The Hong Kong Hot List: 20 people to watch
And here they are, in no particular order:
1. Chochukmo: Player's club
2. Joey Leung: Drama queen
Not many men get famous wearing women's clothing, but the bit has given Leung a reputation as one of Hong Kong's most progressive stage actors. Thanks to Leung's knack for touching regular folk while tackling taboo subjects, "The Queer Show," a gay-culture comedy that hits on straights, too, has enjoyed four successful runs.
Though he has his own theater group, Windmill Grass, it's Leung's collaborations with writer Alvin Wong Chi-lung of W Theatre that brought him to the spotlight. The duo gets laughs while attacking issues from homophobia to racism, and Leung gets kissy -- and graphic -- onstage with cult fashion columnist Wyman Wong, singer-songwriter Chet Lam, female rocker Denise Ho, and pop idol Fiona Sit.
3. Michael Geoghegan: Homeboy
Michael Geoghegan, CEO of HSBC, moves to Hong Kong in February. The relocation marks the first time since 1992 that bank leadership will operate from one of HSBC’s two Chinese namesakes. Official headquarters of Britain’s last great colonial bank will remain in London.
Geoghegan is a hero in an era of irresponsible banking. He navigated the recent financial meltdown by opposing government bailouts, and under his leadership HSBC has become the world’s largest bank. Aggressive. Serious. Pragmatic. Foreign. This man is an ideal role model in Asia’s 'world city.'
4. Samson Young: String theorist
Classical composer Young scores violins alongside Nintendo Game Boy sounds ("Electric Counterpoint") and gets away with it. The hyperactive Gen Xer won the prestigious Bloomberg Emerging Artist award in 2007. The following year, he became artist associate of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Obsessed with video games, he talks too fast and radiates genius. And he's not bad looking, even dressed as Po from "Teletubbies" (Build/Deconstruct Socialism with Chinese Characteristics).
Catch Young at next year's Hong Kong Arts Festival where he will present "In the Third Pixel."
5. Jason Hak: Club favorite
Born in Tsim Sha Tsui, Jason Hak Shun-yat became the youngest golfer ever to make the cut in a European Tour event when, at 14, he shot 70 in each of the two opening rounds at last year's Hong Kong Open.
Though you'd think he Hong Kong Golf Club would be considered his home turf, the prodigy had never played there until a week before the Open. Hak’s family left HK five years ago, first to Beijing, then to Florida, where they now live. Hak recently struggled at the inaugural Asian Amateur Championships in Shenzhen, but having turned 15 this year, he's got plenty of time to refine his game, and re-establish himself at home.
6. Jeannie Cho Lee: Pour lady
Glamorous and brainy, Jeannie Cho Lee became the first Asian Master of Wine in 2008 with a winning dissertation on the future of Hong Kong as an international hub of fine wines. Korean by ethnicity, Lee has called Hong Kong her home for over a decade while becoming the most influential force in the development of Asian wine culture. Her magnum opus "Asian Palate" is the bible on Asian food and wine pairings -- chicken feet and pinot noir, anyone? -- and will be launched at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair (November 4-6).
7. Lawrence Ho: Prince of Macau
The Canadian-educated “Prince of Macau” emerged from his father Stanley's shadow to bet on the island’s booming casino business, even in the depths of a global recession. Ho is bidding big against family members and Las Vegas tycoons alike. Last summer, he and business partner James Packer opened their multi-billion dollar City of Dreams resort. The venture pursues a diversified entertainment model, targeting vacationers as well as hardcore gamblers -- the move shows Ho’s ability to bridge Western and Eastern gambling traditions. City of Dreams debuted during Beijing-imposed visa restrictions on mainland tourism and a slowing global economy. Like his father, Ho claims not to gamble. Obviously, he’s bluffing.
8. Lee Kit: Everyday nerd
The front-runner for Hong Kong's spot at the next Venice Biennale has to be Lee Kit, an artist obsessed with putting a spotlight on the mundane. For this past summer's Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation show, Lee's installation, "A room with a bathroom and something more" was so convincing that visitors didn't immediately realize they were in an installation. Once they looked around at details in the 'room' and realized something wasn't right, the clever setup provoked more emotion than a backed-up toilet.
Exuding a quiet, nerdy charm, Lee's exterior belies a slightly unhinged inner-world that manifests in his work. For one of his videos, Lee smoked 200 cigarettes in one sitting.
Part of the cluster of artists in Fotan known as the Fotanians -- the group is rapidly becoming Hong Kong's representatives abroad, exhibiting from Italy to Japan -- Lee is signed with Osage Gallery. His next project involves another pedestrian pastime: karaoke.
9. Kearen Pang: Emotion detector
Pang's performance in "Goodbye but Goodbye" snagged the Best Actress nod at the Hong Kong Drama Awards 2008. But it's not just her performances that pack houses at the Lyric Theatre. Pang is also a writer whose scripts are full of subtle drama and stealthy sentimentality that creeps into audiences hearts, gently tugging on strings hidden deep within. Even the toughest of Hong Kongers walk out of her shows with the revelation that they might actually have feelings.
"My work is difficult to categorize," says Pang, "It isn't comedy, although it is humorous, and it certainly isn't tragedy, but it is sentimental."
Pang's next show is a self-penned solo performance titled "Laugh Me To The Moon," about a girl who dreams big dreams, such as wishing and actually believing that she will one day be able to fly.
10. Richard Li Tsar-kai: Tab shifter
Richard Li’s newest media venture aspires to a lofty goal: “To be the definitive provider of business intelligence on China.” The quote appears on the China Indepth website, part of Cai Business Indepth Limited, which Li established in 2007. Although the financial news service has yet to launch, it could place Li head-to-head with the likes of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters.
China Indepth marks the expansion of Li’s media empire beyond Hong Kong borders. He also owns Now TV, local telecom giant PCCW and the "Hong Kong Economic Journal." The son of HK’s richest man -- Li Ka-shing -- is likewise one of the world’s wealthiest. He appeared #647 on the 2009 "Forbes Magazine" tally of world billionaires. All the well-to-do's above and below should pay heed. His news service might just make them a few dollars.
11. Joey Pang: Taboo artist
By standardizing the practice, Joey Pang hopes to banish the Chinese stigma against tattooing as something only for society’s underbelly.
"Tattooing isn't just about the art, there are other tangible consequences to the craft, such as issues with hygiene," says Pang. "By standardizing the practice we can bring tattooing in from the periphery of society.”
Pang's Tattoo Temple on Stanley Street is now offering courses in tattooing as a prelude to her plans for a tattoo school in the UK, which she hopes to open within one year.
12. Norman Chan: Draft pick
Hong Kong likes nicknaming its officials. But as Chan begins his oversight of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de-facto central bank, he has yet to receive a pet name from the public.
On October 1, he took office after Joseph “Yambo” Yam resigned. He'd previously worked as the office director for Chief Executive Donald “Bow Tie” Tsang. Chan has led financial oversight at both government and private levels and he occupies an important role at a turning point for global currency. We wish him success and await a clever moniker from pundits.
13. Tanya Chan: Opinion pol
Savvy legislator Tanya Chan renders serious politics laughable. The activist and lawmaker has been performing wickedly funny political satire since 2003, produced by experimental theater company Zuni Icosahedron. She also helped found the Civic Party, was elected into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in 2008 and is a regular newspaper columnist.
At the top of her agenda is “universal suffrage, always," conserving architectural heritage and confronting youth unemployment. As for her acting career, Chan will reprise her West Kowloon Cultural District comedy "East Wing West Wing" in November.
14. Gillian Chung: Comeback kid
Canto-pop act Twins transfixed the public in 2001 when they shot to Asian pop superstardom with questionable singing skills and an even more questionable image of affected prepubescent innocence. After eight years reigning supreme on Asian charts, Twins were yanked from the climax of their career when Gillian Chung became embroiled in Hong Kong’s biggest celebrity sex photo scandal. Teenybopper hearts shattered around Asia.
Suddenly HK's Public Enemy Number One, Gillian went into celeb exile. Now she’s back with a tough girl image and theatrical debut in a local adaptation of Neil Simon’s "I Ought to Be in Pictures." Chung will also star in an upcoming film by indie director Heiward Mak, and reunite with Charlene Choi (the other Twin) for an anniversary concert.
15. Fermi Wong: Minority reporter
Trailblazing social worker and NGO founder Fermi Wong has been championing the rights of ethnic minorities since 2001. The executive director of Hong Kong Unison played a pivotal role in the 11-year push for legislation against racial intolerance -- the Race Discrimination Ordinance finally passed in 2008.
“We’re now working on educating schools about racial harmony through staging theater shows," she says. "We offer minorities Chinese proficiency programs to help them fit into our society, and we’re trying to help drug abusing Nepalese youths get off the habit.”
16. Wong Kam-po: Easy rider
One-time world champion and permanently Lycra-clad cyclist Wong is arguably Hong Kong’s most instantly recognizable sports hero. The 36-year-old frequents the top spots in world cycling races. In 2007, he became the world’s fastest scratch cyclist after winning the UCI Track World Championships. His ready smile also makes him an advertiser’s darling.
That doesn't mean he's hanging up his helmet to race after big ad dollars. Wong recently grabbed headlines by winning the men’s individual road race at the 11th Chinese National Games.
17. Heiward Mak: Fest best
With critically acclaimed "High Noon," Heiward burst onto the scene in 2008 as Hong Kong’s youngest-ever feature film director. She shot "High Noon" when she was just 23 and the film received rave reviews at international film festivals the world over. Next up: Mak will direct 'Ex', a film about broken relationships, backed by giant entertainment group EEG and starring comeback actress Gillian Chung.
18. Roger de Leon: Guidance counselor
De Leon arrived in Hong Kong in 2007 from New York and, with girlfriend Kate Sullivan, set up E.V.E.N.T, a Hong Kong-based events company and agency for artists. Held every first Wednesday of the month at M1NT, their signature Speak Up! nights are mixers for the city’s creative community. It’s a much-needed outlet for like minds to showcase, and discover, untapped talent. De Leon also created monthly hip-hop night GROUNDED for DJs and MCs. Here’s someone who, with vision and commitment, guides Hong Kong’s often-lost creative souls.
19. Kung Chi Shing: Street general
Kung's monthly Street Music Series events outside the Hong Kong Arts Center have allowed indie stars such as My Little Airport and The Yours to rock out on public pavement, with Beyond's Wong Ka-keung and actor Dayo Wong among the audiences. With his long, lustrous graying locks, Kung also wins our unofficial but highly prestigious Best Hair trophy. He whips his mane around good as he saws furiously on his electric violin in his own experimental music performances. His Puccini Project group combines improv, pop and opera into one hot remix seen only on the streets of Hong Kong.
20. TK: The Taste maker
Founder of multi-media company Silly Thing, TK isn't just in the know when it comes to consumer trends -- he creates them.
The trend-setting mogul travels the world with a keen eye for fashion, design and subcultures that will appeal to Hong Kong people. He launched Milk in 2001 and the magazine has become a 'newsletter' for people who share the same taste for things "overlooked by the mainstream." TK also brought Commes Des Garcon, Bathing Ape and Undercover to Hong Kong before everyone and their uncles began wearing the Japanese labels.