Tag Archives: HK life

More Confused

I told myself I would give New York a full year evaluation in the same way I had promised when I came to Hong Kong.  That is, I need to see New York (as I did with Hong Kong beginning back in September 2009) in every season before I knew what I thought of it. I am nearing the first quarter of this evaluation (it started June 1st for me despite having returned in late April, since I travelled much of May), and I am frankly more confused than ever. My transition back into a New Yorker started out pretty well, actually.  After my London visit, where I pre-panicked about my return, things actually turned out better than expected: After toying around with my morning commute, I quickly discovered that the 45 minute bus-train combo was far more predictable and easy than I thought (and ditched the less predictable US$6 express bus into midtown).

  • I discovered I could borrow e-books from the New York Public Library, which I began reading on a US$20 tablet that I got on promotion at a local shop in my neighborhood (score!).  This has made my commute amazing and I have been reading loads (something I’ve come to love as an adult).
  • Very critically, I also found the perfect gym for me –  one that had workouts as brutal as the awesome boot camp I had only joined in my last weeks in HK, with just as awesome a group of trainers and gym goers that suited my location and schedule. Ding! Those who know me know that without the right fitness routine, I just can’t cope with anything.
  • Work was exciting – it would never be like my job in HK, but I was receiving a lot of support around me to develop my cross-border HK-US practice.  AND I brought in my very first client (!!) — Americans who were dissatisfied with local counsel in HK, handling a regulatory investigation and related litigation.
  • Home life was going smoother than I thought it would, and I was making good progress in finding high quality and AFFORDABLE home renovations!
  • PLUS dating was surprisingly EASY! I just joined a website called Coffee Meets Bagel that essentially was perfect for someone who was lazy about dating (you get just one match a day, and if you mutually “Like” someone, you get an opportunity to communicate anonymously, and potentially set up a date).  I learned something from the bad dates, and was pleasantly surprised by a good date.

So what happened? I suddenly decided to come back to Hong Kong for a visit just three months after leaving.   I was allowed to work from the HK office, back at my old desk, even working on one of my old cases.  Plus, the new matter I’d brought in needed some TLC from HK that I could not do properly from NY.  And finally, I had personal reasons that contributes to my present confusion.

Coming back to HK, I felt like I was coming home again.  It was my home for almost 5 years after all.  It was super familiar, especially as I was staying in my old neighborhood of Sheung Wan (something I’ll always do on future trips, since I just know it so well and love the feeling of familiarity, plus being right next door to some of my best friends in HK).

It was bloody hot and humid, but something I craved since NY’s summer has been extremely Fall-like. I got to try loads of new restaurants that opened just when I left – some hits (Mott 32, Ho Lee Fook, Ding Dim), some misses (Man Mo Café), in addition to many old favorites (the congee on Queens Road Central, the always tasty Chachawan).  As much as I might complain about the abysmal Western food, Hong Kong’s Asian cuisine definitely reigns supreme in creativity and quality.  I enjoyed some of the “extreme” fun that expats tend to enjoy in HK (just living life to its fullest), and could go to a beautiful beach within 20 minutes at a moment’s notice.

But besides the personal/private thing, working in HK just turned me around and upside down. Whereas I was mainly doing business development in NY, I was billing a load of substantive hours from HK suddenly.  It was a drastic contrast to what I’d been doing in NY, and I missed working with my boss terribly (he might read this (embarrassingly, he’s discovered this blog and deduced my identity some time ago), so I won’t indulge his ego too much, though he knows well how much I adore him).  Worse, one of the US based projects I was working on remotely, was not very well managed when it came to me, and I felt frustrated and worried that I was letting down the client and making a terrible impression on my new US colleagues.

The HK office was buzzing with interesting activity, and I miss that extra step of excitement and crazy that my HK cases tend to take on.  During one of my client meetings, as my client was describing some recent events involving wire taps and listening devices, I just thought to myself how much this real case that I was handling seemed like a legal thriller, and thought, “I hope I don’t get killed!”

Then just a week after coming back to NY, I saw one of my boss’ cases made front page news again. I miss my work and my colleagues in HK.  It just excited me in a way that my work in NY never did, and after my recent trip, I am confused more than ever, wondering if that’s where I need to be.

But no – I’m committed to the one year evaluation plan.  I need to be here.  Besides, there’s lots going on that I must attend to and accomplish here. And if I really can pull off the cross-border practice, then who knows, maybe I actually can “have it all” (even if I stopped believing in that phrase a number of years now).  Let’s see… (almost) one quarter, three to go.


HK Solicitors Stood Up

After organizing a legal sector march, solicitors went ahead and organized an extraordinary general meeting (“EGM”) to urge Law Society president Ambrose Lam step down for his very pro-Beijing/anti-Hong Kong comments in support of the recent controversial white paper.

In response, Mr. Lam has resigned as Law Society president, and it seems there are people in Hong Kong ready to fight back against actions that impact its steps towards democracy.

And yet, my outlook on Hong Kong remains pessimistic and fearful. I left HK about 4 months ago, and as much as I still love HK, and as enticing as so many things about HK still is for me (more on that later),  I just can’t see my long term future there.  I still see something dark and scary looming ahead.

I’ve recently read (and nearly at the end of the second novel) a two-novel historical fiction, “Shanghai Girls” and “Dreams of Joy”, by Lisa See, about WWII and post-war China, and the Chinese American immigrant experience.  I did not expect much from the novels.  I just picked up the first novel at random at a thrift shop, looking for something interesting to read.

I related quite a lot to the first book, which focused on the immigration of two sisters from Shanghai, escaping Japanese terrorism, their experiences at Angel Island, and the difficulties faced in LA’s Chinatown.  I had heard a lot about these experiences from my family, and studied a lot about the Chinese American experience in college.

The second novel, has more to do with the Great Leap Forward in China, and Mao’s scare tactics and methods to weaken and frighten the masses to achieve his goals — something I’m unfortunately not as familiar with.  For some scary reason, I did not think Communist China has changed very much since these days, except that millions are no longer starving to death in the way they once did, and that capitalism has made its own way into Red China. Today you still have a large population of people who feel no trust in the media and what news they hear, and feel an urgent need to always compete for resources and goods. 

I digress on these novels because the contents have really gotten me thinking about the future of Hong Kong, as it enters into its next stage.  I even wonder if I really want to keep up my cross-border practice, and fear what that means for me. Though my “Asia practice” is primarily about Hong Kong, what will happen to Hong Kong law in 2047? In 2027?

And what about Big Brother China? Modern China is becoming something even scarier, I’m afraid.  The memory and fear of death by starvation is still strong in most older Chinese, yet the young have no clue about earning your keep, being the completely spoiled “little emperors” they are. There is still a fairly heavy restriction on Western goods, but Chinese are now allowed finally to travel and go buy those goods (in huge quantities) outside.  Corruption is still high among the upper classes, and yet there is a fast growing middle class that just want more than ever. 

While these recent actions, especially the solidarity of HK solicitors, warms my heart, I am still afraid for HK.

I hope my fellow solicitors don’t stop fighting, and don’t look the other way. There are huge challenges ahead.

Third Time Not Exactly the Charm

I may have left Hong Kong physically, but a serious part of my heart, the one that wears solicitors’ robes (which I actually only ever wore once in my life for my admission), still beats strong in Hong Kong as I watch in horror the continued erosion of Hong Kong’s judiciary independence.

The State Council Information Office of China recently issued a white paper that makes plain that the so-called “one country two systems” policy is merely a notion. The paper proclaims that China has “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, notwithstanding Article 22 of the Basic Law (Cap. 2101), which states:

No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.

Instead Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy is subject to the central government’s authorisation” and that the principle of “two systems” is subordinate to the “one country.”  And sure, Beijing is allowing Hong Kong to go forward with its plans of universal suffrage in 2017 for its next chief executive election, but candidates must take care to remember that “loving the country is the basic political requirement for all of Hong Kong’s administrators.”  Included in China’s definition of “administrators” are judges, who have a responsibility of “correctly understanding and implementing the Basic Law.”

So forget judicial independence (which I had already seen eroding even in the few years I was practicing as a solicitor in Hong Kong), for you must be “confused or lopsided in [your] understanding of ‘one country, two systems’ and the Basic Law” if you thought otherwise.

This is just so sad. So Dennis Kwok, LegCo rep of the legal constituency, has planned a “silent march” of legal professionals dressed in black to march from the High Court in Admiralty to the Court of Final Appeal in Central as a demonstration in protest. Apparently this will be the third such protest by my fellow Hong Kong law professionals.  Sadly, I don’t think much will come from this.

All the same I implore all Hong Kong legal professionals to please participate Friday 27 June 2014.  Please see the information summarized below:

Date: Friday 27  June 2014

Time: 5:30pm

Meeting Point: G/F High Court (in front of the fountain)

Route: From High Court to Court of Final Appeal via Queensway, Queen’s Road Central and Battery Path.

Approximate Arrival Time at CFA: 6:00pm

Dress Code: Black


Getting Over You Getting Over Me

[So it turns out, I am going to keep blogging – just a little while longer as I cope with this transition back.]

One friend, who incidentally is also locating to New York from Hong Kong (though he is not returning home) after roughly as long a stay as me, told me that he was advised it takes something like 6-9 months to get through the transition and get over Hong Kong. — Again the reference to a relationship – and I now start to wonder how long will I take to “get over” Hong Kong.

I’m pretty sure I said it before – but I never hated Hong Kong, and did not leave it because there was something wrong with it in particular. I mean, there are certain things about Hong Kong that encouraged me to leave, if we can put it that way. For starters – there are still many quality of life issues that don’t exactly lend to me seeing a long-term future for myself.

I hate that there are so many food quality issues. The bulk of food sourced into Hong Kong comes from its mighty neighbor, China, and I just don’t trust anything coming outta there. I admit, I bought “organic” Chinese grocery, but even then, I worried about how “organic” that was. After all, you cannot exactly control for nearby contaminants in the soil and air and water, can you?

Then if you wanted to get trustworthy organic foods, you end up shipping it from far away lands, and not doing much better for the environment.

Similarly, I worried about my air quality, and stopped running outdoors for years now thanks to Hong Kong.

I also sadly saw a giant retraction of the “two systems,” and every single day, bit by bit, the Red Hand made itself known to the citizens of Hong Kong. It’s no wonder there have been so many racist* incidents against Mainlanders.

So will HK always be so “free”? Is it really now? That really disturbed me – though, admittedly, who knows how free the US of A really is either, right?

But it’s these two main things – a clean and healthy environment (including food, water, and air) and access to free and fair government that gave me concern over Hong Kong in the long run, and I decided that I would be better off dealing with this Stateside and closer to my family – the main impetus for my move.

As I’ve indicated earlier, I experienced the worst year abroad yet in 2013, and it really brought home – well the notion of going Home.  Home really is where the heart is, and for me, that is my family.  They may make me crazy many a time, but they are still my inspiration and strength.  And as much as I absolutely adore my work in Hong Kong, and could have pursued a very fulfilling career, it ached at my heart to be so far away – especially when tragedy struck.

So there you have it – that’s what led me to let it all go – the amazing travels, the great friends, the one of a kind job, and all the convenience.  I’ll elaborate more on these things with subsequent posts, but that’s that in a few paragraphs.

But for such a compelling reason to leave Hong Kong and return to New York, that does not make this transition any easier.  And I wonder how long it will take me, and whether or not you will see me going back to Hong Kong (or elsewhere) in the not so distant future.  Who knows?!

But as with my promise to me in 2009 when I came to Hong Kong, I will promise to me in 2014 in New York, that I need to experience all the seasons and a full year here before I make a decision on that. So here I begin – I officially begin that year-long evaluation 1 June 2014.

So far, it has indeed been hard, and my mind wanders to Hong Kong very often.  But more on that in other posts.

(*see comments below)

Time is Flying!

Shocking – I have not posted anything in more than two months, and the year is fast coming to an end. Just last week my office building put up its Christmas decorations, and this morning I heard Christmas tunes in the building muzac. What is going on?

A part of me is not as inspired to write. I admit I am coming to a confused stage in Hong Kong. I am trying to love life here as much as I did four years ago, and yet something about these four years of excitement and adventures have also left me a bit tired. Since my falling fita, I have been thinking a lot more about me just pre-Hong Kong, and have been reading my old diaries from 08-09.

My frame of mind was very different then, and I can see easily why it was that I came to moving (the initial reason for blogging), no matter how sudden and seemingly out-of-the-blue it was. I really needed a drastic change in my life to help me feel myself again after so much sadness and stress.  Something inside me pre-Hong Kong was dying or had gone dormant.  What that was I cannot say, but it was something that just fed me the energy to live life normally.

So packing everything up to go to the other side of the planet on a seeming whim made sense – jumping into all this newness and challenging myself in new ways drove new life into me.  I was then inspired to seek out a sort of regularity, starting with a gym membership, then an apartment, and finally a job (which I truly adore).  I was in a relationship for almost 3 of those 4 years, and started to become a homebody, though I was not sure if I was really “home” yet.

Anyhow, after the relationship ran its course, and after I came out of my post-relationship introversion, followed by this summer’s great loss, I’ve started to come out again in search of exploration and excitement in this city that never lacks of either.  It has been wonderful, especially as I become close to friends here in a way that I hadn’t in my first four years.

And now here we are, on the verge of Thanksgiving (which I still celebrate here in Asia), with holiday songs and holiday cocktail parties all around, time it just flying so fast!

So what’s the point of this post? Just a rambling, and perhaps a minor apology.  I’ve been out and about living Hong Kong life with yet another pair of eyes now – not as the wide-eyed newcomer, not as an acclimatized homebody, but more as a seasoned resident at 4.25 years, if I’m allowed to say so. So forgive these gaps – I’ll try to catch the blog up with my happenings soon.


CDotD: Photosynthesis has Feelings Too!

I have previously written about ridiculous names in Hong Kong. and while crazy names can occupy too many posts (e.g., I did not write about the travel agent whose name is “Evil”), but today I heard one that just overtook me —

Turns out Chlorophyll, whom I mention in my previous post on Hong Kong names, has a sister named PHOTOSYNTHESIS!

How can that be?

It turns out – these were not names that were self-chosen, but rather decided by their botanist father! Needless to say – crazy!

A Polite Practice

Now that I’ve practiced in Hong Kong for more than a year, I think I can adequately compare and contrast the practice here from that in NY.  One big difference I’ve noticed is that the practice is far more polite and “nice”. 

A big part of the NY legal practice is writing what one of my former partners called the “nastygram.”  Sometimes the nastygram is used to tell someone to stop infringing/breaching/otherwise affecting your client’s rights.  Sometimes it is just lawyer to lawyer correspondence in a dispute already taking place.  Either way, it is inherently designed to be “not nice” to make your point and hopefully get what you want.

I noticed a lot of the letters I would draft were being edited by my boss to take the nasty out of what I thought was meant to be a nastygram. In fact, the NY practice is so riddled with “nastiness,” that is not uncommon to include little snipes here and there in the motion papers (e.g., “the plaintiff is completely misguided in its interpretation of A vs. B…”) too.

But in Hong Kong I have found things to be quite the opposite.  Lawyers really do treat each other with much more respect and kindness, and avoid jabs at the other’s intelligence, even when it is so painfully called for. 

Even more “polite” — barristers will address opposing counsel as “my learned friend,” and tehcnically, solicitors ought to address each other as “my friend”. 

I even had this happen to me one time while doing a 3 minute hearing before the magistrate, where my very obnoxious and stubborn opponent – who LOST in my application – addressed me as his “learned friend” (I want to say I am learned, but I am no barrister”) before the judge.  I admit it just reeked of sarcasm because he was entirely disagreeable to me – but “friend” I was in the courthouse that day.

I’m not trying to say that NY lawyers are always rude and jerky to each other, and it is definitely not the norm.  Rather, you do see rude and jerky behavior here and there, whereas in Hong Kong, it is more like almost never! I’m also not trying to say that HK lawyers aren’t jerks either – but at least in the practice, the tone is rather courteous and professional – even if not always heartfelt!

Overall, I find the rude jabs and snipes do make the job less enjoyable and injects anger into my day – so the “niceness” in HK certainly helps me to enjoy my practice a lot more.