Monday, 23 September 2019

Vandalism continues… Sentencing starts … Universal suffrage misses …

Rioters set fire to barricades after vandalising Shatin MTR

Vandalism continues … and yet the western media and likes if Nancy Pelosi celebrate these freedom fighters. The rioters continue to target working class areas Of Hong Kong, so the biggest victims are poor and working class people and all the shop owners who had to close down yesterday
This is a dreary weekly occurrence these days.
Sentencing starts…there have been some sentencing of the thousand-odd arrestees, and concerns that the sentences have been too lenient. I don’t know. I haven’t looked into it. For now I’m assuming that the courts and judges acted in accordance with the rule of law. Whether light sentences “incite” further violence is a question; my feeling is that those torching our streets aren’t considering what the penalties might be. K
And universal suffrage misses… (one of the Five Demands). I’ve noted before that there was a chance back in 2015 to make concrete steps forward to election of the Chief Executive and many of what are called here the “functional constituencies” (cynics call “rotten boroughs”). But because it wasn’t everything they demanded the pan-Democratic parties rejected the proposals. I remember that very well. And I remember being shocked  that they’d rejected a move ahead. It wasn’t perfect but it was something. Yet again we had a case of  “ perfection the enemy of action…”. 
Alex Lo talks of this today, and of our resulting continues “regulatory capture” to the FIRE Sectors in Hong Kong: Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. 
Let us recall that the government’s reform package was not only about the method of electing the chief executive. It also opened a path to reforming the legislature in the following years. That was our first and maybe only chance of ever turning all, or at least most, Legco seats into directly elected ones, starting from next year. That was what we could have been arguing now instead of having our children throw petrol bombs at police. [here]

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Friends disunited. Oz caught between the dragon and the eagle

As Oz PM Scott Morrison visits the US, it’s worth looking back at a vid of the debate between two thinkers on China-US-Australia relations: Hugh White from the ANU in Australia (and an old colleague of mine from my ONA days) and John Mearsheimer, professor at the university of Chicago.

It’s  very tough for Australia. We have to balance trade with China and its growing regional power, against traditional security arrangements with the US. The US is the global hegemony and China a would be regional hegemon. Therein the seeds of conflict and even war, according to Mearsheimer.

Hugh’s views is we need to keep both China and the US at an arms length, close ties to both but not committing to the interests of either. “Not China’s interest, not America’s interest, but Australia’s interest”.

Mearsheimer’s view is that that’s not possible. We will have to make a choice between the US (and security) or China (and trade), if not now, then in due course. But we will have to make the choice. And if we choose China then we will be America’s enemy.  He makes a powerful case. As does Hugh.

For my part, I’ve always been on Hugh’s side on this. To pursue a strong independent Australian  foreign policy, with security strengthened through a powerful defence force.

As for fears of China using trade to punish us should they consider we are too close to America we need to remember that China doesn’t buy from us to do us a favour. They do so because we provide the best  commodities at the best prices. For them o shift sources of commodities they now buy from us would harm them as well. Moreover, China has equity in many Australian exporters, further constraining their ability to punish, even should they wish to do so.

And also recall that even though most Australians think we ride on the back of commodities, overall the bulk of our economy is in services not digging stuff out of the ground.

Related: In today’s Post. US and Australia grow apart [webarchive]

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The first 100 days. For HK nerds

The South China Morning Post does some fantastic infographics. 
Here's one on what they're calling "the first 100 days of protests."
Best viewed on a desktop or iPad…

Friday, 20 September 2019

Americans are in full-on “Freedom-and-Democracy”, bash-China, support-the-Hong- Kong-colour-revolution mode

The photo in National Review, makes the police look terrifying
Here’s George Will in the National Review, a right of centre outfit, calling China “nasty”.*
And here’s The New York Times giving space to Vivienne Chow to talk of the Glory of Hong Kong
And here’s Nancy Pelosi “vowing to push ahead with legislation on HK”.
[ADDED:  it’s the “Human Rights and Democracy Act” which sounds fine but will potentially remove Hong’s Kong separate-status treatment and thus hasten rather than delay the end of “one country two systems”. Another case of “the road to hell…”]
And here is Congressman (R) Michael McCaul standing with Joshua Wong (about whom I’ve had words before) saying:
"This is a battle about democracy versus dictatorship, liberty versus tyranny and freedom versus oppression. We’ll stand here today as Americans untied with the freedom loving people of Hong Kong.”
Look, this is like motherhood. Who is not for it?  Who is not in favour of democracy, of liberty and of freedom?  We all are.
So it’s a question of how we get them. Or, in the case of Hong Kong, how we maintain them. For we have Liberty, we have Freedom and we have Democracy.
Whereas there are many of us -- Alex Lo, for example, no friend of Beijing or of the HK government -- who believe that what the demonstrators are doing will endanger the very freedoms and liberty we already have.
Another thing bugs me: if you’re against what the demonstrators are doing now, you’re lumped in with being “pro Beijing”.  I, we, are not at all.  If you search this blog for Xi Jinping, you’ll find plenty of criticism of him.  I hate the party, while loving the country and the people.  I’m also not pro HK government, neither Jing nor I are, we think they’ve made horrible mistakes.  But we don’t think what’s happening now on our streets, all the violence and destroying the livelihoods of hard working Hong Kong people is going to lead to any more of what they’re after.  It’s time for calm and discussion, not more petrol bombs.  That doesn’t make us lackeys or running dogs of Beijing.
*The Chinese government is indeed “nasty”. I don’t like Xi Jinping one little bit and have said so many times on this blog. (what I seem most often to say is that “I hate Xi Jinping”). I like the people I like the culture, I just don’t like the government, at least the present ones; some past ones were better.
But the government going back 40 years has also done incredible things for its people, not only improving housing and transport and all infrastructure, but increased the average wage by an annual compound 14.3%. That is phenomenal; amazing; unprecedented. It’s brought 500 million into the middle class. When I first went to China they were all poor peasants earning a few tens of dollars a month. Now they earn in the tens of thousands. And we ought not ignore that.
Also: for all the talk of Beijing’s “dark hand” in Hong Kong, of its interfering, of repressing Hong Kong, I can think of very few examples.  To my mind, they’ve been remarkably hands off.

Thursday, 19 September 2019


From night
And remember, it’s perfectly safe to like this cartoon! It ain’t bigoted.…

Economic damage of the demos

Today’s front page 
The latest is cancellation of the horse racing at Happy Valley. The HK Jockey Club is Hong Kong’s largest charity provider — all its surplus goes to various charities in HK — so that’s a big hit.
Elsewhere: tourist arrivals are down by over a million a month, reducing our income by at least $US 1 Billion a month.
Shops are closing and small businesses going bankrupt daily. Closure in Causeway Bay are at 30% and that can only increase as long as the protesters keep customers away.
Central is eerily quiet. Now is the time to go to Disneyland. There’s no-one there.
And yet, and yet, the world celebrates these “freedom activists”. New York Times for example.

Hong Kong already has:

Freedom of the press / media
Freedom of speech
Freedom of conscience
Freedom of religion
Freedom to vote for local politicians
Freedom of trade (Free port)
Freedom of movement (when the protesters allow)

What we don’t have is the freedom to choose the Chief Executive.  In 2015 the Democratic Party rebuffed steps that would have been a move towards universal suffrage (普选).
“Perfection the enemy of the good”.
Demonstrations are doing nothing to promote this aim. It has to go to LegCo per the Basic Law, the constitution of Hong Kong.
What we’re getting from parents of some of the protesters is that they’re going out and joining their mates because it’s all “a bit of a laugh”.  Most haven’t even visited China let alone elsewhere. They’re coddled…

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Goalkeepers: tracking the world’s progress

Just one of the great graphics in the report
Bill and Melinda Gates and their Foundation are doing such wonderful work around the world.

This is their latest report on how the world is doing in reaching the United Nations’ millennium goals for 2030. Though there’s work to do (there alway is...), what jumps out is the huge progress that’s been made in the entire world in recent decades. Things are really a lot better than the view that “it’s all going to hell in a hand basket”, that we’re inclined to think if we just look at the news...  For a summary of just how, have a look at the sections at the end of the report.

This report is made for online viewing on a desktop.  It’s terrific: striking, clear, on point.  Just what you’d expect from the Gates’.

On yer Mel, On yer Bill!

LATER: I’ve been watching Netflix’s “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”. It’s done with Gates’ cooperation but is not hagiography. (Though Variety thinks it is).  I’m enjoying it. A criticism: I would really have liked more in what it was they were coding, he and Paul Allen, in the early days. I’d have liked a bit of detail in the MS-DOS software they did for IBM and made them rich. I remember MS-DOS! Groundbreaking then, but how far we’ve come.
Maybe more of Bill describing what it’s like to code (I always wondered). Anyway, still a good show, three parts.

A dirge or a doozie?

You decide
The “Hong Kong Anthem” sung by the Black Biorchestra of the protesters.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Yellowhammer under the hood (For Brexit nerds)

The Yellowhammer document is here.  This, to remind, is the UK government’s assessments of the worst case given a no-deal Brexit.
I haven’t quite finished wrestling with it, but I’m going to post it and if any comments please do so via the right hand side.
Trigger warning: I’m a Brexiteer and so that bias will come through. Thing is, though, the more I look at the implications of a clean Brexit (aka no-deal Brexit) the less I see of alleged problems. The innumerable problems — “crashing out”, “chaos”, etc — that the Remainers bang on about (hence “Remoaners”) I just don’t see.
How is it that no-deal Brexit has come to seem so poisonous? It’s not the case that there was “no mandate” for no-deal Brexit. The question answered in the referendum means there’s a mandate precisely for a no-deal Brexit.
Looking at the YH document, which is the very worst that civil servants — Remainers to a servant — can predict, there’s little to fear.  Yet I’ve seen no analysis even as cursory as mine, let alone detailed analysis, refuting this worst case. I would have thought Dominic Cummings & co should put out at refutation  to Yellowhammer. It’s easy to do because it’s a risible document. But what do I know? Cummings is the strategist-in-chief. Perhaps he feels people are too locked into their positions to be swayed by facts (surely true).
My comments…

Social media and the demos

The protesters here in Hong Kong are communicating and getting their news pretty much exclusively from social media: mainly LIHKG, Messenger and WeChat.  Sometimes WhatsApp.

Wael Ghonin above helped spark the so-called Arab Spring, with his work on social media in Egypt.  

He now regrets it.  Another case of good intentions gone awry.  The road to hell...

He’s got four points at the end:
1.  Rumours abound on SM
2.  They are echo-chambers
3.  They create angry mobs
4.  They encourage *broadcasting* over engaging in conversation.

On the rumour bit: there was one the other day in Hong Kong I think still making the rounds: that the police killed three protesters at an MTR station and then got rid of the bodies.  Now just consider this: not a single person has come forward to say they’re missing their son or daughter, or friend or brother or sister. Doesn’t that tell you that it’s nonsense?  And these are the folks we should be listening to...