Category Archives: China

CDotD: Body Check Required to Work in China

A colleague from our Shanghai office rolled into town to complete his visa application to work in China, and was lamenting at how exhausting the procedure was.  I jokingly suggested that China needed bloodwork before they could let him through – and it turned out that was no joke! He actually DID need to provide blood for testing to complete his application for a work permit.  The purpose of it was primarily to ensure that he did not have AIDS.

But not only did he have to have his blood tested, but he also had to hook up to an EKG and get an ultrasound.  What they were testing, I have no idea.

I suppose I could see a reason to bar a person with AIDS from entering the country, but what about someone who was just not in good health? Why did they need to do all those other tests? And what could they discover from an ultrasound (of a male) that might be suspect??


From US Elections to China’s Appointments

Congratulations to President Barack Obama on his reelection.  That was a tough campaign and based on the popular vote, it was a close election, reflecting significant popular distaste in the previous 4 years.

But as the US is seeing no change in the top (there were quite a few important new candidates elected in Congress), China is about to see lots of change (well, sort of) this month!

President Hu Jintao will give up his role as party chief to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping in a once in a decade change!  (The president can serve up to two 5-year terms, and it’s usual that the first term is renewed.)  Today is the start of a huge handover of power to newly appointed leaders.  The process will take place over a week-long meeting behind closed doors (no elections, of course) among over 2,000 delegates, who will select a central committee, which then chooses the country’s highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

It won’t be until about November 15 before we will know who China’s new leaders are going to be, though there have already been some strong indications over certain positions.  Security in Beijing has been considerably beefed up during this time, and watch over political dissidents have similarly been increased.  Though the people of China don’t have any say or choice in the entire matter, it’s apparent  the government is concerned that they may express their views.

So whether or not you’re happy about Obama’s reelection or not, think about what government might be when you have no say, and consider how important it is to vote when you can!

So…What Are You? (Part II)

Identity is not only an issue in the US, apparently, but most definitely one in Hong Kong.  For the most part, it seems Hong Kongers try to distance themselves with China, and in its ugliest form, even be quite discriminatory against Chinese.   Rarely will a Hong Konger ever dare suggest they are to be considered equals to those on the Mainland.  But once in a while, you’d be surprised.

Most recently in the Olympics, I recalled feeling a bit of surprise when one Hong Kong athlete remarked that he considered himself a part of Team China, despite there being separate teams.  It would make sense to want to bask in China’s pride, where the nation once again brought back plenty of medals to celebrate, but yet I was really shocked that he’d make that statement.  (Sorry for no link – just saw it on the news one night!).

More recently in my own experience, I got wrapped up in the following “facebook fight.”  Unfortunately few others dared get involved (or maybe didn’t care), but I post it below for your entertainment or enlightenment.  Either way, I hope to get some public discussion on this one.  (I’ve changed the names for everyone’s privacy.)

PRC Supporter  about an hour ago near Hong Kong ·
You are granted 3 stars permanent residency of Hong Kong. The government gives away $6000 and you took it. Hong Kong is part of China. You still claim that you are not Chinese?
LikeUnlike · ·Unfollow PostFollow Post
6 people like this.

        59 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike 

  • PRCSupporter

     Hoho tonight’s speech objectives raise a lot of questions in me.
    55 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • Expat-PR

     Go on – give me something to get my teeth into!!
    54 minutes ago ·UnlikeLike · 1
  • ME
     but getting permanent residency does NOT confer permanent residency in China.
    49 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • Expat-PR

     And getting PR is not the same as getting 3 stars
    47 minutes ago ·UnlikeLike · 1
    PRC Supporter
  •  Hong Kong is part of China. Disagree?
     44 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRCSupporter

     PR cannot get $6000?
    43 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME

     Hong Kong is an SAR. Disagree?
    39 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRC Supporter
     ME: did you get $6000?
    36 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME
    Nope, I certainly did not!
    36 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike

  • Expat-PR
     PR can get $6K but PR does not equal 3 stars
     35 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • Expat-PR
     I did.
    35 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME guess you would be smearing Chung’s research as well, PRC Supporter.

    A recent survey found that fewer and fewer Hong Kong residents view themselves primarily as Chinese.
    34 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike ·
  • PRC Supporter Read this. It is more updated.

    Hong Kong fishing vessel Kai Fung No 2 reached Hong Kong water on Tuesday evening.
    26 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME
    PRC Supporter, this article from the CHINA DAILY about the government’s official stance has little to do with 1) HK people’s sentiment, and 2) anything with your argument that collecting 6k makes you Chinese! Ruth cannot enter China under the same conditions as a PRC passport holder. I’m 100% American, and even with its ups and downs, and the regular embarassment I may face being American, that isn’t changing anytime soon.
    24 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRC Supporter

     ME: It is not about sentiment at all. It is all facts. You are sensitive about your own identity and you are sentimental. No one here ever ask to you claim that you are 100% American. You don’t have the responsibility to join the discussion of this topic. Calm down sweetheart. :D.
    16 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME

     I am completely calm! But what you say is entirely off point and don’t address what have been both Ruth and my points. I can participate in any debate I like — because I’m in HK, not China 😀
    14 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • Expat-PR

     I agree with ME- talking about identity IS emotional and China is not interested in any one individual’s particular sentiments on the matter – they have their own agenda. You have to be careful if you’re going to tackle this topic tonight – so easy to offend…
    11 minutes ago ·UnlikeLike · 1
  • ME
    For the record, I pointed out my own nationality for the purposes of demonstrating (1) what Ruth pointed out — the inherent link between sentimentality and identity, and (2) to also show that I need not be among the parties (Chinese or HKese) to find this interesting / involving.

    9 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRC Supporter
    ME: you are so legal. 😀 If you are so embarassed here why not go back home and find a job there? All I can see is a friend here all of a sudden claims that she is a 100% American. I feel sorry for the embarassment you had but this has nothing to do with this topic. Do you have PR in Hong Kong?
    7 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME
    I’m not embarassed about being American. I was referring to how it’s not necessarily so fashionable to be American, and yet I am still proud to call myself American. As for a job, I am not here because I am not employable in the US. As for wanting to go back – I most definitely do want to, especially with the evolving (or devolving) political climate in HK. And no, I do NOT have PR, nor am I particularly interested in it.
    5 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRC Supporter
    ME: so you don’t fit into any part of the topic. y u spend so much time discussing this???
    4 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME
     As I said, it’s still interesting! It touches on topics that are still relevant to anyone who cares about identity, ethnicity, and nationality. I would think you’d welcome more points of views and encourage debate! But that is certainly not the Chinese way!
    2 minutes ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • PRC Supporter

     Expat-PR: thank you for the reminder. ME: thank you for the comments. It is time to go. 😀
    about a minute ago · “}’>LikeUnlike
  • ME

     Yes, I see you definitely identify yourself as Chinese!

Olympic Coverage in Hong Kong – and Chinese Taipei?

The Olympics are on and I am pleased to say that Hong Kong worked out its controversial public television coverage issues such that two channels will show the Olympic games on tv for all to see, despite the time zone preventing us from watching the key events at decent hours (the opening ceremony aired at 4am!).

What I find interesting is that in Hong Kong there will be more coverage of all kinds of sports — and not just swimming and gymnastics.  Being an ex-fencer, I was thrilled to see this original Olympic sport featured on television.

But while I was excited to see television coverage of my normally overlooked sport (in America, that is), I noticed, the coverage was not of the top athletes, but rather was of the local athletes. 

Hong Kong actually has 42 athletes in 13 sports representing the SAR in this year’s games.   Sports not only include a few representatives in fencing, but also badminton (a no-brainer considering how popular it is in HK), archery, judo, shooting, even weightlifting, among others.  Given that Hong Kong will only compete in 13 sports, this might be why time is set aside for sports like fencing or shooting (which I saw each of on television last night).

Not only is special effort made to cover the local athletes of Hong Kong, but once their turns are done, there is some effort to feature other nearby Asian athletes, including China and a country represented by the letters “TPE”.

TPE? Isn’t that the airport code for Taipei? Why Taipei and not Taiwan?  Well I don’t exactly know the answer to that last question, but it turns out that since the civil war in China, the Republic of China, a/k/a Taiwan, is most commonly known in almost all sporting events as Chinese Taipei.

According to my ever-cited Wikipedia, both the ROC and PRC, it’s the one name that both countries (I’m calling Taiwan a country) can agree on using.  The usage of ROC, is confusing for fairly self-explanatory reasons and creates an obvious ambiguity concerning Taiwan’s political status.  But what’s wrong with calling yourself Taiwan?

Well the Chinese don’t like it because it connotes independence from PRC, whereas the Taiwanese apparently dislike it because it somehow suggests subordinance to the PRC!

In any case,  watch the public teleivison coverage of the Olympics in Hong Kong — you’ll get exposure to less popular sports and learn something about international relations!

Beijing II

For the (Western) New Year’s, I took advantage of the long weekend in Beijing.  My musical friend Aaron joined an amateur orchestra called the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony that was going on a whirlwind tour through China during the Christmas holidays. During that time, Aaron and his symphony would be playing in Beijing, and allowed to enjoy a free day.

The symphony didn’t exactly go on a “tourist’s” tour — while they were fortunate enough to make it to Beijing and Xi’an, they also went to some rather tourist unfriendly cities (Dalian, Shenyang), some cities tourists generally skip (Shenzhen, Guangzhou), but got to see the lesser traveled Qingdao while skipping the usual must-see Shanghai.  The poor musicians were constantly being prodded into transport (whether it be a bus, train or plan), not knowing what most people were saying (China still requires some Chinese to travel, imo), rehearsing, performing, eating late and not necessarily tasty dinners (given little to no choice at that late hour), and seeing just about nothing of China.

Luckily, they did get to go on tours to the Qingdao beer factory, see the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Xi’an terra cotta warriors.  If Aaron saw none of those things, I’d be pretty sad for him.

Given Aaron’s visit, I decided to come back to Beijing  as a tourist for a second time (I did take a flight through Beijing June 2010 en route to NYC, but that obviously did not count).  I wondered how my tourist experience would change 5 years since my first visit, post-Olympics, post-China boom.

First difference from when I came to Beijing in 2006 on my very first China trip, it was a really hot summer, and I definitely could feel the pollution more back then.  I spent part of that time on some hardcore tours, and part of it with my younger sister who was studying abroad at Peking University for the summer.  I also spent way more time trying to haggle good deals at Pearl Market.

This time it was winter – temperatures were in the 30s (F) by day, and rather bitingly cold by night – especially when you’ve been living in a sub-tropical island for the past two years!   My agenda was pretty simple for this long weekend – check out some of the contemporary art everyone’s been raving about in recent years, properly tour a hutong (in ’06 I only accidentally wandered through one and thought a tour would be rudely invasive), see Aaron’s performance and hang out with him as much as possible, including his organized Great Wall and Forbidden City tour.   Additionally, I wanted to catch up with my friend Spencer, whom I was staying with again.

I accomplished all of the above except for the hutong tour — unfortunately New Year’s Eve did me in for the day, so I just had to rest up til the concert. Upon arrival, I enjoyed lunch with Spencer, and then set off for the 798 art district, where former warehouses, many constructed from bricks imported from East Germany and designed to withstand 7.0 earthquakes had been converted into studios, galleries, coffeeshops, and boutiques, to support a bohemian artists’ community.

I heard it was already gentrifying to a certain extent, but I thought I may as well check this area out first before seeing the more cutting-edge  Caochangdi.  I must say 798 should be a must visit for those who have a bit more time than a normal Beijing visit allows (if a first time visitor).  It is such a unique enclave that really made me think.  Plus, I did enjoy the art.

The coffeeshop where I took a rest was not quite as charming or restful as one I’d find in NY, but it was nice to just be there for some reason.  The shops have some unique items, so worth having a look, and definitely interesting to check out the UCCA – Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, the first of its kind funded almost 100% by one eccentric German contemporary Chinese art lover.

For New Year’s, Spencer invited me to join his friend Mitz, who was hosting a private party at his soon-to-be-opened bar, akin to his other bars in NYC – B Flat and its predecessor, Angel Share, which I loved when I was in NY.  He and his wife were very gracious and kind, and I liked the low-key atmosphere of just chilling with some champagne.  Many of the guests were Japanese ex-pats, and some could not speak English, so I had to resort to Mandarin to communicate.  Though I don’t prefer speaking in Chinese to English, it felt pretty comfortable to express myself, which is nice.

The next day, as I said, I found the New Year’s champagne had caught up to me, so I ended up in bed all day long til Aaron’s concert.  The concert was at the Beijing Concert Hall.  I wasn’t sure how to translate that, but managed to explain it to the cabbie.  I really enjoyed the music, even if Aaron kept stressing how amateur the symphony was.  I loved the classic American songs they chose – the West Side Story medley, Aaron Copeland’s Hoe-down, Stars and Stripes Forever — it made me feel nostalgic and patriotic.

Afterwards, Aaron and I snuck off to some local restaurant that opened late for dinner, since it seemed many of the post-concert meals weren’t terribly good.  We ordered lots of food for little money, enjoying some foods I’d never had before — a flaky bread, akin to the punched out naan from Singapore, but way more buttery and this thing that was like a combination of a dumpling and a scallion pancake smashed into one!  Very tasty.

Next morning we got up early for the organized tour.  The tour guide, Tang Ke, a/k/a Tim, was great.  He could just talk forever – and not just tell you about facts on Chinese history, but tell some fascinating stories about modern Chinese life – like what the different license plate colors in Beijing mean, where the most expensive hookers in BJ worked at one time, how much it costs to send your child to a good kindergarten – even though it is a “public” school.  He really gave an interesting look into modern Beijing life.  Sometimes I cursed how interesting he was because I wanted so desperately to take a nap on the bus!

The Mutianyu section hadn’t changed much since I last visited in 2006, and this time I had a quicker ride down the luge, though some of the others complained about the stops/slowdowns due to one cowardly orchestra member.  I’d say it definitely beat going down behind the  frightened girl I ended up braking constantly for 5 years ago!

The biggest change as to the Forbidden City was that the Starbucks was removed and replaced with a tea shop! I have to admit, a part of me was a little disappointed, because it was a comedy that best reflected the emergent China to me.

After the tour, I helped some of Aaron’s orchestra-mates do some shopping at Pearl Market, and then found out where to go for a classic and perfect Peking duck.  We grabbed the subway, which beat fighting for a taxi (I did not remember it being this hard to get one last time).

At the end of our meal, which was effectively the end of the trip, Aaron’s friend thanked  me for lending my language skills, since neither the subway ride nor the spectacular dinner could be possible without me.  I felt glad to help.  It was definitely the least I could do for the warm feelings I got when listening to their music!

All in all a great way to start the new year, save the one unpleasant day.  I felt I got to see Beijing in a different way than I did 5 years ago.  Will it change much more in another 5 years?

CDotD: You Are NOT “Qualified” For Admission to the Singapore Bar, Unless…

This CDotD is highly related to my posts on overseas lawyer qualification as it is about another hot legal market — Singapore.  Indeed, I happened to randomly lunch with some American lawyers today, who recently arrived to Hong Kong.   They both recently encountered random e-mails from strangers who reached out to them, interested in practicing law in Hong Kong.

Having been successfully admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, I had some thoughts, obviously.  One lawyer asked if I’d taken the PCLL, and I immediately answered a hearty NO!  Though taking the OLQE is also no walk in the park, a full year taking the PCLL is definitely not the preferred option, plus, there would be no guarantee I’d get admitted into a PCLL program in Hong Kong. 

And for all its toughness, we all agreed that having Chinese language skills, particularly Mandarin, has become so critical in the legal market in Hong Kong at this stage, that fewer and fewer foreigners, especially junior lawyers, would likely find success here — at least not easily.

I offered that Singapore seems to be the hot spot for foreign lawyers these days.  I’d heard that throughout my own job searches, and may have considered it as a next frontier.  I also met a young law student who just got placed at a top law firm in Singapore as a newly qualified lawyer — that would definitely be close to impossible in Hong Kong.

On top of that, Singapore is known for its talent shortage, which has even led to some very interesting recent changes in its regulation of foreign lawyers and law firms.  In 2009, 6 foreign law firms were granted licenses to allow its Singapore-qualified lawyers to practice local corporate law for a period of 5 years.  More may be considered if the program is a success.

Another recent proposal from this year would allow a limited number of Queen’s Counsel or Senior Counsel (this is a super-title for highly accomplished barristers) to be allowed a sort of ad hoc admissions in Singapore as well.  This would be particularly interesting since litigation, of all things, has always been particularly sheltered in Singapore (not even foreign law firms in Joint Law Ventures could practice litigation).

But as my curiosity led me to dig around further, I found that it is nearly impossible to be considered a “qualified person” fit to apply for admission in Singapore! 

To be a “qualified person,” one must:

  1. Be a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident;
  2. Have received a degree from a list of very limited law programs in U.K., Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the U.S. (+/- a few other routes, such as having qualified in U.K. via one of the qualifying exams, but only pre-1993 or something like that)
  3. Take a few exams
  4. Undergo a trainee program for a number of months!

Talk about onerous!  But check this — only FOUR U.S. law schools are considered good enough for Singapore — and they are Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and University of Michigan.  I’d like to say I still just might qualify, but I also had to have been in the top 70% of my class academically, and I’m honestly not sure if I was (though I guess chances are that I was).


So I guess for all the blood, sweat, and tears expended on the OLQE, I should be particularly grateful that I had it this (relatively) easy!

BTW, this info was not all that easy for me to find – so below you will find some of the links I consulted (but not all):

(Not Quite) In the News… Protest in Central on Sunday August 21, 2011

I’ve complained in the past that I did not feel the Hong Kong people were vocal enough about their identity and sovereignty, especially with China constantly encroaching, but on Sunday I came across this:

I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, especially with most of the signage and protest cries in Chinese, but once I crossed the street, I stayed a few minutes to try to ascertain.  Maybe this photo does a better job:

Basically, many of the slogans say, “Reject the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”  Unfortunately, I was running late for a cocktail making class, and didn’t have the time to observe this peaceful protest further to get any better of an understanding.  I did notice it carried on for quite a while, and included traditional Chinese drummers and some traditional Chinese music playing from speakers, in addition to bohorn-powered slogan chanting. 

Today I tried to find something in the news on it, and only saw something about a journalists’ protest earlier in the week, concerning the restrictions on media when China’s Li Keqiang paid a visit.

I also would say that it’s a pity that the bulk of this protesting was in Chinese (both the signs and the spoken slogans), since I’m sure it’s something worth putting non-Chinese understanding expats (and even tourists) on notice about.

So this leads me to think two things: 1) I’ve underestimated the passion of Hong Kong people, and 2) I wonder if news of this sort of protest tends to get silenced?

Anyone with leads, please comment here – PLEASE!