I Survived a Toxic Office

It’s been nearly 3 years since I left a toxic office environment at large Hong Kong corporation and preparing to start new work after months of interviewing and upskilling.

Looking back at my time there, the office was really questionable given the circumstances I was brought in, the day-to-day challenges, and the way they treated me as I left the offices.

The company had an intense clique mentality. Nearly every department had their own cliques and subgroups and these groups had a tendency of not being inclusive. It was already a challenge getting to work with the more local colleagues but the fact my former managers tolerated or enabled cliques made the work situation unpleasant. These colleagues would go to lunch without me, not even have the decency to ask if I was interested in something out of courtesy, and really disliked speaking English despite being a multinational office. I wound up getting along with the non-local staff and those who are not into office politics as a result.

Their HR (People Team) does not pretend to even care about employee well-being. Whenever, there is an issue related to cliques or unpleasantness, the HR would pretend to schedule a meeting to discuss then not show up without any real reason. Any attempt to address concerns about reduction of job scope would be met with “oh jobs always evolve at the company”. During my last day at the office, they made it clear that the company has no separate company culture and everything is THE PARENT COMPANY WAY, meaning company comes first. This lack of proper HR is really no surprise seeing that disgruntled employees or fans created a Secrets page to anonymously discuss company or employee issues.

The office doesn’t even practice what it preaches. The current CEO of the company loves to bang on about “stakeholder-centricity, tolerable risk, and bias towards action”. In reality, the company culture is basically the same as the Parent Company, which is risk-averse, bureaucratic, and loves the status quo. The office HR was proud to point out everything in the company runs the PARENT COMPANY WAY. If that was not an issue, there is also the fact that my former manager was hired without HR involvement. First he received a phone call from his friend, the current head of marketing, to go for an interview. Then, he and the market head go out for drinks with the CEO and later have an actual office interview just for show.

Another problem at the the company office is that the CEO is too busy doing public appearances instead of doing his job at the office. While the CEO loves the media attention advocating design thinking and the stakeholder-mindset, in reality none of the things he talks about can be implemented in the office as planned due to the company culture being dictated by The Parent Company and because of his limited involvement at work. It would not surprise me that he will leave the company once the hyped website and mobile app revamp is completed.

Other problems I’ve noticed in the office to list are:

-Lack of close colleagues with them making excuses to not connect on Facebook/Social Media
-Random favouritism with my former manager giving more time to the younger female colleagues while being disrespectful to me
-Fake professionals claiming to stay in contact and then lash out with calls to “just move on” when contacted for advice
-Employees that are either extremely loyal to the company or extremely disgruntled with nothing in between
-Managers actually trying to undermine other projects because they didn’t think of the idea first
-De facto segregation with some departments populated by foreigners and others purely HK locals.
-Giving an employee a pay rise and bonus one year then accusing them of being godawful with threats to the job the following year.
– Weak-minded or desperate jobseekers willing to end friendships or blindly side with The Company for the sake of extra money.

Looking back, it was an OK move to leave that office. I am still recovering from the effects of working in a toxic office and all that job nonsense. Planning on relaxing before starting my new job later this quarter.

Cathay Pacific’s Decline

Once upon a time the people of Hong Kong were proud of the airline they thought of as their own, Cathay Pacific. When you boarded the green and white aircraft with the attractive stewardesses in Manila or Bangkok you felt you were already at home. Then along came the accountants. They chopped everything. Economy class […]

via Cathay Pacific losses of $2.05 billion: What went wrong at a once great airline? — Sai Kung Buzz

The Truth about Working at Cathay Pacific – Cabin Crew

Originally posted at CX Secrets. Edited for clarity.

Your Reasons for staying with Cathay Pacific – Cabin Crew

I would like to mention a few things that maybe many people never really thought about when they are working at CX (Cathay Pacific).

#1 Reminder: You are Working for Someone Else.

#1 Reminder: You are working for someone else. You are not your own boss at anything as long as you’re bound to him/her.

There is no such thing as “the ‘company’ changed this” or “the ‘company’ changed the policy”. We have to understand and avoid using “COMPANY” and “CX” because we cannot define it as a “group” and must understand that any decision is made by a single person.

What is your reason to stay with Cathay Pacific?

Ever ask yourself what is your reason to stay with Cathay Pacific?

Let’s break it down and review these details one at a time.

“I’m in it solely for the travel benefits”

Let’s define the company definition of “travel benefit”. We can all agree that discounted ticket prices are a major plus when compared to a normal passenger paying “full fare” for a ticket. However, we need to look at this in a more selective way.

As a Cathay Pacific cabin crew, the ticket price is reduced but the trade-off is the ticket is only available on “standby”. Being on standby defeats the purpose of a discounted ticket and therefore makes the travel benefit largely useless. Although getting a seat on a single flight with travel benefit is somewhat likely, it still will not be confirmed until the last-minute.

A good example to compare the standby ticket is when you see something you really want online for a very cheap price. Then, you add it to your online shopping cart only to find out that is “Out of Stock” on the checkout page at the very last-minute because you do not have any actual knowledge of its availability.

If you only desire “travel benefit”, then Cathay Pacific may not be for you. If you are wealthy, average income, or even below average income, you shouldn’t allow this “travel benefit” to lure you into joining Cathay Pacific cabin crew for the long run.

“I want to travel and see the world!”

Yes, we all want to travel and see the world! However, do not become a Cathay Pacific cabin crew as a way to do this. If you truly want to travel the world, buy full fare tickets, skip the standby tickets, don’t waste your time in the air, and stay grounded instead.

“I have a family or other expenses to take care of and need to stay in this job”

Sorry, but you are about to run out of luck with Cathay Pacific. Would you say Cathay Pacific started out as a solopreneur (a business owner who works and runs his or her business alone) or as an entrepreneur (a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit)? If money important in your daily life, then please try to do something else besides working in CX.

Cathay Pacific does not pay you well and will not pay you any better as the years go by unless the law changes. We hear that “competition is tough”, but Cathay Pacific always has a positive profit (profit does not mean losing money).

However, a new set of estimated earnings or growth rate is set at a higher rate every year, which always leads to a “loss” when really the numbers are just a goal. I encourage all you Cathay Pacific employees to leave CX especially if you have a family because this is not the job for you if you have that kind of responsibility. Find something else, don’t be afraid that it’s too late. If you need help, just ask, but don’t stay silent.

“CX is my dream airline to work for”

No, it’s not. LOL

Cathay Pacific Airways posted a net loss of HK$2.05 billion for the first half of this year, compared with a net profit of HK$353 million in the same period in 2016.
Cathay Pacific Airways posted a net loss of HK$2.05 billion for the first half of this year, compared with a net profit of HK$353 million in the same period in 2016.

“I like to be in the service industry and what better way to do it than in the air!”

It’s true that it’s pretty cool to gain the title of “Cabin Crew” or “Flight Attendant”, but let’s be honest here, depending on your reason, there are way too many other service industry jobs to do besides being an airline cabin crew.

Lately, there have been many discussions about Hong Kong cabin crews facing the problem with “retirement age” limitations. I just want to say vote for whatever proposals raises the highest retirement age.

The company newsletter says there will be a big “reduction in promotion” if the retirement age is raised. However, you are not going to receive a promotion anyways regardless of whether the retirement age is raised or unchanged, so just vote to raise the maximum retirement age.

Your service to Cathay Pacific

Your service to Cathay Pacific should not exceed anything between 1 day to 20 years. We can agree that most of the cabin crews are female. It has been said that girls are generally the “softer” part of the two main genders and I want to remind all female crew to take care of yourselves and never allow Cathay Pacific to interfere with your health.

The sky is beautiful but unless you are cockpit crew, you don’t even really get to enjoy any views and being in an aircraft all the time will both physically and mentally stress you out.

The average human lifespan is around 70-85 years. If you spend more than 20 years with Cathay Pacific, then you are literally reducing your lifespan by 25-30%+ from doing this job and it really is not worth it if you think about it.

Don’t serve others, be your own boss and make a dent in society.
-Sprites”

Galton Voysey & DealDash.com – A Conflict of Interest

A recent lawsuit accused DealDash.com of the following:

*The lawsuit claims that expensive, supposedly high-end products, produced by Galton Voysey, auctioned off on DealDash are not what they seem.
*Several of these brands, such as Bolvaint, Kamikoto, Aava, appear to only be available on DealDash, the brand’s website or on Amazon directly from the brand.
*Most of the brands’ websites are registered in the same way to hide their actual ownership.
*Trademark applications for these brands lists DealDash founder William Wolfram as the chairman of Galton Voysey, the company registering the marks.
*The plaintiff alleges this is all a ruse to sell auction bids for overpriced products supplied by DealDash’s founder

I first learned about Galton Voysey from a recent Consumerist article claiming they are simply producing premium or luxury products primarily for use on DealDash.com.

Barrel Shack. Verdict, Aava, Schultz, Kamikoto are some notable Galton Voysey brands featured on DealDash.com
Barrel Shack. Verdict, Aava, Schultz, Kamikoto are some notable Galton Voysey brands featured on DealDash

The article goes on to describe a lawsuit accusing DealDash.com of the following:

  • The lawsuit claims that expensive, supposedly high-end products, produced by Galton Voysey, auctioned off on DealDash are not what they seem.
  • Several of these brands, such as Bolvaint, Kamikoto, Aava, appear to only be available on DealDash, the brand’s website or on Amazon directly from the brand.
  • Most of the brands’ websites are registered in the same way to hide their actual ownership.
  • Trademark applications for these brands lists DealDash founder William Wolfram as the chairman of Galton Voysey, the company registering the marks.
  • The plaintiff alleges this is all a ruse to sell auction bids for overpriced products supplied by DealDash’s founder

Galton Voysey Background

According to their website:

Galton Voysey is a platform for building, buying and developing consumer product brands. We are home to 28 iconic brands that we have developed or acquired, and extend our professional expertise to a portfolio of global brands. We believe it makes more sense to test early to validate ideas that work and ones that don’t. This gives our operation and design teams a way to experiment with something tangible, gain experience in the process and reapply their learnings in the next iteration. With a proven network of over 140 factories, Galton Voysey builds brands across a broad range of consumer, lifestyle and home goods segments across Europe, US and the world.

Sounds like a normal private company developing and selling private label goods online leveraging manufacturing resources in the Asia-Pacific region with a startup mentality.

However, what is interesting is the background and the involvement of William Wolfram, the owner of DealDash.com and principle investor of Galton Voysey according to InsideRetail Hong Kong:

As it marks its third anniversary, Hong Kong-headquartered online luxury goods retailer Galton Voysey is recruiting more staff and expanding its presence in Mainland China.

Galton Voysey was founded by 28-year-old French woman Marine Aubrée Antikainen and its biggest investor is William Wolfram, 24, who believed the biggest brands of the next 50 years have not yet been built…

…Galton Voysey believes it is disrupting the global luxury goods market with new and fresh thinking, in many cases helping brands go direct from factory to consumer through their own brand websites.

According to LinkedIn, Marine Antikainen is listed as a co-founder while William Wolfram is both chairman and investor of Galton Voysey.  Oddly enough, William Wolfram is not listed on the website and the majority of Galton’s partners are mostly law firms.  These are the other companies listed as partners

  • The Loft Studio, – The Loft Studio does not cite Galton Voysey or its brands as clients.  However, it is likely this company produced the photos seen on the company website and for its brands under NDAs.
  • Vistra – Vistra is a company providing “tailored trust, fiduciary, fund and corporate services”. It is likely they are supporting Galton with various offshore financing and related services.
  • A private investigation company with a magnifying glass and letters “AI” as its brand logo.

The rest of the website is somewhat vague on their actual work aside from a sizzle reel about the office culture and a press release announcing the company’s third year of existence.

Galton Voysey Brands & DealDash.com

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Galton Voysey filed trademarks for its brands: Schultz, Wilson & Miller, Verdict, New Haven, The Barrel Shack, Kamikoto in 2016.  However, Galton brands such as Bolvaint was trademarked by IPIF Limited, which was formed last July, while brands such as Ashlynn Avenue, Aava, Cate & Chloe, Bardenshire do not appear to have any trademarks.

According to TINA.org:

DealDash.com positively describes and endorses products that are auctioned on its
website. Some of these products are sold by companies that DealDash founder William Wolfram is the Chairman of, a fact that is not disclosed to consumers in any DealDash marketing materials. For example, during any 24-hour period, at least 40% of DealDash auctions are for products made and sold by:

Galton Voysey brands Schultz, Kamikoto, The Barrel Shack
Galton Voysey Brands Verdict and New Haven
Galton Voysey brads Bolvaint, Ashlynn Avenue, Wilson & Miller

There is a clear conflict of interest when a major investor and chairman of Galton Voysey is also selling the company’s brands on DealDash.com, which is also owned by the same person.  It is even more questionable when this strong connection is not disclosed to the public.

The Brands Examined

While the brands appear to have quality products when examined at face value, things are not what they seem.  Galton Voysey’s marketing team and growth hackers have done a great job promoting these brands with a combination of paid Facebook likes, reviews by vloggers and blogs that are either paid or provided based on free products, compelling brand videos, and standard SEO.

Although these brands appear to be private label brands one would expect to find online or at a premium retailer such as Macy’s, the pricing strategy for the various products suggests they should be treated as premium or luxury items, despite the relatively new brand development and limited brand history.   What is even more interesting is that these brand have products that have pages of positive reviews without really describing much about the products.

I’ve had three major Galton Voysey brands, Kamikoto, Bolvaint, and The Barrel Shack, submitted to FakeSpot.com, which scans for unreliable or fake product reviews.  Below are the general results:

http://fakespot.com/company/kamikoto

Fakespot has analyzed 6 products and 267 reviews for Kamikoto products.The Fakespot algorithm considers 60.0% of those reviews to be unreliable.

The Fakespot grade is based on reviews of products listed on Amazon with Kamikoto as the company name.

http://fakespot.com/company/bolvaint

Fakespot has analyzed 5 products and 21 reviews forBolvaint products.The Fakespot algorithm considers 20.0% of those reviews to be unreliable.

The Fakespot grade is based on reviews of products listed on Amazon with Bolvaint as the company name.

http://fakespot.com/company/the-barrel-shack

Fakespot has analyzed 8 products and 148 reviews forThe Barrel Shack products.The Fakespot algorithm considers 60.0%of those reviews to be unreliable.

The Fakespot grade is based on reviews of products listed on Amazon with The Barrel Shack as the company name.

When reviewing the websites, it appears nearly all the Galton Voysey brands have the same website layout from Shopify and relatively limited contact information.  The Bolvaint website claims to have an office that is occupied by Patek Phillipe, while the Kamikoto brand doesn’t have a Japanese website, its return address is in a residential area, the brand site is hosted in the USA, and apparently the knives are made in China (which is unheard of for artisanal Japanese knives).  The lack of real information behind the brands and brand history is a recurring pattern among the Galton Voysey brands.

Conclusion

While Galton Voysey initially appears to be a private company developing and selling private label brands, it is merely a tool for DealDash.com to promote overpriced products to unsuspecting customers.  The fact that William Wolfram is involved in both companies without full disclosure, the limited information available for Galton Voysey, the strange trademarking process for the Galton brands, and irregular product reviews make the entire arrangement extremely questionable if not an outright scam.

Despite some glowing reviews by unsuspecting vloggers and blogs, none of the brands promoted by Galton Voysey can actually justify their prices due to their lack of history, actual reputation, or product quality in certain cases.  I would have no issues with their brands if they were actually being produced and sold as private label brands to leading retailers as implied in their mission statement and official interviews.  However, the reality is that they are primarily pushed through DealDash.com at inflated prices and placed on Amazon.com and their own brand websites to create the perception they are actual products.

For more details on the lawsuit – see https://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/dealdash.pdf

For latest updates from TruthinAdvertising.org – see https://www.truthinadvertising.org/dealdash-status-updates/

Hong Kong Free Press: A new, non-profit, independent English language news source for Hong Kong

Do you believe Hong Kong needs a new English language news source? Launching in June, Hong Kong Free Press is an independent news outlet seeking to unite critical voices at a vital time in the city’s constitutional development.

Through our links with Chinese media partners, HKFP strives to bridge the language barrier and raise local and global understanding of Hong Kong issues in the post-Occupy era. Our launch is well-timed, coming amid rising concerns over the decline of press freedom in the territory.

 

A much-needed voice:

With a fast, visual, multimedia design, HKFP will launch with a focus on local breaking news, showcasing translated and viral content while providing a direct platform to expert progressive voices, citizen contributors and advocacy groups.

As a not-for-profit business, HKFP will become more sustainable over time with multiple revenue streams. As we grow, we aim to offer more comment and analysis, investigative journalism, regional coverage and explainers.

Why now?

Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of JournalistsHong Kong Journalists Association and Pen America have all reported on the recent decline of press freedom in Hong Kong. With attacks on journalists, advertisers withdrawing from media critical of the establishment along with the existential pressures facing the wider industry, it is ever more vital that the territory has an independent platform for critical voices to be heard.

In addition to highlighting the lack of plurality in the local media landscape, the Umbrella Movement protests exposed a gap between the Chinese and English media. Some stories, themes and angles featured in the Chinese media were missed or ignored by the English press – other stories took days to be reported on.

 

Purpose of crowdfunding and how will the funds be used:

We are seeking to raise HK$150,000 to

  • Complete our website and populate it with content ready for launch.
  • Create a mobile news app for iPhone and Android.
  • Sustain two frontline reporters for two months to oversee our launch period.

Every HK$50,000 over our target will help sustain us for one extra month.

 

Execution Plan 
May-June : Crowdfunding
Late June : Official launch of Hong Kong Free Press

 

Background of project owner

Tom Grundy is the founder and co-director of Hong Kong Free Press. His team consists of:

China’s Paid Trolls: Meet the 50-Cent Party (Includes Hong Kong SAR)

China’s Paid Trolls: Meet the 50-Cent Party

The Chinese government hires people to distort or deflect conversations on the web. Ai Weiwei persuades an “online commentator” to tell all.

By Ai Weiwei [1] Published 17 October 2012

The Chinese government hires people to distort or deflect conversations on the web. Ai Weiwei persuades an “online commentator” to tell all.

New Statesman
(PHOTO: Marcus Bleasdale VII)

In February 2011, Ai Weiwei tweeted that he would like to conduct an interview with an “online commentator”. Commentators are hired by the Chinese government or the Communist Party of China to post comments favourable towards party policies and to shape public opinion on internet message boards and forums. The commentators are known as the 50-Cent Party, as they are said to be paid 50 cents for every post that steers a discussion away from anti-party content or that advances the Communist Party line.

Below is the transcript of Ai’s interview with an online commentator. As requested, an iPad was given as compensation for the interview. To protect the interviewee, relevant personal information has been concealed in this script.

Question: What’s your name, age, city of residence and online username?

Answer: I cannot make my name public. I’m 26. I have too many usernames. If I want to use one, I just register it. I won’t mention them here.

What do you call the work you do now?

It doesn’t matter what you call it: online commentator, public opinion guide, or even “the 50-Cent Party” that everyone’s heard of.

What is your level of education and work experience? How did you begin the work of guiding public opinion?

I graduated from university and studied media. I once worked for a TV channel, then in online media. I’ve always been in the news media industry, for four or five years now.Over a year ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to be an online commentator, to earn some extra money. I said I’d give it a try. Later, I discovered it was very easy.

When and from where will you receive directives for work?

Almost every morning at 9am I receive an email from my superiors – the internet publicity office of the local government – telling me about the news we’re to comment on for the day. Sometimes it specifies the website to comment on, but most of the time it’s not limited to certain websites: you just find relevant news and comment on it.

Can you describe your work in detail?

The process has three steps – receive task, search for topic, post comments to guide public opinion. Receiving a task mainly involves ensuring you open your email box every day. Usually after an event has happened, or even before the news has come out, we’ll receive an email telling us what the event is, then instructions on which direction to guide the netizens’ thoughts, to blur their focus, or to fan their enthusiasm for certain ideas. After we’ve found the relevant articles or news on a website, according to the overall direction given by our superiors we start to write articles, post or reply to comments. This requires a lot of skill. You can’t write in a very official manner, you must conceal your identity, write articles in many dif­ferent styles, sometimes even have a dialogue with yourself, argue, debate. In sum, you want to create illusions to attract the attention and comments of netizens.

In a forum, there are three roles for you to play: the leader, the follower, the onlooker or unsuspecting member of the public. The leader is the relatively authoritative speaker, who usually appears after a controversy and speaks with powerful evidence. The public usually finds such users very convincing. There are two opposing groups of followers. The role they play is to continuously debate, argue, or even swear on the forum. This will attract attention from observers. At the end of the argument, the leader appears, brings out some powerful evidence, makes public opinion align with him and the objective is achieved. The third type is the onlookers, the netizens. They are our true target “clients”. We influence the third group mainly through role-playing between the other two kinds of identity. You could say we’re like directors, influencing the audience through our own writing, directing and acting. Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality.

Regarding the three roles that you play, is that a common tactic? Or are there other ways?

There are too many ways. It’s kind of psychological. Netizens nowadays are more thoughtful than before. We have many ways. You can make a bad thing sound even worse, make an elaborate account, and make people think it’s nonsense when they see it. In fact, it’s like two negatives make a positive. When it’s reached a certain degree of mediocrity, they’ll think it might not be all that bad.

What is the guiding principle of your work?

The principle is to understand the guiding thought of superiors, the direction of public opinion desired, then to start your own work.

Can you reveal the content of a “task” email?

For example, “Don’t spread rumours, don’t believe in rumours”, or “Influence public understanding of X event”, “Promote the correct direction of public opinion on XXXX”, “Explain and clarify XX event; avoid the appearance of untrue or illegal remarks”, “For the detrimental social effect created by the recent XX event, focus on guiding the thoughts of netizens in the correct direction of XXXX”.

What are the categories of information that you usually receive?

They are mainly local events. They cover over 60 to 70 per cent of local instructions – for example, people who are filing complaints or petitioning.

For countrywide events, such as the Jasmine Revolution [the pro-democracy protests that took place across the country in 2011], do you get involved?

For popular online events like the Jasmine Revolution, we have never received a related task. I also thought it was quite strange. Perhaps we aren’t senior enough.

Can you tell us the content of the commentary you usually write?

The netizens are used to seeing unskilled comments that simply say the government is great or so and so is a traitor. They know what is behind it at a glance. The principle I observe is: don’t directly praise the government or criticise negative news. Moreover, the tone of speech, identity and stance of speech must look as if it’s an unsuspecting member of public; only then can it resonate with netizens. To sum up, you want to guide netizens obliquely and let them change their focus without realising it.

Can you go off the topic?

Of course you can go off the topic. When transferring the attention of netizens and

blurring the public focus, going off the topic is very effective. For example, during the census, everyone will be talking about its truthfulness or necessity; then I’ll post jokes that appeared in the census. Or, in other instances, I would publish adverts to take up space on political news reports.

Can you tell us a specific, typical process of “guiding public opinion”?

For example, each time the oil price is about to go up, we’ll receive a notification to “stabilise the emotions of netizens and divert public attention”. The next day, when news of the rise comes out, netizens will definitely be condemning the state, CNPC and Sinopec. At this point, I register an ID and post a comment: “Rise, rise however you want, I don’t care. Best if it rises to 50 yuan per litre: it serves you right if you’re too poor to drive. Only those with money should be allowed to drive on the roads . . .”

This sounds like I’m inviting attacks but the aim is to anger netizens and divert the anger and attention on oil prices to me. I would then change my identity several times and start to condemn myself. This will attract more attention. After many people have seen it, they start to attack me directly. Slowly, the content of the whole page has also changed from oil price to what I’ve said. It is very effective.

What’s your area of work? Which websites do you comment on? Which netizens do you target?

There’s no limit on which websites I visit. I mainly deal with local websites, or work on Tencent. There are too many commentators on Sohu, Sina, etc. As far as I know, these websites have dedicated internal departments for commenting.

Can you tell which online comments are by online commentators?

Because I do this, I can tell at a glance that about 10 to 20 per cent out of the tens of thousands of comments posted on a forum are made by online commentators.

Will you debate with other people online? What sorts of conflicts do you have? How do you control and disperse emotion?

Most of the time we’re debating with ourselves. I usually never debate with netizens and I’ll never say I’ve been angered by a netizen or an event. You could say that usually when I’m working, I stay rational.

When the government says, “Don’t believe in rumours, don’t spread rumours,” it achieves the opposite effect. For example, when Sars and the melamine in milk case broke out, people tended to choose not to trust the government when faced with the choices of “Don’t trust rumours” and “Don’t trust the government”.

I think this country and government have got into a rather embarrassing situation. No matter what happens – for example, if a person commits a crime, or there’s a traffic accident – as long as it’s a bad event and it’s publicised online, there will be people who condemn the government. I think this is very strange.

This is inevitable, because the government encompasses all. When all honour is attributed to you, all mistakes are also attributed to you. Apart from targeted events, are individuals targeted? Would there be this kind of directive?

There should be. I think for the Dalai Lama, there must be guidance throughout the country. All people in China hate the Dalai Lama and Falun Gong somewhat. According to my understanding, the government has truly gone a bit over the top. Before I got involved in this circle, I didn’t know anything. So I believe that wherever public opinion has been controlled relatively well, there will always have been commentators involved.

How do your superiors inspect and assess your work?

The superiors will arrange dedicated auditors who do random checks according to the links we provide. Auditors usually don’t assess, because they always make work requirements very clear. We just have to do as they say and there won’t be any mistakes.

How is your compensation decided?

It’s calculated on a monthly basis, according to quantity and quality. It’s basically calculated at 50 yuan per 100 comments. When there’s an unexpected event, the compensation might be higher. If you work together to guide public opinion on a hot topic and several dozen people are posting, the compensation for those days counts for more. Basically, the compensation is very low. I work part-time. On average, the monthly pay is about 500-600 yuan. There are people who work full-time on this. It’s possible they could earn thousands of yuan a month.

Do you like your work?

I wouldn’t say I like it or hate it. It’s just a bit more to do each day. A bit more pocket money each month, that’s all.

What’s the biggest difficulty in the work?

Perhaps it’s that you have to guess the psychology of netizens. You have to learn a lot of writing skills. You have to know how to imitate another person’s writing style. You need to understand how to gain the trust of the public and influence their thoughts.

Why can’t you reveal your identity? Why do you think it’s sensitive?

Do you want me to lose my job? Whatever form or name we use to post on any forums or blogs is absolutely confidential. We can’t reveal our identity, and I definitely wouldn’t reveal that I’m a professional online commentator.

If we do, what would be the purpose of our existence? Exposure would affect not just me, it would create an even greater negative effect on our “superiors”.

What do you mean by “superiors”?

Our superior leaders – above that should be the propaganda department.

Is your identity known to your family? Your friends?

No. I haven’t revealed it to my family or friends. If people knew I was doing this, it might have a negative effect on my reputation.

You say: “If I reveal inside information, without exaggeration this could lead to fatality.” Do you think that the consequence would be so serious?

With my identity, I’m involved in the media and also the internet. If I really reveal my identity or let something slip, it could have an incalculable effect on me.

If you say you want to quit, will there be resistance? Are there any strings attached?

Not at all. This industry is already very transparent. For me, it’s just a part-time job. It’s like any other job. It’s not as dark as you think.

How many hours do you go online each day and on which sites? Do you rest at the weekend?

I go online for six to eight hours nearly every day. I’m mainly active on our local BBS and some large mainstream internet media and microblogs. I don’t work over weekends, but I’ll sign in to my email account and see if there’s any important instruction.

In daily life, will you still be thinking about your online work?

Now and then. For example, when I see a piece of news, I’ll think about which direction the superiors will request it to be guided in and how I would go about it. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard.

Do you watch CCTV News and read the People’s Daily?

I usually follow all the news, particularly the local news. But I generally don’t watch CCTV News, because it’s too much about harmony.

Do you go on Twitter? Who do you follow?

Yes. I follow a few interesting people, including Ai Weiwei. But I don’t speak on Twitter, just read and learn.

How big a role do you think this industry plays in guiding public opinion in China?

Truthfully speaking, I think the role is quite big. The majority of netizens in China are actually very stupid. Sometimes, if you don’t guide them, they really will believe in rumours.

Because their information is limited to begin with. So, with limited information, it’s very difficult for them to express a political view.

I think they can be incited very easily. I can control them very easily. Depending on how I want them to be, I use a little bit of thought and that’s enough. It’s very easy. So I think the effect should be quite significant.

Do you think the government has the right to guide public opinion?

Personally, I think absolutely not. But in China, the government absolutely must interfere and guide public opinion. The majority of Chinese netizens are incited too easily, don’t think for themselves and are deceived and incited too easily by false news.

Do you have to believe in the viewpoints you express? Are you concerned about politics and the future?

I don’t have to believe in them. Sometimes you know well that what you say is false or untrue. But you still have to say it, because it’s your job. I’m not too concerned about Chinese politics. There’s nothing to be concerned about in Chinese politics.

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Earlier this week I caught the flu as a result of being exposed to the typhoon and from heavy use of air conditioners. The symptoms of the flu were different from the typical flu because although I didn’t get the fever, I was having a bad case of an infected throat, coughing, stuffy nose, and a stomach virus. The stomach virus didn’t come out until after I had a traditional Chinese dinner at the grim and gritty part of Kowloon.

When the symptoms started appearing, I was hesitant to go to a nearby clinic since I was uninsured. Instead I went to buy a bottle of Methodex cough syrup and drank hot water in the hopes this would stop the cough. After 2 days, I started getting feverish and decided to go to the local clinic after insistence from my relative. I honestly did not want to go for fear of being price gouged for just a few minutes of meeting with the doctor and for the fear of having to pay a great deal for the prescription medicines.

When I went to see the doctor at the clinic, he was able to diagnose my flu and proceeded to give me a list of medication to fight it. The final bill for the visit was at $240HKD, which is roughly $31USD, and the fee included the prescription medicine. If I had local health insurance in HK, the entire doctor’s fee would be fully covered. It was shocking that I only had to pay around $31 just for a doctor’s visit and prescription medication despite being uninsured. If this was America, I would have to pay around $20 just for the co-pay and then more funds to get the prescription medicine. Otherwise, I would be paying somewhere close to the $100s if I was uninsured.

One more thing to note is that in Hong Kong, the doctors and pharmacists only give the amount of medication prescribed by the doctor. For example, if the doctor only prescribed 3 days’ worth of medicine, the pharmacist would only give 3 days’ worth of medication with the assumption the patient would use all of it within that time. This is not only a way to prevent medication from being wasted but a great way to control costs of prescription medication. In America, doctors would simply prescribe the medicine and the pharmacist would give you the entire package with the assumption the patient would simply stopped using it when all symptoms disappear. The problem with this approach is that the patient is buying unnecessary amounts of medicine and is taking on extra costs instead of just getting exactly what he or she needs per the doctor’s prescription.

Later that week, I started getting abdominal pains and had to go to the hospital to see a doctor. When I arrived, the doctor took the time to diagnose me after waiting for at least an hour, then got the nurse to inject me with anti-viral medication and gave me prescribed medication to fight the stomach virus and pains. At the end of the hospital visit, my bill came out to $580HKD or $$75 for the doctor’s consultation, anti-viral injection and prescription medicine. Also, if I was insured, the majority of this fee would be covered by the health provider with no co-pay. However, if this happened in America, I would be stuck with at least $580USD in doctor’s fees and get hounded by the hospital to pay off the fees as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that I went to a private hospital and I learned that the government hospitals charge no more than $50HKD for treatment despite longer wait times.

So I really am confused by Americans who keep claiming that US healthcare is the “best in the world”, when it simply isn’t true. Whether the healthcare system is managed by the government, such as in Canada or France; or it has a two-tier system with a variety of options such as Hong Kong, these arrangement seem to be far more efficient than what we now have in America. Despite all the sensationalised nonsense from American media about the extremes of state-controlled healthcare or fully private healthcare, people in those places are overall content with their system compared to those in the USA.

I don’t think forcing American taxpayers to pay more taxes for being uninsured and making it mandatory to buy healthcare is the best option. It’s really clear that US healthcare is broken with their medical fees and prescription fees that are nowhere near the real market value of these goods and services. Most of all, it is simply arrogant to believe that Americans do not need to learn how the world implements their healthcare system to actually improve American healthcare on the basis of the big lie that “America is the greatest [insert noun here] in the world”.