cotton wool’. 

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Exciting Times for Expats

  1. ABC therapist says:

    Always seems to me that many of the most vocal Chinese born or living in the West on Twitter, despise ‘white people’ with a passion while also having an unhealthy obsession with them and the things they do. They come across as neo-racists who justify their hate filled rants by referencing prior ‘oppression’ at the hands of whites usually in the form of what always sounds like the pretty standard high school bullying and teasing most people, regardless of their ethnicity, were subjected to at some point.

    I guess for these type of social media wingnuts the very idea that whites are even living in Asia (or anywhere for that matter) is itself an affront. Their families were/are not part of the poor in Hong Kong or Asia who they self-righteously claim to be offended on behalf of. Many have probably led more privileged lives than the majority of the whites they so despise (maids to wipe their arses and carry their bags, ‘elite’ schooling and tutoring, luxury flats with clubhouses, vacations abroad, private health care, etc.).

    They are the same zero context/historical knowledge clowns who mob a white girl online for wearing a cheongsam to her prom or fly into a rage because a whitey had the audacity to put her own spin on congee. They also fall in with the ABC men who claim they are victims of a genocide because Asian women in the West tend to marry outside their ethnic group. In other words, self pitying, hate-filled losers with a razor sharp victim complex and minimal contact with reality. Let’s be honest, the reason they spend so much time on Twitter is because no one in the real world will listen to their drivel.

    By the way, that book Hemmers sounds utterly depressing.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    “For what it’s worth, Amazon – which would love to sell video on demand in China – is behind both series.”

    And, coincidentally, next time when in the mainland, ask your Chinese friend about watching virtually ANY current western “paid” programming and he/she will swiftly set you up to watch to your heart’s content whatever you’d like for FREE (don’t even need a VPN). Almost as if the CCP wants to undermine those pesky western companies and their “values” like IP and copyrights.

  3. YTSL says:

    “The overseas-born Chinese seem, if anything, even more vitriolic about the new movies, perhaps because one was written by one of their own…”

    Actually, Janice Y. K. Lee is of Korean descent. Speaking of ancestry: have you looked at “Expats” director Lulu Wang’s, and also her Tweets and Instagram posts that have caused quite a bit of ire? Also, since we’re discussing the skipping of quarantine with regards to Nicole Kidman, I wonder if this was the case with Wang’s bf, Barry Jenkins? In any case, I wonder how he managed to make it into Hong Kong recently since non-Hong Kong residents are generally not allowed in here currently, unless they’re here professionally, right?

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    EVERYTHING ABC therapist said.

    “They also fall in with the ABC men who claim they are victims of a genocide because Asian women in the West tend to marry outside their ethnic group.” Yup…Asian women referenced here are generally ALWAYS on the arm of a well to do WASP (or even Jew in extreme cases) whom they met in business school. Just take a look any day on the NY Times website home page…you’ll inevitably be forced to see the marriage registry.

  5. Paul Lewis says:

    But but but … a lot of other people are coming and going under the government scheme to let privileged people in and out and bypass quarantine.
    If we only knew who they were, perhaps the outrage would be even greater.
    I’m sure it is easy to guess who some of them (and their wives) are.

  6. Big Al says:

    I’m waiting to see how government will classify the trail of new COVID infections of shop workers and the public in Central, in the wake of the recent shopping trip by Ms Kidman and her entourage. Perhaps “linked to an imported infection”? Perhaps blame it on domestic helpers? Maybe, our “experts”* will decide to increase quarantine to 28 days, just to be sure and err even more?
    * Don’t forget that “ex” is something that no longer exists and a “spurt” is just a drip under pressure!

  7. Toph says:

    Wow, tell us how you really feel, ABC. It’s definitely not you who’s got an unhealthy obsession with other people or something.

    People are displacing their anger onto a trivial target that feels more within their control. It’s easier to be mad at a vapid, insensitive TV production than at the enormous machinery of a police state that doesn’t care if you live or die. For a couple of days anyway.

  8. Chinese Netizen says:

    After reading the skewering of the Polo Lounge, I clicked on to his review of Le Cinq in Paris and LOVED this bit: “We hit it again in an amuse-bouche which doesn’t: a halved and refilled passionfruit, the vicious passionfruit supplemented by a watercress purée that tastes only of the plant’s most bitter tones. My lips purse, like a cat’s arse that’s brushed against nettles.”

    What a pleasure to read!

  9. Penny says:

    @Toph – totally agree. HK people are going to express their anger at this malicious, vindictive and incompetent government by jumping on any decision, trivial or not, as long as there is no danger of contravening the vaguely-worded, wide-ranging NSL. Even the loyal garbage are in attack mode today:

  10. asiaseen says:

    clowns who mob a white girl online for wearing a cheongsam

    Yet they themselves, man, woman and child, wear western dress day in, day out.

  11. steve says:

    @ABC Therapist, plus Chinese Netizen in a supporting role:

    That’s some heavy duty racist stereotyping y’all are indulging in as you call attention to racist stereotyping. Somebody call the irony police, and have them bring a mirror.

  12. reductio says:

    The way to understand all this racial outrage is to keep in mind the “ladder of privilege” (a bit like a postmodern version of the great chain of being). Everybody has a fixed place on the ladder (ironic given postmodernism’s denial of essentialism, but hey) determined by one’s racial group, gender identification (but tricky that one) and other sundry abilities/disabilities. It runs like this:

    straight white male
    white female or gay white male
    gay white female or straight Asian male
    straight Asian female or gay Asian male
    black (ahem, Black) straight male
    Black straight female or gay Black male
    gay Black female

    Jews are a bit difficult to place. They have historically been oppressed but they sometimes seem difficult to tell apart from whites. Best ignore them. Trans and other sexual identities can also cause problems with position. A disability bumps you down one or two. However, I digress.

    And the rule is:

    You can punch up and across, but you’re not allowed to punch down (in this case one shuts up and earnestly internalizes the lived experience of the puncher upper).

    So Asians can criticize whites for cultural appropriation, colonialism (in fact anything), Blacks can hate on Asians for their cognitive inability to empathize with their suffering etc. but whites cannot return the favour in any way to any other group, Asians cannot reply to Black criticism etc. A Black lesbian gets a free pass at virtually everyone.

  13. Mary Melville says:

    That HK’s only, thank goodness, delegate to the NPCSC, has to engage in so much flip flopping with regard to the way forward on the sanctions bill should be a stark reminder to the loyal trash hustling for seats at the table that they play no part in the formulation of policy other than to dutifully press the yes button on cue.

  14. Red Dragon says:


    I think you’ve nailed it.

  15. Toph says:

    Re: Janice Y. K. Lee – having grown up around many international school kids, some of whom were of Korean descent, I can attest that neither being Asian nor having lived in Hong Kong for years conferred any immunity against being an out-of-touch, entitled brat. Few of the expatriate teenagers I knew had any interest in local culture (they assumed it was worthless) and only learned enough Cantonese to swear at the 7-11 clerks from whom they bought their booze. So one of these growing up to produce such a novel is entirely unsurprising.

    Perhaps it is worth reflecting on why so few Cantonese language novels have been translated into English when the Hong Kong lit shelves of whatever English bookstores still exist are full of expat memoirs and cringey spy thrillers.

  16. Chinese Netizen says:

    @steve: Oh I’m well aware. I’m just not a holier-than-thou, smug individual that’s perfect. Like you.

  17. Simplicissimus says:

    … er, ahem, far be it from me to drag the comments back to paragraph one … said defendant pleaded guilty – or am I much mistaken ? I often am in my dotage.

  18. Low Profile says:

    @Simplicissimus – when you know they’re going to convict you whatever you say, pleading guilty usually gets you a lighter sentence. Otherwise the judge will commonly add on a couple of extra years for “not showing remorse”.

  19. Knownot says:

    I have been trying to post something since Friday, but each time come to a dead end – “500 Internal Server Error”. This is a test, to see if a different post can get through.

  20. Knownot says:

    It seems it has got through. A mystery.

  21. Knownot says:

    To a Protester
    Hong Kong, 2019

    I saw you passing, dashing to and fro,
    Running from the billowing gas,
    And yet again, again, running back.
    I have returned from thirty years ago.

    In the roaring night of June I left the Square.
    The soldiers came – I saw their faces –
    Blank and stupid. I showed myself
    As if to say, Do you dare?

    They dared. They shot. I fell.
    I was desperate, and brave,
    Not knowing if my death had any use.
    I hurt my parents, but I died well.

    Now you, too, though living, face defeat,
    Utter failure: worse in every way.
    Perhaps we never should have gone
    Into the Square, into the street.

    We chose, you choose, to fight
    As if a protest, though put down,
    Though futile, is never loss.
    I don’t know. We may be right.

    Someone who has once, for at least
    A moment, lost hope
    May fight harder. The future
    Waits. Hope has not ceased.

  22. Pope Innocent says:

    The beauty of the NSL is that it applies in reverse: find something the prosecution can prove beyond doubt, such as wearing yellow socks, declare it a threat to national security, and the defendant has no choice but to plead guilty. We up here are happy to see the lessons learnt by the Spanish Inquisition have not been forgotten, even if they’re being applied by godless scum.

  23. reductio says:

    White bad – non-white good. And if you don’t agree with this subtle analysis of world history then your mind had been colonized (i.e. you are an Uncle Tom, coconut, banana etc). Ok, thanks Chandran, waiting with anticipation for the book:


  24. dimuendo says:

    known otherwise

    In view of knownots refusal to publish his “doggeral” I have taken to photographing it on my mobile phone.

    Provided I do not lose said phone there is a record, albeit sadly only of recent verse.

    If concerned as to the NSL (and v sadly I am.not joking given its seemingly ever increasing ambit) get it published outside HK, perhaps with an intro by some appropriate luminary, maybe S Vines (he clearly needs the money given the number of near identical.columns he is pumping out) or Nathan Law, if in UK.

    Although no photo record by me Mary Melville’s often trenchant observations deserve preservation.

  25. justsayin says:

    I actually read ‘Exciting Times’ last summer while on quarantine- ‘Exciting As Watching Paint Dry (Times)’ would be a better title. My commentary at the time as well was that it could have just has easily been set in Singapore or Dubai.
    During the same period I read ‘A Doctor’s Sword’ which was a cracking read. Hopefully Amazon take notice.

  26. asiaseen says:

    I note that Chandran Nain has culturally appropriated White Man’s dress.

Comments are closed.