HK ramps up splittist purge

The Hong Kong government amends its judicial review writ aimed at keeping Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching from taking their Legislative Council seats. (See a picture of the revised document.) The government is now asking the court to declare the Youngspiration duo’s offices vacant – making them non-members of the legislature.


Aside from having a ‘moving the goalposts’ feel about it, the revised writ escalates the Liaison Office/government’s obsessive and opportunistic persecution of the pair. Just when you thought the authorities couldn’t get any more extreme in their attempts to exploit the duo’s incorrect (plus ‘offensive’) oaths, they find a way to do it. There is no pretense now that this is an impartial process – Legco members have been allowed to re-take oaths before. This is setting attack dogs on two individuals who will not kowtow.

A request that the courts bar the two from the legislature is a blatant attack on the right of voters to elect representatives. (The perhaps enticing prospect of new elections for their seats, let alone other forms of backlash in Legco and elsewhere, is another matter.) It is also pushing the courts to take even bolder, more controversial, maybe unconstitutional, action. So it looks like the government is actually trying to goad the courts into rejecting the judicial review.

That would pave the way for an ‘interpretation’ by Beijing – a summary re-writing of part of the Basic Law to give it new, hitherto unheard-of, additional meaning. The outcome would be the banishment of those who advocate particular ideas and thoughts from political participation, while of course eroding the power of the local courts, not to say common sense.

Communist-style ‘rule by law’ and United Front mobs cheering. This is ugly to watch, yet much of the media bury this development in ‘Legco president U-turn’ stories. Maybe, after detailing Rurik Jutting’s videos, they wonder how much more readers can stomach.


Posted in Blog | 12 Comments

The Great Contrived Oath-Taking ‘Shi-na’ Mouth-Froth continues


I am still trying to find someone who is mortally offended by the phrase ‘Chee-na’, as uttered by Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching in their abortive Legislative Council oath-taking. I have elicited a few smirks, an embarrassed giggle and various eye-rolling shrugs and looks of perplexed bemusement – but no-one bursts into tears of grief or pain.

Officially, however – in Hong Kong’s United Front domain – everyone is wetting themselves in orchestrated hysterical anguish at this shocking affront to nation and race. Pro-Beijing lawmakers are under orders to take part in choreographed protest, government officials are dabbing their eyes in sorrow, the patriotic rent-a-mob lynches radicals in effigy, and media rabble endlessly recite the clichés and memes about Japanese militarism and insults to the motherland.

(So far as I can tell after brief Googling, the ‘Shi-na’ name for China has ancient roots, possibly in India, was not intended as derogatory, and gave rise to the Latin word ‘Sina’, thus ‘Sino-’, and ‘Sinic’. The early-mid-20th Century expansionist Japanese would have embraced it because China’s name for itself –  ‘The Central Country’ – would have struck them as insufferably arrogant and ill-suited for continental inferiors.)

So mass-mouth-frothing is the order of the day for Hong Kong’s very own Basket of Deplorables…


…to which lawmaker Regina Ip is making a valuable contribution via her New People’s Party…


That photo is issued by Regina’s own people for publicity purposes – just in case you thought some malevolent PhotoShop fiend had done something nasty to them. They want the government to prosecute a pro-dem lawmaker for turning flags upside-down in Legco. This is a United Front witch-hunt compounded by Regina’s own lust for the job of Chief Executive, which adds up to something deeply distasteful. The Financial Times says the ‘vilification of pro-independence lawmakers echoes Communist Party tactics’. Of course, it is not an echo.

If I were a nicer person, I would be vaguely inclined to feel sorry for Legco’s President Andrew Leung.

scmp-oathThe (never-contested) Functional Constituency representative is one of the textile scion-tycoons who quit the Liberal Party as insufficiently plutocratic. He obediently took the job of Legco President – these days picked by Beijing’s local Liaison Office – only to find himself fumbling into hostile territory when he tried implementing the Council’s practices on whether to allow second attempts at oath-taking.

Now he is re-assessing his wavering. If he joins the herd of United Front zombies and reverses his decision to allow a second oath-taking, his credibility as an impartial Speaker vanishes just days into the job. (By contrast, predecessors Rita Fan and, mostly, Tsang Yok-sing enjoyed at least modest reputations for even-handedly pissing off the pro-Beijing as well as pro-dem camps in the legislature.) If he sticks to his decision, the Red Guards will be demanding that he kneel on broken glass and confess his crimes against the people. (Meanwhile, we wait for the courts to do their thing, though it could be they have nothing to do with it.)

The Standard sees Chief Executive CY Leung as the big winner from this chaos – the whole pro-establishment camp having been lined up behind him on the issue. Why would Beijing want some namby-pamby like Carrie Lam or John Tsang as CE when the number-one priority is to root out and crucify a pair of splittist radicals?

The Standard teases readers with the thought that the Youngspiration duo are considered to be CY’s ‘best running mates’. The Liaison Office’s Big Orchestrated Cultural Revolution Oath-Taking Chee-na Indignation is, of course, pulling or pushing many Hongkongers into the more-or-less localist camp. And Carrie or John (or anyone) would – compared with CY – sap support for radicals. So it works both ways.


Posted in Blog | 10 Comments

Something to do next weekend

Seen on a supermarket shelf yesterday – HK$80-90 breakfast cereal with the brand name ‘Ezekial 4:9’…


The Old Testament lines on the front say: “Take also unto thee Wheat and Barley and Beans and Lentils and Millet and Spelt and put them in one vessel and make bread of it…”

Sadly, the cereal pack isn’t big enough to include the rest of the verse, which, we find, continues by telling you to “bake it with dung that cometh out of man” and eat it (the bread, that is) for 390 days within sight of people besieging you. Yum!

Those with an interest in Biblical wonders will be pleased to learn that Hong Kong is about to receive a visit from noted preacher Andrew Wommack. Some of Donald Trump’s evangelical Christian supporters signed up to his ‘Declaration of Dependence’, pledging to disobey man-made laws on abortion and same-sex marriage. And here he is chatting with one of his buddies about the ethical and practical challenges of imposing a backward Bronze Age desert tribe’s (supposed) customary laws in present-day USA…

He also does faith healing, saw his own son raised from the dead, and believes physical and psychological illness is the result of not having heard and obeyed God’s Word. This concept applies to wealth as well as health: if you are not prosperous, it’s because you have given Satan control of your life. Among miracles Wommack has personally experienced (beyond resurrection of his son), he kept his car running without gas for a week.

Bringing dead kids back to life plus free gas might inspire impoverished trailer-dwellers far away. But will it sell in Hong Kong?


Many of its proponents justify this ‘prosperity theology’ on the belief that Jesus and his disciples were, despite their popular image, actually quite rich. They had the means to travel around without ever having to go to work, and the gospels (apparently) suggest that they owned real-estate. It is common knowledge that a few of our local property moguls, and some Singaporean and Malaysian tycoons, are into churches of this type – though I have no idea whether any are connected with Wommack’s ministry.

You can see why American mega-preachers would like to bear witness among wealthy Asians, though Wommack seems a bit of an amateur in gathering donations compared with some of his peers. For Hong Kong’s rich or avaricious, meanwhile, ‘prosperity theology’ offers peace of mind. It teaches that God rewards the faithful in cash or kind – in this world – solely for their acceptance and obedience to Him, not on the grounds of ‘works’.  Dating from the Reformation, ‘works’ is now Protestant-speak for being nice or generous to others. These people are quite insistent about the irrelevance of ‘works’.

Some say Mr Wommack is doctrinally aberrant. But hey – aberrant can be interesting! He will be in town this weekend in Wanchai and sunny Kwun Tong on Oct 29-30.


Posted in Blog | 9 Comments

‘Legco in deadlock farce’ shock horror


Pro-Beijing lawmakers walk out of the Legislative Council, leaving it without a quorum, thus leaving three young radicals unable to take their oaths and Council seats. The pro-Beijing boot-licker members are demanding an apology from Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching for insulting China the first time they took their oaths. The implication is that they would allow the two splittists to be sworn in – if the pair groveled for forgiveness from all the Chinese with hurt feelings around the world.

If so, this stance falls short of the Government/Liaison Office view that the two splittists must be denied their places in Legco under any circumstances. Perhaps better coordination is on the way (it all seems a bit rushed).

The government attempted (unsuccessfully) to get the courts to bar the Youngspiration Duo on the grounds that they failed to take their oaths correctly first time and there is no second chance. But the real aim – by order of the Liaison Office – is to completely ban anyone from running for or entering the legislature if they hold pro-independence views.

If and when this principle is established, it will presumably be extended to school teachers, college professors and other public-sector employees. Ultimately, anyone expressing pro-independence opinions will be guilty of a thought-crime and subject to persecution in some way.

This is a tried and tested method. In Xinjiang, the Communist Party forces men to shave their beards off or teach their kids to pray, and as a result Islam has just gone away and been forgotten, and everything is harmonious and perfect. In Tibet, the Communist Party shuts down temples and ‘disappears’ monks who object, and as a result the local culture and separatist sentiments have completely vanished, and everyone is totally happy and calm. Obviously, similar policies will eradicate Hong Kong’s distinct identity and turn everyone in the city into happy and obedient Mainlander-replicas.

But we are running ahead of ourselves. The pro-Beijing lawmakers’ walkout emulates pro-democrats’ tactics in the last LegCo. The United Front and government propaganda machine leapt to portray such disruption as nihilistic, money-wasting and generally proof that pro-democrats were anti-social fiends – to the approval of some hard-working citizens sick of constant bickering. Even the South China Morning Post’s voice of grumpy old fogeys who hate the young says the loyalist members have disrespected the court and lost the ‘moral high-ground’ they had when they didn’t engage in disruptive behaviour…


The Standard’s editorial is harsher, accusing Chief Executive CY Leung of dangerously risking damage to the relationship between legislative, executive and judicial branches. It sees panic and desperation…


The Standard is part of the anti-CY tycoon establishment, but is hardly alone in (perhaps over-simplistically) seeing the pro-independence phenomenon as a creation of the Hong Kong government and the Liaison Office.

The government is eager to stress that it can handle this locally. In other words, officials want to avoid a Basic Law ‘interpretation’. This joke-mechanism, by which Beijing ‘reveals’ a hitherto unseen meaning to part of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, would provoke incredulity and renew rebellion if it were used to affirm the idea that ‘cracking down on pro-independence forces [thoughts] in Hong Kong is supported by the law’.

Some fear that the localists might fail to convey the big picture to the public, allowing United Front innuendo about ‘infantile mayhem’ to turn moderate opinion against them. But the real danger to the radicals is that CY and his buddies wise up and cease responding with increasingly stupid and deranged attempts to crush the localist menace. And Beijing’s hypersensitive allergy to any mention of the ‘I’ word makes that unlikely.


Posted in Blog | 8 Comments

CY goes full-frontal (eeeewwww)


After several days of United Front-orchestrated mass-freaking-out over newly elected lawmakers’ botched oath-taking, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung declares what the South China Morning Post calls ‘full-frontal war’.

The paper also uses the word ‘unprecedented’, by which it presumably means ‘desperate, bizarre, and borderline insane’. Desperate because the legal action to prevent democratically returned Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching from taking their seats in the Legislative Council came without warning late yesterday afternoon – the court sat late into the evening. Bizarre because CY launched the action in his own name (plus the Justice Secretary’s), making the exercise more personal than necessary, appropriate or, some would say, prudent. And insane because whatever happens, the government is going to lose, one way or another.

ad-689At least the initial cause is no mystery: step forward the Liaison Office (motto – ‘We never sit back and do nothing if we can interfere and make things worse’). Someone in the Communist Party hierarchy has determined that splittist sentiment must not and cannot take place in the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Seen from Beijing, this is logical. This is the PRC, and any institution, including LegCo, is ultimately an organ of the state and servant of the Party. That ‘separation of powers’ ‘freedom of expression’ stuff doesn’t come into it.

The Liaison Office and local puppets have calculated that the two Youngspiration members can be demonized. The mass-formation mouth-froth over the last few days stressed two angles. It highlighted the kids’ ‘childish antics’ at the swearing-in ceremony, thus inviting disapproval from respectable, hard-working, regular citizens. And it screeched of ‘hurting the feelings of Chinese people’, which rouses the patriotic nationalist faithful, and ticks the right boxes in Beijing. It’s classic, vindictive United Front isolate-the-enemy tactics. Then along comes this blundering, constitution-warping legal action, and it suddenly looks more like two innocent young idealists being persecuted by a psychopathic dictatorship again.

The Youngspiration pair (along with several others) will now get their second oath-taking opportunity today [or not], as previously ruled acceptable by the Legislative Council President Andrew Leung. (Just days after installing the hapless shoe-shiner as LegCo speaker, the Liaison Office has already chucked him under a bus as they continue with their hyperactive malevolence. He who lives by the shoe-shine, dies by the shoe-shine – though it’s not often it happens this quickly. No sympathy required, here.)

If the courts eventually reject the application to have the Youngspiration duo barred from LegCo, it will be big face-loss time for CY and his Liaison Office masters. If the judge – not having been dragged away from dinner this time – does kick the kids out, we have new elections. It is hard to say which would be more fun.

Meanwhile, Taiwan take note.


Posted in Blog | 17 Comments

HK’s next punishment: new cross-border revenue streams


Hong Kong is urged to seethe with envy because Beijing has declared plucky little obedient Macau the ‘Yuan clearing centre for the Portuguese-speaking world’. Lucky residents of the former enclave will be up to their knees in Renminbi gushing in from Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, while naughty rebellious ungrateful Hongkongers starve and their city fades into insignificance.

Meanwhile back on Planet Earth, Jake van der Kamp writes that Beijing’s anti-corruption clampdown has resulted in Macau’s casino-dominated economy shrinking by an incredible 35% since 2013. This is the sort of decline that resulted in starvation in North Korea in the 1990s, and something close to social breakdown in Greece over the last few years.

And yet… Everyone in Macau is pretty happy and carrying on as if nothing had happened. That’s because ordinary people there didn’t see many of the benefits when the gambling industry boomed earlier in the 2000s, pushing per-capita GDP above Hong Kong’s. And they’re not experiencing much of a crunch as the bubble deflates. A similar phenomenon applies in Hong Kong, where a massive increase in tourist figures contributed to supposedly impressive GDP growth around 2003-13, while median household incomes remained level, and probably fell if you allow for inflation (let alone quality of life).

scmp-populationIn short: mass-tourism is not only Hell, but bad economics.

So what a delight it is to read that the Hong Kong government has had the uncharacteristic sense to scrap plans to cover much of the old Kai Tak area with hotels, hotels and more hotels for the MICE and selfie-stick pestilences, and actually build housing – some of which may even be available for local people rather than Mainland money-launderers.

Sadly, this refreshing approach has not reached Kai Tak’s replacement out at Chek Lap Kok. The airport bosses have announced a ‘vision’ for a new destination going far beyond the traditional notion of a shopping mall – a retail-dining-entertainment hub-complex three times the size of Harbour City with ‘trendier concepts’ (plus mega-hotel, naturally). If that’s not depressing enough, they say the idea is to target ‘new cross-border revenue streams’ from free-trade zones like Nansha, Qianhai and Hengqing.

These places are basically lame real-estate/arbitrage plays, but the officials presumably mention them because it sounds cool and gives face to Mainland authorities. The ‘vision’ is yet another glitzy maze full of Louis Vuitton, Body Shop, Chow Sang Sang and McDonalds aimed at yet more zombie-shopper hordes from Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Shenzhen.

If we are to have a gargantuan bridge linking Lantau to Zhuhai, and a third runway, we must have an exciting Destination Concept Theme-Hub to induce people to use them. We must cram more people in to justify the infrastructure. And the suitcase-dragging zombie-shopper Mainlanders – last seen heading to Seoul or Paris or speculating on their fourth apartment in Ningbo – is the best that we can think of. Such originality! Gold Bauhinia Medals all round!


Posted in Blog | 9 Comments

Choreographed rant of the month targets oath-takers


This month’s official outburst of orchestrated, obsessive, overblown mouth-frothing concerns the newly elected Legislative Council members who failed the swearing-in kowtow test. Their immature antics, which upset the highly sensitive Ronny, are vulgarity induced by self-hatred and opposed by 99.9% of teachers for hurting the feelings of all Chinese people. (Logically, 99.9% of teachers would agree, it follows that anyone whose feelings were not hurt is not Chinese.)

cd-liaisonofficeIt falls to Global Times to consider that those responsible for the ‘floor show/ridiculous farce/profanity’ have support, and the city is increasingly complicated. ‘Complicated’ (also known as ‘contradictions’) is Communist-speak for ‘maybe we are partly responsible for screwing things up here’.

This is a battle of wits. The Hong Kong government, under Liaison Office direction, is potentially walking into a trap by fixating on punishing a handful of young democratically elected representatives for not conforming to the ceremonial symbolism. The radicals also risk falling into a trap, if they give officials evidence to convince the public that they are mere troublemakers, money-wasters, sympathetic to Japanese militarism or – heaven forbid – getting boring.

But the battle is between a lumbering and predictable, simple-minded elephant and some agile, bright and funny gnats. When Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching get their second chance to take their oaths correctly on Wednesday, they could do worse than recite the wording 100% accurately, in finest Mandarin, preferably wearing little Mao badges and carrying mysterious red-bound books – with, of course, totally straight faces.


Posted in Blog | 9 Comments

Everything happening at once

The week starts shuddering to a chaotic halt with everything happening at once.


All those rich, lengthy obituaries for Thailand’s King Bhumipol – they have a slight remoteness about them, as if he is already a distant memory. That’s partly because they were written so long, long ago, and have been dusted off in a hurry. The South China Morning Post gives its a black border, presumably in recognition of Beijing’s appreciation of the friendless junta’s constructive approach to panda-hugging.

So now… The likely heir is by many accounts a detested philandering thug who gave his poodle Fufu a senior rank in the Air Force. The country’s government is an incapable and absurdly intolerant military regime. The underlying social/political/economic divisions are scary – the elite’s automatic contempt for the poor masses makes Hong Kong’s leaders look like extreme egalitarians. Or, as the SCMP puts it, ‘the start of a new era’.


Thailand could end up challenging the Philippines for the hotly contested Worst Governance in Southeast Asia Award. But does Bob Dylan deserve a Nobel Prize for Literature? Do these verses (try and ignore the melody, if you know the song) count as poetry? My interpretation of this is that the Nobel Globally Important Institution Inc are feeling the heat from emerging-market competition – Hong Kong tycoons alone, shamelessly seeking to emulate Alfred’s immortality and reflected glory, have in recent years founded the Shaw and Lui Che-woo Awards for Amazingly Brilliant Genius.

After upsetting China by giving Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize, the Nobel people tried to kiss and make up to the panda-with-hurt-feelings by giving the Literature award to the semi-obscure Mo Yan. This tarnished the brand among its traditional Western audience, so they are now trying to restore their reputation by honouring the hip and trendy American bard – perhaps over-compensating in the process, but in a well-meaning Scandinavian way.


On the subject of the panda and its easily offended sensitivity – Hong Kong’s government finally lapses into the cliché.

Newly elected young radical lawmakers used the swearing-in ceremony to scurrilously promote localist views on Wednesday. While entertaining, and indeed highlighting the principles their voters supported, the new legislators will need to be careful in the long run. Officials will do all they can to portray them as vandals, money-wasters and troublemakers who make life worse for the public. As filibusterers have found, some of this mud can stick.

Still, it is early days, and for now the government comes across as defensive. The official press release goes into righteous-huff mode and whines that the new legislators ‘harmed the feelings of our compatriots’ (Chinese version here).

Although the wording does not specify location, it arguably implies or subliminally suggests that the countrymen whose sensibilities have been injured are Mainlanders. With 1.3 billion over there and only 7 million in Hong Kong, certainly most of them are. The point is that the press release does not claim that the young radicals’ theatrics have upset Hongkongers as such. I declare the weekend open with the thought that there is something (if unwittingly) profound and telling in this omission, no?


Posted in Blog | 11 Comments

An exotic new destination

One of many thrilling things to happen over the long weekend was a trip to Cyberport. We have all heard of Cyberport the flawed luxury-apartments-as-tech-hub real-estate scandal. We have listened to poor wretches whose companies are located in the project’s Siberia-like office blocks, with its poor transport links and horrible selection of places to eat. And we have all seen the architecture on the distant coastline from ferries – the huge curved slabs that are Residence Bel Air. But few of us, who are in our right minds, have ever actually been to the place. So I decided to check it out.

The bus station has a bustling Fusion supermarket and McDonalds. After that, however, you enter a sort of twilight zone. This is what those colonies on Mars will be like when only a few zombie-like settlers have survived, but the systems keep running…


Where in Hong Kong do you have a holiday weekend and the mall is largely deserted…


And it is true that there is a dearth of interesting dining spots, even by mall standards – plasticky Japanese, Thai-Viet, Mexican, etc, plus an Irish pub. There’s a cinema, which together with unoccupied units in the upper floors confirms that the retail complex has more space than tenants. A bunch of property agents (which you don’t often see plying their tawdry trade inside pristine malls), one of which offers a Residence Bel Air unit for HK$190 million. And quite a few pet/kid-related outlets, reminding us that this whole place is primarily an up-market residential area.

A stroll around for some eavesdropping and mild snooping suggests that the inhabitants are well-remunerated Western expats and Mainlanders, plus some South Asians and locals – plus of course their Filipino maids. The huge residential blocks wrap themselves like a wall protecting the enclave from whatever is out there. It’s home for people who find Discovery Bay too exciting, earthy, edgy, or unbearably soulful.

The waterfront park offers a slight relief from the antiseptic built-up surroundings. It has a kids’ playground, the inevitable doggy zone, and some quite extensive, well-manicured lawn. It is acceptable to erect little tents for picnics. One slightly weird, freaky and disturbing sight was a group of kids playing at being maids, ‘sweeping’ the ground with fallen palm-tree fronds…


Apart from that, social deviance is not tolerated, and the professional and efficient local authorities guide and rule with firm Singaporean-style benevolence…


Almost. A few riffraff barbarian anarchists from Planet Hong Kong – specifically the nearby public-housing estate – sneak into the millionaires’ ghetto to spread disorder and chaos by climbing over railings and fishing…


Posted in Blog | 15 Comments

CY’s keystone policy: do nothing

In an attempt to control its housing bubble, the Mainland city of Jinan in Shandong has barred people who already own three properties from buying any more. Sounds a bit late in the day – but at least they’re trying to do something. The Hong Kong government’s reaction to spiraling property prices is to sit on its hands and grin helplessly.

Oxfam bemoans Hong Kong’s growing wealth gap, with the richest 10% now earning 29 times what the lowest 10% get. Richard Wong thinks this is an exaggeration and sees demographics – like the rise in the number of small elderly households – making things look worse than they are.

Much of it comes down to housing costs. It is perfectly possible for a family living on HK$10,000 a month to have higher purchasing power than a family on HK$20,000 – if the former are in public housing and the latter are paying private-sector rent or a mortgage. Public housing is so cheap that many university graduates deliberately take low-paying jobs for a few years to qualify for it: the long-term savings once they secure their subsidized unit will be far higher than the short-term opportunity cost. With private housing costs sky-high, this is a smart tactic.

scmp-chinasopenIf middle-class kids working the system to get public housing are the winners, the losers are the poor who are in private housing – the wretches stuck in shockingly expensive sub-divided cubicle-firetraps. A letter in today’s South China Morning Post suggests the conversion of empty factories, schools and other buildings for housing. An obvious stopgap solution to the housing problem is to regularize illegal dwellings in industrial premises, rooftops and so on – ensuring basic fire safety while ignoring all the other zoning, planning, premium and other bureaucracy. But the government’s policy is to do the opposite: clamp down on illegal apartments in old factories as if the tens of thousands of inhabitants have somewhere else to go.

When CY Leung became Chief Executive in 2012, there was talk of emergency housing measures (adapting disused buildings, putting prefabricated shelters on vacant land). Presumably, the idea was thrown out by civil servants who thought it was too much like hard work for them; certainly some top officials feared it would ‘encourage’ listless, scrounging riffraff to move into bad housing in order to be resettled. There was probably also an assumption that a 1998-style correction would soon come and fix things.

In theory, CY has made increasing long-term housing supply his Big Thing. In practice, he complains that it is impossible to find the necessary land – except by taking green-belt areas or, incredibly, sports and recreation facilities. Meanwhile, of course, the Heung Yee Kuk can occupy their brownfield sites, and the property giants can hoard land and unsold units for as long as they please.

Despite this supposed shortage of space, not a week passes without a government land auction. The property developers will use the lots concerned for ‘luxury’ apartments, presumably aimed at Mainland money-launderers to keep empty. No-one asks how this is possible when we have this dire shortage of land (let alone how it is supposed to benefit Hong Kong).

At the same time, tens of thousands of (mostly low-educated) Mainlanders get their one-way permits every year to come to settle in Hong Kong. It is not politically correct to mention this, though Richard Wong is pretty blunt about the impact on our poverty statistics. These are the same people who end up in the appalling subdivided housing. It is reasonable to ask why this influx is allowed to continue if – as the government insists – we do not have enough land/homes for them to live in. (If you press officials, they will say something along the lines of ‘we need the children’ who make up many of these newcomers. We can guess that from Beijing’s point of view, such migration will dilute the tiresome native population here, just as it will in Xinjiang and Tibet. Even squeeze them out into Nansha.)


The 1998-2003 crash coincided with a major increase in housing supply masterminded by one CY Leung. As many observers point out, Hong Kong does not have an actual shortage of housing units, just a shortage of affordable homes. At some point, bubbles have to end and asset prices have to match what end-users are willing to pay. The sitting-on-hands-and-grinning-helplessly policy goes on.

While we wait, great moments in lateral thinking: a hotel guy suggests that the government allow people to buy and sell hotel rooms as permanent housing


To the extent that this would increase supply and soften rents in serviced apartments, with a (marginal) knock-on downward effect on other apartment rents, this is not a bad idea. (Essentially it returns space allocated to the all-important tourist industry back to Hong Kong people.)

But what he probably has in mind is simply enabling hotel rooms to become an investment asset class for Hongkongers whose pathological lust to own real estate is currently thwarted by unaffordable prices for residential, commercial and of course car parks. If it makes the suckers feel better – why not?

Posted in Blog | 5 Comments