Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Case of Chan Kau-tai

The second episode of ICAC Investigators 2014 is adapted from the real-life case of Chan Kau-tai (陳裘大). He is the father of singer Eason Chan.

Lawrence Cheng's character is based on Chan Kau-tai.

Chan Kau-tai was the Chief Building Services Engineer of the Housing Department in Hong Kong. Between 2000-2001, he was investigated by the ICAC for taking bribes from contractors and material suppliers in exchange for helping them win government contracts or giving them favourable treatment during the inspection process. He was also accused of accepting money to help a friend's son get a job in the government. In total, he took in $3 million HKD from bribes.

During the trial, the ICAC famously presented video footage of Chan counting banknotes in his office. The video was captured using surveillance cameras installed in his office, with the permission of his superior. Although the legality of the ICAC's surveillance was questioned, the court ultimately admitted the tapes as evidence. Chan was convicted on 10 of 16 charges and sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment.

This was the story presented in ICAC Investigators 2014, but it is not the full story.

Chan appealed the ruling on the basis that the ICAC purposely concealed the DUI (driving under influence) record of one of the case's principal investigators. The credibility of that investigator's testimony and fairness of the trial was challenged. The appeal was allowed and a re-trial was ordered.

In addition, during the trials of the four suppliers, the ICAC was found to have violated the defendants' rights by seizing their documents without a search warrant and tape-recording their conversations with their lawyer. The latter is a violation of the legal professional privilege, which protects a person's right to seek legal advice without fear that their communications with their lawyer would be used against them. A violation of this right would severely impact the public's confidence in the justice system, thus the district court issued a permanent stay of proceedings. The stay of proceedings was appealed by the Department of Justice. The appeal was allowed and the cases were sent back for re-trial.

In the end, Chan was sentenced to six years of imprisonment, while two of the suppliers who had allegedly offered bribes were acquitted. In 2008, Chan was released on parole.

Friday, 11 April 2014

TVB Siblings

In honour of National Siblings Day (April 10), let's look at some of the siblings at TVB:

Tavia & Griselda Yeung

Gigi & Lily Ho

Niki & Kathy Chow

Paul Chun & John Chiang; their half-brother is Derek Yee (director)

Stephen & Francois Huynh

Daniel & Adrian Chau

Jacky & Jeffrey Wong

Gregory & Augustine Lee; their father is veteran actor Lee Ka Ding

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Storm in a Cocoon Review

Producer: Leung Choi-yuen
Genre: Mystery, family
Cast: Steven Ma, Tavia Yeung, Evergreen Mak, Maggie Siu, Natalie Tong

I’ll admit I thought Storm in a Cocoon would have the cliché family infighting storyline. The series turned out to a pleasant surprise. It had an excellent cast and a solidly written plot. The series is essentially divided into two parts: a whodunit mystery for the first 20 episodes and then “property protecting”, as the Chinese title suggests, for the last 12 episodes.

The mystery part was very intriguing and suspenseful. There is a long suspect list as everyone seems to have something to hide. It was fun crossing off the names along with Ka Yeung (Steven) and Bing Bing (Tavia) in the series. With each crossed-off name, a new secret is exposed and a new direction must be taken. The whole story was woven together masterfully, with each clue, secret or partial flashback leading the audience to think that one person did it, but there turns out to be a very logical explanation for their actions. As a rule, the ultimate culprit will be the least unexpected one. Overall, a delightful segment to watch.

The second part of the series reverts to a power struggle and revenge story. While it is a classic set-up, this series manages to throw in many creative plot twists to keep the audience on the edge. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters run out of creative juices a little too soon and put together a finale that rips-off Titanic and TVB’s own Beyond the Realm of Conscience. It is still a good part two to follow up the thrilling mystery.

The series features a strong cast, anchored by Stevia. Steven and Tavia undoubtedly share great chemistry, this being their fourth partnership. They are a couple that balked against all tradition and adversity. Their deep love is apparent with the way they interact and look into each other’s eyes. As for their individual performances, Steven does an excellent job portraying Ka Yeung, a man who was forever changed by his experiences in the military. He is able to show that inner turmoil in the scenes where he is alone. Meanwhile, I didn’t like Tavia’s loud-mouthed character in the beginning, but thankfully, she tones it down when she was put in charge of the silk factory. I love the scene where she collapses against the wall, crying. It shows how despite her fortitude, she is still, at the very heart, a woman deeply affected by her husband’s absence.

In contrast, Evergreen Mak and Maggie Siu were a couple that was unable to survive through the adversities. They are both strong veteran actors who were able to display this tragedy on-screen. However, Evergreen lacked presence until he turned evil. Even then, he didn't give off an evil vibe, but that could be because his character isn't really evil at the core. Maggie, on the other hand, was brilliant in portraying a woman who is both strong and weak – strong in defending her sorority against harm, but weakened by her love for Evergreen. In the end, her character was useless in preventing his misdeeds and died an unnecessary death.

Matt Yeung and Natalie Tong were a side story, though they had their cute moments. Matt excels in these shy, boy-next-door roles. Yeung Chiu Hoi was decent being a traumatized younger brother. Stephen Wong is suitable as a villain. Akina Hong had many layers in her performance of a very interesting character. KK Cheung makes a great villain and he even had the local accent (Shunde is actually his native town). All others unmentioned are okay, but no standout performances.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, 7 April 2014

Overview - Never Dance Alone

Carmen Lee lives an ordinary life with husband Lawrence Cheng despite always being bullied by her mother-in-law. One day, she comes across a flyer advertising the “Fung Sin Dance Studio”, making her think back to her high school days. Back then, she enjoyed writing and formed a group called “M Club” with her fellow classmates: the girl with a local accent (Rachel Lee), the avid dancer (Elvina Kong), the gossiper (Fennie Yuen), the early maturer (Angie Cheong) and the fortune teller (Gloria Yip). The six friends vowed to stick together no matter what. But twenty years later, they each lead separate lives and can only look back at their youthful dreams with a sigh. Only Elvina has maintained her passion for dancing. An accident that causes her to be hospitalized leads to the reunion of the M Club members. The old friends work together to defend the “Fung Sin Dance Studio” from the competing “D Fitness”, run by their high school rival Flora Chan. Meanwhile, Carmen reencounters her first lover, Lawrence Ng. Loletta has mixed feelings as she remembers her past, including secretly causing the break-up of Carmen and Lawrence, and giving birth to her daughter out of wedlock. Through all these events, the ladies rediscover the energy, courage, motivation and confidence that they thought had disappeared…