Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am


Remembering the quiet courage of a humble Hong Kong war hero

Sometimes there is a story that cuts through the chaff of everyday life. A sad obituary in London's Daily Telegraph recounts the heroic exploits of Chiu Yiu Nam, who died quietly in Hong Kong last month. Born in 1949 in Guangdong, Chiu found his way to Hong Kong and was one of the last generation of locally recruited sailors to serve in Britain's Royal Navy.

Chiu was a seaman on the Royal Fleet auxiliary Sir Galahad, one of five landing ships involved in ferrying troops during the Falklands War in 1982. He was on board when it was bombed by Argentinian aircraft, which resulted in a fireball sweeping though the tank deck where petrol and ammunition were stowed and where many troops were waiting to disembark. Chiu donned a protective asbestos suit and fought his way through the smoke and flames and brought out one solder, then went back for another and back for others.

Altogether, 48 seamen and soldiers from the regiment of the Welsh Guards lost their lives. Chiu is reckoned to have saved the lives of at least 10 men. Chiu was remarkably modest about his heroic exploits, and it was only some time later that his heroism came to light when the commanding officer of the Welsh Guards interviewed his soldiers and came to hear of an unknown rescuer whose identity had been hidden behind his protective asbestos suit. He was awarded the George Medal for his bravery and he flew from Hong Kong to London to receive it from the queen.

However, locally recruited seamen were not entitled to a pension, and in the years up to his death he had been dependent on monthly financial assistance from the Hong Kong government. His cremation was paid for by the Hong Kong and China branch of the Royal British Legion. In the New Age of Lei Feng, Chiu stands out as an exemplar of courage and modesty - and how very different from our vapid celebs and rentier tycoons. On another note, if this account of his straitened circumstances is true, then the manner of his death is truly shameful and something Britain can take no pride in.

Unearthing the real economic picture

A frequent problem for researchers trying to understand what's going on in the mainland economy is to find data that is not easily manipulated for political reasons.

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, writing for the website China SignPost, have come up with an unlikely sounding indicator - the sale of earthmoving equipment.

They point out that the machines' value comes from the work they can do, not because there is a futures contract in bulldozers.

Thus earthmoving equipment, they reason, 'sheds a truer light on the state of China's real economy than do 'apparent consumption' numbers for copper and other commodities.'

Contractors, they say, are unlikely to treat earthmovers as a speculative store of value in the way many have stockpiled copper and other base metals over the past 18 months, even though they had no ability to consume the metal themselves.

So what do their sales tell us about the future? 'Monthly excavator sales data show weak sales relative to trend from July 2011 onward ... suggesting that the Chinese property market's near-term prospects have created fear among equipment buyers, who do not want to saddle themselves with high acquisition costs or debts until demand for new construction heats up,' they write.

That doesn't look overly positive.

Great leap backwards a dismal waste

While browsing the website of Waste Management World, we noticed that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a Request for Proposals to build a waste-to-energy facility. Private-sector firms have been asked to submit plans for a pilot facility using reliable, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound waste-to-energy technology, which will help the city meet its goal of doubling the amount of waste diverted from landfills. Interestingly, the proposal is seeking the cleanest and most modern waste-to-energy technologies, and specifically excludes conventional incineration or 'mass burn' proposals. This might strike a chord with Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department, which is proceeding with plans to build the kind of incinerator that New York has specifically excluded.

It will shortly go to Legco to ask for funds to build a so-called waste management facility on Shek Kwu Chau. Meanwhile, it has yet to respond to a proposal put together by firms experienced in building the more advanced and efficient plasma arc technology which will turn waste into energy. What you might call the EPD's great leap backwards.