In 2009, a Chinese woman called Anna killed herself near London's Heathrow Airport. Her friends later learned that she had been working as a prostitute in an illegal massage parlour.
One of those friends, Jenny Lu, a Taiwanese art school graduate, began a journey to find out about her secret life.
It resulted in Lu's first feature film, The Receptionist, which premieres in Taiwan on Friday and at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the UK next week.
Some readers may find aspects of this story upsetting.
"I met Anna in Chinatown at a dinner gathering. She looked really normal," recalls director Lu.
"She came from a little village in China. She went to London because she wanted a better life. But she ended up living a double life that no-one knew about.
"I felt really sad. How come no-one knew about this and no-one was able to help?"
The London dreamThrough a mutual friend, Lu tracked down women who had worked with Anna at a massage parlour.
They were immigrants from mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Other parlours employed women from well-off economies including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea or Japan.
Like some of the women, Anna arrived in the UK on a fake marriage.
【Calling for all Talents from Asia!】
"She was married to a British guy but he didn't have a job. Anna's family had paid a lot of money to arrange this fake marriage for her. She worked really hard to try to pay back the debt and to support her brother in China," Ms Lu explains.
Other women came here on fake passports. Some were divorced and wanted to start a new life in the UK. Some wanted to earn money to support their children.
Others, including those from Taiwan, were language students enticed by money.
After arriving in the UK, many realised it was much harder than they had expected to survive, not to mention achieve their dream, so they resorted to working at the massage parlours, Lu said.
A brutal awakeningThe Receptionist is based on the lives of the employees and clients at a massage parlour in London, as seen through the eyes of a Taiwanese graduate employed as a receptionist there.
It unabashedly portrays the treatment the women endure, including being subjected to abuse and extreme fetishes.
Gangsters demanded "protection" money from the women, and would beat, rob and rape them if they didn't pay up, knowing they wouldn't dare call the police.
Though the scenes in the film are fictionalised, they are all based on the experiences of Anna and her colleagues.
"The actors initially didn't believe the script. So I arranged for them to meet the women," she tells.
The women charged the men around £120 ($152) for sexual intercourse. The parlour owner would keep 50% to 60% of that.
Digging a holeWhile some women eventually quit, many stayed even though they were not forced to, and even after they had made some money. Not fluent in English, they worried they would have a hard time finding a well-paid job.
"They always say they want to leave after a year or a few months… but they get used to making quick money," Ms Lu says.
"They don't want to choose other jobs where they can't earn as much. They think: 'How can I afford to keep living if I don't do this?'"
"It's a dangerous mindset. It's like a hole they dig for themselves. So many people can't get out."
The women rarely went out because they feared the neighbours would find out. They worked day and night. Their curtains were always drawn.
"What surprised me was that many of the women had never actually seen any London landmarks," said Lu.
A baby panda recently born in Japan is a girl, a Tokyo zoo said Friday (Jun 23), adding that the little cub appeared to be in good health.
Tokyo's Ueno Zoo celebrated the first birth of a baby panda in five years on Jun 12, prompting rolling television reports and setting off panda fever nationwide.
A zoo spokesman said the female cub's sex was confirmed based on pictures sent to a panda research centre in the shy animal's native China.
Pandas are born pink, hairless and weighing around 100g - so small it can be difficult to determine their sex.
【Calling for all Talents from Asia!】
The little cub "seems to be in good health" and is drinking her mother's milk, the spokesman said, adding she is now 17.6cm long and weighs 283.9g.
Her pink body is beginning to show tell-tale black panda fur.
"She has started to grow black fur around her eyes and on other parts of her body," the spokesman added.
Zookeepers were carefully tending to the cub and her 11-year-old mum Shin Shin, who resumed her daily schedule of munching young bamboo stalks and rolling around days after giving birth.
The birth of the as-yet-unnamed cub comes after the last panda's arrival at Ueno Zoo ended unhappily, with the baby dying from pneumonia.
The death reduced one of the zoo's directors to tears.
While many of us still can’t easily decide if we should ride Uber or Grab, decision-making is going to get even harder with the entry of a new player.
SixTNC officially made its debut here on Sunday (June 18); and there are already about 100 of its drivers plying the road today.
The 10-month-old Indonesian firm has made some very bold claims so far: its drivers can earn an annual six-figure income by driving just 8 hours a day.
This is its differentiating factor from its two rivals.
“I have noticed a lot of Uber or Grab drivers work long hours for not a lot of money. We started this so that drivers need to only work eight hours a day,” SixTNC managing director James Lee told The Straits Times.
But 8 hours is like the typical working hours of a regular office worker, so how is it possible to earn so much in so little time?
How Does It Work?
According to Lee, their business model is centred around a referral scheme.
A driver who recommends another individual to join the scheme will take a 5 per cent cut of the latter’s earnings. Commuters too will get to earn a 5 per cent commission if they recommend a driver to SixTNC.
At the end of the day, drivers get to keep only 80 per cent of their earnings, with the remaining 20 per cent paid to SixTNC.
But if a driver ropes in 30 friends to get them onboard SixTNC – assuming all of them earn $150 a day – an annual income of $100,000 is possible, said Lee.
If we break down this figure, it’s equivalent to earning about $8,300 a month!
Upon hearing this, my colleagues remarked that it sounds very much like multi-level marketing. (We have a good mind of applying to be their driver to check if this claim holds true).
Anyway, here’s a food for thought before you tender your resignation letter: how easy is it to consistently earn $150 a day?
Is this claim just a ‘carrot’ to entice people to jump on the SixTNC bandwagon?
They are after all, very new to the market, and it would be hard for them to vie for a slice of the traditional taxi market share.
SixTNC vs. Grab vs. Uber – Which Is Cheaper?
It’s been three days since SixTNC’s launch in Singapore, but it’s not clear how the take-up rate has been so far.
According to ST, Lee was unable to verify the number of drivers or passengers who have used their service as their “control panel is not in Singapore”.
But for consumers, I reckon low price-points are a simple way to sway their brand loyalty. So if SixTNC offers cheaper rates than its rivals, I foresee them gaining a huge market share in no time.
I did a quick test on all three apps to differentiate their fares (for a fair comparison, I selected the Standard option, and input the same pick-up location and destination points for all three):
Conclusion? SixTNC’s fare is comparable to the other two players, making them a viable player.
The fares all fall under the same price range, with a difference of only $2.
And despite being a fresh player in the market, SixTNC is not rolling out any promo codes which I think does not settle well with kiasu Singaporeans, who love anything on a bargain.
Meanwhile, Grab and Uber are constantly pushing out promo codes to their users so they can enjoy discounted rides.
Also, users tend to browse through the different ride options each app has to offer and go for the cheapest one.
On that note, I feel SixTNC is on the losing end as it has very limited ride options (Standard, 6-Seater, 6-Seater Luxury, and Taxi).
Currently, SixTNC does not offer any carpooling options – which usually is the cheapest ride. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it rolls out this option in the near future.
Expansion Plans In The Pipeline
So far, it seems like the app has been enjoying a high demand among drivers.
According to Lee, more than 1,000 drivers – who are already driving with Uber and Grab, and have applied for the Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational License – have indicated their interest towards SixTNC.
The firm is currently working with local taxi companies to allow users to use its app to hail cabs alongside private-hire cars.
Lee also said that the firm is looking to expand to other markets in the region, including Malaysia, in the next three months.
A controversial dog meat festival has begun in the Chinese city of Yulin, despite earlier reports it had been cancelled or toned down this year.
The Lychee and Dog Meat festival takes place annually in Guangxi province.
Earlier this year, US campaigners claimed that vendors had been told by authorities not to sell dog meat.
But stall holders had heard nothing about this from officials. On 15 May, city officials confirmed there was no ban.
Is dog meat still for sale?
Yes. On Wednesday, reports from Yulin said dead dogs could be seen hanging from meat hooks at stalls in Dongkou market, the biggest in the city.
There were also reports of a heavy police presence on the streets.
One activist in the city told the BBC she was prevented by police from entering the Dashichang market where she believed live dogs were on sale.
In previous years there have been scuffles between stall owners and activists trying to rescue the dogs slated for slaughter.
The city of Yulin is not the biggest dog meat consumer in Guangxi province though. It is only since the festival started around 10 years ago that the city received national and international attention.
What's wrong with dog for dinner?
It is all about accusations of animal cruelty and changes in attitudes to dogs in China.
Residents and vendors say the dogs are killed in a humane way and that eating them is no more or less cruel than consuming pork, beef or chicken.
Eating dog is an old tradition in China, South Korea and some other Asian countries. Those in favour of it are upset by what they say is foreigners interfering with local traditions.
In Chinese culture dog meat is said to be beneficial during the hot summer months.
Even many who do not eat dog defend the practice as long as the animals are not stolen or killed in an inhumane way.
But critics say the dogs are transported from other cities in small, cramped cages ahead of the festival and brutally killed. Activists also allege many of the dogs are stolen pets.
Protests against the festival come both from abroad and from within China. The number of pet dogs in the country has skyrocketed in recent years with 62 million registered canine companions.
This has gradually changed many people's opinion on eating dog meat.
Why the confusion this year?
In May, US activists had claimed there was a ban on the sale of dog meat this year. This was not the case.
The Yulin government has repeatedly said that it does not officially organise the festival so cannot prohibit it. Eating dogs is not illegal in China.
The local government is unhappy though about the widespread annual media coverage.
In 2016, they banned the slaughter of dogs in public in anticipation of protests.
This year, reports said there was less public slaughtering taking place, though the scale of the event was not immediately clear.
Activists estimate that in peak years, about 10,000 dogs and cats were killed and eaten during the 10-day festival.
Spanish matador Iván Fandiño died Saturday after being gored during a bullfight in the French region of Landes, the bullfighter's communications department said.
Video shows the moment when Fandiño, 36, was gored by a bull after he tripped on his cape. The bullfighter then fell to the ground, where the bull hit him again. Other bullfighters quickly picked up Fandiño and removed him from the bullring, the video showed. He had already performed in a previous fight.Fandiño was taken to a hospital with a wound on his lung and later died, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.'A great figure of bullfighting'
The Spanish government released a statement mourning the death of Fandiño. King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain also shared their condolences on Twitter, and called Fandiño a "great figure of bullfighting."
Fandiño was born in Orduña, in the Basque Country. His official biography says he dressed in the traditional bullfighter costume for the first time in 1999 and debuted as a picador in 2002. By 2011, he was performing in important bullfighting events across Spain.
His official Twitter account posted a photo of Fandiño holding a bull's ear from Saturday's previous fight and praised his devoted and solid performance. Fellow bullfighters posted tributes to Fandiño on social media.
Juan Del Álamo, who was performing with Fandiño on Saturday, described it as "the worst day of my life" in an Instagram post. He added he will honor his friend by "doing what [Fandiño] liked most."
Jean Dos Santos, another Spanish bullfighter, wrote on Twitter, "you're leaving but we'll never forget you...Rest in peace."
Last year, a professional Spanish bullfighter was gored to death during a competition on live television. Victor Barrio, 29, was killed in Spain's eastern region of Aragon.
Both professional bullfights and bull running events remain popular in Spain, especially in the summertime.
Spanish towns hold annual summer festivals in which bulls dash after humans. These events gained worldwide fame after author Ernest Hemingway wrote about one in his 1920s novel "The Sun Also Rises."
British police are warning drug users not to take the “IKEA branded” ecstasy pills currently in circulation following the death of an 18-year-old male.
Jersey Police say Kyle Pringle, from St Helier, died on Saturday morning after consuming the illegal yellow and blue drugs stamped with the word IKEA.
“Whilst subject to toxicology reports and a post-mortem, evidence at this time suggests the death is as a result consumption of “Ikea” ecstasy tablets,” a police statement said. “We strongly advise members of the public not to take these tablets in the interests of their health.”
Illegal drug manufacturers have long used popular brands and companies as a way of marketing their product. It’s unclear whether the recent hype surrounding IKEA led to the production of the super strength pills currently doing the rounds.
Police are urging anyone who does take the tablets and becomes unwell to seek medical attention immediately.
Good Samaritans in Malaysia are being told to stop their random acts of generosity for the homeless and urban poor to avoid problems like cleanliness, food wastage and uneven distribution of aid.
Kechara Soup Kitchen project director Justin Cheah said it was important to have an organised system.
“The issue with showing up randomly with food is that one area could end up having a lot of food while another does not get any. While the intention is good, they are not helping but instead, creating more problems.
“Kechara has a feeding schedule to ensure an even food distribution. It took us years to learn about the homeless and what kind of help they need. It is beyond food — they need counselling, medical aid and many others,” he told Malay Mail.
He said he had tried approaching random groups of people who were dropping off food to discuss possible cooperation but was met with negative reactions.
“The response is never good. Most of the time they would tell me they just want to be left alone or that they were just there to drop the food off,” he said.
Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor had asked charitable groups to lend a helping hand only through appropriate channels.
He said on Saturday many donors were sadly not responsible enough to clean up, leaving rubbish and food leftovers lying around in public places.
Tengku Adnan also said Malaysians should not be “enablers” by providing too much assistance to the needy because it makes them comfortable and lazy.
Pertiwi Soup Kitchen founder Munirah Abdul Hamid said if the public did not want to cooperate with existing soup kitchens, they should consider distributing food with longer shelf lives like bread or biscuits.
“You have to know how to prepare and pack these foods — something I learned after spending years with them. Half of the time they get food already spoiled. Probably because it was prepared much earlier, coupled with the country’s humidity. You can’t expect the homeless to take food that are no longer edible.
“If you don’t want to work with us (soup kitchens), just make sure the food is edible and will not give them health problems like stomach aches or food poisoning later,” she said.
Ms Munirah added there were several NGOs handing out gifts like toothbrushes, strollers, clothes and toiletries which created a bad culture that affected the urban poor children especially.
“These kids have already missed out a lot in life so they don’t want to miss out on ‘free gifts’. That is why we see kids of school-going age loitering around town, way past their bedtime. They stay up in hopes that people will come bearing gifts,” she said.
She said most of the said gifts would end up being sold in pasar karat (flea markets) and the money will be handed over to the parents.
“How many toothbrushes or strollers can they have? We are really encouraging these kids to have wrong values in life.
“You think you are being kind by showing up with gifts, but there are repercussions to your actions. We have to think thoroughly,” she said.
Foreign intelligence has confirmed that Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, was among those who had plotted the deadly Battle of Marawi, which has claimed more than 200 lives.
Sources told the New Straits Times that the 41-year-old, who is highly regarded among fighters engaged in the ongoing battle against the Philippine government’s security forces in the country’s south, had assumed a leadership role among affiliated militants of the Islamic State (IS) in the region.
It is learnt that the Philippine military had initially missed Mahmud as it sought to identify the personalities captured in a video clip, which made its rounds last week, planning the Marawi siege.
The 2.31-minute clip showed the men at a roundtable discussion, being briefed by one of the Maute brothers, Abdullah.
Listening intently was Isnilon Hapilon, who has a US$5 million (S$6.9 million) bounty on his head.
The 51-year-old IS leader for South-east Asia, who is known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini, did not appear to be injured as had been suggested in recent reports, which also hinted that Mahmud was poised to take over as the emir of this part of the world’s IS branch in the event of Hapilon’s death.
While Hapilon has made it into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list for, among others, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death, and the murder of a United States national outside the US, Mahmud has managed to escape the attention of international law enforcement agencies.
In the clip, sitting across Hapilon was the former Universiti Malaya lecturer, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Hanadzlah.
Abdullah, in his briefing in Maranao, a local dialect, was seen in the video mostly addressing Mahmud, who responded in the same language.
Mahmud, who looks more chiselled compared with his mugshot released by the police after he escaped a dragnet to join the Abu Sayyaf group in 2014, interjected Abdullah several times with questions on the plans that had been laid out to attack Mindanao State University in Marawi City, the capital of the Lanao del Sur province.
Also a target was Butig, a former training base for the Moro Islamic Liberation Fighters.
Also identified in the recording of the meeting held inside a concrete structure was Abdullah’s brother, Omarkhayam.
Aside from Mahmud, at least four known Malaysians had left the country to become fighters in the Philippines — former Selayang Municipal Council officer Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Sabah Darul Islam militants Jeknal Adil and Amin Baco, and Mohd Najib Husen.
Najib was Mahmud’s right-hand man and was running a stationery shop in UM before he came under the radar of the country’s counterterrorism operatives.
He fled with Mahmud to the Philippines and was reportedly killed in a shoot-out with the military in 2015.
Like Mahmud, the electrical engineering major was an expert bomb-maker. “Among the group led by Hapilon, Mahmud is a well-respected leader. His military training experience at the al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, aside from the fact that he has a strong Islamic background, including as a lecturer, has earned him respect from militants in the area,” one of the sources told the NST.
Mahmud had been responsible for recruiting Malaysians as IS members.
He had been the go-to guy for many Malaysians wanting to go to Syria to fight alongside IS.
Among them was the first suicide bomber from Malaysia, Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who blew himself up in Syria in May 2014.
A randy couple romped on a Ryanair flight as passengers watched in shock and one filmed the saucy behaviour on his phone.
The kinky couple didn't even bother to go to the lavatory and chose to get saucy in front of passengers on the flight from Manchester to Ibiza, at 8.20pm yesterday.
Passengers watched as the woman clambered on top of her companion and they began to romp an hour into the flight to the party island.
Remember this date 18 June 2017 (Sunday) as it is time for you to reward your father with a great meal to celebrate Father's Day!
Kieran Williams, 21, from Preston, Lancashire, was astonished to see the couple's raunchy antics an hour into the flight on the budget airline.
'I heard them talking about it but I thought they were joking. The guy was shouting, "Anyone got a jelly?" meaning condom.
'We all laughed but then ten minutes later they actually did it. They seemed so drunk, they brought a lot of attention to themselves.
'You could see the girl taking off her pants and he pulled his trousers off. She started riding him.
'I had to get my phone out. I have never seen anything like that.'
Unsurprisingly a female passenger who was sitting next to the couple asked to be moved, but Mr Williams said that the crew did nothing to stop the couple or even reprimand them.
'A woman was sat next to them and she stood up and asked if she could be moved. About twenty minutes after it happened, someone complained about it. But the crew did nothing.'
Mr Williams, who was flying to Ibiza to work as a barman over the summer, said that the passengers were gobsmacked by the couple's raunchy antics.
He said: 'They were starting and stopping but it was completely obvious what was going on. We all had a good laugh about it. It was pretty funny.'
A Ryanair spokesman said: 'We are looking into this matter.
'We will not tolerate unruly, disruptive or inappropriate behaviour at any time and any passengers who appear to behave in an unacceptable manner may be liable for further sanctions.'
Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group latest announcement just might have ruined the GSS season. That’s because the company has just launched a new service Tmall World for Singapore customers.
According to a report from Reuters, the new service will provide logistics, payment and localisation support catering to each local market’s needs. This also means that Singapore customers no longer need to rely on local buying agents/forwarders such as ezbuy
丘俊鑫 Lawrence Hiew 【幸福劇本】 官方視頻 Official Music Video
Unlike Taobao.com, Tmall offers a B2C platform. Some might find the prices on Tmall a little higher than Taobao but it is because the former offers better curation and hence quality products from serious brands and sellers.
Despite Tmall support for Singapore customers, the website will still be in the Chinese language, which will still be a barrier for non-Chinese visitors. That, however, could change in the future if Alibaba finally decides to offer an English site.