Plunging towards Earth

Plunging towards Earth
Apr 6, 2018 (WiC 403)

The prospects of an out-of-control Chinese space lab falling to earth have preoccupied segments of the Hong Kong and Taiwanese media for several months. Apple Daily has run regular articles speculating on the chances of the object hitting Hong Kong in a meteor-like fashion.

On Monday the Tiangong-1 – which means ‘heavenly palace’ – finally entered the Earth’s atmosphere and began burning up. However, Chinese space authorities have made clear the debris will land safely in the middle of the South Pacific, far from any urban areas. Zhu Jin, director of the Beijing Planetarium, told the South China Morning Post there was no need to worry that the eight-tonne space craft would strike a city. He said that the chances of anyone being hit by a piece of falling debris were lower than those of winning the lottery.

Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 as a docking station to aid China’s rapidly expanding manned space programme (it was able to support up to three astronauts at a time for a two-week period). It officially went out of service in 2016 and was predicted to plunge back to earth sometime between March and April this year. The lab was designed for experiments, with China planning to launch a permanent space station soon after 2020.

See you in court

See you in court
Mar 23, 2018 (WiC 402)

Nike released the first Air Jordans in 1985 and they proved contentious as the first footwear to be worn in the NBA that had multiple colours. The league banned the shoes but Nike encouraged star player Michael Jordan to wear them, paying the fines each time he walked onto a court. The row stoked publicity and drove sales, says website

Air Jordans may have been controversial from the start, but Nike executives probably didn’t think much about the Chinese market in those early days or the future legal wrangles ahead.

However, this month the US giant found itself being sued in a local court for trademark infringement for selling its Air Jordan shoes in China.

If that sounds baffling, you need to know some of the history. In 2000 a sportswear company named Jordan Sports (or Qiaodan Sports, to use its local name) registered the trademark for Jordan’s name. As the first to do so, it had legal standing (the rules work on a first come, first served basis in China). Nike subsequently filed 10 cases with the trademark review and adjudication board over the Jordan brand, claiming that Qiaodan has violated the US basketballer’s name and its own intellectual property. None of these claims were upheld.

Now Nike Sports China is on the receiving end of a suit from Qiaodan, which is suing it for infringement of its own trademark rights. Qiaodan claims that Nike companies have misappropriated Qiaodan-related keywords in their search engine rankings. The case has garnered a lot of attention locally – which may have been the Chinese firm’s intent, since controversy is generally good for sales.

Sign of the times

Sign of the times
Mar 16, 2018 (WiC 401)

After the People’s Liberation Army took control of Shanghai in June 1949 the soldiers soon took down signs on streets on the riverside Bund that were named after foreigners.

Avenue Joffre, named after French general Joseph Joffre, was renamed Huaihai Road to commemorate the Huaihai Campaign, a battle which helped the Communists to win the civil war. Avenue Edward VII in the British Concession was renamed as Yan’an Road, to celebrate the Red Army’s revolutionary base.

Hong Kong ceased to be a British colony more than 20 years ago and an advisory delegate to the Chinese parliament this month declared the time has come to decolonise the city’s street names too.

The proposal was made by Shie Tak-chung, one of the CPPCC delegates representing Hong Kong at the Two Sessions gathering in Beijing. Getting rid of names like Victoria Park and Wellington Street, the Fujian-based businessman suggested, would boost patriotic spirits in Hong Kong.

The proposal must contend with thousands of other motions tabled during the lawmakers’ annual gathering (see WiC317) – and is unlikely to be acted on – but it has stoked creative memes in Hong Kong’s social media. “Should we change Taiping Shan (aka Victoria Peak) to Jinping Shan?” one internet user asked, poking fun at the revered status of Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.

“Queen’s Road East should be Renmin’s Road East then?” another suggested, alluding to the redistribution of power to the ‘people’ under Communist rule. (During the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, Queen’s Road was renamed Meiji-dori.)

China’s legislature last week gave virtually unanimous approval for amendments which have removed term limits to Xi Jinping’s presidency (2,958 votes in favour, only two brave souls against). However, their counterparts in Hong Kong are less likely to rubber stamp changes to the city’s colonial nomenclature. There has been a key exception: the garrison’s headquarters for the People’s Liberation Army was previously called “the Prince of Wales Building” but lawmakers passed a resolution four years after the handover of the former colony to rename it the PLA Forces Hong Kong Building.

Other colonial symbols remain politically sensitive: for instance, the government spiked a plan three years ago to remove the royal cyphers on 59 post boxes left over from British rule, after the proposal triggered widespread local criticism.