Tag Archives: shanghai

State Visit to the People’s Republic of China – President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland

The State Visit, the highest form of engagement, in diplomatic protocol, that one country can have with another, will be the 3rd overseas State Visit since the President of Ireland took office and is recognition of the warm relationship Ireland enjoys with the People’s Republic of China encompassing all aspects of the exchanges between Ireland and China in culture, education, trade and investment.

The President’s programme in China, which officially commences in Beijing on Sunday 7th December, will include State ceremonies, cultural, educational and business events, such as an Irish Cultural Performance in Beijing‘s Forbidden City Concert Hall, and Enterprise Ireland / IDA Ireland business and Embassy of Ireland Irish community receptions. A state dinner in his honour, hosted by the President Xi Jinping and Madame Ping will be held on Tuesday 19th December. On Thursday, 11th December, the Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai will host a reception for the Irish community, while on Friday 12th the President will visit the third city involved in the State Visit, Hangzhou. In Hangzhou, President Higgins will visit Alibaba, and have a meeting with Mr. Jack Ma its founder and Executive Chairman. Staying overnight in Hangzhou – perhaps at the West Lake State Guest House where Nixon and Mao signed the historic “3 Joint Communiques” in 1972– on Saturday he will visit the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, which dates back to 328AD, take a Bronze Dragon Boat trip on Hangzhou’s spectacular West Lake, followed by a visit to a Longjing Tea Plantation before returning to Shanghai by bullet train. President Higgins will return to Ireland on Monday, 15th of December.

The importance of high-level diplomatic visits between the Ireland and China, which are helping to widen and deepen bilateral relations, cannot be overstated, and in our opinion a substantial trade spin-off can be expected to follow this major State Visit. Real potential exists for further enhancing the relationship between Ireland and China in Ireland’s niche industry sectors such as energy and green technologies, food and agriculture, financial services and aviation leasing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, educational services, and tourism.

During his momentous visit to China President Higgins can be expected to emphasise the importance of trade links, and, more importantly from a Chinese perspective, growing mutual trust, while encouraging even greater economic co-operation between China and Ireland.

State Visit to China President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to meet President of China Xi Jinping

While there is considerable optimism in Ireland’s agri-food sector about Ireland having the potential to resolve problems of food security in China, New Zealand’s and, most recently, Australia’s free trade agreements with China serve to highlight the daunting task Ireland dairy and meat producers face gaining traction in such an intensely competitive market. As Mark Twain observed “To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement”. However, one point President Higgins is very good at is talking up Ireland and he will have separate official meetings at the Great Hall of the People with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister, Mr Li Keqiang and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Mr Zhang Dejiang, the three most powerful people in China.

Why is China so interested in Ireland?

As noted in an earlier Accurate China Insight http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=2Mic2J2sUyQ=

“both countries enjoy an excellent political, business and cultural relationship, much to the envy of Ireland’s European partners”.

Firstly, China’s political leaders are clearly impressed by Ireland’s ongoing economic renewal brought about by the country’s strict adherence to fulfilling its commitments as an international Monetary Fund (IMF) country programme country, as recognized by the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission. From an export dependency perspective, China has a vested interest in the European Union’s rapid return to growth and in this context Ireland is a shining beacon of light.

Secondly, such positive awareness dovetails with the ‘Irish Model’ that has proved so successful in the development of China’s own special economic zones areas. In Chinese political circles, whether we realise it or not, Ireland has made an important contribution to China’s economic development. In 1980, a visit by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, then Senior Vice Minister of State Imports and Exports Administration, to the ‘Shannon Free Zone’ (the world’s first free trade zone) paved the way for Chinese companies to import goods into a special economic zone, manufacture or reconfigure the goods, and then export them without intervention of the customs authorities. The resulting export-led growth has delivered an economy that has experienced the fastest expansion in GDP per capita of any major economy in human history. In recent times after years of economic expansion China’s economic growth rate has being losing speed, in part due to a decline in demand for its exports from key markets. To stall the slowdown new economic prototypes are being assessed such as the fledgling Shanghai Free-Trade Zone that bears characteristics that can be traced back to the ‘Shannon-Free Zone’. The February 2012 visit to the Shannon Development Zone by President Xi Jinping, then Vice President of China, was no mere happenstance.

Thirdly, Ireland currently enjoys a unique position in Europe between two of China’s traditional rivals, the USA and the UK, which for China represents a “soft power” relationship it is determined to make the most of over the long-term.

Fourthly, in addition that Ireland is the only English speaking country in the Euro zone enjoying tariff and border free trade across the European Union makes for a useful entry point into the European market of 500 millions. However, from this perspective Ireland has yet to notch up any significant Chinese investments, a point that President Higgins will no doubt be highlighting during his meetings with China’s political elites.

During the second week of December Ireland will take centre stage in China like never before.

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=uInfgiAwMQU=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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Irish Exporters Flagship Business Visit to Suzhou and Hangzhou, China, June 23rd to June 28th

Overview

The Asia Trade Forum, an initiative of the Irish Exporters Association established to increase two-way trade with Asia, is delighted to announce a Business Visit in June 2013 to two of China’s most fabled and leading business cities, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

The visit will encompass the two cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou, both on the Yangtze River Delta and 30 minutes from Shanghai. Typically, Business Visits tend to focus on Tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Both Suzhou and Hangzhou are highly competitive cities, with rapid economic development. In addition, they both offer a consumer market with above average disposable incomes. They are ideal gateways to China for your business.

The visit will take place from 23rd to 29th June in partnership Grant Thornton, William Fry, RBS/Ulster Bank, Enterprise Ireland, Euler Hermes, FcM Travel, and Etihad Airways.

The purpose of the Business Visit is to:

  1. Showcase exporting or partnering opportunities in Yangtze River Delta economic region.
  2. Showcase Chinese companies who wish to trade with Ireland.
  3. Highlight the growing indigenous Irish companies operating in China.
  4. Provide a platform for Irish and Chinese businesses to exchange trading opportunities.
  5. The event will include seminars, roundtable workshops, and 1:1 meetings with perspective customers and partners.

Dates / Schedule:

Sunday 23rd June

A.M.:  – Depart Ireland Etihad Airways

Monday 24th June

A.M.: – Arrive in Shanghai Pudong International Airport / transfer to City of Suzhou by road
P.M.: – Arrive City of Suzhou

[Distance from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Suzhou is about 120km (similar to driving from Dublin to Enniscorthy)

Tuesday 25th June

All-Day: – Gain real hands-on experience of the Suzhou / China business environment; find out what opportunities are on offer:

Match-making with potential buyers, suppliers, and partners

Wednesday 26th June

A.M. –Gain real hands-on experience of the Suzhou / China business environment, find out what opportunities are on offer:

Match-making with potential buyers, suppliers, partners

P.M. Depart City of Suzhou / Transfer overland to City of Hangzhou

[Distance from Suzhou to Hangzhou is about 166km (similar to driving from Dublin to Belfast)]

Thursday 27th June

All-Day:- Gain real hands-on experience of the Hangzhou / China business environment; find out what opportunities are on offer: Match-making with potential buyers, suppliers, and partners

Friday 28th June

A.M. – Gain real hands-on experience of the Hangzhou / China business environment, find out what opportunities are on offer: Match-making with potential buyers, suppliers, partners

P.M. – Wrap up / Tour of West Lake

Evening – Head to Shanghai Pudong International Airport / Return to Ireland
[Distance from Hangzhou to Shanghai Pudong International Airport is about 200km (similar to driving from Dublin to Tipperary)]

Accurate China Insight - Irish Exporters Association - Asia Trade Forum Flagship Business Visit to Suzhou Hangzhou and Shanghai China June 2013

Business Visit Participation Fees and Details

The participation fee to take part on the mission is €500 plus 21.5% VAT per company.  The following will be included as part of the participation fee:

  • Seminars, business networking events and quality 1:1 match-making meetings (utilising the combined resources of local government and on the ground Irish Exporters Association expertise).
  • Group lunches and evening receptions in both cities.
  • Company profile and business visit brochure.
  • Organisational and logistical support including transfers and transport in China.
  • Negotiated group rates in hotels.

Travel Agency Support

Registration for the business visit opens on Tuesday 14th May, please visit http://www.asiatradeforum.org to register.

Final deadline for registration is Friday 7th June.

Travel Information & Visa

Information on travelling in China and vaccine requirements in available from the Department of Foreign Affairs on http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=402

business visa must be obtained through the Chinese Embassy visa service.

You will be required to include the following:

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months with 2 blank pages facing each other
  • 1 passport photo
  • Company Letter- stating 12 mth multiple visa
  • Invitation letter (to be arranged by ATF)
  • Application form and additional business form (attached).

Processing time is 10 working days. There is a same day service available for Irish passport holders for an additional €125. The IEA Consular Service can assist with visa applications.

What makes the Asia Trade Forum Business Visit to China Different?

  • Irish Exporters Association / Asia Trade Forum, having hosted many high-level delegations from these two cities over the years, have excellent relationships with local governments in Suzhou and Hangzhou
  • China isn’t a single market: 5 megacities with populations of over 10,000,000; 14 cities with populations of over 5,000,000 (including Suzhou and Hangzhou), and 41 cities with populations of over 2,000,000. The Yangtze River Delta economic powerhouse is a market place of 88,000,000 people
  •  The Irish Exporters Association / Asia Trade Forum is in a unique position to work with practical and enthusiastic local governments, Irish business associations and Irish businessmen and businesswomen working on the ground in China to deliver a constructive Business Visit focused on quality match-making and business lead generation
  • The Irish Exporters Association / Asia Trade Forum are very conscious of the cost constraints holding many Irish companies back from engaging with China. This will be a very focused Business Visit aimed primarily at developing inroads into China’s Tier 2 city markets where strong local government relationships are critical.

Introducing Suzhou and Hangzhou

Chinese Proverb:

“In heaven there is paradise, on earth Suzhou and Hangzhou”

About Suzhou

A city built in 514 B.C.; Suzhou has long been one of China’s richest cities. Immediately west of Shanghai is strategically situated in the Yangtze River Delta region, China’s economic epicentre. Suzhou is also located in Jiangsu Province, which has the highest GDP per capita of all Chinese provinces, and the second highest GDP.

Suzhou Development

Municipality population:   10,500,000

Urban population:   4,074,000

Average temperature in June:    23 degrees

Average annual income:    Approx €13,000

According to Forbes ™ China, in 2011 Suzhou was China’s “best business city”, while in 2012 Suzhou was the “most innovative city” in China. Suzhou is also the 2nd largest manufacturing industry base in China, producing, for example, 40% PC sets, 65% mouses, 30% micro-cameras, 10% PC boards of world supply

Suzhou’s ranking among major cities of China 2011 / 2012:

– Patent Applications     NO.1

– Government Service     NO.1

– Patents Grant     NO.2 (2011)

 Best Business Environment     NO.3

– Overall Competitiveness     NO.5 (2012)

– G.D.P     NO.5 (2012)

–  Total Exports     NO.3

–  Total Imports and Exports     NO.4

Irish companies including GlanbiaPM GroupEPS ElectronicsElement Six, etc, have already either invested in Suzhou operations, partnered with Suzhou-based companies, or sold products and services to companies based in Suzhou.

About Hangzhou

Legend has it that Marco Polo called the former imperial capital of China, Hangzhou: “without doubt the finest and most splendid city the world“.

Hangzhou is known for its high level of education, advanced technology industries, considerable wealth and the fabled West Lake scenic area. Four of China’s best known brands were born, and are headquartered in Hangzhou Alibaba and Taobao (which is why Hangzhou is referred to as China’s e-commerce capital), Wahaha (mineral water), and Geely (owner of Volvo electric car research).

Hangzhou

Municipality population:     8,700,000

Urban population:     6,242,000 (10th largest in China)

Average temperature in June:     23 degrees

Average annual income:     Approx €10,000

Ranked by Forbes™ in December 2012, as the second “best city for business” in China, after Shanghai, Hangzhou has benefited almost disproportionately from the spread of wealth, development, and investment from Shanghai, which is 2 hours north. For example, Hangzhou already has 108.5 millionaires per 100,000 residents, China’s highest concentration of wealth.

The provincial capital of central Zhejiang Province, which is considered China’s technological and entrepreneurial heartland, Hangzhou is also situated on the southern wing of the Yangtze River Delta region, where it ranks 2nd in terms of economic prosperity.

Hangzhou’s ranking among major cities of China 2011 / 2012:

  • Patent Applications     NO. 1 (of Provincial Capitals 2011)
  • Government Service     NO.2
  • Patents Grant     NO.2 (2012)
  • Best Business Environment     NO.2
  • Overall Competitiveness     NO.8 (2012)

Kerry Group is one of a number of Irish companies who have already either invested in Hangzhou operations, partnered with Hangzhou-based companies, or sold products and services to companies based in Hangzhou

Sector-related Market Opportunities for Irish companies in Suzhou and Hangzhou

  • Software, e-commerce, animation, gaming design and testing
  • Precision machinery manufacturing
  • ICT
  • Services industry
  • Cleantech / Environment protection
  • Automobiles
  • Bio-pharmaceutical / medical
  • Retail
  • Government
  • Horticulture
  • Chemicals
  • Food, etc…

Note: Do not be put off if your business sector does not appear in the list above, as it is the intention of Irish Exporters Association / Asia Trade Forum to try to assist every company interested in tapping the China market to find potential partners / clients.

Estimated Travel Costs

Once the registration fee has been received and the registration form completed, FcM travel will offer a negotiated package to delegates.  However costs may vary according to individual itineraries and exchange rate.  The costs are based on the first 20 places on the visit.

The FcM travel cost will be approx. €1800 to include:

  • Etihad Flight    (Departure from Dublin:  Sunday 23rd. Arrive in Dublin Saturday 29th)
  • Transfers and internal transport
  • Lunch and evening receptions (2 in each city)
  • 4* Hotel Accommodation

For further information contact:

Ashley Beston, Asia Trade Forum Manager,

Irish Exporters Association ashleybeston@irishexporters.ie  or 01- 642 4170

Niall O’Reilly, Director for China, Irish Exporters Association,

niall@accuratelimited.com

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (ExportImport, Partner Due Diligence) Consultancy

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

Accurate Group China Office : 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Accurate Group Ireland Office: 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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May 14, 2013 · 7:25 pm

China – Under The Hood: Would you dine at this Chinese restaurant?

Dandong Arirang Chinese Restaurant Customer Charter

    1. RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT AND STAFF WILL NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, OR MENTAL HARM CAUSED TO CUSTOMERS ARISING FROM CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS ABOUT FOOD OR SERVICE.
    2. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE FOOD.
    3. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE SERVICE.
    4. DO NOT COMPLAIN.

Would you eat at this Chinese restaurant?…. These are just the waitresses preparing for another grueling day waiting tables. After watching this video.

If I still had an appetite, I’d probably do Take Away!

[The Dandong Arirang Restaurant, is located in the city of Dandong in north east China‘s Liaoning Province. Dandong, a riverside city provides revealing views of North Korea from across the Yalu River]

It is not an uncommon sight to witness pre-work team-building on the streets outside hairdressers and restaurants all over China, such as shown in this video clip of  a Shanghai hairdresser’s attempt to build an efficient, harmonious and productive work group.

Team-building outside Shanghai hairdresser salon

However, what the Dandong Arirang Restaurant video reveals is a glimpse of  ‘China – Under the Bonnet’. Scratching not far below the surface, particularly in north east China among traditional Communist die-hards, will expose political aspirations harking back to the days of Maoist-era social morals.  Doubtless Bo Xilai, the son of BoYibo (one of the Eight Elders of the  Communist Party of China), the deposed Communist Party chief of Chongqing would have considered the Dandong Arirang Restaurant employee work out as being very much in the spirit of his neo-leftist red culture movement. 

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Filed under China, Chinese, Culture, Food

Accurate China Insight: How many people from Ireland are living and doing business in China?

As a Chinese language student studying in Beijing in 1989 I recall when all 8 members of the Irish community living in Beijing were evacuated by the Embassy to the safety of Hong Kong, following the June 3rd / 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square. It was a time when down in Shanghai the view from ‘The Bund’ (Wai Tan) across the Huangpu River to Shanghai’s Pudong district offered little more than a jumble of old low-rise warehouses, residential units and farming lots. Foreigners were few and far between. Living in China was considered at best a hardship posting.

Accurate China Insight - Irish population in China

Now, following the establishment in China of close to 150 Irish-owned business operations led by Glen Dimplex, CRH, Treasury Holdings, PCH and Kerry Group, etc, an influx of teachers from Ireland to teach English, and Irish graduates attracted by the growing range of job opportunities on offer to Irish candidates, the number living and working in China (including Hong Kong and Macau) has increased to at least 3,000 Irish citizens (Source: http://www.thepost.ie/themarket/china-in-your-hands-54873.html), an estimate, based on the numbers of citizens registered with the Embassy in Beijing and Consulate in Shanghai, and the volume of consular business (including passport applications, other document applications and consular assistance) conducted.

However, this number is likely to be at the low end of the spectrum simply because:

  1. there is no obligation on Irish residing in China to register with the Embassy and Consulate; and
  2. many Irish scattered across China in cities such as Hangzhou, Urumqi, Changchun, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Dalian, Ningbo, Qingdao, Tianjin and Xiamen, etc., probably haven’t registered with the Embassy or Consulate.

The total number of foreigners living in China at the end of 2010 was about 600,000 people according to the latest Population Census. According to the Xinhua News Agency:

the top three home countries of the foreigners were the Republic of Korea (ROK), the United States and Japan. Among the foreigners living on the Chinese mainland, 56.62 percent or 336,245 were males and 43.38 percent or 257,587 were females”.

Note: The Embassy and Consulate are restricted in law in how the citizens register is used and cannot make it available outside the Embassy and Consulate. The more people who register with them the more accurate the estimate can be.

Sources:
The Sunday Business Post-

http://www.thepost.ie/themarket/china-in-your-hands-54873.html

Xinhua-

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-04/29/c_13851456.htm

Accurate China Blog http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=1whhJh5C+5Y=

Niall O’Reilly

Accurate Ireland – China Product & Business Development (Export Sourcing Import) Consultancy

Tel: +353 1271 1830 / +86 15257194468

http://www.accuratelimited.com

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Filed under Accurate China Business Services, Accurate China Insight, Ireland, Irish

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

China – Under The Hood: The Curious Incident Of The Dissolving Peach

No, I’m not being self-absorbed, and it’s not as if loads of locals around me are succumbing to nasty, mysterious illnesses (anyway the local tabloids always tone down the numbers). Nevertheless, of late in conversations with Hangzhouers I’ve noticed three questions coming up again and again in a tone verging on alarm.

-What are we eating?

-What are we drinking?

-and…. What the hell are we breathing?

-and I’ll toss in another issue…. How can one of the two peaches I bought in the local fruit shop last Sunday turn from unripe into a liquefied mush within 36 hours of purchase? That toxic peach dissolved right before my eyes!

[Anecdote:  A couple of weeks ago having enjoyed a second Kelloggs Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of a Red-Cross parcel from my mother back home in Ireland, also filled with a critical supply of Barry’s Tea bags) I found myself checking out the nutritional label on the back of the wrapper. Clueless as to what I was reading, it suddenly dawned on me what I was reading wasn’t anything about food.  Why did I just eat a load of preservatives which are of zero benefit to my body? Why indeed..]

If you want to participate in a live laboratory in which the food – [and air-we-breath] – chain(s) are “unintentionally” (yeah right! the expressions of innocence on the faces of those perpetrators regularly showcased to the media are as fake as the vile products they have been caught tainting) exposed to poisonous industrial chemicals with the potential to totally wreck our bodily processes, then all roads lead to China.

I’d never even heard of most of these chemicals by name. Sure I can hardly pronounce them:

  • Watermelons overdosing (exploding melons of mass destruction) on forchlorfenuron growth hormones (May 2011)

  • Sports and fruit drinks laced with “particularly damaging to a young male’s fertility” dioctyl phthalate (imported from Taiwan, June 2011)
  • The “high blood pressure” yielding heavy metal cadmium in rice (February 2011); toxic “kidney failure” conducive melamine in milk (ongoing?)
  • Arsenic in soy sauce (ongoing?)
  • Copper in coffee (imported from Japan, 2008)
  • Bleach in mushrooms (December 2010)
  • The detergent borax in pork (added to make it resemble beef, April 2011)
  • and a whole host of fruit and vegetables smeared in deltamethrin, a synthetic insecticide, and preservatives with extremely long names!

Sure it only seems like yesterday when my buddy Umberto, who being Italian takes his cooking very seriously, watched a pot of fresh tomatoes turn white in a boiling confusion of red artificial colouring (2006).

Here in Hangzhou, affectionately known as “The Pond”, on account of its scenic West Lake,  so far (and counting…)we have:

  • Lead in the air (a lot of it apparently, courtesy of the local battery manufacturing industry)
  • Phenol in the water (courtesy of a tanker driver whose load tipped into the water supply, June 2011)… anyway phenol only causes severe eye damage, and sure what’s 25 tons of the stuff?

Spare a thought for those Harbiners up north whose Songhua River water supply was  contaminated with at least 80 tons of the carcinogen Benzine (ok, so that was back  in 2005 –‘water under the bridge’…so the local officials will tell you, long-term cancer risks notwithstanding).  No doubt, these same faceless apparatchiks will point to Germany’s e-coli cucumbers and bean sprouts (last week), the UK’s Mad Cows (hmmm) and Ireland’s contaminated pig meat (2008) as symptomatic of a global problem not just a China problem   – I’ve noticed they don’t really like talking about the “far worse than governments are revealing to the public” Fukushima nucleur disaster.

The Good News

Yes there is. Multiple the uproar each food scandal outside China receives by 1,000 times and you’ll get a sense of the disgust local Chinese feel about the continuing government incompetence and cynical manipulation of consumers by devious producers. China’s ‘You Are What You Eat’ sensitive generation is becoming increasingly aware of potential hazards of almost everything they eat and drink. What they see all around them are poor public hygiene surveillance and low standards of food quality all of which are cultivated by official incompetence, slapdash law enforcement, corruption and a corner-cutting culture among some businesses. It’s common knowledge that corrupt manufacturers and growers still use bribery and corruption to escape scrutiny.

Which brings me back to the bad news – that peach.

Eat The Peach? Certainly Not!

The facts:

  • Sunday evening in the neighbourhood fruit store

A shop widely considered to trade in Hangzhou’s finest selection of fruits. A large store, open 24×7, all year round, I supposed its popularity was simply down to the fact you are given what you pay for: natural fruit, preservative and pesticide free, as in normal fruit, grown locally… generating visions of suppliers being meticulously selected by a resident ‘Man from Del Monte’, giving his nod of approval to the perfect pineapple or apple… Well not quite, clearly a figment of my imagination.

The shop has a large imported section, offering exotic fruits from all over the world to their bàofā hù (nouveau riche) patrons mad for anything deemed exotic, to know off their knowledge and sophistication.  In my mind best to avoid this part of the shop for the same reason I’d avoid purchasing any ‘fresh’ consumable products from outside China, knowing the length it took to get from source to shelf (Kiwi from New Zealand, Apples from the USA? Bananas from South America? Hmm, imported fruit just looks too perfect and do we really believe they’re all air-freighted in?).

So the local fruit section it is.

  • Discerning shoppers everywhere like pawing their fruit for ripeness and the masses here are no different

However, in a big fruit shop that can make for a lot of grubby paws feeling up the goods: ‘The greener the fruit, the less manhandled its likely to be; let it ripen at home’, so the prevailing wisdom goes.

Two curvy, still hard, peaches caught my attention. I reckoned after being stored at an average room temperature of about 22 Celsius they’d be perfect to eat in three days. Back in the apartment, I left them on the table in their open plastic bag and went about my business, as in business trip to another city.

36 hours later I noticed a damp blot on the table cloth under the plastic bag and lifted it up. Liquid is seeping right through the plastic bag, and while one of the peaches looks exactly like it did when purchased, the other has simply dissolved into a gooey toxic mush.

  • And the upshot of this morbid tale about defiled peaches?

Yesterday, still incredulous, I recounted the story to the wife of Umberto, who, Umberto often complains, is overly preoccupied by a fear of preservatives, toxic chemicals, phony foods, and corrupt practices. Mother of three, Wu Bei wasn’t in the least bit surprised offering me the following prudent advice the next time I go fruit hunting in China:

“.. pick the fruit that’s looks somewhat chewed  and scarred by insects, because if  it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for you…. The most flawless delicious looking fruit is the most dangerous of all”.

A slightly more resigned Umberto quips that perhaps the best rule of thumb is to keep changing your poisons.

Seeing is believing…

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Fast forward to March 2013

– Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply

“Shanghai’s drinking water is under threat after 16,000 diseased pig carcasses are found in tributaries of the Huangpu river…” Source / read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/29/dead-pigs-china-water-supply?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

The reason why 16,000 pigs ended up in the Huangpu River was never fully explained by the authorities.

Fast forward to April 2013

– Bottled water scandal highlights food safety challenges

“The quality “..criteria Zhejiang’s Nongfu Spring uses are looser than national tap water standards in terms of the amount of arsenic and cadmium allowed in its products…. Nongfu Spring uses criteria that were set by the government of east China’s Zhejiang Province in 2005. National standards were upgraded in 2007…. Nongfu Spring was the only drinking water company to participate in drafting the Zhejiang provincial standards….. enterprises are only allowed to adopt local standards in exceptional cases when there are no relevant national standards….Nongfu Spring’s products do not meet the requirements for such an exception… China has formulated nearly 5,000 compulsory food safety criteria due to its excessive number of government departments….”

” Source / read more: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-04/12/c_132304484.htm

Fast forward to May 2013

– Forget mutton: in China, it’s rat, fox and mink dressed as lamb

Sold in thinly sliced rolls for consumption in hotpots  the “…”lamb” was mixed with rat, fox and mink with additives including gelatin. The meat was sold to farmers’ markets in the two cities…” Source / read more: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20130505000018&cid=1103

Fast forward to October 2013

– China’s Gutter Oil Scandal: 1/10 Of China’s Cooking Oil May Be Recycled From Garbage

“… In our current society everybody tries to swindle everybody else there’s nothing we can do about it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kne4PL5uH7c

….. and this food scandal concerning the cat meat trade…

“.. selling cat meat to butchers who then repackaged it and sold it as rabbit…” Source / read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10417032/Chinese-police-find-slaughterhouse-selling-cat-meat.html

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China – Under The Hood: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment?

It’s 0.32 hrs, early Wednesday morning, on rattler K8427 and we’re rolling along towards Hangzhou East Station, having just pulled out of characterless SongJiang (I guess everywhere is inexpressive when its pitch black outside).

Two more stops to endure: Like time without end in this oppressively hot sardine can, stuffed to the gills with wilting, almost comatose, travellers.  In any manner whatever dishevelled bodies covered with sweat, are crushed, wedged, packed, and squeezed into seats and each other. Faces, compressed into table tops and plastic bags crammed full with life possessions, compete for space with those two standard trappings for such idle moments: melon seeds and screw-top jars.

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

To rise above the tedium of the travel, passengers, those that are still of sound mind, delight in picking, cracking open and chewing melon seeds (now I know what the long pointed nails are for, working much more effectively than teeth), while another infallible remedy are the jars filled to the brim with tea, the fuel that drives China’s blue-collar classes.

The carriage is unventilated and airless, while the railway car attendant is swabbing the floor under my feet with a filthy black mop, the same one she has just used to clean the toilet.

The commuter across the way has his shirt rolled halfway up his chest, a nauseating waft of cigarette smoke permeates the space between us, and I find myself envisioning two very smelly French delicacies:

  • Vieux Boulogne, the foul-smelling ‘chou dofu’ of cheeses, the smelliest cheese known to man, is said to smell like a product from a cow’s ass, rather than its udders, which adequately describes the stench originating from the toilet.
  • Pont l’Eveque, the Durian of cheeses, is one of the world’s oldest cheeses and dating back a couple of hundred years actually smells that old, its pong bearing a very strong resemblance to the overpowering odour emanating from this gentleman’s sweat soaked, decaying socks.

“…foul smelling French cheese…”

Durian

Durian

Chou Dofu

And for all this entertainment only RMB 25 (Euro 2.60), the price of the ticket from Shanghai South Station.

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Accurate China Insight: Entering The Dragon’s Den

Huge Opportunities lie waiting for Irish businesses in China, but know your market

From Ireland’s ‘Business and Finance’ magazine’s ‘Enterprise Insight’ supplement, Q2 2008 edition, by Niall O’ Reilly

The world’s second largest economy China, is now the largest market in Asia, and outside the Euro Zone only second to the USA for Ireland’s exports. According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) exports to mainland China (excluding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for the first two months of 2008 totalled €324.6 million, a year-on-year increase of 112%.  Exports to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the same period reached €110 million.

 

In the face of the current global economic downturn, a difficult exchange rate and other cost base factors, including the flight of manufacturing processes to low overhead, low material cost countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, as our manufacturers struggle to maintain productivity, the rise in our exports to China is a major achievement and presents convincing evidence that Ireland is at last starting to hit the mark in China business. Given that over the past decade the development of our economic and trade relations with China has been a top priority the Irish Government will maintain that its Asia Strategy, with its particular emphasis on China, is the key reason for  this positive development. What the CSO figures do not reveal, however, is how indigenous Irish businesses are performing compared to multinationals businesses based in Ireland.

 

China’s rise to become Ireland’s eight largest export destination is directly linked to its own export prowess and the craving for technology, infrastructure equipment and knowhow by Chinese enterprises that cannot be satisfied by domestic suppliers. From this perspective it is not surprising that the majority of our exports to China should consist of the information communications technology, machinery and equipment China requires to fuel its heady growth. Buoyed by breakneck 7% to 8% GDP growth in China over the past 10 years, a trend that shows little sign of abating, so long as businesses based in Ireland stay ahead of the technology curve and maintain their competitiveness exports to China will only continue to expand, thus strengthening China’s position as a major export market for Irish produce.

 

Looking ahead, where are the China market opportunities for Irish exporters?

 

Ireland commands a very strong position in the world trade rankings for internationally traded services. Recently published statistics by the World Trade Organisation 2006 show Ireland as the 12th largest services exporter, commanding a 2.6% share of world trade, while services exports now account for 35% of our total export trade. China has only opened up the service market to any great extent over the past four years and there are clearly significant additional market opportunities now for Irish service exports in engineering consultancy, aviation services, information communication technology, education and tourism services. The latter two service sectors are particularly significant given the rise in the spending power of the Chinese consumer.

 

According to the China National Bureau of Statistics, in 2007, China’s retail spending rose 16.8 percent to 8.92 trillion Yuan (US$1.24 trillion), thus adding credence to a widely held view that Chinese demand will this year for the first time become the main driver of world economic growth, with the increase in its domestic spending in current dollar terms contributing more to global growth than US domestic demand. As such, Irish suppliers should be relishing lucrative domestic sales opportunities presented by an increasingly affluent population.

 

Located two hours south of Shanghai is the prosperous city of Hangzhou, Marco Polo’s ‘paradise on earth’, which Forbes ™ Magazine has repeatedly rated as China’s premier business centre. With a registered population of 6.7 million inhabitants and an urban per capita income of RMB21,689, Hangzhou provides the ideal glimpse into the phenomenal growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle class.  Not only do Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, and Prada showrooms do a thriving business here, even more remarkable is the thirst to travel abroad whether as tourists, with Paris and London high on the list of preferred destinations, or graduate students from the third ranked university in China, Hangzhou’s Zhejiang University, seeking further education in the best schools in Europe and the USA. 

 

As individual prosperity rises so too are people becoming increasingly concerned about their living conditions. Recognising such anxieties, and looking ahead to population growth of close to 20 per cent over the next five years, in addition to the huge infrastructure building projects already underway, the Hangzhou Municipal People’s Government is actively encouraging projects focused on providing fuel efficiency, cleaner water, better sanitation, and power generation, all of which whether in material or service form present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers. 

 

As patterns of consumption change, to reflect those found in wealthier countries, such as higher levels of meat consumption, the opportunities for Irish suppliers in the development of both the food ingredients market, such as diary fats and proteins, standard cereal and grain products and flours, vegetable oils, or standardised high-quality meat products, and markets for the products of large scale cropping and livestock activities, become all the more apparent. In 2005, Kerry Group quick to seize the market opportunity established its state-of-the-art China manufacturing, technical and administrative facilities in Hangzhou.

 

However, remove the rose-tinted glasses and it quickly becomes apparent that in China the size of the opportunity is only matched by the difficulty in weighing up the risk, as the great challenges for any Irish supplier in entering what is still a relatively immature market quickly become apparent.  China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not necessarily meant greater transparency.

 

Making sound business decisions can be very difficult when there is little timely information available, and when the information available is either unreliable, or misleading.  What’s more, a simple misunderstanding of local business practices, which can be very different from what is taken for granted in Ireland, can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships and leverage them into strategic opportunities. As Kerry, CRH and Glen Dimplex have found, there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base  for supplying many services. However, this forces small and medium exporter into the high cost of establishing a commercial presence in the China.

 

Rather than going it alone, working with either the Irish Exporters Association, Enterprise Ireland, or some of the more experienced homegrown market-entry consultancy practices with experts based on the ground in China, and their ability to access key business and government decision-makers,  will greatly assist Irish businesses in getting the most out of the unprecedented opportunities available in China.”

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (Export, Source, Import, Partner Due Diligence) Consultants doing business in China for over 20 years

China Office : 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai

Growing up in 1970s and early 1980s Ireland I remember the labels “mentally retarded”, “mongolian”, “mongol” and “mongoloid” being used in casual conversations when referring to people with intellectual disabilities, or Down Syndrome. I plead guilty to pronouncing such stereotypes. By condoning or even saying such humiliating remarks, unknowingly I was in effect robbing people with intellectual disabilities of their individuality and dignity.

Such degrading descriptions of people with intellectual disabilities have been cultivated over many years:

  • P.M. Duncan noted in 1866 a girl “with a small round head, Chinese looking eyes, projecting a large tongue who only knew a few words” in ‘A manual for the classification, training and education of the feeble-minded, imbecile and idiotic. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
  • John Langdon H. Down (1828-1896), an Edinburgh physician, published in 1866 the first clinical description of individuals with Down Syndrome that bears his name in the landmark paper, ‘Observations on ethnic classifications of idiots’.
  • Benjamin Spock suggests in ‘Baby and Child Care (1946)’ that babies born mongoloid should immediately be institutionalized based on the premise that “If (the infant) merely exists at a level that is hardly human, it is much better for the other children and the parents to have him cared for elsewhere“.
  • The theologian Joseph Fletcher attempting to comfort a bereaved parent, concludes in 1968 that there is “no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down syndrome baby away, whether it’s ‘put away’ in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible lethal sense. It is sad, yes. Dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down’s is not a person.

Words matter!

Imbecile, idiotic, hardly human, retarded, not a person..?  No way!

Why the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games contestant will never match the spirit, resolve and strength of mind of the Shanghai 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games athlete?

Held in Shanghai from October 2nd to October 11th, my colleague and I attended the Games as volunteers hoping to be of some assistance to the 151 member Irish team, their euphoric family members and the 200 volunteers who had fund-raised over €1,000,000 for Special Olympics Ireland.

Looking back on that week I can honestly express it as one of the most heartening, and touching experiences of my life.

Vivid memories:

  • … The ‘Team Ireland’ hotel, the Equatorial. If I hadn’t of known about the Special Olympics I would be forgiven for thinking I had by chance walked into the Shanghai leg of the world’s most famous rock group on tour. The atmosphere in the lobby was electric, noisy and very cheery. And who was making all the clatter? The families of the Irish athletes. Hundreds of family members and volunteers had flown in from all over Ireland, Australia, New Zealand to support their Ruth Gribbon and Pauline Rush in Bocce, James in the Basketball, and Sarah in the Athletics.
  •   … The spectacular Opening Ceremony wasn’t just about huge fireworks displays, and appearances by celebrities Jackie Chan, Colm Farrell, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Shanghai, with the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games less than twelve months away, sought to display its organisational prowess. The true symbolism of the night was the picture beamed to almost every household in China of President Hu Jintao hugging and playing with Down Syndrome children. 
  • … The scenes of jubilation after Ireland’s basketball team at 4 points versus India’s 18 slam dunked to go to 7…. It was as if they’d just scored the winning point in the world cup final. Spine chilling and poignant indeed…. Such jubilation… Yep, that’s what sport is all about. They were having fun no matter what the score was.
  • … The barefooted 1,500 metres athlete #9, running in the yellow colours of Tanzania, who literally danced around the outside lane of Shanghai’s Olympic Stadium and then stopped to wait for his fellow competitors to catch up with him. When he finally crossed the line in first he just kept running, enjoying himself immensely as stewards and minders tried to catch up with him…
  •  …“I know I can”. First or last it didn’t matter, all the athletes finished walking or running around this 400 metres Olympics track. Their single-minded focusr on crossing the finish line, and competitive it was. Team Ireland’s Sarah, #4 in the women’s 1,500 metre walk, briskly walked around the track as if she was going for a breath of air with her dog such was her look of she enjoyment. Not one of the athletes dropped out.  It was a sight to behold, never to be forgotten.
  • … Making friends: A Danish athlete swapping badge pins with her Irish athlete counterpart, spur-of-the-moment stuff. This was their stage and they were thoroughly enjoying it.
  • … The devotion and enthusiasm of each Chinese volunteer assigned to an athlete as a minder. The clearly genuine amity between the two for me really captured the power of the Special Olympics spirit. Despite the enormous challenge of convincing China’s populace at large that the intellectually disabled are able to lead a happy life and contribute to society these volunteers in my mind have really shown the way.

And so much more…..

For anyone who has never been to one of these momentous events, it is worth the time and effort to appreciate the extent of human potential and to recognise that each unique human gift has a place in society.

Words matter!

Witnessing the social and cultural transformation of the underserved and often marginalised intellectually disabled as I did at the Games in Shanghai certainly made me feel ashamed, very ashamed.

Imbecile, idiotic, hardly human, retarded, not a person..?  No way!

Appreciating the value and importance of including people with intellectual disabilities into all aspects of life, I look forward to the next Special Olympics World Summer Games, which will be held in Athens in 2011.

[Note: The previous 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 was mired in controversy even before the Opening Ceremony following the Irish Government’s banning of the Team Hong Kong’s participation due to worries about SARS. An outraged Niall O’Reilly decides to write two letters highlighting the Irish Government irrational and hypocritical decision…. To read more click: https://nialljoreilly.com/2007/09/21/special-olympics-world-summer-games-shanghai-october-2-11-2007/ ]

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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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