Wednesday 3 August 2022

Muddling along in Hong Kong (aka “how are we doing?”)

Pool by our house, looking East to Hong Kong Central
EARLIER, in the “how are we doing?” series…

ADDED: I realise this may seem like apologia for Hong Kong. It’s not, and I’ve often been critical of both Beijing and our own government. I guess that whenever one tries to balance an issue, xxx, on which the world has a set negative narrative, one will be charged with “oh, so you love xxx”. All I’m doing here -- if I'm doing anything -- is to put a couple of counter points, to what seems to be the narrative out there, in the west, of Hong Kong as a thoroughly ruined place. It’s not what it was. Then where on earth is?

I’ve been asked in recent years “how are you guys doing?” — since the 2019 riots and since Covid — and I’ve answered in a couple of blogs posts: “How are we doing?”. And some Occasional Readers continue asking, so herewith latest version. 

Occasional Readers ask how it’s going here. “Isn’t it sad for Hong Kong?”. I wonder, but don’t ask, do they mean: (1) “sad" about what China’s up to? Or do they mean: (2) “sad" because of our tough Covid restrictions.

(1) What China’s up to in Hong Kong is not so much “sad” as predictable, and actually better than might have been. Consider: 

Back in 2019, critics of Beijing, the protesters, ex-governor Patten, were all saying that Beijing is a “tyrant” (Patten: “clapped out tyrants”). And then were surprised that Beijing acted like a tyrant?! Which it did in the face of protests, which morphed into riots, many of which I attended in person, which called for the downfall of the Communist Party (“tyrants”!), which called them a “Black Party” (黑党), which called for “independence”, which called for for “liberation”, all this thrown at the tyrant?! And then they’re surprised? It might  have resulted in the tanks coming in, Tian’anmen-style, crushing protesters. 

Instead Beijing passed a National Security Law. Do we like it? Of course not; many call it “draconian”. And indeed, it’s too broad. It’s been used to jail some of the protesters from 2019. If you’re one of them, and went out calling for “independence” for Hong Kong, then it’s kinda, well, too bad, buddy. That’s subversion and most countries don’t like it. But a “police state”. No. I agree with Christine Loh in today’s paper on this (though for sure I don’t agree with a lot else that she says today):

Allegations that Hong Kong has become a “police state” – as the term is commonly understood – are untrue. This is not a totalitarian jurisdiction controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises every activity.

Hong Hong is nothing like so much of  the foreign media claims. Some American conservatives talk as if it was, literally, PLA garrisons in China, marching into Hong Kong, crushing all rebellion and taking over the government to install a police state. It’s nothing like that. We still have nearly all the “Seven Freedoms” as I’ve called them, that we had before the protesters -- freedom to read and write this blog zero Great Firewall, freedom of movement, of religion, of currency, of conscience. The main English language paper in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, remains robust in its international reporting and Opinion, as I show in my survey of articles in the Post

(2) Covid restrictions: there’s a lot of angst and annoyance about these. I’ve noted many of them ongoing, under the labels Zero Covid Policy. Pretty much everyone has had it with the quarantine and how much to of kilter we are with the rest of the world. That’s not so much “sad” as “maddening”. For me, it means staying put. I don’t want to travel anywhere, while there are still mask, vaccine and quarantine mandates. I’m waiting for a “more normal” time. 

So, I guess, all up, we’re muddling along. 

Oh... I ought to say that we do appreciate, continue to appreciate, other aspects of Hong Kong.

Safety: HK is very safe. Always has been and still is. One appreciates this a lot more the more one sees of the craziness in the world. Here, you can go to any part of the city, any time, day or night, man or woman, Caucasian or not, and be perfectly safe. 

Hong Kong is clean, neat and tidy. Yes, even our waters are getting cleaner, and we have regular beach cleaning activities. 

Efficiency: apart from the nonsense at our now nearly empty airport, HK is still very efficient. 

Health system: For me, as a mid-seventies guy, with health issues, the medical system is fantastic. World-class if you pay for it. High-quality if you go public, cheap, good, and efficient.  And, related, and increasingly important (for me) is having full-time live-in household help. That’s something easy in Hong Kong, not so easy in most other places we might ever think of going to: Australia or the US. 

Centrality: The China-US-Taiwan issue that’s on the front burner today, with Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taipei giving Beijing palpitations, reminds us that we’re at a confluence of world events. China, love it or hate it (and I do both), is a major world story. And we’re right here. Sometimes being fought over, which we’d rather not. But still....

Thoughts, comments? Email me