The hype surrounding the Will & Kate Royal Wedding hasn't exactly reached fever pitch in Hong Kong. Is it just me? Or do these people look bored?
Search as I could, APM Mall in Kwun Tong was the only place in Hong Kong that was hosting any related activies in the run up to the actual 'big day' tomorrow.
All this tat was imported from the UK, and displayed at the APM mall to drive sales. Hong Kong mega-property developer Sun Hung Kei Properties, the mall owners, spent HK$150,000.00 on these souvenirs and memorabilia, some official, some not so.
The pubs and bars frequented by expats in Central already have bunting out for tomorrow, but nearly fourteen years after the handover, it seems the locals couldn't care less.
I'm in Jakarta this week, and I'm shocked by some of the income disparaties I've been seeing here. Shopping malls for the burgeoning middle classes sit next to filthy slums with open sewers. Gridlocked traffic and filthy air pollution everywhere. Economically speaking, this place feels like China fifteen years ago.
A word on the lips of more than a few marine conservationists out there, right now.
I have received many messages asking me my take on the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that has devastated much of the East coast of Japan, and how they relate to the erstwhile shark-finning industry of Kesenmuma.
For the record, and I have been thinking long and hard about this, I can say that I strongly disagree. Karma, or poetic justice, has nothing to do with it.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, deserves to be on the receiving end of the full force of nature's wrath as seen in Japan on 11 March 2011. Never in my life, until last week, had I seen anything like that. And I hope that I will never see such a terrible tragedy in my life ever again.
So right now, my thoughts and prayers are not only with the people of Kesennuma, but with all of the people of Japan, during this very difficult time in their lives.
Gloating. Schadenfreude. Instinctual feelings for some perhaps, but on careful consideration, it is obvious that nature's destruction of Kesennuma also killed many innocent people, leaving behind many thousands of bereaved, including hundreds of unclaimed children from hilltop schools. Parents, grandparents, livelihoods, homes and countless treasured personal possessions have all been lost in the mud. Let me repeat myself. Shark fin or no shark fin, nobody deserves that. Whether one is Japanese, American, Thai, Indonesian, Chilean or Chinese, to be struck down so violently by multiple natural and man-made disasters in such quick succession is a terrible thing indeed. And for innocent survivors to be made cold, hungry and homeless in the aftermath is nothing more than diabolically unjust.
In my experience, the vast majority of Japanese are kind, fun-loving and gentle. Most Japanese have very little, if anything, to do with the shark-finning, tuna fishing, dolphin capture or whaling industries of their island nation. And even less have any opinion at all about marine conservation. It is only a tiny minority of Japanese that are molesters of fish.
Yes, it seems bizarre. But unless anyone can prove to me otherwise, the stark reality is that the terrible earthquake which resulted in the deathly tsunami was caused by nothing more than the ghastly shifting of tectonic plates. The epicentre was 81 miles off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, in which Kesennuma is situated. Geographical proximity to the epicentre and seismological activity are the only reasons why the tsunami hit Kesennuma, not karma. To suggest otherwise is preposterous, heartless and insensitive to the survivors.
If one thinks that what was happening to the sharks was a grave injustice, one should hate injustice, not wish hate and destruction upon those Japanese who committed that injustice.
Will the townsfolk of Kesennuma pick up the pieces and start their shark slaughtering activities all over again? I don't think so. Boats are wrecked. Oil installations are destroyed. The infrastructure is just not there any more. And times have changed. In the same way that I think that the tsunami has sounded the final death knell for the Japanese whaling industry, conservation voices are louder in Japan now than they ever have been, and so I don't think the shark finning industry will recover.
A silver lining? Maybe. Will the sharks, tuna, dolphins and whales get a breather? Probably. But at such a heartbreaking price.
I believe that to show magnanimity, ocean conservationists should offer the hand of assistance to the people of this devastated region of North East Japan to help them rebuild whatever is left of their shattered lives. And, once the grieving has passed, and the reconstruction phase is well underway, we should help the people of Kesennuma find new and sustainable sources of income, livelihoods that do not wreak havoc on the marine environment.
To re-visit the last words of my blog post of 12 July 2010... 'Isn't it time Kesen-numa City, Japan's dirty little shark secret, was shut down too?' Yes, but, not this way surely...
For those who would like to make a donation to the relief effort, please visit the Japanese Red Cross website here.
ALEX HOFFORD : HONG KONG CHINA KESENNUMA JAPAN SHARK FIN PHOTOGRAPHER
It seems like every story I cover these days is the same story. The Rise of China...
Here are some parked private jets on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport. A recorder number of parked private jets, the organizers of 'Asian Aerospace Expo 2011' are keen to stress. Its a cold grey day in Hong Kong, and its day one of Asia's main airshow.
Like everything else about China, it's aviation market is playing catch up with the rest of the world. Hot on the heels of the US, the Chinese aviation market is now in the number two position.
Today I got to go in a business jet for the first time, which was cool.
This is what the interior of an Airbus A318 Elite business jet looks like.
Airbus passenger jet sales in China are already strong, so now, as a nascent millionaire class emerges, Airbus are determined to tap into this pool of newly created wealth.
Back inside the expo, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) booth was the largest. And talking of Airbus, the gossip making the rounds at the show is that the 'C919 Airliner', though still in the design stage, is nothing but a rip-off of the Airbus A320. Shanzai Airbus, love it!
Airbus executives released a report yesterday saying that they believe Asia's emerging middle classes will drive demand for new planes over the next two decades. If they are right, this would propel the region to overtake the US and Europe as the world's biggest air transport market.
Moving on from Airbus, why is this man smiling? Because he's Robert Laird, VP of South and East Asian Sales for Boeing, and he just sold five Boeing 748-8 Intercontinental jumbo jets to Air China in a deal worth US$1.54 billion. Not bad, considering recent sales of the Boeing 748-8 Intercontinental are said to be lacklustre. Boeing will start delivery of the new aircraft to China's national carrier in 2014.
With Middle East mayhem, oil prices moving northwards, and slow growth in other areas around the world, Asian sales really are proving a saviour to aircraft manufacturers.