Wednesday, 29 June 2022

China reports 3 new Covid cases

Call me naive, call me skeptical, but three cases??! In a population of 1.5 billion??!
I dunno. Just doesn't sound even possible.

Sunbathing on Avenue of the Stars

 

Chris Stubbs in the Letters makes good points about the need to steer to normality. Suggests no mask mandate outdoors, which I agree, but would go further, no mask mandates at all, because IRL, they don’t work

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Falklands War 40 years ago

Forty years ago Margaret Thatcher became the “Iron Lady” because she defended the Falkland Islands.

Argentina invaded because of problems at home. Invade a place you’ve deemed to be your own, which was “stolen” from you, and get the kudos. And so it seemed for a few days. Until Britain decided to counter attack.

Bottom line: it was a battle between Geography and People. The Falklands are near Argentina. Ergo we have the right to them. The People argument is: most of the people living on the Falklands want to remain British. Ergo we respect the peoples rights.

I’ve visited the Falklands twice, on the way to Antarctica. I was amazed at how British your average resident was, in the streets of the capital Stanley. A later referendum had 99.3% voting to stay British. I guess the 0.7% was a few Argentina-born goatherds. Anyway, it was a proper referendum, overseen by the United Nations. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss notes: the real colonialism is to occupy a place where the people don’t want you. That’s what Argentina is doing. 

The above documentary is great. It shows leadership and strategy. And how tough the war was. 

Surely when we think about who a place should be ruled by, it’s what the local people think that’s most important. Not geography or some history from 85 years ago … as the case in Taiwan.


Monday, 27 June 2022

“‘Incredible milestone’: Nasa launches rocket from Australian space centre“

Nasa has successfully launched a rocket from the Northern Territory – the first commercial space launch in Australia’s history.

Troublesome winds caused the countdown to be aborted several times before the first of three scheduled rockets launched at about half past midnight (ACST) on Monday from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Dhupuma Plateau, near Nhulunbuy. [More]

“The beginning of the end of the American Union as we know it” | Really?

Overturning  Roe v Wade is because it's bad law. Even legal scholars on the Left have said so. It's not a "Handmaids Tale". It's down to democracy -- people deciding by voting -- at the local (State) level.
Here

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Claudia Mo Redux. Pushing for independence gets you in trouble

Claudia Mo, Hong Kong activist, now in jail, is the main item in today’s Financial Times article. Here

I wrote about Claudia Mo a couple of years ago. She did call for independence for Hong Kong, a silliness that was never on. If she’d had one jot of wit about what the tyrant to the north was all about, she would surely have known this. Which, regarding “independence” for Hong Kong, is not now, not then, not never, no not never, nay never, never never no more. Independence for Hong Kong? No. Never. Never no more. Ok?

That said, we had lots of freedoms here in HK. At least, until the Mo & Co pushed for independence, via “Hong Kong First”, via “Localism”, via “self-determination” (really??) and brought down on us all an entirely predictable backlash. The National Security Law of June 2021. For all of us. Thus, Claudia Mo is instrumental in crushing, for all of us, the freedoms we all had. (or at least some of them, for we remain a free and safe society).

Here is my letter to the editors re Claudia, which was published at the time. 

I don’t think she should be in jail. Leave it at that. Her views, celebrated by the Financial Times, her own, personal and rather dodgy views, have harmed all of Hong Kong. I say “dodgy” meaning her saying she’s against “mainlandisation”. If they were not also Han Chinese, that would be classic racism. As it is, it’s surely bigoted. Me, a foreigner, living here in Hong Kong as long as Ms Mo, thought that more Mandarin being spoken in Hong Kong was good. Because I speak Mandarin. Mo doesn’t like it. So she makes up stories about Chinese -- “mainlanders”! -- taking over Hong Kong, when all it was, was more mainlanders coming to Hong Kong, so we heard more Mandarin. To repeat: I think that Mo’s views, and those of her acolytes, are quite simply bigoted. Belted on to a demand for “democracy” to whitewash her horrid views. 

References

1.  Financial Times story, to get it without paywall, Google  "She was loved for standing up to China. She may die in jail” and try the link. Otherwise, the paywall version.

2.  My earlier post about Claudia Mo: “Protect the freedoms we already have, Claudia!”. February 2020

3. My letter, “Bigotry in the protest movement”. November 2019

ADDED: I don’t know Claudia, but I do know her husband, Philip Bowring. He was the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, back in the 1970s, when I was here as the Aussie Embassy point man for economic issues. Philip was on our list of folks to call on when in Hong Kong on official reporting duties. I like his writing, though lately he tends a bit far left for my tastes (the sort of leftism that got us the Beijing Backlash). Now, of course, I empathise with him. How does it feel, what’s to be done, when your wife is in the clutches of a horrid Beijing? 

Friday, 24 June 2022

Jumbo Icon becomes double metaphor

The first metaphor is being towed out of Hong Kong, a metaphor for so many Hongkongers departing “in droves”.

The second metaphor is the sinking. Like, you know, the Titanic, like the end of times for Hong Kong.

Amazing that the HK government and (I assume) the insurance company approved the tow-away, at this time of year. Things are beeezy, and you can see on this huge basically barge-thing has very low freeboard. Wouldn’t take much — clearly didn’t take much — to flood the ground floor.

It sank at the Paracel Islands (西沙 Xi Sha). We’ve sailed right by them — a low-lying group of islets, claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and China — racing down to Vietnam. The Jumbo sank just to the SE of North Reef island. Which means they were cutting through the archipelago. Both times we’ve left North Reef to port, heading south, bypassing the islands. Anyhoo… the water there is not 1,000 m deep as the tug captain said. At deepest it’s 200 m.  Salvageable? Not worth it, I’d say. Let it become part of the reef. A great new diving site!

Of course there’s conspiracy theories. But one I don’t buy is the insurance angle. It just doesn’t fit that the insurance company approves the trip and then straightaway Jumbo sinks. Something stinks.

I had a meal on Jumbo just once, in the 80s. Didn’t think much of it. Too kitschy and bright lights. Still, it’s a shame it’s gone. 

ADDED: The Chinese name is 珍宝, Zhen Bao which is a transliteration of the English, made to sound like “Jumbo” and also meaning “Precious Treasure”, which is kinda nice.  Now it’s a pirate treasure.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

China’s Covid-19 health code system is ripe for abuse and must not outlast the pandemic

China's Covid-19 health code system is ripe for abuse and must not outlast the pandemic
Except it probably will…  

Ludicrous. HK Rugby Sevens castrated

Ludicrous. Every weekend I'm watching Aussie Rules football at stadiums in Australia taking up to 100k crowds. No masking, no quarantine, no vax visa. Deaths and hospitalisations remain steady. What on earth are our HK apparatchiks thinking?? [Here]
Check out article, click screenshot. It’s a laughable prospect this HK Rugby Sevens in November. All the commenters mock the “ideas” of our apparatchiks. 

“Appalling old Wax Works”

New Chief Exec John Lee and his waxworks

Depressing isn’t it? That’s our “leadership”. Apparatchiks All…

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

“Behind every closed shop is a story of disappointment and despair”

Check out the dressed goose!
“Behind every closed shop is a story of disappointment and despair”.

And has been since the beginning of the pandemic, for those not of the “laptop class”. Those who run their own businesses and have to meet a payroll.

Here is the Post again taking against China's zero Covid policy. Which is sacrosanct within China. I’m encouraged every time they publish against the grain. 

Front page today is about the extraordinary measures our Hong Kong government is taking to prepare thousands of local apparatchiks to meet their Beijing bosses during the 25th anniversary of handover to China on July 1. 

Monday, 20 June 2022

The UK's Decision to Extradite Assange Shows Why The US/UK's Freedom Lectures Are a Farce

Glenn Greenwald has been long time supporter of Julian Assange. Me not so much till recently. And till UK gave in to the US’ extradition request. Shameful. 

Australia must lobby against the extradition. After all, Aussie new PM Albanese has spoken strongly against when he was in opposition. 

End the Covid-19 hysteria, reopen Hong Kong and give us back our lives

 

Jing went to Art Basel, HK. I used to. Not this year. Because of this
sort of nonsense: guards telling us what to do...

What I’ve been saying for ages: that the government and the media is keeping the hysteria alive. It’s them. 

Here’s Mike Rowse:

It is now clear that the first action incoming chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu needs to take on July 1, as soon as he has been sworn in, is to open up Hong Kong to the outside world and to its own people.

There is not a moment to lose. Jumbo Floating Restaurant being towed out of Aberdeen Harbour has been seen all over the world and interpreted by many – friend and foe alike – as symptomatic of our demise. It has also seriously damaged morale at home.

But this is just a symptom of what is wrong. The cause is the sense of panic, veering on hysteria, which has gripped the community over Covid-19. The government and media share responsibility for creating and sustaining this feeling of doom, but only the government can lead us out of it.

Take the issue of numbers: every government statement and news bulletin for months has led with the headline figure of cases detected in the preceding 24 hours. Yet, we all know that what counts is the number of new hospitalisations and of those, the number requiring intensive care. [More]

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | crushing F & B

So it’s not just me boycotting places with these nonsensical rules. Not that it’s their fault. It’s solidly the governments. And their enthusiastic supporters, our very own South China Morning Post who sent their intrepid out to check which bars and pubs were not following the nonsensical rules. 

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Communist humour


Chinese State Sponsored humour…

LATER: Hmmm … the tweet has disappeared. I wonder why. Got mocked? They realised its not funny? Lucky I got the screenshot. Celebrating the launch of China’s third aircraft carrier in as many years. 

Good question: why do we fear 1,000 cases a day

Another comparison: Singapore has 2-3000 cases a day, smaller population, yet going about business as usual.

ADDED (20 June 2022): Occasional readers overseas tell me: “Germany and Portugal all like normal” and “London normal, no restrictions”. Now, we knew that. But I live here in Hong Kong which continues nonsensical policies, so hearing first hand of normality out there is both uplifting and frustrating. 

ADDED: Jing was told she needed a PCR test, so a trip to Wanchai, testing, a day wait and result by pdf, which had to be printed out in colour with the Wanchai staff helpfully suggesting that if she didn’t have a colour printer she could come back to Wanchai to get a colour copy, a process that would be another half day back and forth. Luckily she has her own colour copier so the negative test was printed out, taken to the airport, last night, where … it was not needed(!). Not required, not demanded. Declined when offered. So, WTF?? There can’t be simple coordination between Airport and Wanchai? When the airport is operating at only 2% capacity? Prepandemic, we used to check in luggage downtown and it would end up on the plane. Magic!  Could they, would they, can they even be bothered, to do something even simpler? It’s just yet another example of service falling short, with the excuse “oh, it’s Covid”.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Hollywood Realizing Chinese Market Not Worth Creative and Moral Costs | National Review

…Hollywood is coming to the sad realization that pursuing Chinese money is not worth the creative and moral cost. Disney effusively thanked several different arms of the Chinese police state in Xinjiang Province — gracias, Gestapo! — in the credits of 2020’s Mulan, a movie built to appeal to China, and the Communist Party banned it anyway. China demanded that Sony censor Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood for its unflattering portrayal of Bruce Lee — and Lee was not even a Chinese national. (He was born in San Francisco and raised in British Hong Kong.) Tarantino refused, and Sony properly told China to stuff it. The same movie could easily have been banned for a different nonsensical reason: It starred Brad Pitt, whose movies were banned from China for years because he had starred in Seven Years in Tibet. 

“Out for a cheeky pint” Covid check list

More from Harry
SCMP’s daily cartoonist, Harry, Commenting on the latest stuff you gotta take with you to go out. Now it’s a RAT test, in addiction to your vaccine pass (triple), your “leave home safe” app, your ID card and your mask. Many have cancelled going our coz of the hassle. And for some reason the Post has taken ot upon itself the task of policing adherence to the rules.

The Post also continues putting stories marked “Coronavirus crisis” stories on its front page, because… well… just because. And then, periodically, wonder why people remain “fearful”. “Don’t be fearful” they say from time to time, while every day front-paging a “coronavirus crisis”. Go figure.

Singapore’s main paper, The Straits Times has nothing about Covid anywhere on its pages, let alone on its front page. They’re getting along with normal life. 

Meantime, one of our household members is heading off to Portugal on Sunday. We'll see how that goes. Heading off to Europe, or wherever used to be such an everyday thing. 

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | 1,000 cases a day. So?

Singapore has 2-3,000 a day yet no news of it in The Straits Times. The news there is news. Whereas here we front-page it, under the label “coronavirus crisis”, then wonder why people are in fear. 

Pandemic adviser, David Hui, says we ought focus on hospitalisation and deaths rather than raw case numbers. He’s right. It’s been so for well over a year. But his government and this newspaper take no notice.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | “Refusing to give an inch”

I noted this article yesterday, this is the print version today. Most comments at the site mock Carrie Lam for her stubbornness. She made exactly the same mistake in 2019 when she refused to reconsider her Extradition Bill in the face of mass protests. That led to more demos, then daily riots and vandalism across the city and Beijing’s National Security Bill in 2021. Learnt nothing. Tone deaf. She’s in character to the end. Good riddance. Though Johnny Lee will be even more stubborn, me guess.

“On the menu: Flip Flop Curry” said one of the commenters yesterday, noting that only the day before Lam had been talking about easing pandemic restrictions to start regaining some of our International City vibe.  “Politics trumps economy” said I at the site. “Politics trumps intelligence” responded another.

Note the underlined bit above: “pandemic adviser” professor David Hui says showing  RAT test before entering bars or pubs is more of a “gesture”. You can’t tell when a RAT test was taken, so what’s the point?  I have a pile of negative results sitting on the coffee table. Care to borrow one? A lot else has been “hygiene theatre”, even the masking — which on a macro level shows no benefits. And those plastic dividers in restaurants. Meantime we’re watching a Netflix special this year in Spain and England, and you’d not know they’d had (some ways still have) a pandemic.

Poor us. Caught on Beijing’s cleft stick. Carrie Lam is religious. She fears god. More temporally, she fears Beijing. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | Zero Covid policy and eco growth don’t mix

Zhou Xin “…virus balancing act just impossible”. You couldn’t say this in the mainland media, where zero-Covid policy is unquestionable dogma. Related: “Covid rules in China bewildering”. And: Hong Kong reports 800 new cases yesterday; China 138. China, with 187 times the population of HK… Huh?

Meantime, we learn that China will add to its GDP, all its expenditures on Covid testing. Over next few months Beijing budgets 180 Billion RMB (US$ 30 Bn) in Covid testing. That’s equivalent to around 1% of GDP, which they are adding to GDP. It’s like digging a hole, filling it in again and adding the costs to your annual income. Testing does nothing to add to wealth. 

And “Carrie Lam won’t budge an inch in response to business chambers calling for easing”. After saying a few days ago we had to try to get back our international competitiveness. All comments are mocking her. Eg:

Dish of the Day - Flip Flop Curry - yesterday she stated Hong Kong must reopen to maintain its Global Status  Perviously keeps moving the goal posts. Must reach 70% - 80% and 90% Vaccination Rates  Full of broken promises

Monday, 13 June 2022

"Lam urges next leadership to toughen up for ‘political struggles’ “ | SCMP

I’m not a big fan of what Beijing used to call “harmonisation”. What the west calls “unity”, as opposed to horrid, and always, seemingly, increasing “divisiveness”. This sounds nice, but is not the way of the world. "One Divides into Two". As Hegel said. As Mao Tse-tung said. As PF said

Here, snip below, is Carrie Lam, our Chief-exec, speaking fluent Commie-talk. 

“[The government and the people] need to go in the same direction. If our thinking was too different, it’s meaningless to hold our hands and walk together,” she said.
“But now that one country, two systems is back on the right track with national security protected and the electoral system improved, this should be the best time, since the handover, for us to move forward.”

And how do we think that the “government and the people” will go in the same direction, how we will “walk together"? Why, by the people accepting what the government says, of course.

We, in the West, have decided that the adversarial system is the one that in the end gets better results, even as it’s messier along the way. People get to thrash out their differences. Enough of this “one party” idea. Hopping along with Carrie, happily holding hands, skipping along the yellow brick road, only to find, at the end, a fraudulent wizard.

By the way, this same issue is something I often wonder about in the US. There’s only one Cable station on the conservative side, Fox News, and there are many on the Left -- CNN, ABC, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, etc. Yet many on the Left want to shut down Fox, the one and only viewpoint that differs.

We need differing viewpoints.

Not “harmonisation”, not “unity”. These are today’s Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, aka, "Wizard of Oz” aka "Oz, the Great and Terrible”, Wizard the fraud.

“China is the biggest threat to the West” | Triggernometrry

 

Click above to go to the video
I like John Lee. I think he’s sound on China and its challenge to the geopolitical landscape. 
Worth an hour of your time. For a major world issue. China in the East and China in the West. 

Snips (not necessarily in order of his talk):
  • “Statistically China is engaging in the greatest re-militarisation of any country in absolute and relative terms in peacetime history”. 
  • Importance of Communist Party membership. Now 100+ millions. They include many of the middle class, so the middle class has been suborned. 
  • Authoritarian governments like China can rapidly increase economic growth in a poor country. That becomes more difficult as the country becomes richer. (PF: with this analysis, is John subject to some of the same self-delusion that led the west to open up their markets to China in the 90s and 00s, in the hope that doing so would lead them to become more open and liberal? IOW, that authoritarian China might manage to move past the “middle class trap”, in a way that other countries have not? I hope not, but maybe).
  • Taiwan: Tied to Xi Jinping making it his legacy. That’s dangerous. Though the Russia experience in Ukraine may have given us a few more years of breathing space. 
  • SEA countries don’t want China to dominate. Don’t like its values. 
  • China is Leninist. As I’ve often said: an authoritarian-bureaucratic-state. Closer to Mussolini’s Italy than any other country today. Concerned mainly with maintaining power, not so much with making revolution. 
  • Uygurs: Why is China imprisoning them? Because Beijing can’t stand differing viewpoints. (PF: agree, but also the issue that China fears they might join the East Turkmenistan Liberation movement. 
  • Why China is punishing Australia. The “Fourteen Grievances”. From 43'00
  • The West and other open economies need to understand importance of enlightenment structures. Enough of constant self-abasement. (Comes with a first-generation immigrant perspective. Similar to Konstantin Kisin)
Dr John Lee is a political scientist, specialising in Chinese political economy, at the Hudson Institute. Dr Lee has authored several books about international security including 'Will China Fail?' and 'The Free and Open Indo-Pacific Beyond 2020' as well as writing for some of the world’s most popular publications including The New York Times, The Australian, and Wall Street Journal.

Comment? Dissent? 

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Lab leak theory of pandemic origin is still on the table | WHO

They’ve tested nearly 100,000 animals at the wet markets.
Result = zero covid. Animals: “Not guilty, M’lud!”
My headline above Is more accurate than the one at the South China Morning Post: “Covid-19 data points to animal origin…”. No it doesn’t. For there is nothing new to add to the zoonotic theory of transmission via animals at a wet market, which has been extensively studied, whereas the lab leak theory has not been allowed, by the Chinese government, to be studied. Yet there remains a lot of circumstantial smoke — including early reactions by virologists that the genome appeared “engineered” — around the lab leak theory. 

One quote from the Post report:

The group of 27 scientists from around the world said the closest genetically related virus was a family of coronaviruses identified in horseshoe bats in China in 2013, which is 96.1 per cent close, and in Laos in 2020 with 96.8 per cent genetic overlap, but they were not close enough.

 Now, we all know, don’t we, that we share 98+% of our DNA with monkeys, yet look at the difference. 96% similar doesn’t cut it. As the leader of the SAGO group notes herself! The “they were not close enough” is from the team leader, Marietjie Venter. And it rather destroys the Post’s own headline. 

Thus the SAGO report does not exonerate Wuhan Institute of Virology, still less Chinese officials.  

References:

Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO)

Dr Campbell has thoughts 

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Jonathan Haidt | The problem with social media

Talking with Lex Fridman and referring to Zuckerberg. We are blessed to be able to listen to some of the smartest (not necessarily wisest) people in the world, live in high-def.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Kimmel v Biden

Click for video
This is funny. And kind of weird. ... The extent to which Kimmel carries Joe’s water. 

Kimmel asks the “hard questions”. Right.... 

Zero mention of the guy that tried to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh. Just yesterday. Which is surely a news story -- man tries to execute a Supreme Court Judge. Except not, because it’s just someone trying to kill a conservative Justice. 

Check out the comments. At the very left-of-centre YouTube. All critical of Biden. 

ADDED: Another take of this interview, by Megyn Kelly

1918 Seattle: “No mask No entry” and 49 more wonderful historic photos

 

A Street Car Conductor Not Allowing Passengers Aboard Without Wearing A Mask During The Spanish Flu Pandemic. Photograph Taken In Seattle, Washington, USA In 1918
(Click on it for more)

Monitoring the pandemic | HK between a rock and hard place

Watching the Queen’s Jubilee it was indeed inspiring to see the huge crowds, out and about, a million on Pall Mall, maskless, enjoying the fine days. We here in Hong Kong can’t do that. It’s going to be a pretty grim silver jubilee, 25 years since handover to Hong Kong this coming 1 July. Because …

Kind of shocking that Chief-exec Carrie Lam admits we’re “caught” between zero-Covid and living with  the virus. Indicates erosion of One Country Two Systems.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

So much hating on the US

As I expected, most comments support Chandran Nair’s article, which is pretty much all about hating on the United States. My comment at the site

So much hating on the US. Which gave us: winniing WW2, Marshall Plan, constitutions of Germany and Japan that allowed them to recover; stopping Stalin-inspired, China-supported North Korea invasion; then the GATT, WTO, WB, IMF, all of which China (and other AsianNations) joined; freedom of navigation for SCS and Straits of Malacca. Free for anyone. But go ahead and hate on the US. Go ahead and enable China's rule of the region!  Be careful what you wish for.   
(Final note, and a *huge* tell: What is the country that most people sitll want to emigrate to? China? Japan? Hint: no it's not them....)

You don’t have to like everything that America does or hate everything that China does. I know both of their societies. I’ve lived in both. If it’s a choice between a world dominated by the United States or a world dominated by China, I choose the United States. For all its faults, for all its failures, for all its frustrated freedoms and all its unmet ideals, I still like those freedoms and ideals, still prefer the United States' striving towards them. 

Not so with China. 

China not only doesn’t strive for freedom and democracy. It actively mocks them. China is now going all ad hominem on the US, criticising it for “systemic racism”-- the US' criticism of itself! As if China is not the most racist country in the world! So I’ll go all ad hominem on the commenters and say that those that buy into Nair’s take on this -- that America “needs to be reined in” -- are ignorant lickspittles. So there!

(prove me wrong)

ADDED: An Occasional Reader draws attention to “Blinded by self-belief” from Harvard professor Dani Rodrick: 

To those who wonder why we should care about the decline of America’s relative power, US foreign policy elites respond with a rhetorical question: would you rather live in a world dominated by the US or by China?

In truth, other countries would rather live in a world without domination, where smaller states retain a fair degree of autonomy, have good relations with all others, are not forced to choose sides, and do not become collateral damage when major powers fight it out.

To which: sure. No argument. It’s just that that’s not the way of the world works and hasn’t done in recorded history… thinking Greece, Sparta, the Moors. Even China, back in the Song, the Ming. Australian, now living here at a crossroads between East and West, I’d sure like it if it were not so binary; wouldn’t we all? Just that “One divides into two”. 

Pedant's Corner: I’m not sure it’s a “rhetorical” question in the quote above. It does need an answer. In this  part of the world there are plenty, some I know personally, who would answer “China”.

 

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

“Beijing shows China century can wait” | Shi Jintao

Shi Jingtao is making the point I’ve touched in over the years. That China can’t be a superpower as long as it coddles its victimhood complex. It’s also true that it has/had a lot to be victim about. It constantly reminds us of its “hundred years of humiliation”. The Opium Wars, unequal treaties, barbarians, not just at the gates but right inside the  backyard, the house, dictating what you could do, where you could go, where you couldn’t. Vast swathes of eastern China carved up by the imperialists, the colonialists. So there is all of that. And fair enough, to be pretty pissed off with it.

But still, if you want to have soft power, and Beijing has said it does, you can’t forever be playing the victim, or speeching at the podium with barely suppressed passive aggressiveness, as do China’s “wolf warriors” and senior leaders. You can’t be super sensitive to the rest of the world criticising you, as China is — think Xinjiang, think investigation into the source of Covid (for which they punished Australia). 

Shi also makes a point I’ve been making about the June 4 commemorations… or rather lack of them. Making hing Kong ever more like any other city in China. But also making a “Streisand effect”. Now ever more people know. 

All except that, ironically, that Shi would be unable to publish in China an opinion piece like this very one.So we’ve still got some brave people, a brave newspaper, and some leeway. All is not (yet) lost.

Comments?

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

“Nuclear power the way to cut HK emissions” | My letter published

 

Click to enlarge. Or Online here

Commenting on “Four lessons Sweden can teach Hong Kong on reducing carbon emissions”. My submitted version has been softened a bit by the letters editor…

ADDED: “Pushing for ‘zero Covid’ unrealistic” click here and scroll down.

“Revolution of our times” | Documentary gets the Streisand treatment

Today’s South China Morning Post front page
I’d not heard if this doco, till now, thanks to this warning — a creepy warning, it must be said, what with “we’re coming to get you”, ‘n all — from our new police commissioner, the boyish Raymond Siu. 

That’s the Streisand effect. Well done, commissioner, now many more will stream it, than before when no one had heard of it. And a warning about June 4 thrown in for good measure.

Grim stuff, here.

Monday, 6 June 2022

"Why Masks Work, but Mandates Haven’t” | New York Times

Spot the difference? New York Times study of 11 US states that had
mask mandatres, vs the 39 which didn’t.
It’s official! The New York Times said it! [WebArchive]. Masks work, Mask Mandates don’t. 

A while ago I concluded the same. To wit: masks work (lab testing proves it), yet on a large scale, as in mask mandates, they don’t seem to work. My theory is based on the fact that masks are tested in the lab, and there are various levels of efficacy. Cloth masks block around 10% of covid virus particles; surgical masks block 30% to 50%, and N95 masks block up to 95%. 

My thinking was if you have a hyper-contagious virus, even 5% escape, let alone 90% escape is enough to transmit the virus. That’s what accounts for the difference, I suggested, for why masks work in the lab, but don’t work IRL. (By the way, N95 masks are NOT recommended by our own hyper-safety conscious experts, because of the CO2 inhalation issue).

David Leonhardt in last week’s New York Times comes to a similar conclusion

The evidence suggests that broad mask mandates have not done much to reduce Covid caseloads over the past two years. Today, mask rules may do even less than in the past, given the contagiousness of current versions of the virus. And successful public health campaigns rarely involve a divisive fight over a measure unlikely to make a big difference.

He thinks the difference is because people don’t wear masks properly (true) and then take masks off indoors to eat or drink (also true) and that this window allows the spread of a virus that’s hyper contagious. 

Take these two observations together -- people not wearing masks properly and continuously, together with my observation that even a small amount of escape is enough for transmission -- and you end up with the answer to his headline: why masks work (in the lab) but mandates don’t work (because folks are fallible and the virus is super catching). 

So there you have it. From the New York Times, which has from the beginning of the pandemic been a supporter of the “quicker, harder, deeper” lockdown narrative, including being super keen on masking. Now they see the data, which don’t support mandates. Good on the Times for having the integrity to publish this. It goes against a masking narrative, that it’s everywhere good, and everywhere effective. It’s simply not. 

Leonhardt doesn’t mention specific examples of how mandates don’t work. Here are some: 

  • The UK. England has had no mandates at all for nearly a year. Scotland, N. Ireland and Wales all have had, and continue, mandates. Scotland especially strict. The figures for hospitalisation and deaths are no different. In some cases, England is doing better. 
  • A study in Kansas: in 2020 24 of its counties had mask mandates; 81did not. Result: sometimes the counties with no mandate did better (measured by new cases), sometimes they did worse, but overall the effect was negligible. 
  • A study of US states: some with, some without mandates. Result: imperceptible difference. (if anything those without mask mandates performed slightly better)

Leonhard’s fair point is: if masks made a difference on a macro level, you’d see it in the data. But we don’t. Contrast that with the efficacy of vaccines. They have quickly and clearly reduced deaths, clearly seen in the data.

Leonhardt proposes a compromise: those who want to wear a mask do so. Those that don’t don’t. That’s the way it’s been in hospitals forever. We patients didn’t wear masks. The doctors and nurses did.

Meantime: in our ongoing Hong Kong idiocy, we have a member of our very own Gang of Four medical experts who have our government and the South China Morning Post in their thrall, professor Yuen Kwok-yung head of infectious diseases at HKU, says we ought to mask forever. Because it’ll help reduce the flu. I was worried about this at the beginning, that there’d be mission creep and people would suggest we wear masks to stop the flu, but I thought, I hoped, that common sense would prevail. No such luck. 

Talk of “concrete actions” shows weakness not strength | Australia-China relations

China Foreign Minister Wang Yi, lays down the law
China says Australia must adopt ‘concrete actions’ to improve ties. But new Aussie PM, Anthony Albanese responds:

“It is China that has changed, not Australia, and Australia should always stand up for our values and we will in a government that I lead,” Albanese said ahead of a summit in Tokyo last week with US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Japan and India – fellow members of the Quad security alliance that Beijing has slammed as a deliberate tool to contain China and stoke confrontation.

It’s true that it’s China that’s changed not Australia. And not in a good way. It’s clearly since the 2012 installation of dear leader Xi Jinping that it’s happened. 

It’s not wrong for Australia to call out imprisoning a million Muslims in Xinjiang; it’s not wrong to criticise Chinese threats to bomb and kill Taiwanese civilians — all living in a democracy not a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship; it’s not wrong to challenge China’s oil-grubbing grabs in the South China Seas, which are guaranteed safe passage by international treaty; it’s not wrong to call out a draconian National Security Law for us here in Hong Kong; it’s not wrong to call for an international independent investigation into the origins of the worst pandemic in a century. Any country, like China, that can’t handle such criticisms is a country with weak self-confidence, with an overdeveloped sense of victimhood. The Opium Wars finished 180 years ago, fellas.

Yet it’s Australia who must adopt “concrete measures” according to lickspittle Foreign Minister, the profoundly unlovely Wang Yi. And we know what those “concrete measures” are, don't we? They amount to stopping all that horrid slander or China, to apologise for it, amd even better to perform a literal kowtow for good measure.

In the 80s I made my money by doing business in China. But even then, when we, our company, were asked to speak in “doing business in China” we warned about two things: (1) Reciprocity in all agreements and (2) Don’t get too reliant in China business, as end of the day it’s a Leninist dictatorship. Australia followed neither piece of advice. Privately we did. We had business and property in China, but divested before the turn of the century. 

Australia’s exports to China fell 26% last year. But we made them up selling elsewhere. Good. Let’s keep that up. The disengagement from China. For it cannot be viewed as a trustworthy partner. The attempted humbling of Australia, “killing the chicken to frighten the monkey”, has backfired. Countries of the EU have noticed, and are now looking to reduce their reliance on China. 

Wang’s “concrete actions” statement is a statement of weakness. Weakness of self confidence. A self confident country doesn’t talk like that. China is willing to deal with Russia, a rotten war-mongering  kleptocracy, but not Australia, a vibrant democracy that just peacefully changed its government. That says it all.

Enough!

ADDED: I wrote the above before looking at the comments, which I’d assumed would be solidly anti Australian. But they aren’t. Most are pro-Australia. Which is a change from months ago, when the “50-cent Army” got in on the act as soon as the subject was Australia-China.  ADDED (2): Looking at the most upvoted, they’re solidly anti-Australia mostly of the “Australia is a puppet of imperial/murderous/hypocritical US” variety. True, we are a US ally. And we’d be silly to take no account of our major ally’s policies. But we are no puppet. Here’s the top rated comment

Australia should learn to cooperate with all her neighbors in Asia instead of being a willing US puppet, instigating conflicts in the region. The US empire is declining. Australia's future, like its geographic position, isn't in the west. It hasn't been.

Which only shows the ignorance of the commenter, for (and I know his from personal experience in Australia’s foreign service) Australia is deeply engaged in the region, has been since the end of the Second World War, in per capita terms more than any other country, including China. Australians, let’s recall, fought and died for the independence of Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Papua New Guinea (where my own father fought) and our very own Hong Kong. Later we fought for the independence of South Korea some of the China lickspittles may wish we’d failed and it was all North Korea now. But again, enough!

ADDED: Now China’s  fighter jets are shooting chaff at us

Home made everything

Home-made sourdough toast, home made Brie cheese, home grown tomatoes (self grown from the compost)

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Monitoring June 4 | a sprinkling of candles

The Streisand effect all over again. Wouldn’t they — Beijing and our local lackeys —  be better off simply ignoring June 4. If they want to forget it. This way, it’s back in the front pages. So maybe those of us who support remembering June 4 ought to be pumping for more Barbra.

Half of our family was in Beijing on that June 4, of 1989, when the infamous clearing of Tiananmen Square took place, by the army in tanks, leading to many killed, numbers never known but guessed from dozens to thousands. That half, my better half, was young, not involved, but watching and talking, too, to the young soldiers, super young, boys they say. Who were country lads, thick out-of-town accents, and to a man, to a boy, scared and jumpy. 

And another half of our family was in Australia having just got back from a trip to Beijing, amid all the flutter and flaggery and fine fettles of students demanding democracy. Left Beijing, that’s to say, two days “early”. (But was back very shortly after, to see the damage, the bullet holes, people greeting each other with a mordant 你还活着呢? Nǐ hái huó zhene. You’re still alive, then!). I could never have believed that such a cataclysmic event could be so comprehensively forgotten. 

Yet June 4 has been comprehensively forgotten, at least in China. I can say that from asking people about it every time I was there. Oldies, yes, though not keen to talk; anyone under thirty, no way, no memory.

Over the years, though, Hong Kong has memorialised June 4. Until now. Because a National Security Law, the loud backfire to 2019 demos and riots managed to decrease our circles of liberty. To bolshy western consulates and a few brave candle lighters.

By the way, note the Pride flag on the US consulate. It’s “Pride month”. Because LGBTWI+ issues don’t get anywhere near the recognition they should he rest of the year (/sarc). We are not surprised to learn that the United States fly no Pride flags in their embassies in the Middle East. Or Indonesia, or Malaysia, for that matter. Or Nigeria. Or Pakistan. Hmmm…

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | clubs and bars hammered

One thing I notice: if you add up the numbers of cases in bars and clubs, it doesn’t seem all that many. Is it just that they are easy targets? Meantime the government continue to keep closed camping and outdoor bbq areas.

Friday, 3 June 2022

“Return of the dragon: Stanley beach dragon boat race after 2-year pandemic hiatus”

Dragon boat racing returned to scenic Stanley and Tai O in Hong Kong on Friday for the first time in two years amid the coronavirus pandemic as hundreds of rowers and revellers flocked to the beach to soak in the festivities under the sweltering heat.

Qu Yuan was a principled public servant who threw himself in the river when his advice wasn’t accepted by the emperor. People threw zong zi, rice balls, in the river so the fish would eat them and not him.

I wonder if the message might not be a touch seditious for today’s Hong Kong. An incorruptible official criticising the emperor? Could it be subject to the National Security Law? After all, June 4, tomorrow, memorialised every year since 1989, won’t be marked in any way coz said law. And so June 4 will be forgotten here, as it is already forgotten on the mainland.

China builds roooly, roooly big stuff

This is going to be tug-towed across the world, from northeast China to northwest Africa. 

‘Uge