Let's define what racism is if that is even possible. Was the recent TV commercial by General Motors racist? It used lyrics of a 1930s song that described China as the land of Fu Manchu where people say "ching-ching, chop suey". An apologetic GM quickly killed the advert. Was what Executive and Legislative Councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said on radio last week racist? She drew an analogy between cooking curry and the government's directive that policy-making must factor in the mainland's sentiments. Ip said the government needs to consider if its actions could offend others. She compared it to curry cooking. "The smell might affect one's neighbours. Sometimes you should think twice [before cooking it]." The GM advert stereotyping Chinese caused a stink here but Ip's curry comment stereotyping Indians did not. Yet if an American politician had said on radio that Chinese in the US should think twice before cooking salted fish, infuriated Chinese-Americans would have demanded an apology. When Public Eye discussed the curry comment with Ip, she reminded us that last year we had written that the Legislative Council needed sexier women. Ip said she found that offensive. A year ago Public Eye ridiculed Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary for saying that only Asian and Mexican slum-dwellers needed to worry about dying from swine flu. The Irishman said Westerners simply needed throat lozenges to ward off the disease. His preposterous remark prompted Public Eye to say that we now understood why there were so many jokes about the Irish. Was that racist? A reader obviously thought so because, a year later, out of the blue came an irate e-mail last week from an Irishman seeking an apology. Have we all become too sensitive in this age of political correctness? Where is the border between actual racism, political incorrectness and insensitivity? Or has it become too blurred?
Superman Li brought back down to earth
Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, must be wondering if the gods have forsaken him. Just weeks ago, striking dockers dragged his image through the mud by labelling him a heartless scrooge who paid them stingy wages and made them work under intolerable conditions. Now the rags-to-riches tycoon, once admired as Hong Kong's "superman", is being beaten up again. The threat of government legal action has forced his flagship company Cheung Kong into a humiliating cancellation of its questionable sale of hotel rooms disguised as flats. That means kissing goodbye to the HK$1.4 billion it had hoped to pocket from the sale of 360 Apex Horizon hotel suites in Kwai Chung. Buyers will be reimbursed with interest, plus legal costs. But what about the second-hand buyers who paid far above the original selling price to buy from greedy speculators? Cheung Kong says that's their problem. And what about buyers who refuse to sell back? They could sue Cheung Kong for breach of contract. And what about the commissions paid to estate agents? The whole mess is a cesspool. Conspiracy theorists say the government hurled Cheung Kong deep into it as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's way of giving the finger to the tycoons. It's an open secret there's no love lost between him and Li. And you thought you had seen it all in this city's "anything goes" property market. Public Eye's advice to Superman Li: pray hard. The gods do listen. And they are merciful.