Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Election Episode 5 Recap

Hong Kong does not have any legislation regarding political parties. Some people may think that political parties do not have a hand in the government, but the reality is that Chief Executive candidates seek the support of political parties in the background. Political experts predict that Hong Kong will soon have its first official governing party.

Yip Ching (Angelica Lee) meets with Poon Tsz Wan (Eunice Ho), the reporter who had inquired about Wai Man Hin's dealings in episode 3. She wants Poon to help her investigate the truth about Wai's death. Poon agrees and also warns Yip Ching to be careful of the people around her, as she had found out that the mysterious "Sam" was Cheung Kwai Lung (Gregory Wong).

Lee Tsz Kwan (Mimi Kung) arrives at the police station to serve as counsel for her husband Song Man San (Liu Kai-chi), who is giving his account of what happened before Luk Wai To's death. He says that Luk was suffering under the immense pressure of the election campaign. He uses his wife to assert his story that Luk had begged him to find a reason for him to quit the race. Lee appears taken aback for a moment, but goes along with it. Song also claims that when he had arrived at the rooftop, Luk had already fallen to his death.

Yip Ching concludes a meeting with a legislator, who expresses admiration for her platform and agrees to give her his nomination ballot. He invites her to meet with his politician friends in the next room. They turn out to be the youth faction of the DALP, led by Fong Kai Chiu (Alan Luk). They want her to run against Ho Chun Pak (Samuel Kwok) in the DALP's internal elections, but she declines.

Between 1999-2011, a faction of young members in the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, nicknamed the "Young Turks", attempted to challenge the mainstream party ideology and adopt more grassroots ideas. It created a split within the party and many Young Turks eventually quit the party to join other political organizations. The Neo Democrats is one of the prominent new organizations founded by Young Turks.

Song holds a press conference to read a text message that Luk had supposedly sent out before his death. In the message, Luk apologizes for not being able to complete the election run and requests privacy for his family. Song does not disclose the last past of the message, saying that it is related to himself. Meanwhile, Yip Ching's team organize themselves to take advantage of the temporary void left by Luk's death.

Yip Ching tricks Cheung into believing that she will negotiate with Fong to join the DALP. When he arrives at the place where they were supposed to meet, he finds only Yip Ching there. She exposes all his lies, including his connections to Song and the reporter Gei Man Wai (Isabel Chan). Cheung tries to explain that he is only using Song to help her, but she refuses to believe him anymore.

Song sends the full text of Luk's last message to Gei, which he wants published as tomorrow's headlines. Gei has to storm into the office of the HKMG president, Sum Suet Lai (Violet Li), to get this accomplished.

Members of the DNRA have a meeting to discuss Song's candidacy. Song asks for half an hour to consider it and returns to his office to wait for a call from Mr. Wong. His assistant suggests that they can act without Mr. Wong's blessings, but Song angrily expresses that if Mr. Wong does not support him, he will do everything in his power to ensure that the party loses badly in the election. Finally, the phone rings.

Back in the meeting room, Song proudly declares his intention to run in the 2022 Chief Executive election. He promptly holds a press conference to announce it to the public. Afterwards, he and his assistant consider people for their campaign team. Song states that he wants Cheung as his campaign manager.

Meanwhile, Cheung is in a drunken stupor at a club, where he is seduced by a woman. Just as they are about to have sex in the alley, they are caught by police officers. At the station, the woman accuses him of trying to rape her. Lee arrives to post bail for him. She brings him to see Song, who says that he can make the case go away, as long as Cheung agrees to be his campaign manager. When Cheung rejects the offer, Song informs him that the woman he tried to have sex with is the wife of a deputy minister.

The next day, the media surround Yip Ching's office looking for a comment about Cheung's case. Over the phone, Cheung instructs the team to make a press release distancing themselves from him. He also wants Yip Ching to report him to the ICAC for taking bribes from Song, so that they can take Song down before he has a chance to strike. However, Yip Ching has other ideas.

She goes to see the deputy minister whose wife is involved in the case. She reveals her knowledge of a case from two years ago where the wife was caught up in a separate scandal, but the deputy minister had used his powers to cover it up. Yip Ching says that if Cheung is falsely accused of rape, she will withdraw from the election and spend her time exposing this to the public.

Cheung is hounded by the media outside his home. He dissociates himself from Yip Ching's campaign, but she shows up and declares her support for him. Song and his wife watch the scene on the news broadcast. He remarks with amusement that this will be a spectacular election campaign.

Election countdown: 102 days

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Borderline Review

Genre: Police procedural
Cast: Liu Kai-chi, Dominic Lam, Lawrence Chou, Joman Chiang, Leila Tong

The Borderline has the advantage of being the first HKTV series to air, so there is a sense of freshness to it all. The first, most obvious difference is the cinematography. Using real location settings, everything appears darker and this might be a turn-off for some people. But take a few episodes to adjust and it shouldn't be a big deal anymore. Or start watching The Election and suddenly you will appreciate the lighting in The Borderline.

The next thing to notice are the fresh faces, or at least some actors who haven't been on the television scene for a while. It was nice to see a different set of people for a change and not just the same casts rehashed from series to series. Long-time TVB fans can also play "I Spy" and see how many former TVB artists they can spot.

Police dramas have been done again and again, but The Borderline successfully mixes familiar aspects to create a thriller. The plot is like an endless rollar coaster with many surprising twists and turns. New pieces are constantly being introduced to change the direction of the mystery and keep up the suspense. There are complex, multi-dimensional characters which add to the unpredictability of the series. Moreover, the series maintained a good, fast pace. Since it didn't have to meet a 20-episode minimum, it took only the exact number of episodes that it needed, thus eliminating useless characters and side plots.

Of course, the series is not without its flaws. Where it falters is that the story included some common plot devices from TVB. For example, the story of Leila Tong and her mother was too convenient and put in as a tear-jerker. Both the split personality disorder and evil twin ideas have been used before and the scriptwriters did not even choose the better one for the ending. The police are still made to look incompetent and are never able to catch a criminal by themselves.

The series makes frequent use of flashbacks, as way to explain things that have occurred or are occurring. However, there were instances where the criss-crossing between flashbacks was overused, making it difficult to follow and breaking the momentum for a particular scene.

On the acting side, Liu Kai-chi and Dominic Lam were the best, with explosive performances that pushed the intensity of the series. Leila Tong was funny as a clueless policewoman. The scenes of her nervously holding a gun are well done. Joman Chiang is okay as a madam, but she was awkward when interacting as a couple with Lawrence Chou. The weakest link was probably Lawrence Chou, who was stiff and slurs when saying his dialogue. The supporting casts, like Philip Keung, Deno Cheung and Wu Kwing Lung (the bombmaker), did their jobs well and created distinct personalities for their characters.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"To Be or Not To Be" Character Interviews

Interview with Maggie Cheung and Poon Chan Leung:

Interview with Mimi Kung and Savio Tsang:

Historical Context: Touch-Base Policy

Headline: HK government cancels Touch-Base Policy as of midnight (October 26, 1980)

We see it in Hong Kong dramas all the time. A police officer stops someone on the streets and asks to see their identity card. Ever wonder why everyone in Hong Kong must carry their identity cards with them at all times? Well, read on...

Before 1949, people could move freely between Hong Kong (then a British colony) and China. But with the Chinese Civil War, waves of refugees from China rushed to Hong Kong. The population of Hong Kong increased almost three-fold in just five years between 1945 and 1950. The sudden large increase in population posed a huge problem. A heavy strain was put on public utilities, such as housing, education and social services.

Famous people who immigrated to HK during this time: Ha Yu, Kara Hui, Lo Hoi Pang

In 1974, the Hong Kong government introduced the Touch-Base Policy (抵壘政策), which stated that immigrants who reached the city and connected (ie. "touched base") with their relatives, could apply for Hong Kong residency. Those who were caught at the borders were sent back to China immediately.

The rationale behind the policy is that if the immigrants continued to live in Hong Kong with an illegal status, they would enter the black market for labour or participate in criminal activities. Moreover, the immigrants could serve as a source of cheap labour for the thriving industries.

Anyone who made it past Boundary Street was considered to have reached urban territory.

Immigrants had to be south of Boundary Street before they were safely "in the city". When China ceded Hong Kong to Britain, the line was drawn at Boundary Street, with the north belonging to China and south belonging to Britain. Later, the British negotiated a 99-year lease for the "New Territories", making the territory north of Boundary Street part of Hong Kong as well. Although urban development sprawled up on both sides of the street, it was still traditionally seen as the separation between rural and urban.

However, the Touch-Base Policy did nothing to stop the influx of immigrants. If anything, it may have encouraged people to make repeated attempts to get to Hong Kong. In October 1980, the government abolished the Touch-Base Policy. Immigrants who had arrived before October 23 were given a three-day grace period to register for Hong Kong identity. After that, illegal immigrants were subjected to repatriation upon arrest.

Headline: HK government reminds residents over age 15 to carry their identity cards

The implication was that everyone above age 15 in Hong Kong was now required to carry their identity cards with them and present it to a law enforcement officer when requested, so as to detect illegal immigrants.

Originally posted at Casual TVB

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"To Be or Not to Be" Theme Song

The theme song for To Be or Not to Be is called "Two Cups of Tea" (兩杯茶), performed by Prudence Liew.


浪淘盡身世 夢中不記得我們如飛絮
時代輪迴翻身 迎頭痛聚
長情像山水 但山歌散失各自人生裏
寧願沉默相對 或者歸去

期望的福氣 尋覓的歸宿 為何偏差

人在光景轉 情為心境變 各有牽掛

舊時月色裏 大家都困守這繁榮堡壘
而未曾學好散 如何好聚
浪淘盡心跡 夢想吹起的泡沫全粉碎
茶未涼人先走 是否飲醉

期望的福氣 尋覓的歸宿 為何偏差

人在光景轉 情為心境變 各有牽掛

如出處去路 可以作主
誰可以決定 和誰偶遇
回首你我在命途 絕處手挽手
忘掉哪時放晴 哪時有風雨

期望的福氣 尋覓的歸宿 為何偏差

人在光景轉 情為心境變 各有牽掛

難道今天我 還未懂欣賞你那杯茶

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Election Episode 4 Recap

This episode is about the power of the media. In the 2012 elections, the intervention of the media resulted in almost daily scandals. The trend continues with the 2022 elections. As Malcolm X once stated, "The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent."

A woman visits her son in jail. Her son faces extradition to the United States on murder charges, where he could possibly be given a death sentence. The current Chief Executive has refused to meet with her to discuss the case, but she reassures her son that there will be someone that can help.

Song Man San (Liu Kai-chi) is angry that Luk Wai To (Savio Tsang) did not consult with him first before exposing Yip Ching's secret deal on the radio. He says the move could potentially backfire on them. But in the end, Song says he will handle the matter.

Song pays a visit to the leader of the Labour Association for Hong Kong (Mannor Chan). He persuades them to organize protests against Yip Ching for her "betrayal" of the workers. In exchange, he promises to help them pass a bill to increase the minimum wage.

The Labour Association refers to the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU), which is the largest labour group in Hong Kong and is also pro-Beijing. Mannor Chan's character takes after Chan Yuen-han, the honorary president of the HKFTU.

Meanwhile, Yip Ching (Angelica Lee) does not seem worried that her popularity ratings are dropping due to the scandal. Instead, she is gaining nomination ballots from the business sector, who had previously been wary of her background as a labour union activist, but are now supportive after she betrayed the workers. Yip Ching reasons that if she can become Chief Executive, then she will have power to do more for the workers.

The next day, protesters are gathered outside of Yip Ching's office. They demand that she apologize and drop out of the election. Her campaign team suggests that they should simply call the police to get rid of them, but she says that they should not stifle the protesters' freedom of speech.

At the law firm, C.K. So (Shek Sau) chats with Song's wife, Lee Tsz Kwan (Mimi Kung). He asks for her opinion about who he should give his nomination ballot to. She indirectly hints that he should support Yip Ching. At home, she tells Song that she has influenced C.K. into giving his ballot to Yip Ching, just like he had asked her to do.

Song meets with the reporter Gei Man Wai (Isabel Chan), who was the one that gave Yip Ching the fake interview of Wai Man Hin in episode 1. Song knows that she has a special relationship with Cheung Kwai Lung (Gregory Wong) and wants her to keep track of him. In exchange, he offers her exclusive news that the minimum wage bill will pass through the legislature next month.

Sum Suet Lai (Violet Li), the head of the media conglomerate HKMG, goes to see Yip Ching. She says that HKMG can fully support her election campaign. The only condition is that once Yip Ching becomes Chief Executive, she must use her executive powers to stop the extradition of Sum's son. However, Yip Ching rejects the offer.

At the HKMG office, Sum instructs all the journalists to use "Yip Ching is innocent, the workers are unreasonable" as tomorrow's headline. Gei gives Song advanced warning about the headline. He calls the Labour Association and tells them to end the protests. In addition, they are to tell reporters that they are open to consider giving their nomination ballots to Yip Ching. Song explains that by helping Yip Ching, he can bring down Luk.

The next morning, Yip Ching and Cheung are surprised at the headlines that are supportive of her. Sum calls Yip Ching and says the headlines demonstrate the media's power in dictating the truth. She asks her to reconsider the offer, but Yip Ching sticks to her previous decision.

Song walks into Luk's office and says that he must finally ask him to quit, otherwise their party would surely lose the election. He tells him that he will arrange for a doctor's report to show that Luk's health cannot handle the tough election campaign. He believes this will be an acceptable explanation to the public and to Mr. Wong. Luk walks out of the room dejectedly.

That night, Luk calls a prostitute to his hotel room. He suddenly recognizes her as the woman who had supposedly blackmailed him with his bed photos, but she has no idea what he is talking about.

Yip Ching meets with C.K. at the law firm. He gives her two items that Wai Man Hin had entrusted to him five years ago – a safety deposit box key and a signed power of attorney. When Yip Ching goes to open the safety deposit box, she finds wads of cash and a Bible. She is curious since her husband had not been religious. At the church, she finds out that her husband had once believed that his life was in danger.

Before the press conference, Luk demands to meet with Song on the rooftop. He says that he has discovered all of Song's tricks to damage his reputation. He threatens to get Mr. Wong to destroy Song's political career and ensure that Song will never, ever become Chief Executive. As he turns to leave, Song knocks him out with a pipe. Just then, Cheung calls Luk, as Luk had previously asked to meet with him. Song sends out a message using Luk's phone, then proceeds to drag him towards the edge of the roof. Later, a news broadcast reports that Luk has died after falling from a rooftop...

Election countdown: 105 days

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Electoral Reform

The Basic Law states that the eventual aim is to elect the Chief Executive (CE) by universal suffrage. This would mean that every eligible Hong Kong citizen could cast a vote for CE, instead of just members of the Election Committee, as is in the current system. The government has promised to implement this change by 2017. However, the proposed electoral reforms have caused a great deal of controversy, leading to the massive protests that is happening in Hong Kong right now.

How can the electoral system be changed?
The Basic Law stipulates that any changes to the election of the CE must have the approval of three parties:
  • two-thirds of all Legislative Council members
  • the Chief Executive
  • the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), which is the body of the Chinese government that has final constitutional authority

In 2004, the NPCSC outlined a "Five-Step Process" to institute electoral reform:
  1. The CE makes a report to the NPCSC regarding the need for electoral reform.
  2. The NPCSC determines whether there is a need for electoral reform.
  3. The HK government introduces the required bill to the Legislative Council, which will need to pass it by a two-thirds majority.
  4. The CE gives his/her consent to the bill.
  5. The CE hands the bill to the NPCSC, who will give final approval.

Proposed Reforms for 2017
On August 31, 2014, the NPCSC outlined a framework for the 2017 election:
  • Candidates will be nominated by a committee similar to the current Elections Committee
  • Candidates require support from at least 50% of the nomination committee to run in the election
  • The number of candidates will be limited to 2-3
  • The CE will be elected among the nominated candidates using a "one person, one vote" system

The election rules being used in The Election follow the proposed framework. Since the current Elections Committee consists of 1200 members, candidates in The Election require 600 nomination ballots to enter the race, as described in episode 3

A Democratic Process?
Pro-democracy activists have deemed the proposed framework as "false democracy". The reason is that potential candidates need to obtain support from at least 50% of the nomination committee. This allows the Chinese government to control who gets nominated, since they have significant influence on over half of the nomination committee. As a result, activists are concerned that only pro-Beijing candidates would be able to successfully secure a nomination, while the pro-democracy camp would be left out. 

To understand the implications of this system, look at the 2014 Miss Hong Kong Pageant. Citizens were allowed to vote for who they wanted to win the pageant. However, they could only choose among the three contestants that were selected by the judges. #15 Veronica Shiu was crowned the winner after receiving the majority of the votes in the final round, but the contestant with the most popular support, #11 Sofiee Ng, had actually been left out of the voting.

In episode 1 of The Election, Wai Man Hin stated that it was his desire to create a more democratic system, in particular, one that would allow citizens to nominate their preferred candidate. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong are also calling for the same thing. It remains to be seen whether this will be achieved in the series, and in real life.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Election Soundtracks

The song played at the end of episode 3 is called "I'll Be There", sung and composed by Eva Chan.


Dear friend I promise you
The sun will always rise
And I'll be by your side
Everything will be alright

I know there are times, when trouble things get in your way
Dear friend don't be afraid, I'm only just one step away

I'll be there to love and comfort you
When you're feeling blue I will get you through
Remember you're not alone

Life is hard but I’m with you

I'll be there to love and comfort you
When you're feeling blue I will get you through
Remember you're never alone

For you I will be true that and there is nothing that I wouldn't do

Eva also recorded a Chinese version which is called "East Point Station" (東角駅).


畫面閃過曾經 被你在徹底攻破

不想一世難過 若放下了怨恨已可

和你相約於東角駅見 傻到心跳加速兼且氣喘
小心選我的路線 避免塞車我怕遲了點
難以想到今天約會見 和你相隔擁抱都已十年
何其陌生也能預算 時代風景已變有沒有一種感覺會未變


和你相約於東角駅見 傻到心跳加速兼且氣喘
小心選我的路線 避免塞車我怕遲了點
難以想到今天約會見 和你相隔擁抱都已十年
何其陌生也能預算 時代風景已變 我還有一種感覺卻未變