Category Archives: Hong Kong

Extremely canny leadership is a must for Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution movement

Ominous People's Daily editorial of 1st October 2014 concerning

Ominous People’s Daily editorial of 1st October 2014 concerning “… Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability…”

Today’s very hard-line editorial in the Chinese Communist Party propaganda mouthpiece, the People’s Daily (http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2014-10/01/nw.D110000renmrb_20141001_5-04.htm?_ga=1.54034152.1995103149.1412169452) on this 65th China National Day reminds me that the Zhongnanhai (central headquarters for the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council (Central government)) script for dealing with Hong Kong’s “radicals”, “reactionaries”, “extremists” and “sinister elements” (a.k.a. counter-revolutionaries) was written in June 1989 by former Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping, whose ideas are currently the focus of a Party inspired nationwide renaissance.

The editorial’s threat that those who continue to participate in the protests should expect dire consequences has the same ominous undertone as a People’s Daily editorial released in the run up to the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, the latter being widely regarded as having prompted the ensuing slaughter. (http://wp.me/p15Yzr-r)

Certainly China’s new Paramount Leader Xi Jinping’s line of attack – an approach unreservedly endorsed by Hong Kong’s ever more authoritarian, government – will be “no contact, no negotiation, no compromise”, all the while pouring scorn on Hong Kong‘s ‘Occupy Central’ and ‘Scholarism’ protest movements, blaming American and UK “black hands” for stirring up trouble, and making use of pro-Beijing media and agent provocateurs to drive a wedge between the protesters and Hongkongers inconvenienced by the knock-on effect.

Adopting an attitude that the protests will die a natural death was precisely the same pigheaded mindset embraced by Chinese Premier Li Peng and the Chinese leadership back in 1989. When the leadership realised that the Tiananmen Square protest movement was actually growing they knew that the very heart of the Chinese Communist Party was under threat like never before… Martial law was subsequently introduced on 19th May 1989. The rest is history (a history that has been completely air-brushed away in China).

Embedded: Hong Kong's Yellow Umbrella Movement occupying Connaught Road Central

Embedded: Hong Kong’s Yellow Umbrella Movement occupying Connaught Road Central

Dealing with an opponent like the Chinese Communist Party will require very shrewd leadership.

While Hong Kong‘s political landscape will never be the same again, the Chinese Communist Party, as plainly demonstrated by its hardnosed actions in Beijing in June 1989 and in the outer regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, is not for turning.

As June 1989 showed China’s leadership would not give a second thought to spending years in international isolation so long as the Party’s complete domination of the state levers of power continues. Nothing else matters.

Meanwhile, Beijing has at least 6,000 well-trained People’s Liberation Army troops stationed in various barracks around Hong Kong, a useful deployment if over the next few weeks and months the Hong Kong Police Force proves incapable of quelling umbrella revolution protesters, with an increased possibility of the “turmoil” (another favourite word of China’s omnipotent propaganda machine likely to be tossed into the fray in the days and weeks ahead) spreading over the border into mainland China.

Unfortunately for Beijing’s rulers, Hong Kong’s free press, independent judiciary and generally unimpeded education system have given rise to a new breed of unwavering Chinese activists who, brought up to think independently and critically, are determined not only to zealously defend Hong Kong’s basic freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion  – as guaranteed in the Basic Law and related international conventions – but also, confronted with economic marginalisation and assimilation with mainland China, to fight for their own economic survival.

This is just the beginning of the struggle to defend Hong Kong’s distinctiveness, otherwise ‘Asia’s World City’ is in danger of becoming just like any other city in China.

Ich bin ein hongkonger.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building in Central, Hong Kong, the heart of the Umbrella Revolution

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A circuitous route to an Irish polling station

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand dublin votingFrom China (where the masses only get to vote for one party) to Hong Kong (where despite promises of universal suffrage to be introduced in 2017, Hong Kong citizens’ hopes of electing their own Chief Executive by one man one vote is diametrically contrary to the principles of China’s one party authoritarian system. In other words the Chief Executive will always be a hand-picked puppet of Beijing) to Bangkok (at 2.00 am on the 22nd of May, as I was sitting on the airplane in Bangkok Airport during transit Thailand’s military was setting in motion the usurpation of an elected Government, its nineteenth Coup d’Etat) in Dubai (which like China has embraced unbridled capitalism without political freedom), before finally arriving on Tuesday 19th May in an Ireland on the home stretch in the local and European elections campaigns, with the majority of people due to vote three days later.

The last time I voted was in the February 2011 General Election. Following the abysmal mess created by the Fianna Fail / Green Party coalition, I had made a decision to join the Fine Gael Party (I still have the official welcome letter signed by local TD Sean Barrett the Ceann Comhairle, or the speaker of Dáil Éireann). I even met Enda Kenny on his whirlwind visit to Stradbrook Rugby Club to drum up the party faithful Over a cocktail sausage he took my business card, put it inside his breast pocket and said he would be in touch in a few weeks to talk about China (It didn’t register at the time that, although he was to become the next Taoiseach, he was merely just another politician focused on the corridors of power, taking the populist line on anything and everything to get into office).

Anyway, never heard from anyone in Fine Gael again.  So be it.

And so to 23rd May.

Should I vote?

Yes. All people have a right to have a say in what is happening in Ireland. The alternative is a China, Hong Kong, Thailand or Dubai. What would happen if everyone decided not to vote? Where would Ireland’s democracy go? Who would run the country? What type of political system would Ireland have?

Does it matter?

Take the France versus Ireland rugby match setting last 15th March in Paris where Ireland, up against a ferocious French onslaught, held on to win 22:20 and be crowned RBS Six Nations Champions.  One Irish voice cheering alone wouldn’t have been heard, but when all those Irish fans who travelled to Paris collectively stood and shouted “Come on Ireland!”, then it mattered!

Perhaps my vote on its own isn’t going to matter, but I choose to cast my vote because I support Ireland’s democracy, our ability to elect the people who govern us, our right to be free, and our right to show the Government what we think of them.  People power.

Almost 100 years ago, in 1916 a group of Irishmen, including my grandfather, Dr. Michael William O’Reilly, and women stood up to British rule in Ireland and declared an Irish Republic. They were opposed by many of their peers. Seven years later Ireland had a free state. Change can happen.

Around the world on a daily basis people risk their lives by fighting and struggling to earn the right a vote, something which many Irish people take for granted, while past generations of Irishmen and women suffered to get us such a right.

Indifference changes nothing.

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand ireland

Who will I vote for?

It has been a fairly brutal three years since the 2011 general election. Sure after the shambolic financial mess created by the previous Fianna Fail / Green Party Coalition Government, austerity cuts needed to be made.

However, I don’t like the way the country is being fixed. Inflicting crippling austerity, property tax, and water charges, flawed cuts and knee-jerk decisions, instigated by an increasingly aloof Government / political elite, have had a huge negative bearing on the lives of so many ordinary citizens, particularly the middle classes.

I no longer trust the establishment parties and whips that have caused Ireland so much destruction, while Sinn Fein will never get my vote. This time I will have the pleasure of not putting a number beside the Fine Gael and Labour candidates. Instead, I intend to vote for those independent (and People Before Profit) candidates who can really irritate, by constantly nipping at the heels of, the establishment.

It’s time to overhaul what is a worn out political system, but nothing will change if people do not get off their backsides and vote.

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand

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Filed under China, Hong Kong, Indifference, Ireland, Niallism, Politics

A 68 year-old photograph reveals an Irish prisoner of the Japanese – “Uncle Barney” Byrne

It’s almost 68 years to the day on 28th August 1945 when the photograph below of  twenty-three Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps (HKVDC) prisoners of war (POW) who were on the verge of liberation following their internment at Yoshima POW Camp (Sendai No. 2 Branch Camp (#2-B)) in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture was snapped.

It was at this POW Camp where Private John Bernard Patrick ByrneBarney-, HKVDC #4732, and POW #96 was to spend:

13 months incarcerated … nine months incapacitated by amoebic dysentery …. and five months used as a slave labourer inside the Iwake coal-mine run by the Furukawa Mining Company

as written in ‘Diary of War: Private John Bernard Patrick Byrne (a.k.a “Barney”), HKVDC #4732, and Irish Prisoner of the Japanese in Shamshuipo and Sendai (1941-1945)’ https://nialljoreilly.com/2012/12/07/john-bernard-patrick-byrne-barney/ – “the remarkable account of life as an Irish prisoner of the Japanese by an extraordinary man, “Uncle” Barney Byrne“.

On 5th August, while perusing a photograph album dating back to the 1930s belonging to my late mother Kathryn O’Reilly, I came upon two photographs of Barney during his childhood and as a young adult.

I soon found myself scrutinising the HKVDC POW photo below (Source: http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/sendai/sendai_2/sendai-2-03-ROCHA.jpg  courtesy of a Chris Rocha).

Appendix 05: ‘I knew your Uncle’ in the Diary written by fellow POW Alfredo Jose Prata noted:

“… a tatamie bunkmate of Barney’s “(Barney) and others of the HKVDC (mixture of  British, Polish, French  Norwegian, Swede, Czech and a few Americans) shared the same No.2 (combined hospital) hut with some 120 odd Portuguese POWs from Nos.5 and 6 Portuguese Coy HKVDC (and worked  in the same shifts in separate shafts in the coalmines).”

There are also a variety of nationalities in the photo. My attention was soon focused on the somewhat malnourished and tired looking man sitting at the far right of the bottom row.

Compare this man’s nose, the ears, the eyes and hair parting of to the two photographs from my mother’s album below.  Re-checking his diary entries for 28th and 29th of August 1945 in one instance Barney Byrne complains of having gone 72 hours without sleep, while in another instance he notes: “Photographs taken today – personnel only” .

After sixty-eight years the face now has a name: Private John Bernard Patrick ByrneBarneyHKVDC #4732 – Irish Prisoner of the Japanese in Shamshuipo, Hong Kong, and Sendai, Japan (1941-1945)

… when fighting was certain, and either capture or death highly likely (Barney) doesn’t show one glimpse of regret or self-pity. What a remarkable man…

[Source: Brian Edgar, 8th August 2013 @gwulo.com]

POW # 96 Private John Bernard Patrick Byrne - aka Barney - Irish Prisoner of the Japanese - at Yoshima POW Camp Sendai 2B - is seated bottom row - far right. The photograph was taken on 28th August 1945.  (Source: www.mansell.com)

POW # 96 Private John Bernard Patrick Byrne – aka Barney – Irish Prisoner of the Japanese – at Yoshima POW Camp Sendai 2B – is seated bottom row – far right. The photograph was taken on 28th August 1945. (Source: http://www.mansell.com)

My Grandfather James Byrne, Senior, James Byrne Junior. and Barney Byrne (right).

My Grandfather James Byrne, Senior, James Byrne Junior. and Barney Byrne (right).

John Bernard Patrick Byrne - Barney - early childhood

Childhood- Barney Byrne

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Filed under 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, Allied POW, Barney Byrne, Family History, History, Hong Kong, Inspirational, Ireland, Irish, James J Byrne, Japan, Japanese Imperial Army, Kathryn O'Reilly, Kilcullen, Photography, POW, Second World War

Righting a wrong: No evidence that Kennedy-Skipton was a Japanese collaborator during the occupation of Hong Kong

It seems the impact of Derry-born Irishman George Stacey Kennedy-Skipton’s (c 1898-1982) working for the Japanese is exaggerated at best, considering his focus was on agricultural activity aimed at dealing with a rapidly escalating food crisis. Everything written so far points to him being the victim of a grudge on the part of Franklin Gimson (the Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong who was Kennedy-Skipton’s direct report), who had powerful enough friends to besmirch Kennedy-Skipton’s  reputation. Loyalty, or the lack of, regarding Colonial Office servants is the key issue here, not collaboration with the Japanese. Kennedy-Skipton (K-S) was the only Colonial Office cadet to avoid capture and who stayed in Japanese occupied Hong Kong

I would also add that many Irish Free State passport holders (including my uncle) working for the Colonial Office, trading houses, etc, joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) and defending the territory with distinction. Kennedy-Skipton’s neutrality didn’t go down at all well with volunteers who put their life on the line defending Hong Kong, while up on The Peak he was flying the Irish flag declaring his neutrality to the Japanese. As to why he was flying the flag, and who he was protecting in his house was unknown and at the time deemed irrelevant.

A reference in the POW diary written by my uncle “Barney”  John Bernard Patrick Byrne “Diary of War: Private John Bernard Patrick Byrne “Barney” (HKVDC #4732) – Irish Prisoner of the Japanese in Shamshuipo and Sendai (1941-1945)” (Source: https://nialljoreilly.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/niall-and-barney/) throws some light on the depth of feeling suffering POWs would have felt towards K-S and other ‘third nationals’, or neutrals.

Righting a wrong No real evidence that Kennedy-Skipton was a Japanese collaborator during the occupation of Hong Kong - The Blarney stone

The Blarney Stone: According to legend whoever kisses the Blarney Stone is gifted with eloquence and persuasiveness.

In it Barney refers to a trial of French traitors as giving “us Hong Kong men some ideas about a similar purge when we get back there. And we won’t have any shortage of candidate for the rope provided the local loyal Chinese haven’t forestalled us!”

A number of posts in Second World War related Hong Kong groups’ online recount the experiences of families who sheltered in his neutral house. None refer to him informing the Japanese. Far from it, he saved them from the Japanese.

What is curious are the secret files he claim to have discovered which hadn’t been destroyed. There is no evidence he informed the Japanese about the contents of these file. In fact, he went to extraordinary efforts to inform the British Government of their existence.

However, the receipt by the British government of the message relating such information would have been preceded by the Franklin Gimson / British Army Aid Group (BAAG) grapevine noting that one of their own had gone over to the Japs, and was therefore branded a collaborator…. which was pretty much the same label everyone who claimed neutrality and worked for the Japanese occupation government was tarnished with.

In conclusion, in my there is no evidence that K-S was a collaborator in any shape or form. He just chose to declare his Irish neutrality, at a time when he was working for the colonial government and most of the Irish, and his fellow colonial cadets living in Hong Kong were fighting for Hong Kong and subsequently imprisoned. As such he was effectively disowned.

I recall a conversation I had in the late 1990s with an eminent Hong Kong LEGCO legislator on the very sensitive subject of collaborators. Naturally given the depth of rage, anyone, irrespective of race and background, who had by hook or by crook avoided the hardship of the Japanese occupation, profited from the turmoil, or who had recently returned to Hong Kong from Macau to be part of and benefit from the Post War reconstruction effort would have been branded a traitor. In order to maintain law and order, and perhaps keep the degree of treachery under wraps, the colonial government would have taken a conscious decision to classify the wartime records of many collaborators.

And while mentioning by hook or by crook there is a question mark regarding whether or not Kennedy-Skipton actually carried an Irish Free State passport which would have been the basis for his Irish neutrality. He may not have held an Irish Free State passport.  At the time of the Irish Free State people living and born in the six counties of Northern Ireland, of which Derry was part, would not have Irish Citizenship. Probably he just exploited an opportunity to outfox the Japanese.

To the Japanese it didn’t matter if the Irish were from north or south Ireland, they still treated them as neutrals.  Kennedy-Skipton (K-S) January 1943 escape to China may well have coincided with the Japanese finally grasping the intricacies Ireland’s political boundaries.

Additional reading: http://gwulo.com/node/12900?page=1

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Filed under 1943, Hong Kong, Ireland, Second World War

China – Under The Hood: Irritated Chinese Immigration Officer asks a thought-provoking question

How to unintentionally make a Chinese Immigration Officer lose face?

How to unintentionally make a Chinese Immigration Officer lose face?

He is wearing a uniform that in China suggests a pretense of authority and power, which he seems determined to exercise.  Noisily exhaling he’s flicking through the pages of my passport with that contemptuous self-important look which always makes me feel so grateful I have a foreign passport.

“Why you come China many time?”,  the eye-balling Immigration Officer challenges me.

He looks quite irritated, which I guess is understandable because I’ve made him lose face in front of his superiors. A team of three officers have just helped him to identify the apostrophe ” ” key on his Chinese keyboard….  Irish family names [O’Reilly, O’Donnell, O’Maolcraoibhe,  O’Seachnasaighare, etc..] are a novice Chinese Immigration Officer‘s worst nightmare.

The Irish Surname - A China Immigration Officer's worst nightmare

The Irish Surname – A China Immigration Officer’s worst nightmare

His question provokes a chain of thoughts as I reflect a little too deeply for a fitting answer.

“That’s a really good question”, says I…… …. clutching my passport and briskly walking in the direction of Hong Kong Immigration.

Even if there are a few hundred people in front of me patiently waiting in line, this has to me my favourite queue in the world… One-by-one Chop!… Chop!… Chop! …  and finally seventh heaven. Works every time!

Hong Kong just feels so different (mindset, style, colours, passion) and so Niall!

Always great to be back in fragrant Hong Kong for a recharge.

Irritated Chinese Immigration Officer asks a thought-provoking question

“Why you come China many time?”

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Filed under 2011, China, Hong Kong, Travel

Accurate China Insight: If your business is product sourcing: How competitive is the ‘Made in China’ brand?

Despite the Chinese Government’s past success at restraining inflation, accelerating food, fuel, raw material and labour costs have resulted in a widely held belief that average inflation rates of 4 to 5 percent are here to stay in China, at least over the over the next decade.

Which raises the question: With rises in wage and manufacturing costs set to be the norm is China still competitive as a product source for Ireland’s importers? Accurate China Insight: If your business is product sourcing: How competitive is the 'Made in China' brand?

Ireland’s importers are right to exercise caution when sourcing from China.  However, China still has much working in its favour:

  1. China is politically stable, and such stability is good for business
  2. Low cost countries surrounding China are also weathering an inflation contagion, with inflation rates in Vietnam, India and Pakistan increasing at a much faster rate.

June 2011 Inflation Rates:

Vietnam 20.8%

Pakistan 13.3%

India 8.7%

China 6.4%

Indonesia 5.5%

Malaysia 4.6%

Philippines 4.6%

Thailand 4.1%

(Sources: Respective country central banks) 

3.  Production costs in China are still low, despite rising costs.

4. Skills levels are generally high. While China’s factories could be said to be still at an early stage in their execution of innovative manufacturing techniques, their production processes are still well ahead of similar production operations in surrounding low cost countries.

5.  The striking effects of the ‘Clustering’ in China’s three economic powerhouses [Pearl River Delta (from Hong Kong to Guangzhou), Yangtze River Delta (Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai) and the area around Beijing and Tianjin] which have resulted in the construction of excellent infrastructure, a concentrated material supply chain, and an experienced and skilled labour force.  There is no evidence of such a clustering blend being prevalent in other surrounding low-cost countries.

6.  Productivity and industry familiarity.  While the costs of labour and logistics, as well as labour availability, are driving up factory output costs along China’s coastal rim, cities in central and China, such as Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Zhengzhou and Hefei, and their surrounding provinces, are much more cost competitive with respect to the manufacture of products in which the value-added and process complexity is low.  Meanwhile, the coastal manufacturing hubs, with their knowledge of particular manufacturing industry sectors, are becoming more focused on complex, skill intensive factory production.  In surrounding low cost countries such instances of high productivity levels and industry knowledge are limited.

The biggest issue for Ireland’s importers relates to fluctuating oil prices and their impact on the cost of shipping products sourced from China to Ireland, which is a worldwide occurrence.

Source:

Niall O’Reilly

Director for China, Irish Exporters Association

Accurate Ireland – China Business Advisers – Products & Services Sourcing | Business Development Consultancy

Tel: +353 1271 1830 / +86 15257194468

http://www.accuratelimited.com

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Filed under Accurate China Business Advisers, Accurate China Insight, Accurate Group, Business, China, Economy, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Irish Exporters Association, Suzhou, trade

Full pandemic potential?

Last week, I found myself outside the Metropark Hotel in Wanchai, “Hotel Quarantine” on account of the one week government lockdown of guests and staff for the purpose of stopping the spread of Swine Flu/ H1N1 . Considering the hotel is adjacent to one of Hong Kong‘s busiest thoroughfares, Hennessy Road, the eeriness, like a scene from the film ‘28 Days‘ was compounded by all the uniforms of different protective clothing, the masked visages, the gloves, the ambulances and police vans. Inside guests fought boredom, celebrated birthdays, and made innocous signs to the media scrum as the countdown to the lifting of the quarantine approached single digits. Around the corner on Lockhart Road, a completely different scene. Wanchai’s bars were thronged with revellers… life goes on. But does it? Was this not a full dress rehearsal by the Hong Kong authorities for dealing with the consequences of a full pandemic?
Back in 2003 the Metropole Hotel (the sister hotel of the Metropark) in Kowloon was ground zero during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis, a more sinister health scare, which fueled by a media frenzy had people initially convinced it was airborne.  Standing across the street from the hotel, it wasn’t just the ‘double whammy’ of bad-luck incurred by the hotel owners I was contemplating, but rather how effective such measures by the authorities will be when a true pandemic materialises. Time for a Tamiflu innoculation.
Hotel Quarantine h1ni metro park swine flu hong kong

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Special Olympics World Summer Games Euphoria – From Dublin 2003 to Shanghai 2007

Wow! It’s already over four years since the last Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted Dublin. It was the largest sports event ever hosted in Ireland.

From 2nd to 11th October the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be hosted by Shanghai [http://www.2007specialolympics.com], the first of the three Olympic Games to be staged in China over the next 14 months, including the Summer Olympics and the Paralympic Games to be held next Summer in Beijing.

Unlike now, the days before the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2003 in Dublin were mired in controversy. At the time both Hong Kong and China were affected by the outbreak of the illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Irish Government fearful of SARS spreading to Ireland decided to ban the Hong Kong Special Olympics team from traveling to Ireland to compete at the Games. There was outrage in Hong Kong with protests outside the office of the Honorary Consul of Ireland. For me what was particular odious about this decision was the fact that business men and women were still allowed to freely travel to Ireland.

In Ireland on the radio, television and in the newspapers there was intense debate about the Irish Government’s decision. Living and working in Hong Kong there was a palpable sense of outage amongst the Irish community. Something had to be done. I decided to write two letters. The first which was published on 6th June, was to the Irish Examiner newspaper, while the second letter was to Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Denis O’Brien (who was also an investor in the company I was working for at the time).

Irish Examiner Newpaper

Friday 6th June, 2003

 “Hong Kong’s special athletes hit by a peculiar Irish infection”

I WRITE in response to the latest “final” June 4 decision of the Department of Health and Children’s expert group on SARS and the Special Olympics to maintain its ban on Hong Kong’s disabled athletes travelling to Ireland, thus depriving them of the chance to attend what likely would be the most thrilling event in their lives.

This illogical decision comes after a period of unprecedented high-level dialogue between senior Hong Kong government officials and Irish medical experts in which the Hong Kong side sought to articulate a clearer understanding of the situation and the extra efforts that it would make to guarantee the health of its athletes before departure.

It is almost two weeks since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the lifting of its travel advisory against Hong Kong, noting that SARS outbreaks had been contained, which is not much different to its observations regarding the status of Canada and mainland China.

In fact, all new SARS cases confirmed in Hong Kong over the past month (an average of fewer than five cases per day compared to upwards of 60 daily at the end of March) have occurred in people who were already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities.

None of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes hoping to travel to Ireland has had contact with any SARS patients, or any suspected cases.

The WHO has highly commended Hong Kong’s transparency and aggressive Hong Kong Special Olympics procedures.

All close contacts of known SARS cases are quarantined at home.

In addition, their Hong Kong ID numbers are passed to the immigration department to ensure that they cannot leave the territory.

Since the implementation of these rigorous exit-screening procedures at border checkpoints, which also include mandatory temperature checking of all outbound travellers, there have been no reports of internationally exported cases of SARS from Hong Kong.

What is more, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against cancelling or postponing gatherings that will include people travelling to the US from areas with SARS, and the quarantine of persons arriving from SARS-affected areas who have shown no fever or respiratory symptoms.

As such, over the past fortnight Hong Kong exhibitors have been welcomed to the Las Vegas Jewellery Fair and the Cannes Film Festival as a result of the precautionary measures that the exhibitors had undertaken voluntarily.

And yet, it is against such transparency that Ireland still maintains its travel ban depriving athletes, some of whom have trained for up to eight years and whose team won 53 gold medals at the last Special Olympics, their chance to be the pride of Hong Kong.

Remarkably, no such travel ban has been imposed on other travellers from Hong Kong seeking entry to Ireland.

This ‘final’ decision appears not only irrational, but also hypocritical, given the latest guidelines conveniently lifting the travel ban on athletes from cities and regions where local transmission of SARS has not been reported, meaning that the Special Olympic Games will not be devoid of two of the largest participating teams, Canada and China.

It demonstrates that the Department of Health and Children has chosen not to follow the WHO‘s advice and made a decision without due regard to the precautionary measures that the Hong Kong Special Olympics Committee had proposed to take before their departure for the games.

The official flag presentation ceremony for the Hong Kong Special Olympics team is set to take place here on June 8, an event supported by The Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association, the St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong, the Irish Business Forum and Enterprise Ireland.

It is the fervent wish of the Irish community in Hong Kong that the Irish government remove this unnecessary travel ban.

Niall O’Reilly,

15, Mosque Street,

Mid-Levels,

Hong Kong.

[Source: This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, June 06, 2003 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2003/0606/ireland/hong-kongaposs-special-athletes-hit-by-a-peculiar-irish-infection-983257838.html]

The about-turn was remarkable.

Three days before the Opening Ceremony in Dublin, without prior notice, at 3.00 am I was awaken by the loud ringing sound of my telephone.  On the other end of the line was Denis O’Brien excitedly describing the excellent news that the Irish Government had decided to lift its travel ban and that the special athletes from Hong Kong were free to travel to Ireland. Denis O’Brien also offered to send his private jet to collect the Hong Kong team from London.

The Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin were a wonderful success, and I have heard from several people who were lucky enough to attend, the Opening Ceremony or witness it television that one of the most emotional memories of the evening was the arrival in the Croke Park stadium of the Hong Kong team when the packed house of 80,000 people stood up to cheer them these very special athletes. 

For me the abiding memory that will stay with me is being invited to represent the Irish Community of Hong Kong at the welcome home ceremony for the successful Hong Kong team. The sparkling smiles on the faces of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes, bedecked with gleaming gold and silver medals, will always stay in my mind.

“On June 19, I had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch – or Flame of Hope as it is called – and leading the Final Leg Torch Run team into Clonmel. Clonmel is a town of about 25,000 people and I would estimate that about half were on the streets to greet us. I have never seen so many Hong Kong flags in my life. They flew from the rooftops, from the buildings, from the churches and from the hands of thousands of people on the streets. And everyone was shouting Hong Kong! Hong Kong! at the tops of their voices.

“We ran into the town square where the Lord Mayor was present to greet us. I handed over the Flame of Hope. The Mayor took me to one side and told me that the Hong Kong team had not arrived. They were still in Macao under quarantine for SARS.

“To have run so far (over 200 miles) and not see the Hong Kong team was heartbreaking. I am not ashamed to say that I fell to my knees and wept.

“However, the Mayor told me that the Hong Kong team would be arriving in Dublin the following day and that a delegation from Clonmel would go to meet and welcome them. On the evening of June 21, we carried the Flame of Hope into Croke Park, Dublin, for the start of the games.

“The Special Olympics teams then marched into Croke Park in alphabetical order. I heard the master of ceremonies say “And now I see a particular team coming into the stadium. This is a team that we thought we would never see. But now they are here and we are so pleased to see them. Give a big, big welcome for Hong Kong!” About 85,000 people stood up and at the tops of their voices shouted: Hong Kong! Hong Kong! The noise was unbelievable! But it was obviously inspiring Ñ the Hong Kong Special Olympics team won 31 medals at this year’s games.

“I had a wonderful career with the Hong Kong Police Force and have had a wonderful life. But nothing in my experience is likely to top the emotion that I felt running for Hong Kong on the Law Enforcement Final Leg Torch Run.”

Source: Mr Peter Halliday, former Assistant Commissioner (Information Systems), Hong Kong Police Force helped carry the Special Olympics Games torch from Athens to Dublin http://www.police.gov.hk/offbeat/757/eng/s01.htm

"Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?" (Source: Mei-Yu Lau - http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html ]

Gymnast Mei-Yu Lau, Team Hong Kong, on the vault at the 2003 Special Olympics Summer Games in Dublin: “Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?”                                (Source: Mei-Yu Lau – http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html )

And so fast forward to late next week when a delegation of 1,000 Irish Special Olympians and their families will arrive in Shanghai to participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2007. Let the Games begin!

[Note: Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition]

Note: My review of the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2000, in Shanghai  ‘Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai’ is posted here: 

https://nialljoreilly.com/2007/11/08/words-matter-mentally-retarded-or-human-gift-looking-back-at-the-special-olympics-world-summer-games-in-shanghai/ ]

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Filed under 2003, 2007, Ability, Character, China, Damage, Health, Hong Kong, Inspirational, Ireland, Irish, Niall in the News, Niall O'Reilly, tolerance, Travel

UCD ALMA MATER MAGAZINE No.6 1995 – Our Man in Hong Kong

“Niall O’Reilly BA ’88, planned to sojourn in China for one year and then return to Ireland. Six and half years later, he is still living in Asia. Subsequent to his graduation, the Chinese Government awarded him a scholarship to study Chinese Mandarin language at a University in Beijing [Beijing Language Institute].

Despite the ‘Tiananmen Massacre’, which provoked a hasty departure, Niall returned for a second year, this time armed with both a second Chinese Government scholarship and additional bursaries from the Jefferson Smurfit Foundation and the Industrial Development Authority of Ireland.

UCD ALMA MATER MAGAZINE No.6 1995 - Our Man in Hong Kong

Upon completion of his studies in China, Niall worked for the IDA in Taiwan, before relocating to Hong Kong in 1991 to take up a position with ResearchAsia Ltd, the leading information technology market consulting company in Asia. While with ResearchAsia, he has lived in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

UCD ALMA MATER MAGAZINE No.6 1995 - Our Man in Hong KongIn November 1994, he joined Dataquest Asia Pacific (Hong Kong) Ltd, a company of the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, as a Regional Industry Analyst for Asia Pacific.

Niall is also a director of two companies. One company sources consultants, financing and investors for private enterprise and public projects in Kazazhstan, while the other aims to assist Irish companies seeking to penetrate the burgeoning markets of Greater China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He is also the Chapter President of the UCD Alumni Association in Hong Kong.”

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Filed under 1995, China, Dataquest, Hong Kong, Ireland, Niall in the News, Niall O'Reilly, ResearchAsia, Thailand, Tiananmen Square Massacre, Travel, University College Dublin