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31 March 2009

Cheap Shot, Chip Tsao

A HITHERTO unknown Hong Kong-based columnist has given himself 15 minutes of fame by enraging Filipinos this weekend with a tasteless and idiotic allegation that appeared in last Friday's HK Magazine. In what his publisher, Asia City Publishing Group, apologetically calls a "satirical" article, a certain Chip Tsao reproves the Filipinos, who are a "nation of servants", for "(flexing) muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter." This is in reference to the Philippines' long-standing claim to the Spratly Islands, which China believes is theirs and theirs alone.

The Russians sank a Hong Kong freighter last month, killing the seven Chinese seamen on board. We can live with that-Lenin and Stalin were once the ideological mentors of all Chinese people. The Japanese planted a flag on Diàoyú Island. That’s no big problem-we Hong Kong Chinese love Japanese cartoons, Hello Kitty, and shopping in Shinjuku, let alone our round-the-clock obsession with karaoke.

But hold on-even the Filipinos? Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.

As a patriotic Chinese man, the news has made my blood boil. I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.

Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.

Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout “China, Madam/Sir” loudly whenever they hear the word “Spratly.” They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, “Long live Chairman Mao!” at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being.

Me, I'm more amused than offended that this Chip Tsao has taken all these years to even mention the Spratlys controversy. It's an old, unresolved, unresolvable issue, having been there since my own grade school days way way back in the seventies. I remember how our Social Studies class debated the virtues of oil that the Philippines discovered in disputed territory off Palawan Island.

Perhaps this Chip Tsao is unconsolably livid after realizing that his better-educated Filipino domestic servant did not him teach about the Spratlys while tutoring him on Asian Contemporaneous Events.

At least he's got 15 minutes of fame now.


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