Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hi There Fearmonger

However, we did have an intelligent conversation - that may be a bit difficult for Trump to handle.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Speaking Frankly

Today would be Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday if he was still alive - and it's interesting how reactions to Sinatra define one's age.  When I was a teenager, growing up on the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, Sinatra was the epitome of unhipness (though 20 years earlier he had been the very epitome of hipness).  A liking for Frank's records then would have guaranteed the ridicule of one's classmates - though plenty of older people were still buying them.  Yet over time I came to appreciate his art and enjoy his recordings - or at least his earlier ones.

I think part of the problem was that in his later years, Frank tried too hard to keep up with the changing times.  This led him to record material - like Hey Jude, and probably Paul Simon's worst song, Mrs Robinson - that were simply not right for his voice and style.  The result was somewhat embarrassing, like seeing one's grandmother twerking.  But within his own comfort zone, Sinatra was unmatchable.  No one making the transition from youth to middle age can fail to be moved by the album September of My Years, Sinatra's meditative musical reflections on turning 50.

As a young man, I saw my musical hero Bob Dylan and Sinatra as standing at opposite ends of the musical spectrum.  yet Dylan's most recent album, the Sinatra tribute Shadows in the Night, did not come out of nowhere.  Dylan sang at Sinatra's 80th birthday celebration, and probably grew up on his music the way I did on Bob's.  We all tend to remain most attached to the music of our youth.

I will have more to say about music another time, but for now, let me just echo Bob's words: "Happy Birthday, Mr Frank".  And if you want to deliver that message musically, you may be interested to learn that the ubiquitous song Happy Birthday to You is finally out of copyright.

Country Matters

It looks like the Rotary Club of Kowloon could use some spelling lessons!  Be that as it may, at a time when the water that Hong Kong imports from the mainland has been found to be heavily contaminated with bacteria, it's a good idea to demonstrate public support for our beleaguered country parks.  In addition to supplying much of our clean fresh water, they are a vital haven for wildlife as well as being ideal for hiking, birdwatching, cycling, photography, and general relaxation - not to mention a peaceful retreat from urban noise and chaos, something that will increasingly be essential if we are to retain our sanity in the face of JHong Kong's expected population growth.

So get out and enjoy their scenic beauty tomorrow, post your pictures online, and show the government that we don't want this precious asset handed over to property developers to be smothered in concrete.

Making It Better:
Save Our Country Parks Alliance - and also on Facebook

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Bringing Down the Curtain

Terrible Twins

Trump Card

A number of American state governors are calling for a ban on Italian immigration following the St Valentine's Day Massacre, claiming that many Italians are terrorists and cannot be trusted.  Governor Bobby Swindle - himself a son of immigrants - spoke for them when he said: "They may look like peaceful refugees, but who knows how many more Al Capones are hiding among them?"

Meanwhile maverick presidential candidate Crazy Horse went further, calling for a total ban on all immigration by Christians.  "Time and again my people have been subjected to unprovoked terrorist attacks by white men claiming to be furthering Christian civilisation'" he said.  "The well-known terror incidents like Wounded Knee are part of a pattern of Christian terrorism against peaceful civilians - so many in fact that Wikipedia has a whole category listing Massacres of Native Americans.  The only solution is to stop all of these people, with their dangerous religious ideology, from entering the country.  We have no choice."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sports Quiz

Q. What is the difference between the Hong Kong football team and the Hong Kong government?
A. The football team can stand up to China for 90 minutes; the government can't stand up to China at all.

What a bunch of spineless wimps we have running Hong Kong!  Nowhere else in the world would a reporter even consider it necessary to ask a government minister which team he was supporting when his local team was playing - and nowhere else would the answer be so equivocal.  So fearful are CY Leung and his minions of offending the central government that CY effectively evaded answering altogether, while Health Minister Ko Wing-man (whom I used to consider one of the more sensible members of the sorry crew that passes for a government here) hedged his bets by declaring support for both teams.

According to the Basic Law - to which the government constantly promotes adherence - the function of the Chief Executive is "to represent Hong Kong".  If he can't even be bothered to support the territory's sports teams against external opponents, he is obviously failing in this legal obligation, and should be sent off by the referee.  He usually appears to be playing for the away team anyway.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Some people aren't going to like this, but...

The massacre in Paris is of course horrific, but innocent civilians are getting killed every day by French, British, American, Russian and Syrian bombing.  Is it any less terrible because governments are doing it?  Why don't we see the same outcry against it?  I really want to know.

Monday, November 02, 2015

All the worst

As a general rule, I try not to delight in the misfortunes of others; and I have seen enough dysfunctional families to sympathise with those trapped in them.  Yet against my better judgement, I found it hard not to feel a smidgen of pleasure when reading this story yesterday.  CY Leung has caused so much harm to Hong Kong that it is only natural to feel a twinge of enjoyment at the discomfiture he must feel when seeing his family's dirty linen hung out in public.  Ignoble of me, sure, but I';d be willing to bet that many other Hongkongers feel the same way.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Triple Jeopardy

When someone is found innocent once and the prosecution appeals, one may suspect a miscarriage of justice.  When the person is cleared for a second time, only to face yet another trial, it begins to look very much like political persecution.

It is of course entirely coincidental that Stephen Chan supported Henry Tang for Chief Executive.

Photo borrowed from View Hong Kong blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why is Queen Elizabeth II like a bar hostess?

Watching President Xi's visit to the UK on television, it suddenly occurred to me that the Queen's job is remarkably like that of a bar hostess.  Consider the similarities:
  • You don't get to choose your guests - the [Prime Minister/Mama-san] does that for you.
  • You have to be friendly and smiling towards them no matter how unlikeable they may be.
  • Encounters tend to follow a standard - and not necessarily entirely truthful - script: [the long-established friendship between our two countries/You handsome man, me love you long time].
  • Some subjects are best not discussed: [and this was seized by our troops when they looted the Summer Palace/Does your wife know you're here?]
  • You have to encourage the guest to keep buying [British exports/drinks].

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Up Yours

In view of the South China Porning Most's (as we may now call it) report that the above photograph shows "a naked victim pinned down in what appeared to be a [fire station] changing room while a group of men, some half-naked and others in firemen’s uniform, tried to insert an object in his bottom", the Fire Services Director's choice of words may have been a little unfortunate when he announced that the Fire Services Department would "launch its own internal probe".  Ouch!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Who wins?

Hong Kong has once again proved it is different from anywhere else on earth.  While I am sure there have been previous cases where FIFA has fined national teams because their fans have booed the anthem of an opposing country, this must be the first time in history that a team has been fined because its fans booed the anthem of their own country.  Beijing may consider the fine a victory for China, but is it?  In fact it could be seen as a moral victory for Hong Kong, because it draws the world's attention to the fact that many Hong Kong people do not want to show any allegiance to a dictatorial state they had no say in becoming part of.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Has it been a year already?

Last week was the first anniversary of the most inspiring event in Hong Kong since 1997.
Looking at President Xi Jinping at official meetings, have you noticed how he shakes hands then turns away - not to smile for the camera, but as if he is expressing disdain for the person he's greeting?  It's an odd mannerism for a politician.

Shock as British Politician Refuses to Commit Mass Murder

30 September - British politicians rushed to express their outrage today as new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that he would not be prepared to murder thousands of innocent people.

Prime Minister David Cameron said "Since the Crusades, indiscriminate slaughter has been an essential tool of British foreign policy.  Britain has a long and proud record of the brutal killing of enormous numbers of people - the starving of the Irish in the mid-19th century, the concentration camps of the Boer War, the Amritsar Massacre in 1919, the bombing of Dresden in 1945, Kenya and Malaya in the 1950s, and the genocide of Tasmania's aboriginal population, to name but a few.  Now this fellow Corbyn comes along and wants to overturn all this magnificent heritage of violence in favour of building world peace.  Has he no respect for tradition?"

Some members of Corbyn's own party joined in the angry criticism.  One asked "The Americans have at least one massacre a week in their own country.  How can we expect our American allies to take us seriously if we're not even prepared to drop the occasional nuke or two?'

Making It Better:
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

How many shoe-shiners does it take to commemorate the end of a war?

Almost 300, apparently.  Chief Executive CY Leung is leading a delegation of 296 handpicked Hongkongers to attend tomorrow's ceremony in Beijing at which the Chinese government will celebrate 70 years since the end of the Second World War and Japan's invasion of China by having large numbers of soldiers march around.  Presumably we - the Hong Kong public - are paying for this trip.

The list of those invited shows that most of them are the usual United Front suspects - from the Quat Doctor to the odious Robert Chow.  Some of them are multi-millionaires like James Tien and Allan Zeman who could easily afford to pay for their own tickets, though I doubt if they will be asked to.  A token 1% of the group is made up of representatives of the watered-down end of the pan-democratic spectrum, but the party as a whole is hardly a cross-section of Hong Kong society.

How many of these people, I wonder, bothered to attend the recent events marking Hong Kong's liberation from Japanese occupation - once a public holiday here - and paying tribute to those who fought and died for Hong Kong?  And how many of the few surviving warriors who fought for Hong Kong were invited to the event in Beijing? It would be nice to have a Hong Kong government that paid attention to Hong Kong occasionally, instead of being entirely focused on sucking up to the central government.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Does their compulsive urge to destroy beautiful vegetation stem from some deep-rooted childhood trauma over being forced to eat up their spinach or broccoli?

[First frame adapted from the delightful Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.]

Monday, August 17, 2015

Labour's Leadership Dilemma

It's ironic that while the remnants of the Blair/Brown New Labour leadership in Britain continue to label Jeremy Corbyn unelectable, ordinary Labour voters - and many who had given up on the party but are now flocking back to it - are voting for him in droves in the Party's leadership election, making him the clear favourite to win.

The essence of "New Labour" was the concept that only by abandoning almost everything it stood for could the Labour Party get elected to power.  That worked for a while - in part because of the charisma and enthusiasm of the then young Tony Blair - but resulted in an administration that was effectively a more Euro-friendly Thatcher Light - continuing to turn nationalised industries over to greedy businessmen at the expense of ordinary consumers, removing in the name of deregulation anything that protected people from unscrupulous corporations, and slavishly following America's catastrophic foreign ventures.

These policies certainly attracted a sizable number of middle-class voters away from the Tories, but they alienated many traditional Labour voters who held fast to the Party's principles - particularly in Scotland, where the generally left-wing Scottish National Party succeeded in capturing much of Labour's electoral base.  Now with the LibDems as a credible alternative effectively wiped out by their ill-judged alliance with the previous Tory government, with Tony Blair and his former ministers facing probable intense criticism in the long-delayed Chilcot report on their role in launching the disastrous Iraq War, with UKIP nibbling away at the Tory vote on the other end of the political spectrum, and with the 2008 banking crisis and the subsequent Eurozone crisis making the "New World Order" appear positively frayed at the seams, the time may just be right for an "Old Labour" revival.

I've been out of the UK so long that I've lost my right to vote there, but I shall be watching developments with interest.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

More fiddling

CY Leung plays Nero again with a big announcement at his last LegCo appearance - primed by an obviously staged question from DAB leader Starry Lee.  I'm as much in favour of clean streets as the next man, but doesn't the government have more important things to do something about?  Their problem is that genuine solutions to the real problems would require offending either their Beijing overlords or the tycoons who control our economy, so they are forced to fall back on sideshows instead to give the appearance of doing something.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Private Beach Art

Our Private Beach by American artist Barbara Ann Whalley.  You can see another of her paintings here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Booby Crap

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen announced today that, having taken legal advice following the recent conviction of a female protester for assaulting a police officer with her breast, the Hong Kong government now plans to prosecute every woman in Hong Kong for unlawful possession of offensive weapons.  Exceptions will however be made for girls below the age of puberty and women who have undergone a double mastectomy.

"It is true that we may need to construct many more jails to accommodate three million additional prisoners," said Yuen, "but we cannot afford to have half the population walking the streets freely with these fearsome devices attached to them.  This is a small price to pay to protect the safety of our gallant policemen."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Discord in the Wolf Den

The sudden stepping down of two government ministers yesterday provides fertile fodder for speculation, particularly as Chief Executive CY Leung was typically less than forthcoming in his announcement: "I shouldn't discuss in public the background, the details of these changes, but suffice to say that both gentlemen will soon issue a press release in their own names and you will soon be able to find out the reason why".  Except we didn't find out - Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing merely said he was "glad to retire", while Civil Service Secretary Paul Tang  cited unspecified family circumstances and expressed a desire to spend more time with his family - always a popular excuse for politicians eager not to discuss the reasons for their departure.

Leung should of course discuss the circumstances in public - firstly because we pay the government's salaries and are entitled to know what is going on; and secondly because uncertainty breeds rumours which can often be more damaging than unpalatable truths.  The mystery is compounded by the fact that the men were variously described as having been removed, retired or resigned.  Given that the two cases came at the same time, one must suspect that they reflect disagreements within Leung's inner circle rather than mere coincidence.  It's doubtful the ministers were sacked for incompetence, because there are far more obvious candidates for that fate - useless (National) Education Secretary Eddie Ng and Financial Secretary John "Never a Correct Forecast" Tsang spring to mind.  Maybe, according to Regina Ip's bizarre theory, the two were just too introverted for their posts.  Or perhaps Tsang Tak-sing, like his brother Jasper, showed occasional heretical signs of thinking outside the Beijing box, despite being a lifelong loyalist. 

Loyalty is hardly a quality one can attribute to Tsang's replacement, Homer Simpson lookalike Lau Kong-wah - an opportunist turncoat who (it is often forgotten) began his career as a democrat before switching sides to the DAB, making him probably the only politician to have lost LegCo elections on both sides of the political divide.  Despite being soundly rejected by the voters in the last LegCo poll, he wormed his way back into a position of power when CY indicated his contempt for the electorate by appointing Lau as Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs.  Having demonstrated his incompetence in this role with the failure of the government's political reform package, he is now being rewarded with a promotion.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Another strange appointment announced yesterday is that of former Housing Director Duncan Pescod as the umpteenth chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority - supposedly after a worldwide search, which sounds unlikely.  Strange because we had people with an arts background - none of whom stayed long - appointed during the phase when construction of the buildings was the main concern, and now we have someone with a housing background when we are supposedly getting close to seeing some actual cultural activity on the site.  But then this mega-project has been mishandled from the beginning - true to Hong Kong's preoccupation with enriching the property developers, debate on what should be constructed on the site took precedence over actually determining the community's cultural needs and wishes first and building to meet them.

Acknowledgement - the picture is from the Wolves Throne blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Hong Kong Government Finds a New Enemy - on Two Wheels

In its never-ending vigilance against threats to the community, the Hong Kong government has identified a new danger to the public - an elderly bicycle repair man.  After recently taking action against another elderly man for the heinous crime of telling a fib about his age so he could continue working past retirement age, the authorities are now descending to an even lower level of petty-mindedness.

If they really want to punish people for obstructing the streets, why don't they take action against the masses of smugglers who routinely block entire thoroughfares in the northern New Territories to sort out their goods?  Or do they just like to pick on easy targets who are not doing any harm?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Middle Way

Incidentally, does the Pro-China Morning Post have no competent sub-editors left after its recent purges?  The prepositions here are all over the place, and there's a definite article missing:
See also: The Middle Is a Lonely Place

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The middle is a lonely place

Poor Ronny was a lonely boy.  He searched through the whole LegCo playground for someone to play his favourite game, Consensus, with.  But he soon found that all the other children in the playground belonged to a gang.  On one side was the Pan-Dem Gang.  Ronny joined them for a while, but they only wanted to play Pure Democracy, and they could never agree on who should be leader of the gang.

Across the playground was the Beijing Gang.  They claimed to rule the playground, but were so incompetent that when they had a fight scheduled against the Pan-Dem Gang, 34 of them didn't even turn up in time to take part - and half of them didn't even like their own gang leader, Big Bad Wolf.  The Beijing Gang claimed they also wanted to play Consensus, but Ronny soon found that under their rules, you had to agree with them on everything.  That wasn't the version of the game that he enjoyed.

In the end poor little Ronny became so sad that he decided to leave the playground altogether and go away to play somewhere else by himself.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Is you is or is you ain't my country?

The defeat of the government's ill-conceived political reform package would by itself have made yesterday a delightful day.  The cock-up which saw most of the pro-government legislators miss the vote in an apparent botched attempt to trigger a quorum count is just wonderful icing on the cake.

While speculation on how they could be so stupid will no doubt continue for weeks, one other odd thing about yesterday also calls out for an explanation.  The predictable frosty statement from Beijing, curtly stating that this outcome is not what the Central People's Government wanted, was delivered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Given that the CPG is usually so sensitive about any suggestion that Hong Kong (or any other area not totally thrilled to be part of the country, for that matter) could possibly be anything other than an integral and never-to-be-severed part of the glorious motherland, it seems strange that the statement came from the Ministry supposedly dedicated to dealing with the barbarians outside the Celestial Empire.  Any explanations?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seven Reasons the Pan-Democrats Must Stand Firm

It was Parliament of Liars time yesterday as the Legislative Council began its long-awaited debate on the government's political reform package.  Before the members began their dissection of the bill, its two main proponents both used misleading and arguably downright dishonest arguments in its support.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, as ATV news reported it, "told lawmakers that the public opinion is clear" and they should vote accordingly.  Excuse me?!  It is true that a few months ago the package commanded modest net support (though never an absolute majority) in the opinion polls, but opinion has gradually been swinging against it, with some recent polls showing more voters against it than in favour.  Certainly there is no great public consensus welcoming the package - it would be truer to say that public opinion is deeply divided on the issue.

Then Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen "told lawmakers that the government's political reform package has made use of all the leeway available under Beijing's framework for the 2017 Chief Executive election" (ATV again).  "Yuen also dismissed suggestions by the pan-democrats that the nominating committee would serve to vet candidates based on their political inclinations, and anyone who wanted to run for the top job could do so if they get the support of the committee."  This is about as meaningful as saying that "anyone who wants to can be rich in Hong Kong if they can win the Mark Six lottery" - we all know that the whole point of the nominating committee is to ensure that only Beijing's favoured candidates can get on the ballot.

The overall thrust of Yuen's argument was to paint the limitations on democracy as a legal matter about which nothing could be done.  This drew an uncommonly caustic response outside the chamber from the usually urbane Civic Party leader Alan Leong, himself a lawyer: "I would respectfully ask the Secretary for Justice to shut up!"

As the debate continues today, the likely outcome appears pretty much as expected.  But just in case any of the pan-democrats may be wavering in their determination to veto the bill, here are seven good reasons why they should stick to their guns:
  1. Public opinion is far from solidly in favour of it - see above - and the 40% of the population opposed to it deserve to have their voice heard.
  2. It is not a legal matter - the biggest flaw in the Basic Law is that the body charged with interpreting it is not an impartial legal tribunal, but a partisan political body with a vested interest in the outcome of its own decisions.  The NPCSC's interpretations of the Basic Law are inevitably political decisions, made in China's perceived interests.  This means that far from being an immovable barrier to progress, as Rimsky Yuen suggests, they can be changed if the Central People's Government can be persuaded that it is in their interest to do so.  Though the SAR government is pretending that the current decision - whichever way it goes - marks the end of the debate, the need for a more genuinely representative system in Hong Kong will if anything become more apparent in the months ahead, and the issue will inevitably be reopened, with the possibility of a different decision.  Indeed the Basic Law specifically states that certain decisions will be made in the light of "the actual situation in Hong Kong".
  3. Legislators are not robots - even if it were true that public opinion largely supported the package, it has long been accepted that elected representatives in a parliamentary democracy are not delegates, bound to follow the public's wishes.  Indeed, if that were so, we could have government by public opinion poll with no need for a legislature at all.  Any student of politics will be familiar with Edmund Burke's classic statement of this principle in 1774: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion".  Our legislators may not always be wiser than us, but they should at least be better-informed on the matters they deal with - it is part of their job to be so. 
  4. Right is right and wrong is wrong - following on from this principle, even if a majority of the public support a particular position, that does not automatically make it right - otherwise we would still believe that the Earth is flat.  A legislator who considers something wrong has a duty to follow his conscience and vote against it.  Without this, we could never have moral leadership in politics.  Many of the great advances in human progress - civil rights, the abolition of slavery, the end of capital punishment - have not initially enjoyed overwhelming popular support, but were pushed forward by courageous and far-sighted politicians.
  5. Responsibility to constituents - notwithstanding that elected representatives are not obliged to follow every whim of the public, there is an expectation that they will nevertheless stick to the general principles on which they sought election.  The pan-democrats were voted into office by those who wanted them to pursue genuine democracy, and it would be a betrayal of their constituents to settle for the fake version offered by the government.
  6. Hypocrisy - the government's claim that LegCo members should follow public opinion is of course merely a tactic, not a principle - you would have to be very naive to believe that if the opinion polls suddenly showed 60% solidly against the reform bill, the government would start telling the DAB to vote against it on the same basis!
  7. The consequences - but what is so bad about the government's package?  Mainly this: the biggest danger is that the proposed system, while systematically excluding large swathes of public opinion from candidacy, gives an illusion of democratic choice.  The next CE could - and probably would - use this spurious mandate as an excuse to pursue policies which would advance the CCP's apparent agenda of cultural assimilation, tilting further towards "One Country" and weakening the "Two Systems" safeguards which keep Hong Kong worth living in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Spot the Contradiction (1)

14 June 2015 - Chief Executive CY Leung pays his respects at the funeral of Yeung Kwong, a ringleader of the 1967 riots in which 51 people were killed, mostly by bombs.
16 June 2015 - Chief Executive CY Leung warns that illegal activities will not be tolerated in Hong Kong following the alleged discovery of bomb-making materials in Sai Kung.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Invading Influenza Army

ATV demonstrated the other day - not for the first time - that they desperately need a numerate news editor.  Reporting on plans to give new flu shots to elderly residents of care homes, Arthur Urquiola stated that "Some 200,000 doctors will be on hand to administer the injections".  According to government statistics, Hong Kong had 13,203 registered doctors at the end of 2013 - about 1 per 550 members of the population - so either our medical schools have been extraordinarily busy in the past year raising that proportion to 1 in 35, or there's something seriously wrong with ATV's figures.  Furthermore, with only 57,200 people in such homes, that many doctors seems a little excessive for the purpose.

Perhaps all those thousands of people on the streets with wheeled suitcases are visiting medical volunteers bringing in urgently needed vaccine supplies.  But in that case, what are they taking back home with them?  I think we should be told.
[Picture: CNN]

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Carrie On Regardless

The wit and wisdom of Carrie Lam:

ATV News: "Chief Secretary Carrie Lam urged pan-democratic lawmakers who have vowed to veto the government's reform proposal to put aside their ideals in pursuit of democracy and support the plan."
ATV News: "Lam shouted slogans and called on everyone not to listen to people who claim the package is not real universal suffrage."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Return to Paradise

If you're thinking I haven't posted anything for a while, it's mainly because I was away in Europe for three weeks, and then didn't return to watching the news for a week after getting back to Hong Kong.

You can't imagine how gloriously refreshing it was to take a break from Hong Kong politics - not to be subjected to CY's robotic intonation of Beijing's latest nonsense every day; Rita Fan's gleeful smirk as she again tells Hong Kong people they haven't a hope of achieving their legitimate aspirations; Carrie Lam's forced smile as she again reads from a script she must know is rubbish, while dreaming of her retirement home in England (poor England!); Maria Tam gazing adoringly at Xi Jinping like a lovestruck groupie who's just won admittance to Led Zeppelin's dressing room; greasy Greg So and the equally oleaginous Rimsky Yuen peddling their latest line of Beijing-approved snake oil; obscure mainland academics who've never been near Hong Kong posing as experts on the place; the permanently angry Leticia Lee berating anyone who doesn't love the CCP, or who does love someone of their own sex; Robert Chow repeatedly trying to get in the Guinness Book of Records for gathering the largest number of dubious signatures on a petition; imported blue ribbon thugs; and all the rest of the unlovely establishment crew.

When leaving London I usually buy a decent bottle of single malt at Heathrow - a more expensive exercise every year.  This year it was Talisker Dark Storm, which cost me around £42.  Then in transit at Frankfurt, I noticed they had it at a special offer price of €44, so I picked up another bottle.  Out of curiosity, I checked the duty free price in Hong Kong on arrival - HK$730.  Let's compare:
Then I did actually hear one bit of current news: the Hong Kong government, alarmed at the recent drop in tourist revenues, is planning a new campaign to promote Hong Kong as a shoppers' paradise - something it hasn't been for more than 20 years.  The irony here is that it's largely the overwhelming influx of visitors, mainly from the mainland, that has jacked up commercial rents to unprecedented heights, forcing prices up to far above paradisiacal levels.  So the government wants to attract more of them.

Anyway, here I am back in paradise...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

If the Message Stinks, Repeat It Louder

When not blatantly brown-nosing China's leaders with an editorial (above) that could have been cloned straight from the front page of the China Daily, the South China Morning Post is usually sucking up to Hong Kong's business lobby.
Naturally, therefore, it joins the hysterical chorus demanding a third runway at Chek Lap Kok.  The public, it tells us, "can be excused for feeling confused about the development of the airport's third runway".  The Post suffers from no such uncertainty, assuring us with an air of smug superiority, "that the project is still challenged by different sectors at this stage underlines the need for better explanation."

That the project has failed to win public support is arrogantly assumed by the writer to be a mere failure of communication.  All that needs to be done, in his (or her) view, is to keep shouting the same message at the public until it gets across to them.

Does it not occur to these dumbclucks that the real reason the plan "has yet to get broad public support" may be that the case for the third runway is far from proven?  Perhaps the public is not convinced because the case for the project is not convincing.  For a start, even the editorial admits that it has not yet been decided who will pay for this grandiose mega-project, estimated to cost HK$136 billion -- though such massive infrastructure ventures typically end up costing far more than the originally budgeted figure.

Although the government conducted a public consultation exercise on the issue back in 2011, this was based on a highly selective presentation of the facts, and several trends have changed since then.  China's economy has slowed, along with the rest of the world's, probably leaving forecasts of future demand overstated.  Climate scientists' warnings of the dangers of global warming have become more urgent, though carbon emissions were not even considered in the original environmental impact assessment.  Even "pro-China" politicians are now calling for a cap on tourist numbers as Hong Kong creaks at the seams to accommodate too many mainland visitors.  And recent studies suggest that the beleaguered local Chinese White Dolphin population - whose habitat sits in the way of the proposed land reclamation - is under even greater stress than previously thought. All these have negative implications for airport expansion.

In fact so many factors are involved that it is doubtful that any forecast of future air travel demand can be more than a best guess, depending on what assumptions one chooses to make.  Economic developments, fuel costs, the ongoing movement of manufacturing away from the Pearl River Delta deeper into China, the adoption of larger planes like the Airbus A380, the effect on wildlife, the impact of China's expanding High Speed Rail network on demand for air travel, the shortage of local construction workers - so many uncertainties surround all these variables that any prediction is likely to be well off the mark.  In fact the only certainties -- increased noise and air pollution if the project goes ahead and the likely wiping out of our local dolphin population -- all support the cancellation of the expansion plan.

"Our status as a regional aviation hub" the Post argues "hinges on whether we can compete with other airports" -- but readers' comments beneath the original editorial question whether we can -- or need to be -- a regional aviation hub in a region with four other airports. Indeed, some suggest that the region's airspace is too crowded already to permit the number of extra flights required to make the additional runway cost-justifiable.

Of course those in the aviation sector -- with the Post as their cheerleader -- predictably insist that the third runway is urgently essential, because it will benefit them.  But is is by no means clear that it will benefit the community as a whole.

Making It Better:
Worldwide Fund for Nature

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lighten Up, Loonies!

The Hong Kong government's arrogant insistence that it's right about everything, even as it steers the ship of state ever closer to the looming rocks, is annoying enough - it's come to the point where I feel physical revulsion every time I turn on the TV and the face of CY Leung, Gregory So, Paul Chan or one or two other particularly creepy ministers looms out at me.  Now it seems some of these people are going totally off the mental rails into the stratospheric realms of hyperbolic simile, far removed from mundane reality.

The government has been seeking HK$35 million from the Legislative Council to set up an Innovation & Technology Bureau - a request opposed by many pan-democrats in the Council.  The proposed Bureau is supposed to spur the development of the technology sector in Hong Kong - though many in the IT sector, one of its principal intended beneficiaries, doubt it will achieve anything other than adding a few more overpaid political jobs to an already bloated roster.

Partly for this reason, and partly out of their generalised (and not entirely ill-founded) principle that anything the government wants to do must be wrong, the pan-democrats in LegCo are opposing the government's funding request.  Hong Kong politics as usual, so far - but this is where things start to get crazy.  First Chief Executive CY Leung likens moves to prevent the Bureau's formation to "killing a baby in the womb".  Then ExCo member Fanny Law literally brings down a curse on opponents of the Bureau, suggesting they will "be destroyed by heaven and Earth" (apparently heavy stuff in Chinese).

As if this isn't extreme enough, she compounds her self-righteous posturing by likening the bill's opponents to terrorists, declaring "Just like the Islamic [State] when I saw them kidnap people and just chop off their heads ... I was just heartbroken."  Well, lighten up, CY and Fanny - the pan-democrats may often be irritating, even to their own supporters, but so far as I'm aware not even the occasionally rabid-mannered Wong Yuk-Man has yet started kidnapping people and brutally slashing their throats.

It's not a moral issue, not a matter of life and death - just a new government department that may or may not help boost Hong Kong's technology sector.  Probably not - I tend to agree with Civic Party legislator Alan Leong that the administration lacks the vision necessary to boost innovation and technology in Hong Kong. In fact, efforts by governments usually have far less to do with the expansion of a particular economic sector in any country than the chance confluence of the right conditions for its growth.

So less of the heavy talk and more of the calm discussion, please - and Fanny, if you continue to have these delusions, you can get free psychiatric treatment at government hospitals in Hong Kong.  Just ask - they won't cut your head off!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Slow Painful Death of ATV

Amid all the hopeful talk of finding new investors to revive ATV's fortunes, no one seems to be paying much attention to one awkward fact: the station's licence expires later this year.  Since it has already failed to pay its licence fee on time and cannot even afford to pay its staff at present, the prospect that any sane broadcasting authority would renew its licence is virtually nil (though in Hong Kong's current crazy political climate nothing can be entirely ruled out).  Anyone putting money into ATV would be extremely unlikely to recover their investment in less than a few years, even if they could turn the station around and persuade people to watch it again, something which would require substantial additional investment in some decent programmes.  Meanwhile they would run a strong risk of the licence not being renewed, sending their investment straight down the drain.

Unless an insane investor comes along, therefore, the station is likely to expire completely within a month or two, opening the way for a renewed licence application from HKTV which the government would find it very hard to turn down this time.

Meanwhile the station still limps feebly along.  The English evening news, now curtailed to 15 minutes, shows little sign of being edited and turns up some entertaining bloopers.  Apparently all the pilots of the Taiwanese airline that had a crash recently are going to be "evacuated" (evaluated).  Even more surprisingly, the Costa Concordia was "a floating hotel 290 km long".  That being the distance from Hong Kong to Shantou, it's not surprising it was so difficult to salvage - unless they mean 290 m, the sunken ship's real length.

And as for the sports news, why does Bo Leung insist on referring to every goalkeeper as "the custodian"?  That's a pretentious word that sports hacks occasionally use for stylistic variety, but no ordinary football fan would do so - the goalie or the keeper will do nicely, thank you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Overlooking the Obvious

Ten facts that should be obvious to any reasonably intelligent person here, but apparently not to the Hong Kong government:
  1. Hong Kong is already grossly overpopulated and doesn't have room for more people.
  2. A growing population will need more green space for relaxation and recreation, not less, so we should stop eating away at it for other purposes.
  3. Pushing through the government's blatantly undemocratic political reform proposal is more likely to exacerbate discontent in Hong Kong than to eliminate it.
  4. With more and more people and a finite supply of land, the village house policy is clearly unsustainable (apart from being a scam whereby "New Territories villagers" who don't even live in Hong Kong any more come back to grab their piece of subsidised land).
  5. There is a limit to the number of tourists Hong Kong can accept without straining its infrastructure to breaking point.
  6. The bridge to Macau will never be economically viable or environmentally sensible.
  7. If you're going to build a high speed railway between two cities (not a bad ideas in itself), the termini should be at major transport intersections to facilitate onward travel, not stuck in the middle of nowhere.
  8. As one of the richest cities in the world (in terms of GDP per capita), Hong Kong could easily afford to eliminate poverty and give all its citizens a decent standard of living - there is absolutely no reason why 80-year-old ladies should be reduced to scavenging cardboard boxes to survive.
  9. When small businesses complain that they can't afford to give their workers a better deal, it's not because wages are too high, but a) because too much of their revenue goes to paying inflated commercial rents, and/or b) they're greedy (pick one or both).
  10. When the mainland insists on selling us more water than we need at a price much higher than other cities in China pay, it's time to look again at the economics of desalination, not just meekly accept whatever non-negotiable deal is on the table.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What does CY Leung have in common with al-Qaeda terrorists?

...apart, that is, from them being unlikeable people with rigid inflexible minds intent on forcing their own narrow ideology down everyone else's throat?

Well, neither appears to have heard of the Streisand Effect.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Je Suis Jimmy

"The Chinese side resolutely opposes terrorism in all manifestations" announced the Chinese government after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  Let's see what they have to say about this case.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Year, New Lies

A Happy New Year to my readers!  Though I doubt if anyone in Hong Kong is too optimistic about 2015 when the government starts the new year as it ends the old one, by talking crap.
After recounting in tedious detail the events of the past few months since its last dishonest report to its Beijing overlords, the Government somehow concludes its new report by saying "It is the common aspiration of the Central Authorities, the HKSAR Government, and the people of Hong Kong to implement universal suffrage for the CE election in 2017 in Hong Kong as scheduled and strictly in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the NPCSC".
Well, they were doing all right up to "as scheduled", but the last bit basically ignores everything that brought about the entire umbrella movement protests.  The problem is that the NPCSC's rulings on the political reform process, far from being "strictly in accordance with the Basic Law", completely override the essence of the Basic Law's provision (Article 26) that "Permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.", while its decision that the nominating committee must follow the framework of the previous Election Committee contradicts the requirement (Article 45) for it to be "broadly representative".

This is of course a Catch-22 situation.  When the NPCSC violates the Basic Law, who can one appeal to?  Er, the body entrusted with interpreting the Basic Law - the NPCSC...

Still, the report should be easy to fix.  All the government needs to do is amend "the people of Hong Kong" in the sentence above to "those members of the Hong Kong public who consider sucking up to the Chinese Communist Party to be more important than achieving genuine democracy", and everything will be hunky dory - except for everyone else in Hong Kong.