Monday, December 26, 2005

Half a World Away
A quick one. As Steve C says in comment mode on my previous post, yeah, it's probably warmer here in Boulder at the moment than back in Hong Kong. But good to be back. Took C up Flagstaff yesterday and on the way back stopped at the cemetery where my ma is buried to pay a visit.
Near her grave is a double heart shaped tombstone with Chinese characters. I'd always wondered about the couple buried there (there are two names in English characters and birth and death dates). C studied it a minute and then said in surprised squeak: "They were from Guangdong!"
That's the same province that contains Shenzhen. Wow was all I could say and think. All the small world cliches began burrowing through my brain as well.
I'd visited my ma's grave dozens of times since her death in 1995 and occasionally wondered about her Chinese neighbors. Now here I was back from Guangdong province after 2 years and here they were buried in what is essentially my hometown.
Good thing I wasn't stoned or I'd contemplated this sychronicity more than probably was merited.
So I wished mother a Merry Christmas, "introduced" her to C and wished the Chinese couple a silent Happy Chinese New Year in advance and left still feeling kinda cosmically awed and impaired.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"But all along the Rockies you can feel it in the air, from Telluride to Boulder down below. The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow.'' (Colorado Christmas)
Goin' home tomorrow with C for about 10 days. Just found myself missing everyone and everything Boulder and this seemed like an opportune time. The fact that I had to use or lose my vacation time at The Standard before 2006 also played a significant role in the decision. In the meantime, I leave you with two Hong Kong/Shenzhen moments of the last week.
Snapshot #1: A female teller's nameplate at my bank recently: Friendly Ho.
Snapshot #2: Conversation with a Hong Kong Canadian on a bus from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
Me: "Yeah, I live and work in Hong Kong but I also rent a small apartment in Shenzhen."
Him: "Oh! You have a 'second wife' in Shenzhen? You're so lucky!"
Me: "Um, no. No 'first wife' in Hong Kong, either. I'm too old and tired for that stuff."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Rocket Man
Lunch time at Victoria Park where the 1,100 members of the Korean Peasants League can be found when they aren't clogging up the MTR system on their way to anti WTO guerilla mini-protests or sucking in pepper spray en masse near the Wanchai Sports Field has turned into a spectator sport for some of the park's regulars and other visitors.
The Hong Kong Korean community has been donating box lunches of Korean cuisine including bulgogi (barbecued beef), kimchi, rice, kong numul (boiled, seasoned bean sprouts) and sukju namul (mung bean sprout salad) to the KPL members who sit in circles on the sidewalks and along the low slung park walls to chow down.
Their repast quickly draws friendly, curious crowds who stand gaping and commenting on the Koreans as they shovel it down with wooden chop sticks. "Haven't they seen anyone eat lunch before?'' asked one European activist drawn briefly by the gatherings.
But the Koreans have turned the new cuisine spectator sport into a public relations coup by offering tasty samples of their lunches to anyone who looks hungry and applauding those who take the kimchi challenge.
Thirsty, too? That's when they pull out their secret weapon. Ever wondered what keeps them fueled for those long urban marches and gives them the spirit and stamina to hurl themselves into the harbor or to throw themselves repeatedly against police shields?
It's soju, a distilled clear rice-based liquor, usually about 30 to 40 percent alcohol. "Rocket fuel" might be the western translation. The KPL members were sucking it down from jars Friday prior to forays to the US consulate and other targets and offering hefty samples to the crowd. Strictly for professional reasons, I accepted three large shots and found myself shouting "mansei!" ("victory" or roughly the Korean equivalent of "bonzai") and "down down WTO" with them before orbiting back to the newsroom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fight the Power
Just filed this as part of our WTO coverage. The demonstration will be described by most, if not all media, as "violent" but I saw none because I left before the hoohaw began. Except for some cretin who almost beaned me and another Standard reporter with a water bottle tossed from a high apartment overlooking the marchers, there was no mayhem until the HK cops had herded the protestors into their "authorized" protest area about 400 yards across the bay from where the WTO group was meeting. It was essentially a concrete box canyon with two small exits (guarded by cops) and 8 PortaPotties for several thousand crowded, excited demonstrators. You pack 'em in with no place to go, you have a recipe for trouble and pepper gas.
If you were looking for Danes dressed as Holstein cows marching with life-size copper statues of starving Africans, strident Hong Kong youths yearning to ``revive the Chinese communist revolution under Maoist ideals'' or Korean students blaming the World Trade Organization for their tution hikes, Victoria Park was the place to be Tuesday.
Idealism met delusional thought in a variety of national costumes, protest symbols and half a dozen tongues. But rhetoric was the universal language.
``WTO kills farmers'' was very popular, largely among the many Korean peasants some of whom spent the morning hours pounding together a large mock coffin symoblizing their hope of burying WTO (``RIP WTO'' read the sign taped to it) and memorializing a dead comrade, Lee Kyung Hae, a farmer-activist who stabbed himself in the heart at a WTO protest in Cancun, Mexico in 2003.
``Sex Work Is Work,'' was one of several messages courtesy of 25 Taiwanese young people who were blaming the WTO for ``vampires'' who exploit sex and labor migrant workers. ``We have the chance and, honestly, it's very cheap to come here,'' said spokeswoman Lai Hsiang-ling in one of the more refreshing statements of candor heard prior to the march. As she spoke, a Latin American activist on one of two stages in Victoria Park was proclaiming his working class solidarity in Spanish with Korean peasants who listened politely, though they were probably a bit vague on the specifics, even if they were being translated into English and Cantonese.
``The people united will never be defeated'' and ``Number one terrorist, US imperialist'' rolled rhythmically off the tongues while more unwieldy statements such as ``Today's disparity among rich and poor is a creation of the WTO and nothing else'' just didn't have the crowd-catching lilt to move the masses, though it looked good on poster board.
Media workers at times seemed nearly equal to the protestors who happily mugged and posed for news organizations and camera toting tourists alike.
``Our presence is threatening the deal brought about by the WTO,'' proclaimed a gentle-looking Indonesian gentleman named Ahmad Baso for the press. Baso, incidentally, was wrapped most unthreateningly in a brown fake fur women's jacket against the Hong Kong chill.
``A Korean activist!'' exclaimed a 58-year-old tourist from Brisbane. ``Would he mind posing with us?'' Though he spoke no English, a member of the Korean Peasant's League got the message, held up his drum and smiled gamely as the visitor and her husband flanked him for an exotic photo opportunity.
There was widespread agreement among media types that the Korean Peasant's League rocked. Though few, if any, spoke English or Cantonese and translators were at a premium, their discipline and stolid solidarity spoke volumes even if they were largely preaching and chanting to their own choir.
And you've got to admire a group that had the foresight to order in the delivery of hundreds of box lunches from Joseph's Catering while other activists made due with whatever they'd managed to scrounge from multi-national 7-Elevens or Hong Kong street vendors on the way to the park.
Prior to the pepper gassing and mayhem that concluded the march, there was no hint of impending trouble.
``Hong Kong police and people are so nice to us,'' said Lee Miok, a small, beaming 22-year-old Korean college student holding a sign with emblazoned with Adolf Hitler's picture and dollar signs as swastikas. ```We don't want to fight the Hong Kong police,'' she said. ``This is normal in Korea. We have two huge demonstrations every week there sometimes. But Hong Kong people are worried. I read the newspapers here. I understand.'''
Indeed nervous looking Wanchai restaurant, retail and office workers watched from behind the locked barred gates of closed businesses as the protestors marched slowly and patiently past them on Lockhart Road.
Most chanted slogans, banged gongs, pounded drums and made sure that the ominpresent TV and newspaper photographers got plenty of time for shots of, for example, sometimes puzzling symbolism such as a woman in a flowing orange and purple dress, her face covered in a violet ``gas mask'' made from two plastic bleach bottles who pretended to slowly flog a cowering young Indonesian man whose blue painted face was encased in a makeshift wire cage with a tag reading ``GATT'' attached to it.
Even for those who knew that GATT meant General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades it was mystifying; like cross between a Passion play gone wrong and an S&M fantasy betweeen kinky economists.
What wasn't mystifying but unexpected and momentarily startling was when a full plastic water bottle was lobbed from a high window of a flat overlooking the Marsh Lane bridge that led to the WTO protestors holding pen. It exploded at the feet of two Standard reporters leaving them wet, but unscathed.
At least twenty TV and newspaper camera people swarmed to document the torn, dripping bottle -- evidence of violence, at last!
Sadly, about 90 minutes later they'd have much more than one busted water bottle on which to focus.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"We come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow...''(Immigrant Song)
So C is outta town and my pal Patrick's Cantonesesqueeze is in Hong Kong buying cashmere slacks when she originally went for some computer gear. Two guys sitting around Shenzhen thinking and drinking and talking about women while listening to Patrick's iPod random play -- Pixies, Paul's Boutique courtesy of the Beastie Boys and Bob Dylan's Dream. What else to do but hit Shekou -- once one of SZ's sleaziest expat areas but quickly becoming gentrified. Hell, a Papa John's pizza just opened there, though we chose an indie restaurant called Gypsy's which had the best Greek salad and babyback ribs I've had since the States.
Turns out though we discover after dinner that Shekou's Chicken Row is still going strong and we wind up in a small, tawdry but warm and comfortable bar that I'd landed in more than 2 years ago in a calculated misstep. It was all pretty much as I remembered, right down to the women physically dragging the staggering foreign males off the street and into their lairs.
Patrick and I were laughing and also literally trying to tear them off when I heard, "Teacher! Teacher! You come back!" No-yes-no-can't be, I thought. It was "Nina" a sort of Chinese Miss Kitty for anyone who remembers the soiled dove with the heart of gold who ran the Longbranch Saloon and flirted with (but never apparently slept with) the Virgin Marshall Matt Dillon on Gun Smoke.
She remembered me from my original stint here more than two years ago. Good enough. We allowed Nina and her belles to drag us into the Oasis, which hadn't changed a whit right down to Hotel California still playing as if it had never stopped since summer 2003.
Neither had the drink scams. You buy me drink? Say yes and she gets a non-alcoholic "Kaluha" and half of the 40 yuan (US$5) price as commission. I eventually bought two outta kindness I suppose, plus a Tsingtao for me. Soon a group of gutteral northern European types bulldozed into the Oasis and one sat next to me and made bleary eye contact.
"You are from?" he asked in a sort of SS-interregator voice that wasn't too far off from "Your papers, pleese?"
"United States. You're German?"
He laughed. "Very close. Denmark."
"More civilized than Germany."
"Not really." He laughed again and we both watched one of his too-much-fun pals do face plant on the bar as an enthusiastic bar girl kept massaging his back in apparent hopes of reviving him and his wallet. "Not really. We were the Vickings, you know. Now we're IT business consultants except after many Carlsbergs when we become Vikings again."
Point taken and indeed about 30 minutes later I went outside to check on Patrick who was fielding a peevish call from his galpal who'd returned and was miffed that he wasn't there to greet her though he'd told her clearly before that he'd be out and about and wasn't technically due back for another half hour or so.
"You missed it!" he said. "That drunk dude. The one who kept passing out? He came out here and a little beggar kid was hassling him. The guy picked him up like a sack and threw him into those bushes!" He pointed at some dented shrubbery that looked roughly like a busted door with a silhouette (coyote perhaps) in an old Warner Bros cartoon.
The beggar boy survived unscathed but quite shaken. And it's likely he'll think twice again before hitting up Styrkar, Eater of Souls and Retailer of Danish Hard Drive Systems for spare change. (Read Patrick's version of the tale over at Half A World Away.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I'm On Fire
One the reasons I stay in journalism besides the fact that I'm lousy at math and possess no other marketable skills is that I still the opportunity to do things like getting set on fire in an upscale Hong Kong spa.
I felt a little like a human yule log. Or given that I'd just eaten 20 minutes before and my torso was basted in mysterious Chinese herbal oils, swathed in plastic cling wrap and towels with a fire flickering on my back, perhaps a living boil-a-meal was more appropriate.
It was all part of an ``Aqua-Fire therapy'' that Life of Life Healing Spa in Causeway Bay promotes as a rejuvination and weight loss treatment.
The spa claims that the fire's heat hastens the oils' ability to zap fat cells and detoxify the body.
Or as therapist Olivia Hon said, ``The heat can make the medicine penetrate your tissues and fat cells and make your tummy smaller and healthier.''
It's batshit loonball New Age hokum, of course. But no question that my stomach - or more accurately, my jiggling, expanding six-pack - could be smaller and healthier but I'd taken Hon's suggestion that ``most men have fire on their backs. Mostly women have it on their tummies, hips and thighs'' to heart. Besides, if it spread I'd be better protected down below than I would on my stomach.
Hon and owner Karen Chu said that about 100 people, mostly women, have
paid up to HK$1,000 to have themselves set on fire in an attempt to slim down.
``Most lose 5 or 6 centimeters (editor's note: about an inch or so in normal American measurements) after one treatment,'' Hon said.
Mandy Sea, a doctor and nutritionist at Chinese University's Center for Nutritional Studies begged to disagreee said any perceived weight loss could be attributed to temporary water weight being sweated out and that if someone is obese and/or suffering from high blood pressure they may be playing with fire.
``The heat is not efficient enough to burn away your fat,'' said Sea. ``And if someone is suffering from hypertension and overweight the heat could raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels.
``The herb oils will not make any chemical changes to your body. There is no chemical data on how much penetration there might be or how it could affect your skin and health.
While moderated self-immoliation won't melt the pounds away, I can attest that it was oddly calming once you got over the idea of a stranger waving a flaming oversized lighter over towels on your back that were soaked in solution of 95 percent alcohol.
There's a slow creep of heat and no singe smell, only the faint herbal medicinal scent of ``Botanical Slimming Fluid for Hard Cellulite'' -- part of the ``confidential'' herbal massage mix that Chu said she imported from Beijing to Hong Kong after learning of the fire treatment there.
Its origins are equally vague. One report Chu cited claimed that it ``was originally used in a miltary hospital to treat soldiers with muscle strains.'' It wasn't clear why they didn't use hot packs or hot water bottles and if they lost weight but Hon and other staffers said they swear by it now.
``Is it too hot now?'' Hon asked as my skin temperature began to rise noticeably.
As the seconds ticked by I felt like a roasting turkey but manly pride kept me mum, at least for a few seconds until it was too much to bear and another staffer snuffed out the flames, stripped off the towels and plastic and sprayed me with a cooling herb spray. The relief was sweet and soothing.
``Women last longer,'' Hon said laughing. ``Two or three minutes sometimes. Men only 10 or 20 seconds mostly.'' I did a fake chuckle, but otherwise preferred not to go there...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ain't Too Proud to Beg
C and I had finished a sumptious picnic lunch of KFC, stinky tofu, oranges and a beer for me and were lounging among 142,312 others in Shenzhen's Lotus Park. An elderly beggar lady approached and doggedly stood in front of me clanking her tin bowl and keening. I'd just previously donated to two others of her ilk and word had obviously spread that there was a foreign barbarian easy mark in the park, so I pretended to ignore her.
Foolish me. After about 2 or 3 minutes she still hadn't stopped. I was feeling a little sleepy anyway so I flopped down and closed my eyes, lulled by the sound of her whining and the gentle murmurming of 142,310 other Chinese.
She still didn't stop.
I feigned snoring. C pretended to be absorbed in a novel and the crone left but not before turning and snarling at me as she waddled off. C laughed.
"What did she say?"
"She said to stop pretending that you're sleeping."
About 30 minutes later the beggar returned and began the whole routine again. I finally pulled out one of the three phrases I know, something like "Boo-yau" which supposedly means "None for me, thanks"; kind of a polite "Fuck off."
I kept repeating it and she finally left, only to turn around and bark my phrase back at me, only more clearly.
"She was correcting your pronounciation," C said.
A beggar Chinese tutor! A new growth industry....

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Power to the People
I spent most of Sunday in Hong Kong's Victoria Park shadowing a 19-year-old unversity student who'd been working and waiting for weeks to voice his desire for full sufferage and deomocracy in Hong Kong at a mass march and demonstration.
The current HK chief executive, Donald Tsang, while not as much of a moribund, bumbling slug as his disgraced predecessor, is nonetheless basically a more polished version of a lickspittle lackey for Beijing despite occasionally better PR instincts. He's stalled and waffled with promises to help move the democratic process along but the public -- at least more than 100,000 of them, depending on what crowd count you used -- was fed up and they took to their feet Sunday to protest. What follows is a combination of the story I filed and some personal comments.

After weeks of planning, coordinating, meeting and countless phone calls, 19-year-old Andrew Shum had his pro- democracy banner ready to fly Sunday in Victoria Park.
Tweny feet long, six feet wide, the green, white and yellow vinyl sign proclaimed: "Please save our generation, youth will continue to fight for universal suffrage in '07-'08" and represented not-inconsiderable expense in time and money for a college student.
Shum and about 10 others connected with his Democracy Tutorial School organization at the Chinese University solicited HK$1,500 in donations and had it custom designed in a Mongkok sign shop.
He borrowed a van to pick it up early Sunday morning and with two other friends lugged it through the park as demonstrators and organizations were beginning to filter in and stake out space for banners and booths.
Shum had been there since about 9.30am when he had carefully unrolled the banner and laid it on an athletic court with 10 long bamboo rods stacked beside it to raise it high. It was a focal point for photographers and simple admirers alike as the crowds swelled inside and outside the park.
"I like the message," said Katie Ng, 41, who posed her 11-year-old daughter at the top of it to shoot a quick portrait. "I'm not a `youth' anymore but I remember and I have a good feeling for the message."
"We need about 10 others to help carry it," Shum said, between answering and making mobile phone calls and sprinting back and forth to network with other young pro-democracy activists.
Supportive though they were, his allies were scattered and mostly seemingly unavailable as the masses grew and squeezed around the banner, leaving it untouched as they applauded, chanted and listened to songs, speeches and sloganeering provided by activists and legislators on a small stage.
While a govt surveillance chopper circled and droned overhead, a remixed version of John Lennon's Power to the People on the PA stirred me out of my lethargy between interviewing people with widely varying commands of English; though Hotel California, a song I'm normally too tired to endure for even half a measure took on some new meaning with the "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969" line. Unlike their western counterparts at the demonstrations I recalled in my youth, this was a very peaceful family affair. My favorite sight? An elderly, very thin Chinese guy in the classic wispy white Fu Manchu goatee wearing an Elvis baseball cap and holding several Chinese language handmade signs and a bird cage symbolizing caged freedom. "We're caught in a trap..." I sang softly.
Three friends of Shum's, including Dominic Li, 25, who he met through connections at Hong Kong's pro-democracy Internet radio station, gathered to clown around with three oversized green and silver papier mache turtle shells symbolizing Donald Tsang and the Chinese central government's slow creep toward full democracy.
"To be a youngster in Hong Kong we have to determine our future. For the past three years a lot of people have disagreed with the Hong Kong government and this is our way to express our displeasure with the government's bad policies," Li said. "I've only known Andrew a short time but we both have common ideas."
At that point the common idea was how to raise the banner. Shum kept making calls as demonstrators squeezed tighter, though he remained optimistic by 2.50pm as word spread that the march might begin soon.
"No problem. No worries," he said smiling as he made another call.
We Shall Overcome, remade in Cantonese, began playing and participants clutching their yellow photocopied song leaflets that had been passed through the throngs began singing along.
"We've changed the words," one participant explained to me. "We don't sing about overcoming. Instead we sing that we are partners fighting together and we are using our bodies and feet to march and fight."
Word spread that the march would begin. Shum's banner was in Area 4, one of five on five clay soccer fields, and at 3:44 pm the masses in Area 1 could be seen moving very slowly. Like turtles and the speed of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, some might say.
Five minutes later a sudden surge swept through Area 4 and bodies began to move and Shum scrambled to get his 20-foot message off the ground. The bamboo poles scattered underfoot but suddenly Shum had his carriers.
Twenty-two men, women and children spontaneously grabbed it and hoisted it off the clay court. Shum beamed and put down his phone.
Reports spread through the crowd that the cops had sealed three of the six exits out of the park, making it difficult for marchers to join others outside. At this point I'm thinking a US group would've stormed the fences, trampled some slower, smaller folks and gone at the cops. "Up against the wall, motherfuckers!" I sang doing my best bad Grace Slick/Marty Balin under my breath, echoing Jefferson Airplane's long dated Volunteers.
Not in Hong Kong. "Be patient. Just be patient," one marcher counseled me after sensing my discomfort to get out. "We we made any trouble (Beijing) would use that as an excuse to stop any other marches." He's right and besides he lives here for life. I don't.
It would take another hour for Area 4 to eventually and patiently squeeze out of Victoria Park, past the right side of the stern, regal cast iron statue of its namesake, but when their feet hit the street the banner wasn't exactly flying high but its message was moving.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight
Most Western readers have probably never heard of Nina Wang, reportedly Asia's richest woman (by default after her tyocoon hubs, Teddy Wang was kidnapped in the '90s.) lThe bizarrely coiffed and often equally strangely dressed Nina's had a long, involved and often racy court saga going that ended today. I was assigned to do a timeline on her life and times and decided to try to lighten it up with some amusing side quips involving other events during the years. Those were edited out for space and taste reasons. I'm not bitching. Hell, I've got this forum for that stuff so if anyone's interested here's the original.
1937: The future Asia's richest woman, Nina Wang aka Kung Ru Xin aka ``Little Sweetie'' is born in Shanghai the same year in which the first total solar eclipse to exceed 7 minutes in more than 800 years is visible in East Asia.
1948: Nina, age 11, begins dating Teddy Wang, the 18-year-old son of a hotel developer. Elsewhere, the First Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China
officially convenes in Nanjing and the Hells Angeles are founded in
1955: Teddy moves to Hong Kong to take over his family's pharmaceutical and
vinyl industries business, Chinachem. Nina follows and the two are wed. The
universe responds with another unusually long (7 minutes, 8 seconds) total
solar eclipse visible in East Asia.
1960: Teddy makes his first will bequeathing equal shares of Chinachem to
Nina and his father, Wang Din-shin. In the United States, millionaire
Colorado beer baron Adolph Coors II is killed in a kidnap attempt.
1963: Teddy gives Nina power of attorney to run Chinachem in his absence. In Dallas, Texas the phrases "curtain rods" and "grassy knoll" take on a morbid new significance.
1968: Tipped off by his father, Teddy hires a private detective to snoop
into Nina's alleged affair with a warehouse manager. Enraged at the
photographic evidence, he reportedly changes the will leaving everything to
the elder Wang and locks it in a bank safety deposit box. In Greece,
Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy exchange vows on the isle of
1983: Kidnap No. 1. On April 12 Teddy's Mercedes is hijacked and four men
bundle him into a van, take him to Hung Hom flat and chain him to a bed
frame for eight days. Nina ponies up HK$75 million and Teddy is returned,
gagged and tied in an iron box on a Sha Tin roadside. The gang is finally
tracked down and arrested after Teddy recalls a ``Jesus Loves You'' sticker
on the van. Meanwhile, in another feat of endurance six men walk underwater
across the Sydney Harbor - 82.9 km in 48 hours
1990: Kidnap No. 2. In a bizarre April flashback, Teddy is snatched again on
April 10 in the same Mercedes 200. He has been missing ever since even
though a HK$233 million ransom was paid. Nina gains control of Chinachem
while doggedly insisting that Teddy is still alive. Meanwhile, the United
States Census Bureau reports that ''Elvis Presley'' -- alleged to be dead
since 1977 -- returned a questionaire to the bureau office in Huntsville,
1994: Six people are convicted and jailed for the second kidnapping. In all, 21 people are eventually doing time in Hong Kong and Taiwan over the abduction. In other notable crime news,disgraced American figure skater Tonya Harding pleads guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution for trying to cover-up an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan.
1996: Nina announces plans for the world's tallest skyscraper, Nina Tower, a
108-story, HK$1.3 billion edifice to be built in the New Territories. When
asked how she will pay for it she replies: ``Cash.'' Height restrictions
close to the new airport cancel the original project, but Nina vows a
scaled-down version (80 stories) by 2003. Also in 1996 Nina claims to have
received brief mysterious phone calls from Teddy, including one in which he
said ``Don't pay money, sojoy [foolish piggy]'' before the line went
1997: Wang Din-shin seeks to have his son declared dead so that probate can
begin. In California, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult commit suicide.
Teddy Wang is not among them.
January 1999: Nina says a sealed envelope held by the court may hold Teddy's
last will. Allegedly written in 1990 just month before Teddy's
disappearance, the four-page document written in Chinese (except for the
four final words, ``One life, one love'') leaves everything to Nina. ``After
the death of me (Wang) Teh Huei, all (my) property shall be left to my wife
(Nina) Kung for her management and no one shall
disagree with that. I love my wife. She is my dearest in the world...
Nothing should be passed to other members of my family because they
disappoint me.''
September 1999: Over Nina's repeated objections, Teddy is declared legally
dead, setting the stage for probate. The cosmos adjusts accordingly when
Pluto, a planet with an irregular orbit, changes from the eighth to ninth
planet furthest from the Sun.
2000: Two lawyers blackmail Nina, claiming they know the 1990 will is false.
Nina reports them to anti-graft officials and they are jailed. World-wide,
fears of a Y2K collapse are similarly put to rest.
June 2001: Just prior to a grueling, record-breaking trial, Nina reveals her
creative side by announcing a vanity comic book, Nina Nina, based on
her childhood and romance with Teddy. Like her, the character sports
antenna-like pig tails, an outlandish wardrobe and cavorts with a pet monkey
and German shepherd. Despite Nina Nina's prestigious debut at the
third annual Hong Kong Comics Festival, the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature
goes to VS Naipaul.
August 6, 2001: Hong Kong's longest civil trial over the will's authenticity
begins. The 172-day battle features high profile lawyers and accusations of
adultry on the part of Nina by Wang Din-shin. She responded with charges
that her former father-in-law smokes opium and keeps a concubine.
Justice Wally Yeung later calls it, ``Unparalleled in the legal history of
Hong Kong, the trial was a chimera, with a fire-breathing mouth that had
devoured a significant part of our judicial capacity and a serpent's tail in
the form of a 600-page judgment.''
November 21, 2002: The trial saga ends with High Court Justice David Yam
declaring the 1990 will a forgery and awarding all of Teddy's estate to Wang
Din-shin. US President George W Bush faints in the White House after choking
on a pretzel. The two incidents are not believed to be connected.
June 28, 2004: Nina loses an appeal of Yam's decision. In Taiwan, Taipei
101, currently the world's tallest skyscrape at 508 meters is opened while
plans for Nina Tower have painfully morphed through the years into an as-yet
unoccupied 40-story hotel block, L'Hotel Nina Tower Oneship hotel and an
80-story hotel-office block in Tsuen Wan.
January 28, 2005: Nina is formally charged with the forgery and freed on
September 16, 2005: The Court of Final Appeal overturns the previous High
Court ruling, giving control of the multi-billion dollar Chinachem firm back
to Nina.
December 2, 2005: Criminal charges against Nina are withdrawn. Teddy is still missing, though Nina insists he stills calls occasionally.

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