Japan Nuclear Earthquake Tsunami - Day Three

I am currently in Japan covering the mayhem for EPA.

There is no food or gasoline here, but the main thing is that the big white flash has not happened yet.

It seems the nuclear power stations are holding up well against meltdown, even though there are loads of aftershocks.

More than during the Sichuan Earthquake back in 2008. They are even predicting another big one...


Hong Kong's 'Asian Aerospace Expo 2011' & China's Booming Aviation Market.

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.

Everyone's smiling...


This Year, Numbers Are Up At The Hong Kong Stock Exchange...

For want of anything better to chuck up onto the front page of my blog, here's a photo of the trading floor of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Getting the picture was a bit tricky, as I had to stand on one of those wibbly wobbly thin rotating bar stools, carefully holding the camera aloft with both my arms held up straight above my head. Probably caused a safety hazard as I got immediately reprimanded by a security guard. As usual. But I said sorry, even though I was being careful.

Anyway, the reason I was there was to cover yet another facet of the nascent economic boom in these parts.

At a press conference at 5pm, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) announced the 2010 financial results for HKEx. And that was a healthy 7% increase in profit before taxation of 5,954m Hong Kong dollars, up from 5,542m Hong Kong dollars in 2009. Average daily turnover of stocks and derivatives on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was also up. From Hong Kong dollars 62.3bn in 2009 to Hong Kong dollars 69.1bn in 2010. That's an 11% increase.

Some people are richer here this year, with more money to play the stock market...


Alex Hofford Photography - A Retrospective / YouTube


Kung Hei Fat Choi!

The office is now closed until Monday 7th February 2011.


Alex Hofford Photography - A Retrospective Slideshow

Chinese New Year is just around the corner. And it's quiet. Luckily so, as this week I was invited to show a selection of my work to the photojournalism students at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre. So to that end, I sat down and made a retrospective slideshow. But it turned into a bit of a monster that comes with three advisories; the slideshow contains graphic content, it's not exactly bite-sized, and the Stockhausen audio track may not be to everyone's liking.

Yes, this epic slideshow is in effect a series of mini-slideshows stacked end-to-end. And so for the impatient among you, here are the time codes:-

00:07  The Early Years.

00:27  Hong Kong.

02:26  Infectious Diseases.

03:05  Macau.

03:29  Rich & Poor.

04:28  Pattaya, Thailand.

05:11  Papua.

05:32  Sport.

06:39  Bizarre.

07:22  China Nationalism.

07:41  China Security.

08:00  China Olympics.

08:21  China Earthquake.

08:59  China Factories.

10:41  China E-Waste.

11:08  Air Pollution.

11:24  Water Pollution.

11:51  Plastics Pollution.

12:18  Overfishing.

14:02  Shark Fin.

However my advice would be to be patient. Watch the whole thing. It's way more powerful than video. Go make yourself a cup of tea, let it buffer, come back again, click the full screen icon, adjust the Stockhausen to an ambient level, and just let your senses overload by watching it all...


More From Hong Kong Fashion Week, Days 2 & 3...

Only one day to go. Here are a few shots from the last two days.

Doggy bag by Hong Kong designer 'Decca C'.

No idea, don't ask.

Chicken bag also. Likewise, don't ask.

A creation by Hong Kong designer 'Stuti Modi' - burlesque being all the rage. Yawn, yawn.

Creation by Hong Kong designer Gary Tsang's brand 'Plant 216'. Keep it bike, keep it eco. Yeah, right.

This, and all the rest below, by Hong Kong-based Lebanese design house,'Modessa'.



Hong Kong Fashion Week is held twice a year, and is pretty important for the Chinese manufacturers and foreign importers in China's booming garment industry.


Fashion Week Kicks Off In Hong Kong...

OK, enough of shark fin for now. On a lighter note, Hong Kong Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011 kicked off today. And in a cynical bid to drive traffic to my blog...

(Designer: Alex Wang - China)

(Designer: Alex Wang - China)

(Designer: Keita Maruyama - Japan)

(Designer: Keita Maruyama - Japan)

(Designer: Keita Maruyama - Japan)

(Designer: Keita Maruyama - Japan)


TV Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay's 'Shark Bait'

Back in April last year, a British TV production company called me up. They were doing some research for a new documentary on shark finning, and wanted to pick my brains. It was to be for 'Shark Bait', an episode with TV celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, which features as part of 'Big Fish Fight' with Jamie Oliver. (You can watch it outside the UK if you use a VPN or proxy server.)

'Shark Bait' aired last night on Channel 4 in the UK, and so today the 'Twittersphere', which is usually quiet when you do search for 'shark fin', seems like it is on fire.

Here's a screen grab to show you how crazy it is...

It seems like everyone in the UK is talking about shark fin right now, and there are even protests planned for London's Chinatown at Chinese New Year. It will be interesting to see what the global knock on effects of all this will be, especially here at ground zero - Hong Kong. I hope it won't degenerate into issues of race - as that misses the point completely.


Once Again, The Hong Kong Government Proves Stubborn On Shark Fin

This, spotted in Hong Kong's busy Central district during rush hour tonight...

Today, Edward Yau, Hong Kong's so-called "Secretary for the Environment", came out officially in the city's semi-autonomous Legislative Council to say that the Hong Kong Government would not change its position on the consumption of shark fin by government officials, and/or legislate against the city's thriving shark fin trade. Going headlong against a ground swell of public opinion, the government maintains the same position it has held since 2005. Once again, Edward Yau of the Environment Bureau is hiding behind the excuse of C.I.T.E.S. - an industry body, that actually enables, rather than prevents, the trade in endangered species. A bit like putting the fox in charge of the chickens, that sort of thing. Anyway, Kudos to Legislator Audrey Eu of the Civic Party who asked today's questions. She's an awesome lady, and she spoke at our press conference back in September too.

Ever quick on the draw, Diego Laje, Argentinian journalist and ex-class mate of mine at the Hong Kong University JMSC, has blogged eloquently on the depressing news here.

Presented below is the full, and somewhat adulterated, text of today's depressing LegCo exchange. My red highlights denote and [comment on] what I believe to be Yau's most dubious quotes:-



Overseas Public Relations Sub-division
Information Services Department

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LCQ11: Reducing consumption of shark's fin

     Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 12):


     Some environmental groups have pointed out that as only three species of shark are at present protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, more than a hundred shark species and closely related species included by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its Red List of Threatened Species may still face the danger of extinction due to overfishing.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of banquets and dining parties the Government hosted at public expenses last year, the amount involved, and the number of such banquets in which the menu included shark's fin, with a breakdown by government department;

(b) whether the various government departments had formulated guidelines on suspending the consumption of shark's fin in banquets hosted at public expenses in the past five years; if not, whether they will consider formulating such guidelines; and

(c) whether last year the Government had educated members of the public and promoted the message of reducing consumption of shark's fin in order to safeguard the ecological balance; if it had, of the resources devoted in this regard; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) In respect of using public funds on official banquets and meals, the Government has internal guidelines that set their budgets which departments need to observe.  When organising official entertainments, we also emphasise that the occasion should be decent but not give an impression that it is extravagant.  Hence, when departments use public funds to organise banquets and meals, the menus do not generally include shark fin.  [This is doublespeak, and means that they do sometimes serve it.]

     As regards information on the number of banquets and meals the Government organised using public funds last year, the amount involved, the number of such banquets in which the menu included shark fin, and with a breakdown by government departments, such extensive information involves all departments and their offices, and covers a wide scope.  And since we also do not keep information on menus for banquets and meals of different scales held in the past, we are not in a position to provide such detailed information.  [The Hong Kong Government is a sprawling bureaucracy, of course they have the "detailed information". They just do not think the issue is important enough to dig it up and compile it into a report.]

(b) Currently, there are about 320 shark species, most of which could be freely traded in Hong Kong.  Three shark species, i.e. Great White Shark, Basking Shark and Whale Shark, have been listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  The CITES is an international agreement among governments of different states, which seeks to ensure that the survival of wild animals and plants will not be threatened because of international trade.  The Government is committed to protecting endangered species. [!!!] We implement the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Chapter 586) to strictly regulate the trade of species listed in the Appendices of CITES to fulfil the CITES requirements.  At present, the laws of Hong Kong regulate the trading of shark species in accordance with the CITES requirements.  With regard to the shark species not yet listed in CITES, the laws of Hong Kong do not restrict its commercial trade.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international conservation organisation, and its works include compiling a list which lists out the conservation status of different species around the world.  In considering whether to list certain species in the CITES Appendices, the CITES Conference of the Parties will consider a number of factors including the specie's quantity, management status, and will also draw reference from the list compiled by IUCN.

     The Government all along abides by CITES [See Doug Woodring's Op-Ed piece in the SCMP below] and the local legislation.  We do not think it is appropriate to lay down guidelines to regulate the kind of food to be consumed in official banquets and meals. [Why not? Around 80 corporations in Hong Kong have done exactly that - by signing up to the WWF's corporate pledge not to serve shark fin at their company dinners.]

(c) Paying heed to the principle of sustainable development, the Government adheres strictly to the CITES requirements.   We also conduct public education on CITES, which is one of the most important elements in implementing CITES in Hong Kong.  Specifically, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has paid considerable efforts in publicity and education, in order to raise the awareness of the members of the public on protecting endangered species.  The AFCD organises a series of educational and publicity activities every year, which include dissemination of relevant information through the media and internet, distribution of leaflets and posters, organisation of exhibitions and seminars; and operation of the Endangered Species Resources Centre for educational purpose, etc.  In 2010, the AFCD has organised 32 exhibitions, 37 relevant seminars, and received over 7,000 visitors at the Endangered Species Resources Centre.  Apart from public education, AFCD also has specific publicity programmes that target at traders.  AFCD has produced and handed out a series of leaflets that focuses on trade of endangered species (including trade of marine species).  Moreover, AFCD sends circular letters to traders, organises consultation meetings as well as seminars, in order to disseminate information about legislative control of endangered species to the trade.



And in case there was any doubt as to whether the corporate sector is leading the Hong Kong Government on the issue or not, here is the (growing) list of 'good guys' in town that have signed the WWF pledge, and sworn of the dreaded shark fin...


  • ADM Capital
  • ADM Capital Foundation
  • Allan International Holdings Ltd.
  • Allen & Overy LLP
  • Asiatic Marine Ltd
  • Atkins China Limited
  • B.P. (Building & Engineering) Co. Ltd.
  • BCI Asia Construction Information Ltd.
  • Bowen Capital Management
  • Branded Limited
  • Branscombe Marine Consultants Ltd.
  • BUDA E&C Limited
  • BUDA Pipe Rehabilitation & Engineering Company Limited
  • BUDA Surveying Limited
  • Canon Hongkong Co. Ltd
  • Citi Hong Kong
  • Collyer Logistics South China Ltd
  • Construction Professionals' Development Centre
  • Craft Projects International Co. Ltd
  • Diving Express Ltd
  • DTZ
  • Eight Custom Media Limited
  • Fiducia Management Concultants
  • Gide Loyrette Nouel
  • Hallmark Cards (HK) Limited
  • Hang Seng Bank Limited
  • Home Retail Group (Asia) Limited
  • Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited
  • Hong Kong Cancer Fund
  • Hong Kong Institute of Utility Specialists
  • Hong Kong Utility Research Centre
  • HSBC
  • i.Dex Development Ltd
  • Internet Professional Association
  • Jenston Technology Corporation Ltd.
  • Jenston Works Co., Ltd.
  • Johnson Matthey Hong Kong Limited
  • Jones Lang LaSalle
  • Lloyd Northover
  • Magnum Offset Printing Co. Ltd
  • Mandarin Orange Clothing
  • Manulife (International) Limited
  • MF Jebsen International Ltd
  • Mitsubishi Electric Hong Kong Group Limited
  • Mitsubishi Elevator Hong Kong Company Limited
  • MSOI Limited
  • Nearly Friday Ltd
  • Ocean Park Hong Kong
  • Oceanway Corporation Limited
  • PPP Company Ltd
  • ProJOB21.com Ltd
  • Pure Fitness
  • Pure Yoga
  • Robot Design Ltd
  • Ronald Lu & Partners (Hong Kong) Ltd
  • SB Consulting
  • Shaw & Sons Limited
  • Simpson Marine Limited Hong Kong
  • Sovereign Trust (Hong Kong) Limited
  • Sterling Enterprises Ltd
  • Swire Beverages Limited
  • Swire Coca- Cola HK
  • Swire Properties Limited
  • Swiss Re
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • The Samaritans
  • The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong)
  • The University of Hong Kong
  • ThreeSixty
  • United Services Recreation Club
  • Unleash Limited
  • US & Associates Consulting Co. Ltd.
  • UTI (International) Limited
  • Utility INFO (1Call) Limited
  • Utility INFO (HK) Limited
  • Utility INFO (Macau) Limited
  • Utility INFO Limited
  • Westminster Travel Limited
  • Wharf T&T Limited
  • Wind Prospect (HK) Ltd
  • Xi Yan

Finally, here is Doug Woodring's opinion piece in the South China Morning Post (6th January 2011) which spells out perfectly why C.I.T.E.S. is such a sham and why the Hong Kong Government should be ashamed of itself.


Hong Kong is hiding behind spineless conservation treaty

It was upsetting to learn that the Agriculture,Fisheries and Conservation Department felt it necessary to stay friends with the industry that trades shark fins ("Officials refuse to go without shark's fin soup", December 22). I wonder if officials could explain this rationale. Not that one needs to make enemies, but no sharks are caught in Hong Kong waters, and it is a known problem that the world's shark population, that which regulates the ecosystem balance of our oceans, is in rapid decline.

The Jockey Club should be congratulated for dropping shark's fin dishes from its a la carte menus and internal functions. In contrast, the agriculture department is hiding behind an outdated and ineffective Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is supposed to reduce species loss.

Instead, it often acts as a regulating tool for exploitation by the nations which have vested interests in maintaining the trade in those species on the road to extinction. By the time Cites regulations usually kick in for preservation, it is too late. No shark fishery is sustainable, as the time it takes a shark to become sexually mature is well beyond what one could control in terms of open water catch practices and regulations.

Cites has failed miserably in terms of shark protection, mainly due to the lack of global capacity for studies and monitoring of an animal that lives throughout the ocean, but where none of us go. So instead of doing the right thing, to call for protection, the claim is made that not enough proof exists to make strong regulations. Should Hong Kong be hiding behind such a spineless conservation system?

One of the biggest social contributions Hong Kong could give to the global community is to cease the trade and use of shark fins.

The impact on the ocean would be significant, and not only for sharks. The world's bluefin tuna population has been shown to be in rapid decline, not only because of overfishing, but because of the loss of sharks.

Without sharks, the predators of baby bluefin tuna can now proliferate, killing off the bluefin before they can mature.

We are doing this all to ourselves, for the sake of a tiny segment of our business community which could be trading thousands of other products in the meantime.

The department should be ashamed of itself for hiding behind an international treaty which does not come close to conserving what needs to be conserved. This is contradictory to the good work it has been doing to support the ban on trawling in Hong Kong waters.

To then claim that it needs to maintain friendship with the shark trade which is a tiny constituency is like saying that it needs to keep the option of tiger trading open.

This merely suggests that there is some strange business going on that the rest of us should probably know about. We would love to hear about it, too.

Douglas Woodring, Mid-Levels


All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011