I fear that Hong Kong’s days as anything other than a medium sized Chinese city are now numbered in months rather than years. At some point all the judges with integrity will resign, to be replaced by Communist Party lackeys. And then it is clearly game over.
It seems to me that the world is seriously short of leaders who are prepared to do a serious cost-benefit analysis of the current more or less global lockdown. They really need to be looking at QALYs. It seems to me that millions of people are being condemned to years or decades of abject poverty in order to extend the lives of Covid-19 victims (the vast majority of whom have one or more chronic illnesses) by a few months or a year or two.
This really doesn’t make sense unless you put an enormous value on a QALY.
And if you put such a value on a QALY then firstly we should shut down every year to curb the hundreds of thousands of annual deaths from influenza, and secondly we should be spending similar sums on getting rid of tuberculosis, which kills 1,500,000 or so people every single year!
It’s good to see that at last some journalists are starting to look at the data on the Covid-19, both in terms of how many incremental deaths it is causing directly and in terms of what effect the economic shutdown is likely to have.
The Beeb is starting to ask the right questions, and producing some useful data.
One of the better aspects of the ongoing unrest in our town is the steadfastness with which RTHK (the public broadcaster) has maintained a reasonably objective stance, at least in its English-language output. And today it comes with added humour.
I’ll post this as a screen grab since I suspect the page may not last long!
I’ve been a subscriber to The Economist for well over 30 years, and have always appreciated their cartoons as well as the rest of their excellent coverage of world affairs. But, as a long-term immigrant to Hong Kong, this week’s cartoon really stands out for me as one of their best.
For those of a certain age it captures perfectly the fact that “Made in Hong Kong” used to mean cheap mass-produced and perhaps shoddy goods, but now it signifies rather the reverse: the current last bastion against the Chinese Communist Party’s wish for everlasting domination.
Of course China is a country with a long and distinguished history in which the current subjugation by the Communist Party is but a blip. Obviously any attempt to homogenise a billion people is doomed to failure, and I would guess within a generation or two at most.
So Rupert Hogg has been “resigned” for, apparently, declining to kowtow sufficiently to Emperor Xi; I imagine it’s only a matter of time before Mr Slosar goes too since he is on record as saying “You would easily imagine that within that 27,000 we have virtually every opinion on every issue… we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.”
This is clearly not compatible with the Communist Party’s view of how companies should work. But, of course, Slosar is a Chinese Citizen (having renounced his American citizenship some time back) so maybe he gets cut some slack for that.
It was a while ago now, but I used to be in board meetings in Shanghai of a wholly foreign-owned enterprise and there was always the very discomfiting figure in the corner taking careful notes. This was, of course, the Communist Party representative, and I guess that part of the deal that was forced on Merlin Swire in his recent summons to Beijing was to accept such Party control over Cathay’s board.
I spent a large part of the decade 1998-2008 on Cathay planes and they were, particularly at the beginning of that period, quite simply the world’s best airline. (I also spent enough time on plenty of other airlines to be able to judge.) It is clear now that they are well down the road to their full takeover by Air China, which is a mid-tier airline at best. It’s a shame, but I guess all good things must come to an end.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (in name only), Mrs Carrie Lam, is rolled out every few days by her puppet-masters in Beijing to do press conferences where she says absolutely nothing new and simply says: “we’re in the shit; please stop doing this or very bad things may happen”.
Now, of course, it is pretty much entirely due to Mrs Lam and her (so-called) government that we are in this shit, and since finding ourselves there they have shown absolutely no understanding of how we got there or what to do about it. But that ground has been covered repeatedly.
What I would like to address is why Mrs Lam, who is, at some level, an intelligent person, is still our Chief Executive (in name only). She is on record previously as saying that she was preparing to retire from her previous role (as Chief Secretary) to her home in the UK with her husband and son (who are both UK citizens). Yet, for reasons that are not at all clear, she took the role when pushed by Beijing (reportedly much to the annoyance of her husband), and now she is in some really deep doo-doo as a result.
It is reported that when it was clear that her Extradition Bill was making things go completely pear-shaped she resigned from her job, but that the Communist Party refused her resignation. Now this is a concept I don’t understand. When I resign, I resign. I simply don’t go to work the next day (and, maybe, forfeit some notice period pay). How can someone be forced to do the job of HK Chief Executive (in name only)?
So if I were in a press conference hosted by her, this would be my question:
“Mrs Lam, from your previous distinguished career in the Hong Kong Civil Service it is clear that you are an intelligent, decent, and honourable person. It is well-understood that you took the role of Chief Executive against the wishes of your family, and against your previously declared intentions. It is also now understood that you have attempted to resign and that the Communist Party has refused your resignation. Please would you clarify two things for me:
How does this concept of a refused resignation work? Is there someone with a gun who forces you to get out of bed every day and at least make a pretence of being a leader?
I feel that, in the absence of a gun to your head, the only reason why a decent and honourable person such as yourself would continue debasing themself as you are doing is that the alternative is very bad indeed. Are your family in a safe place out of the reach of the Communist Party? Or, alternatively, is there some skeleton in your closet which, as a good practising Catholic, you cannot bear to be exposed? An abortion perhaps, or an affair with Chris Patten? I think I can speak for most Hongkongers in saying that we would very happily forgive you these sins were you simply to do the right thing now!”
RTHK (who have been admirable as a public service broadcaster over the past few months) report that Ip Kwok-him, who is a member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong (i.e. the Chief Executive’s inner cabinet of advisors), has said that Hong Kong youth are not clever enough to be behind some aspects of the recent protests.
This sums up the current situation exactly: we are governed (if that’s not too strong a word) by a bunch of people who seem to fall into one of two groups:
many, such as Mr Ip, are of extremely limited intellect, and are elevated to the ExCo simply on the grounds of decades of shoe-shining rather than any significant achievements of any sort; they simply can’t grasp that there are Hongkongers a third of their age who are of a dramatically higher calibre than them
others, such as the Chief Executive, Mrs Lam, who, whilst undoubtedly of high brainpower in some IQ-like sense, have absolutely zero understanding of the world in which their subjects live. This is a woman who doesn’t know where to buy toilet rolls or how to use an Octopus Card.
It seems that in order to get a feel for “the street” Mrs Lam elevates people like Mr Ip to the ExCo (he was first appointed by CY Leung, but the point is true in general). And we all see the result: a government now in paralysis because they have absolutely zero understanding of what is going on, and, as a result, no idea what to do about it.
The “blame the foreigners” line is straight out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook: if Chinese people do something unacceptable to you then it must be a malicious foreign influence because (in the utterly racist worldview of the CCP) all ethnically Chinese people must be somehow inherently programmed to be loyal and obedient servants of the CCP. The flipside to this is, of course, that the many Hongkongers of non-Chinese ethnicity are automatically maligned by the CCP and still deemed “foreign”, even if their families have lived here for many generations and they are HK Citizens. The CCP still can’t comprehend the concept of nationality/loyalty that isn’t based on race, and therein lies one of its biggest fundamental problems.
I really don’t know what a good road ahead for HK now might look like, but it seems clear to me that a key part of it should involve getting morons like Mr Ip off the ExCo and replacing them with people who have a genuine understanding of what is going on in our town.
I’m a Brit. I haven’t lived in the UK for a while, but it’s where I grew up and I can’t deny that it’s what shaped me.
But I am seriously worried about the choosing of the next Prime Minister. It seems that the UK will end up with (yet another) narcissistic, blow hard old-Etonian twat, when there is at least one person running against him who has real world experience of real people across a range of cultures. And he’s even smoked opium in Iran. How good is that? Surely much better than snorting coke in Knightsbridge? I’ve read his book, and it’s clear that he is far more in touch with the world than Boris.
I can’t believe that the UK population as a whole would chose Boris Johnson over Rory Stewart, but, sadly, it seems all too clear that the Conservative Party will.
I discovered today via this article on the Beeb that they have a “gender and identity correspondent”. Now I’m a late middle-aged guy of fairly liberal views and to me this just seems all wrong. I’m firmly of the view that we are all individuals (oldies may interject a scene from The Life of Brian here) and that if you make a fuss about these things then you make them worse, not better.
A good friend of mine in Hong Kong is “transgender” to use the current term, and I and everyone else around is happy to treat her on the the terms that she wishes to be treated. But nobody makes a fuss about it. She is who she is.
I run a Scrabble group here and we have had a member turn up with a serious 5 o’clock shadow but in a dress and makeup. No problem at all – we’re here to play Scrabble!
People are people. Take each one as they come. “Gender and identity” is only an issue if you make it one; if we are all just people then life becomes much easier!
For many years Shirley Yam wrote for the SCMP on business matters, often exposing things that the powers that be would prefer to be unexposed.
Then she was fired when the things she exposed got rather too close to our new masters in Beijing. The article in question was censored from the SCMP by mainland authorities.
Thankfully she is back with a new home at the Hong Kong Free Press. As a sponsor of HKFP I look forward to seeing much more of her analysis in the coming months. It’s important that this stuff be exposed.
I read on the Beeb that Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State (and hence a man of no small influence) is quoted thus:
‘He also praised US efforts to “make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains”.’
Well hang on a minute. By my definition, a democracy extends equal voting rights to all its citizens; it can’t be a “Jewish state” and a democracy. It is blatantly obvious that Israel is an apartheid state, not a democracy, and it made that explicit last year when it instituted its Basic Law.
Mr Pompeo went on to say that he is “confident that the Lord is at work here” in agreeing that it was possible that “President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace”.
Most worrying of all he held a media conference call “only inviting “faith-based” members of the media to join.”
So let’s be clear here… “faith-based” means people who are happy to suspend rational thought in favour of things for which there is absolutely no scientfic evidence on a regular repeated basis. It is extremely scary to me that people such as this are in positions of power.
When I first immigrated to Hong Kong 20 years ago I was of the view that “western democracy” was clearly the preferable political system. Now, with stuff like this from the US, and the whole Brexit debacle, I’m really not so sure!
The Italian government’s credit rating has been slashed by Moody’s from Aa2 to A2 with a negative outlook.
The ratings agency blamed a “material increase in long-term funding risks for the euro area”, due to lost confidence in eurozone government debts.
To anyone with any sort of engineering background this is as clear example as it is possible to have of a positive feedback loop leading to hunting oscillation. And the answer in this case is equally clear – break the loop and then, if it is certain that controlled feedback has some value, remake it with some appropriate hysteresis in place.
Breaking the loop means simply shutting down the ratings agencies – any useful purpose they may once have served is now vastly outweighed by the damage they are doing through providing this feedback mechanism. I would suggest also simply banning short selling for a period – this too is clearly a major contributor to hunting oscillation. Once the markets have reached a more stable state, and after a period of careful thought, then some elements of positive feedback could be reintroduced, with appropriate regulatory controls.
Sadly, with governments staffed by lawyers and under the sway of the gambling bankers I fear this is unlikely to happen. It’s a great shame that there aren’t sufficient people of a rational scientific or engineering background in government.
I was surprised, and not a little saddened, to read the racist views of Alvin Sallay in the SCMP on Sunday when writing about the Hong Kong ladies cricket team:
Godiva is one of nine Chinese girls in the 15-strong women’s squad. The rest are non-Chinese, but all are united in the fact that they qualify for the games by being born in Hong Kong and holding SAR passports.
This is a quite outrageous sentiment. People who are born in Hong Kong and are citizens of China holding Hong Kong passports must be “Chinese”. What else could they be?
With thanks to Bruce Schneier for highlighting it in his blog, I must recommend this essay by Tom Engelhardt for getting to the essence of the US Government’s “management by fear” approach to terrorism. Sadly, many other governments seem to follow their lead.
On viewing the plans for the new Legco accommodation (in part of what used to be the beautiful Victoria Harbour) Emily Lau commented “I think it’s better sound-proofing the room because it will be disturbing if there are protests outside”.
There are so many issues raised by the case brought against a self-proclaimed Taoist practitioner accused of duping a young model into having sex, and by the verdict and judgement delivered against him, that it is difficult to know where to start. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Hong Kong legal system (normally so sound) has made a complete ass of itself in this case.
Hemlock, in an excellent post yesterday, highlighted that the people cosying up to and riding on the coat tails of the property cartel tycoons include a fair few gweilos, one such being Mr Rory O’Grady, on whose toadying and self-interested letter to the SCMP Hemlock commented. Read the rest of this entry »