Monday 30 September 2019

Refuting Brian Kennedy

TL;DR: Brian Kennedy, “China Expert",  presents a false or misleading picture of China. I refute it. 
Disclosure: I am 43 years in Asia, 20 years in diplomacy and trade for the Australian government, 23 years in China business consultancy, corporate business and entrepreneurship.
Below may read as an apologia for Chinese government. It’s not.  I’ve been a stern critic of the Chinese government, eg [31/10/17] [21/11/18] and [2/12/18].   I called out the Uygur imprisonments as soon as I knew of them.
Like Guo Wengui, interviewed by Kyle Bass, I like the Chinese and Chinese culture, but hate the Beijing government, especially Xi Jinping. (Most often I tend to say: “I hate” Xi Jinping).
Still, what we need a clear-eyed hard-nosed take on China. Neither an apologia nor a demonisation. Focus on reciprocity and not being a sucker.
ADDED: some folks ask me why I watch Adams. “Isn’t he a Trump supporter?”  Well, yes, but he’s more than that. As he says, he’s "to the left of Bernie". He has some interesting ideas, provocative. Some quite crazy too, which he’ll admit himself. But I watch him for his interesting takes on life.
The numbers are reference to the minutes in the video above, rounded to the below minute.

Factual errors:

Our Five Freedoms vs your Five Demands

Letter to, who took out a full page ad in today’s New York Times.
Its strap is “The Chinese Communist Party is tearing Hong Kong apart. If we fall, who will be next?”
To which we say “huh?”.
The Chinese communist party is distinguished for having kept out of our recent Troubles. Not only is it not “the Chinese communist party” that is tearing Hong Kong apart, it is the FreedomHongKong people and hangers on who are tearing it apart.

The Letter, to FreedomHongKong:

You say in “About us”:
We are a group of Hongkongers from all walks of life, living in Hong Kong and across the world. We all share a common value: We believe that the right to liberty and freedom of expression are universal human rights. Our core values coupled with our love to our city [sic] united us in this fight for freedom. [emphasis in original]
We are also Hongkongers from all walks of life, living and working here for over forty years. We have established businesses employing thousands of local people and paying millions in taxes. We also love our city and share the above values: right to liberty and freedom of expression.

Where we differ is that we believe Hong Kong already enjoys wide ranging freedoms. We call these our Five Freedoms.
The Five Freedoms we already enjoy:

Taxi terrorism

Save Hong Kong — Trash a cab
“8964” sprayed in the hood is reference to June 4, 1989. Tian’anmen
Last night in Wanchai we saw with our own eyes this taxi get trashed by the mob, while police were nowhere in sight. 
Why? Because the taxi driver had tried to get through the crowds. That’s all. He was stopped and chased from his cab. He’s an old man. We saw him a while later, shirtless, scared, being comforted by some bystanders. Terrorised out of his taxi. And his taxi trashed. This is a Hong Kong working man. Working working. A whole month of graft gets him maybe $HK15,000, or barely $US2,000 and he needs every cent for his family. And these “brave freedom fighters” have trashed his only source of living.
I gotta say I find it revolting, disgusting, despicable. Senseless. And for this the US House is egging on the “Freedom Fighters”, with its ill-thought out Democracy Act. Way to go, Nance...
At the Town Hall the other night, Carrie Lam moved on each of the remaining Four Demands, but she was rebuffed. Not good enough. So what hope for moving forward?
The battles last night were in Hennessy Road, Wanchai.
20 years ago to the day we were putting the final touches in our first WSI centre at 330 Hennessy Road. Which we grew to seven centres, 12,000 students, 300 staff, an Award winning business that we sold in 2007. We were thinking about it last night. We know its numbers well. We would not have survived if we’d had three months of the demonstrations going on now. And the same goes for all the businesses along the road. As Jing says, if people think that these fire-bombed plastic-trashed streets are going to help things, there’s no hope for us.
And some shops and people are being specifically targeted. Doxxed. [MORE to come]
Starbucks owners criticised the violence. Gets trashed.
Graffiti says “don’t buy” and boycott”. (It’s NOT anti US)

Maxim and its owners also doxxed
The protesters have also been doxxing people that don’t agree with them, or even voice doubts about their destruction of our city.  I say, shame on them.... Doxxing is really sleazy and comes from the likes of Antifa in the US.  Look at them here and here.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Communist China at 70…

I’ve got to say “communist”  because it’s just the founding of the People’s Republic that’s being celebrated on 1 October.  For China, the country, the nation, the notion, could be celebrating, who knows? maybe 5000 years. The invention of writing, Confucianism, the compass, and all.
Though at the same time “communist” isn’t quite right either as China is a “unitary socialist republic”. And there’s a difference between socialism and communism.
Beijing now follows what it calls “socialism with Chinese characteristics” a mixed economic system with private and state capitalism. While the political system of government is Leninist authoritarian.
So how they doing?
Answer: mixed.
The good: economy grown 10% pa for last forty years. Wages increased 14% pa. 500 million people lifted from poverty. Stability: if China lost control we’d have millions of refugees rather than millions of tourists. Really, which would we prefer?
The bad: revolting treatment of Uygur Muslims (a million sent to what? labour camps? Vocational training centres?). Censorship. IPR theft.
The ugly:
  • Largest CO2 emitter (IEA)
  • 135 out of 162 in Human Rights index (CATO)
  • 177 out of 180 in Press freedom (Reporters Without Borders)
  • Bottom in Internet freedom (Freedom House)
Challenges: Treatment of minorities, esp. Uygurs. Economy slowing. World economy could go into recession. Leftism. (Also a US challenge…). Hong Kong. How to improve soft power: science, IP, World view of China (mostly negative). Environment. Energy (Renewables).
The nature of 70… not just people getting tired, so do regimes. In Confucian Analects it’s 七十而从心所欲, “when you turn seventy you can relax and go where your heart desires”. Have the cadres had it, are they tired? Do they want to head off to where their heartstrings pull them? Is Xi reaching his use-by date? I don’t think so, but some do, and you will be wise - you will be an enlightened Confucian person (君人) - to keep it in mind. 

Five years on…

News at
…and we remember those demos well. I posted about the Umbrella movement in 2015 and I’ll try to find the link. They were peaceful and rather fun demos. We wandered around them and chatted to the kids. Mostly kids.

And I remember there was a proposal on the table for some movement forward on universal suffrage for the HK Chief Executive, but that it was rebuffed by the pan-Democratic parties because it wasn’t a perfect package. Perfection is the enemy of action. We bear the results of that now. 

We were also racing our yacht, Xena, at the time in the China Coast Regatta for which we had a number of crew mates coming up from Oceania. Sadly we got into a bit of a dingle ourselves and had to pull out. Xena is now in new hands and will be competing again in local and Offshore racing.

Actions of the police have become a key issue. Critics and supporters. The police are now saying that back in April this year they were named Asia’s best respected police force (I’ve yet to see the reference), trusted by 84% of the population. From our own experience, we’d agree. Now they are trusted by barely 7%. So what happened? Is that dramatic drop in trust warranted by what they’re seen to be doing with the demos?

一分为二, on that one. “One divides into two”. And social media is playing its malign part. In Hong Kong its LIHKG, WeChat and Messenger. Prejudices and rumours get reinforced. E.g. there are still people who believe police killed three protesters at the Mongkok MTR station, even though it’s obviously nonsense — where are the parents, relatives and friends of the alleged victims?

And there are widespread rumours that the CIA is coordinating and funding the anti-police anti-government protests. All I can say is that I’ve yet to see the evidence. All that has been provided so far is from a site called Global Research which is run by a known anti-American conspiracy nutter who also believes 911 was a CIA plot. And the fact of what’s happening is quoted: “it’s just what the CIA would want. Another colour revolution”. Ergo it’s CIA…

Friday 27 September 2019

Hong Kong is not China … and the road to hell…

Photo above from report here
Hong Kong is a free port with free trade and no customs or capital controls.
The US Congress is now considering a bill that would change that and lump Hong Kong in with the mainland. That is if the US decides to punish China they’ll do so by punishing Hong Kong.
Way to go, Congress…
The bill is called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Fine sounding motherhood stuff.
But it would be a wicked blow for Hong Kong.
Businesses here are saying it will drive companies out of Hong Kong.
Way to go Nancy…
The road to hell… again…
Yesterday the Post quotes a congressional staff member saying about the Bill, “the narrative is of freedom loving people in Hong Kong versus a totalitarian China. Whether that is the correct narrative, that seems to be the common view”.
Added: Snip from the article:
To many, the contest between Hong Kong protesters and Beijing has the air of a David-and-Goliath clash to it.
“Congress tends to favour David,” said Richard Bush, who was a congressional staff member during passage of the 1992 policy act. “The narrative is of freedom-loving people in Hong Kong versus a totalitarian China. Whether that is the correct narrative, that seems to be the common view.”
Well, it’s not the correct narrative. As last night Town hall with reps of the ordinary folks of HK, and Carrie Lam showed, the main concern is with the police. They want an independent inquiry into actions of the police while Lam is sticking with the inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I would have thought she doesn’t need to stick so hard on that. It’s her ego stopping her from a concession.
Meantime Beijing is staying out of it. It is hands off. So it makes no sense to say it’s “versus totalitarian China”. Of course the government of China is totalitarian. But it’s not in evidence here in Hong Kong and the demos have devolved into random vandalism and violent clashes with the police, which, from all we can see, are just doing their job. Sure there police reactions that are too tough. But it’s not systemic.
And the majority of the people, from our reading of sentiment, have had enough of the constant demos. We were in the town last night. Very quiet and the people we spoke to were worried about their business and their jobs.
The US Act: the road to hell…

Thursday 26 September 2019

Is it safe to visit Hong Kong?

That was question in this morning’s cable news.
The dopey on-the-ground reporter went into a long spiel that left you confused.
The plain fact of the matter is that it’s completely safe to visit.
The worst that will happen, if you go into areas of demos, that you’ll be inconvenienced.
Meantime, hotels are cheap, restaurants have no queues and all the attractions empty.
Good time to come.
YES, it’s safe to visit Hong Kong. 

Wednesday 25 September 2019


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

China and Hong Kong, the flashpoint of west vs west

Hong Kong matters to the rest of the world, says Derwin Pereira

Hong Kong and China is the latest world flashpoint. Between the liberal West and the authoritarian East.  Hong Kong vs Beijing. West vs East.
I prefer to call it West vs West.  
Hong Kong has indeed imbibed the liberal airs of its British colonial masters.  The Rule of law, fair process, free press and so on.  For at least thirty years after 1949, Hong Kong was hermetically sealed from China until the late seventies. I well remember the early seventies.  It was tough to get to China.  Even from Hong Kong it took a couple of days, an overnight in Guangzhou, long train trips and only few could get visas. So when I lived in China in those days, it was called a hardship post by the Australian government (I was with the Oz Embassy in Beijing) and when we went to Hong Kong it was such a relief, even the air felt free.  You could get all the things you couldn’t then in China. And the colony, as it was, operated completely independently of China (though some of its water supplies came from the mainland).  That was a long time, which had begun in the nineteenth century, to become westernised.
Thus it is represented by the West, under which Hong Kong flourished economically. Of course, China, too, has achieved prosperity under its autocratic system. However, having enjoyed a degree of liberal freedom under British rule, Hongkongers do not wish to trade their prosperous freedom for prosperous servitude.

Race to the bottom

Jing’s letter in the South China Morning Post 
Race to the bottom

It has become a weekly routine to set fires on the streets and to vandalise public facilities while playing cat and mouse game with police. It seems that we are watching a reality tv show where everyone gets what they “want”:- throwing petrol bombs, shouting at officers and enjoying a moment of fame, surrounded by journalists taking “nice” pictures, plus medic volunteers and mediators offering assistance. So they say Hong Kong is “liberalised". 

It is no longer about the extradition bill or democracy. It is a deranged symptom in disguise against establishment. It brings the worst out of people. Vandalising public properties can create a false sense of freedom. Beating up people in disagreement while the camera is rolling can give you a sense of control. Hiding behind masks and operating in a wolf pack, they feel empowered and addicted. Once the thrill is gone, they would come back for more. Gradually they are chipping away Hong Kong’s core values as a well established civil society. 

The on-going unrest indicates the inability of Hong Kong political elites to rise above their self interest. Instead of protecting the general public in Hong Kong, it seems that they are locked in power struggle over political dogma. 

It is also worrisome that some intellectuals and students in Hong Kong have looked for answers in a glorified nostalgia of the colonial past, and descended into seeking foreign intervention and “leadership”. Lacking critical analysis, they simply blame every social problem in Hong Kong as “mainland erosion” and incite a tribal movement in the name of freedom that feed on the fear and resentment against China. 

It is a race to the bottom. 

What’s next? Democracy and human rights rhetoric and foreign interference will not help to resolve Hong Kong’s social discontent. 

Hong Kong has to free itself from the time capsule of its colonial past and develop a new vision for its cultural and political identity. By doing so, it will be able to rebuild the confidence to govern in the interest of its people’s livelihood and future. 

Ms. JL…etc 

City’s superiority complex about mainland, and inferiority complex about foreigners

Jing has been saying this for some time. That the protesters seem to have an inflated view of the superiority of westerners. For her it is now better to speak English around town than Mandarin. As for the superiority complex vs the mainland, that has long been a Hong Kong thing, as many wouldn’t even bother to visit China. It is lately complicated by the fact of China’s obvious economic rise and mainlanders coming to Hong Kong and taking high paid jobs with better foreign degrees and better language skills. So it’s superiority complex mixed with envy complex.
Here’s Alex Lo today …

Tuesday 24 September 2019

U.K. Supreme Court finds prorogation unlawful and void

And outside Parliament remainers are cock a hoop and saying "this is a victory for democracy".
Which is to say that it is a victory against the democratic will of the people which they had all committed to uphold.
Off to watch the Rugby. A tough game but honest...
LATER: anti Boris-Brexit types are saying that Boris lied to the Queen and so should resign. Same time they’re all saying “no one expected this outcome from the Supreme Court”.  So also Boris did not expect it. Indeed until yesterday the common wisdom was that the Court would be split. That is, the highest Court in the land would be split. When it found against Boris in a unanimous decision all of a sudden Boris is supposed to have known what he was doing was illegal and therefore he lied to the Queen. I hope the illogic of this is obvious. How on earth could Boris have known it was illegal when all the smart money didn’t know. Until the SC decision. And all of a sudden Boris should have known and is guilty.  Nonsense, and he should not resign.
Fascinating, in a grim way, to watch spin, delusion ams self delusion.
ADDED: Mahyar Tousi on YouTube  
Sent from my iPhone

The many and varied reasons for the protests

We’ve seen so many reasons put up to explain these 100+ days of protest in Hong Kong that I thought I’d summarise them here and update as needed: 

First up, the Five Demands (5D) 五大诉权:
  • 1. The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill
  • 2. The government to withdraw the use of the word “riot” in relation to protests
  • 3. The unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped
  • 4. An independent inquiry into police behaviour
  • 5. Implementation of genuine universal suffrage
My comment on the Five Demands  here and Alex Lo here.

Independence for Hong Kong. This is the most dangerous of the demands and simultaneously the least likely to be achieved (likelihood = zero), and most likely to get up Beijing’s nose. Pushed by the likes of Joshua Wong and ProgressUST. [here]

Andrew K.P. Leung (”an independent China strategist”), 24/9/19:
An ill-fated extradition bill has ignited a prairie fire, fuelled by housing unaffordability, lack of upward mobility, widening inequalities, and social injustice. Looking deeper, the anger has much to do with a perceived erosion of identity, lack of youth empowerment, and hopelessness about the future. [here]
Mevelyn Ong writes from New York (19/9/19): 
The tragedy is that the current protests are fundamentally protests against China, fuelled by Hong Kong’s inherent (and ironic) hatred of China, a hatred borne of both fear and envy, and whipped into a wildfire by the international media that does not want to see, nor understand, the root cause. [here]
Fear and Identity. By Chris Lonsdale (8th October 2019)

By my count at fourteen reasons to account for the firestorms raging in Hong Kong.

So, what is it? One of the above? All of the above?  Some of the above?  My guess is, that it’s a combination of the 5D (though most protesters don’t know them all), combined with a hatred of things Chinese and some living issues: housing prices, etc...
All of these are fixable, though the universal suffrage one is tricky.  And there are a myriad ideas out there how to fix. I don’t know, save that both the government and the protesters have to get down to some talking, rather than intransigence from the government and vandalising by the protesters.

ADDED: There’s also the theory that it’s all being pushed by the CIA, via its National Endowment for Democracy.  Maybe. Beijing certainly thinks so, and I know close friends who believe so. I’ve yet to see evidence, and I wonder what the benefit to the US is of turmoil in HK, though of course there’s the bigger issue on the US-China trade war and Hong Kong is simply a pawn. At the same time, people are arguing that it’s in Beijing’s interest to have the turmoil (Zweig 24 Oct), to show people in China:  “see what democracy does for you: chaos!”  It can’t be both in Washington and in Beijing’s interest to have turmoil in Hong Kong. What, win-win for vandalism?

“One country, two systems” threatened

My letter is published in today’s South China Morning Post. 
Link and scroll down.

ADDED: I’ve just watched our Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s latest presser which was followed by police showing a video of protesters violently beating a police officer on the ground at the airport. I went to look for the video, googled “demonstrators beat police officer” and instead got the opposite, police handling, sometimes mishandling, demonstrators. That’s not because there are more cases of that, because in our watching it’s not; the police are always reacting to violent acts not instigating them. So there’s an algorithm choosing one side over the other. Without getting too conspiratorial ‘n all… and without even mentioning g Fake News…

Monday 23 September 2019

Vandalism continues… Sentencing starts … Universal suffrage misses …

Sunday 22 Sep: Rioters set fire to barricades after vandalising Shatin MTR

Vandalism continues … and yet the western media and the likes of 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. 
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 them “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 forward. 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 Hong Kong's continued “regulatory capture” by 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 the video above 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 over an hour, but well worth the time, as it’s such an important matter for we Aussies.

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 hegemon 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 protestors’ anthem.
And here’s US House Speaker 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

Revolutions don’t alway succeed...  See: “Arab Spring"

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

Wael Ghonin above helped spark the "Arab Spring” on social media in Egypt.  

He now regrets it.  Another case of good intentions -- the revolution --  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...

“Several dozen Hong Kong retailers likely to fold as protests hit sales, leaving thousands unemployed” | SCMP

“Freedom stickers” on shuttered shops
I said before that there would be an avalanche of bankruptcies because of the demos. Now it's starting: 30% of shops are asking staff to take unpaid leave.  That's the last desperate step before bankruptcy to try to staunch cash outflows. They can weather some time, maybe a few months, but not much more.  Retail works on fine margins, often just 5%. That means a drop of 5% in revenue and you're bleeding cash. The revenue drops recently are around 40%.
This is dramatically bad, worse than the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when I walked past boarded up shops in Tsimshatsui, and worse than the SARS crisis, when we all pulled together to quell the virus.
We lived through those challenges. This is way worse.
People, colleagues, friends, families, are divided. And the protesters appear
unmoved by the damage they're causing to their fellow residents. 
I just watched Carrie Lam giving her weekly presser. She keeps banging on about the damage to MTR stations like she's more worried about turnstyles than people. She needs to do something far more concrete and practical than her promise of "dialogue" next week. Land and housing for example. Listen to Beijing, Carrie! (Beijing has suggested taking land back from developers who are not using it — "use it or lose it" — and using it for public housing. That's a widely popular idea. Ok, there's expropriation concerns and "populist" concerns and proper compensation must be made. In future, it must be a condition of purchase, if it isn't already.  Singapore has worked it out. Why not Hong Kong). 
And just to cap off a crummy week Moodys has downgraded HK to "negative". 

Am I getting too morose? What's the bright side? Maybe that some serious concerns have been forcefully out to government and they know they must do something other than platitudes. There, that's it …

"It is just too hard to survive," said Alexa Chow Yee-ping, managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants, adding that retail chains were trying their best to keep permanent staff despite the gloomy scene.
About 20 per cent to 30 per cent of retailers were now starting to send full-time employees on unpaid leave to cut costs after having let go of part-time workers.

The penguin, my favourite animal… (dogs aside)

The first 100:days or the last 100 days?

Today’s front page

What a marker. 100 days of protests. And the Post is right to say “nobody could have predicted…”. We certainly didn’t.

We supported the demos at the outset. We’ve taken part. But like the anti-Article 23 demos of 2003, we thought it was over when the extradition bill was shelved. (反送中). We needed to give some face.

But no they’ve gone on and now every single demo involves violence. Half of the MTR stations vandalised, for goodness sake. Last Sunday 80 petrol bombs. What was once unthinkable in Hong Kong is now a weekly ritual.

So now we do not support them. Of the Five Demands (五大诉求)some are doable, and at least discussable, while some are simply not possible by a wave of the government hand, like the withdrawals of the extradition treaty was.

Universal suffrage, for example, has to be tackled in LegCo and must have final approval by Beijing. That’s not Beijing’s “interfering hands”: it’s in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution. And releasing all those arrested (1,453) without due process is a breach of the very rule of law that the protesters claim to be upholding.

Continuing to demand immediate redress of the remaining four demands is a recipe for disaster because it will, ultimately, force Beijing’s “interfering hands”, even if not by Tiananmen style brutality.

Not to mention the vast damage to the economy, especially the small and medium enterprises. That’s an irony here. It’s the working class who are most affected by the protesters.

The road to hell…

Meantime Alex Lo suggests caring more about the street cleaners than the rubbish in the streets and caring more about MTR staff than keeping the MTR on schedule. Let people see the results of the mayhem. 

Monday 16 September 2019

Just as we thought things were calming down

Today’s front page 

Clashes in Admiralty, Wanchai, Fortress Hill and Causeway Bay.
All places that people head to of a Sunday. And the hardest hit will be the small businesses. The Dai Pai Dong eateries that operate on fine margins and can't afford a fall of 5% of revenue, let alone the 50% they're facing now. Mass bankruptcies of small and medium businesses are starting. 
We used to run a business in Hong Kong with some 300 staff we know how critical it is to keep that cash flow going to meet the monthly payroll and rent. Something like what's going on now would have been devastating for us. So we can imagine just tough it is for businesses in these areas. 
Meantime the airport has seen 815,000 fewer travellers in August alone. At spending of at least $us1,000 a head that's a USD $815 Million loss to Hong Kong right there. 
The protesters now say that universal suffrage is their main aim. But in 2015 their democracy representatives in LegCo voted down a package that would have been a step forward. Because it wasn't everything. "Perfection is the enemy of action" again. 
There is no way that ongoing violence is going to progress universal suffrage. What will is return of peace and taking it up again in LegCo. There's a process. It's in the Basic Law. We're a Rule of Law place. At least as long as the protesters haven't trashed it. 
And as Ales Lo says, about the calls to have America weigh in (a big mistake in our view):
No thanks, America. Hong Kong has more freedom than you do. It’s safer than all your major cities. Our people live longer, and have better access to public health care, social welfare and education. Our childbirth survival rate is way higher – but then yours is among the lowest of any industrialised country.
LATER: Channel News Asia is reporting that there were injuries yesterday and that at least one of them was someone believed to be a mainlander beaten up by the protesters.
LATERER: The SCMP reports the same, with sub-head: “Black-clad protesters inflict savage beating on unarmed man in Wan Chai, while gangs wearing white also unleash violence, with journalists targeted”. [here]
LATER STILL: Context: the “chaos and violence” is still limited. You watch out for it only to avoid hassles and delays not because you fear for safety. As one John Hwang, a Korean-Australian living in Hong Kong says: “I do feel that for those at home, the somewhat shocking scenes on the news make them think this is happening on a large scale”. It’s not and it’s still safe. Especially in our eyrie here in DB …

Sunday 15 September 2019

SCMP - Beijing is making Hong Kong’s property tycoons sweat bricks – it was long overdue

This is good. At least Beijing is getting on the property tycoons' case. Rather than, say, banging on about "rioters" and "terrorist splittists". The tycoons in Hong Kong have made billions and really owe it to Hong Kong to give something back. I agree with that. Land they're sitting on? Use it or lose it.
Not that the government will step up to the tycoons. They're too pusillanimous. But having Beijing behind them on this issue might stiffen their resolve. And would be widely popular. Populist even…
So, as the orange one says "we'll see”.
LATER: Tammy Tam joins the fray:
But before their “revolution” can go anywhere further, a drastic kind of reform – if not quite a “revolution” – with a clear goal seems to be in the pipeline, ironically initiated by a call from Beijing for fairer redistribution of land, one of the city’s most precious resources. [here]

“Everybody knows the truth about politics” | Peggy Noonan

Copying-pasting for you the estimable Peggy Noonan in the WSJ.
I do like her word "screwball" for Trump; would gain bipartisan support, I reckon…
Case in point for Noonan's claim that the centre is being ignored: Amy Klobuchar, the one democratic centrist on the stage last week. How did she rate? Badly. She's too "boring"! The lasting contribution of Trump: you gotta be captivating (for good or ill) 'cause centre is boring…  at least for the primaries, less so for the election.  
I like Noonan's observation that even T knows he's mental and that's why he goes on about being "an extremely stable genius". Of course he's also being the Troller-in-Chief.
The weird thing is that Trump is not really hard right. He's Trump. For all those folks who are not T, well you can't be Trump - only Trump can be Trump - you gotta be far Left or far Right. Or so it seems. (I know that the "hard Left" in the US would be considered something like centre Left in Europe; I'm talking in the American context). 
Warren has moved far to the left of the views she explored in several books she wrote a decade or so ago, on social and women's issues. Will she be able to pivot back to towards the centre of she wins the nomination? Maybe. But some of her positions are so forcefully articulated it may be hard, and T will make hay.

FWIW (which ain't much): My current bet on winner of the primaries: Warren.  Harris is history. Biden is blathering, Bernie is, well… Bernie. Go get your pudding, Bern.…

Later (16/9):  a reader notes:
Thank you and I think you are right on. Couple of observations: 
  • There is certainly polarization, but you are right, T is not all that right.  It’s the Dems who have moved left
  • However this is the problem with the primary process. The voters there, have to declare their allegiance, are far more polarized than the voters in the general election. So the candidates have to, in this case move to ‘AOC left’, for shot at the nomination and then have to pivot back. For this cycle it is very difficult because of the distance between ‘AOC left’ and where the middle is
  • Peggy Noonan’s piece is great. I agree with her central point: “everyone knows” (Even T) 😊

The Handmaid’s Tale is no fantasy

How can it be that western feminists read The Handmaid’s Tale without looking at a woman in a burka walking down the street and thinking: ‘Hang on, that’s what those bastards do to girls in Gilead?’ While women in Iran are thrown in jail daily for daring to remove the veil, their sisters in Europe and the US continue to be useful idiots for the fundamentalist brutes who try to keep them in the dark.

Saturday 14 September 2019

When you’re holding a Yellowhammer, everything looks like a problem

[Above, the alluring Julia Hartley-Brewer. It’s well worth a listen, a bit over an hour]

The UK government published the Yellowhammer document (Wayback) about the risks of a no-deal Brexit.  Remainers pounced: Brexit is a disaster! It will be chaos! We’re driving over a cliff! We’re crashing out! We’re destroying our economy! 
But if you read the document, you find:
1.  It’s remarkably short, at just four pages. That’s suspiciously short for what’s is said to be that’s an existential threat to the country.
2.  It’s a worst case.  And worst case as worst as the Remainer-philic, Brexo-phobic civil servants can make it. And still, it’s...
3.  ... Just not that scary.  While also...
4.  ... Misrepresenting key issues. (e.g. port delays)
Taking point 4, the thing most people have focused on is that Heavy Goods Vehicles are going to be held up in Dover.  Chaos!  But over and over, the French authorities at Calais Boulogne have said, that’s “La Bullshit” (and here, here and many others).  They’ve prepared and UK has prepared.
Event then, Yellowhammer says there might be a reduced flow of 40-60%. That’s worst remember.  For some months (“up to 3 months”, according to YH, but you don’t think the HGV drivers might work out the paperwork a bit more quickish than that?).  But even so, 3 months of some slight disruption that most Brits won’t even feel, is supposed to be a “disaster”??  Remember Normandy. Remember the Blitz..
Oh, also be worried, be very worried that you might not get your Christmas turkey in time. 
I’m sorry, it’s just not that scary.  Even taking its most extreme worst case.
As for the rest of the YH document, it is risible. Water and Fuel supplies will continue.  There might be some “panic buying”, says the doc, perhaps hoping there will be. Medicines will need careful attention, and even the report itself notes that mitigation measures are being taken.
When I was an intelligence analyst for the Australian government such a sloppy ill-thought out and just lazy document, would have been thrown back in our faces.
ADDED: The anti-Brexit folk seem fixated on the economic angles of Brexit, as if that’s the only reason people voted to Leave. It’s not.  
ADDED: I’ve come across the daily vids of Mahyar Touse, Iranian born Brit.  Here he is on the YH fiasco:

Friday 13 September 2019

“Gloves come off in third democratic debate”. Houston, Texas

Amy, Cory, Pete, Bernie, Joe, Liz, Kamala, Andy, Beto, Julian
Panel: David Chalian,  Nia-Malika Henderson, David Axelrod, xx,
Anderson Cooper, Mitch Landrieu, Jennifer Granholm, Van Jones, Jess McIntosh.
So says the CNN panel, nine Democrats. The diversity in this panel was from the Left to the further Left.
The "gloves came off",  they say,  because Julian Castro was horrid to Joe Biden: "have you forgotten what you said just a few minutes ago, Joe?"  
That aside, they're agreed:  it was a great debate, full of substance, full of ideas and full of plans, well articulated and robustly debated. Especially on guns and health care and… well I've forgotten the third thing they thought was so good. 
Gotta say it's puzzling why some sort of Second Amendment-compliant gun control can't be done, by either party. Andrew McCabe made a couple of practical suggestions a few days ago on  He ought to know as the ex FBI guy in charge of gun background checks. (Fired for lying, by the way). 
Not a single mention of Andrew Yang. He didn't do especially brilliantly, but as competent and engaging. and ought to have been covered as the only one with new ideas.its truly puzzling. A whole hour after the debate and not a single mention of Yang. The Yang Gang will be livid. (At the end: Yang mentioned in passing by Van Jones). Later: Yang interviewed by ABC, but I didn’t see it.  And interviewed by Cuomo on CNN, and came across as personable, nothing we didn’t know.
The CNN panel is 100% CNN or Dem Party operatives. If they want to win the White House they really need to have someone from the GOP on these sort of Panels. They shouldn't keep on with purely masturbatory meanderings. 
The big winner, according to the panel was Barack Obama. 
All up the debate struck me as boilerplate. I wasn't impressed. Until I was told by CNN that I should be.…

In The Spin Room:

“Trump is a complete dickhead. Discuss”

 I’m watching now. The ABC panel is not at all biased. Not at all. 
The tenor of the questions:

  • “Trump is a horrid, vicious racist. How would you do better?”
  • “Trump is a cruel monster who has imprisoned immigrant children in cages. What would you to to improve things at the border?”
  • “Trump has criminally ignored climate change, an existential threat to the whole of mankind. We’re doomed. You’ve got 30 seconds. Go!”
Imagined candidate thoghts:
Kamala “I think of my niece... oh... and I was Attorney General, so I know stuff”. 
Liz: “I have a plan!”
Joe: “um, where are we?”
Andrew Yang: “$1,000 per month to everyone!” 
Spartacus Booker: “Newark is the best, man!”
Castro: “can I speak some more Spanish now?” 
Beto: “oh dude, where’s my skateboard? Oh and racism. Bad.”
Bernie: “I want my pudding”

And all of them together: “we’re going to cancel student debt, and medical debt and credit card debt and climate debt and, and....ALL debt”. 
A debt cancellation party.
The CNN panel afterwards thought it was all rather good.  Great ideas, great policies, clearly elucidated and robustly debated.
To me it was softballs, bromide and boilerplate.  I wasn’t impressed... until CNN told me I should be.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Back to normal, HK?...

Today's front page in the SCMP, first time with nothing about the protests

Again, my text has disappeared.
I made this post as the first front page for months that’s not about the demonstrations.
That doesn’t mean things are back to normal.
Any time you’re going out, you have to think about where you’re going, whether you’ll get there and back.
Resolution, if there be any, is a long way off.