Germans catch Hong Kong disease

It seems Hong Kong is not alone in suffering the Einkaufstourist – or locust – plague:

‘…they make Konstanz’s multiple branches of the DM toiletries chain absolute hell, lining up a half-dozen deep, their shopping carts overflowing with organic toothpaste, name-brand diapers, and pomegranate-scented conditioner.’

Welcome to Sheung Shui-on-the-Rhine. (What – no milk powder?)

A related infestation is the Great Escalator Selfie-stick Menace…

Commuters and other legitimate users of the unnecessarily overcrowded neighbourhood public-transport system are today asking the same question: Your President has finally been impeached – will you all now go away?

Malaysians fearing an inundation are probably breathing a sigh of relief on hearing that Chinese developer Country Garden is suspending sales of its gargantuan and (presumably) ultra-tacky Dubai-with-jungle reclamation/residential/colonization project, Forest City. It would/will be interesting to know whether this is really a (desperate) capital-flight-clampdown, the collapse of an over-extended, hyped-up white elephant, or a sign that the concrete-box-buying frenzy has its limits. The company is using the old ‘office renovation’ excuse – ‘we had a sudden fit of good taste’ would be more convincing.

I declare the weekend open with Eerily Creepy Nighttime Photo (with Enigmatic Use of Proverb) of the Month, spotted near the Botanical Gardens…

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Got your sick-bag ready?

Pass the air-motion discomfort receptacle! Putrid Crawly Creepo-Grovel Shoe-shine of the Day Award goes to this. Eeeeewwwww…

Hong Kong Chief Executive-in-waiting Carrie Lam’s platform is essentially ‘Same as before, but with more committees’. More ‘shortage of land’, pricier homes, higher rents, cram-more-tourists-in, and all the other policies that are slowly killing the city.

One exquisite recent example of official idiocy-malevolence in practice is the inane Pilot Tourism Initiative Themed Food Truck Project Concept Scheme. Essentially, the bureaucrats decreed that food trucks could (after a two-part selection mechanism) operate on the strict conditions that: only big corporate investors could take part; trucks must stay in fixed locations; the fixed locations must be remote from existing food outlets and customers; and truck-design, fees and other overheads must make profit impossible in any case. The idea was so dumb it made the NY Times.

Restaurant superstar Michelle Garnaut describes the bureaucratic nightmare involved in setting up a place at the Central Police Station heritage site, due to open in the third quarter of 2046. She gave up, lamenting that the system is ‘geared towards the super rich and too bad for anybody else’ (and she does not exactly run HK$20-a-bowl noodle joints).

A couple of land-related links for anyone who missed them.

EJ Insight ponders scrapping Disneyland for affordable homes. It is an old (and obvious) idea among us free-thinkers, but still too radical and counter-intuitive for much of mainstream polite society, or even the slightly quirky EJ – so this is a Good Thing.

And Asia Sentinel looks at the Hong Kong government’s measures to curb rising home prices. The measures have largely dried up the market for existing apartments, and pushed buyers to the developers selling yet-to-be-completed brand new units, prices of which are up 50% since this administration took over in 2012. Question: is this grotesque outcome an unintended consequence of the policy put together by highly qualified, exceptionally paid genius bureaucrats, or was it deliberate? The ever-charitable Asia Sentinel leans to the ‘overpaid retard bureaucrat’ explanation. You may or may not agree.

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A quick word of support for the SCMP

Unless it is Apple Daily or an independent online channel unrecognized by officialdom, a Hong Kong news outlet is a pro-establishment news outlet. It will be owned by a businessman with commercial interests locally and, more to the point, in Mainland China. Usually, the tycoon concerned acquired the organ in order to ingratiate himself with the Chinese Communist Party, by ensuring the journalism is sometimes, or frequently, in line with Beijing’s views.

The amateur press baron faces a challenge. The paper or station can’t churn out totally biased gibberish without losing staff and audience-share and becoming a pointless Communist propaganda sheet like Wen Wei Po. Even so, it will probably be a financial burden. And it can be a social/political headache, as the plutocrat worries whether the editorial stance is sufficiently obsequious, to the right person, at the right time, sometimes with unhappy results (as at Ming Pao).

The South China Morning Post today is owned by Mainland e-commerce titan Jack Ma. Ma is closely linked with China’s ruling elite, and the paper seems in some ways more editorially secure and relaxed than under its previous proprietor Robert Kuok, whose panicky eagerness to panda-kowtow led to some hideously hagiographic coverage of China’s repulsive leaders. (Embarrassingly glowing reports on Ma himself are a regular feature – presumably at the behest of a minder with a misplaced sense of loyalty.)

The spin under Ma is relatively subtle and ambitious. The idea is to boost China’s soft power – ‘normalizing’ the nation and its regime by building an image of a Great Power reforming its economy, assuming international responsibilities and implicitly proving through its success that Western ideas about democracy and human rights are wrong. It is a picture in which corruption and pollution are being fixed, Taiwan is an irritant, and a 6.5% GDP growth rate is a real thing. The Hong Kong political coverage follows suit, with the quasi-election presented as a genuine race, and localist kids treated as the cause rather than effect of problems.

Opinion pieces vary from hackneyed democracy-bashing to informed or stimulating comment – especially in the Business section. The editors seem to have an especially hard time filling the op-ed page. Apparently, the paper doesn’t pay for this content, so it is perhaps surprising that it has anything to print at all.

Today’s is fairly typical. The main column wonders earnestly why, after installing three failed administrations, China’s vicious and control-obsessed one-party dictatorship doesn’t allow Hong Kong to freely elect its own government. Another proposes that the same megalomaniac regime might care to sacrifice its grip on power by letting international markets set the value of its currency. A third implores us to empower migrant women (way too worthy to read – but go for it).

Then there’s this Chinese legal wacko freak insisting that Hong Kong cops beating up an arrested man are performing their duty, and their conviction for committing a crime is a sign that the Basic Law is wrong.

The initial comments on Twitter and elsewhere yesterday condemned the SCMP for crossing a line by publishing this article and going beyond a pro-Beijing agenda into pushing a frightening, totalitarian hell. My short point (now I’ve finally got to it) is that the paper is surely innocent here in publishing this piece: even Apple Daily couldn’t do more damage to the Communist Party’s name and reputation in Hong Kong if it tried.

 

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The CCP’s warm-and-fuzzy problem

The Chinese Communist Party’s inability to be even vaguely pleasant is one of life’s great mysteries, at least to some of us. The South China Morning Post’s political editor certainly finds it a puzzle. Why, he asks today, has Beijing blown its recent chance – after ditching unpopular Chief Executive CY Leung – to behave in a decent, constructive, friendly way towards Hong Kong’s alienated younger and educated population?

Instead, the one-party state is forcefully and blatantly using the fake-election process to install the dismally unimpressive but obedient Carrie Lam in Leung’s place. China’s officials are so obsessive and blundering about putting her in office that they are depriving her of any credibility she might otherwise have. They are willfully setting her up to fail as yet another unpopular stooge.

It seems illogical and perverse. The Dalai Lama says that China’s leaders do not use the human brain properly, which is probably part of the problem. Specifically, the Chinese Communist Party cannot handle, let alone accept, anything that it cannot absolutely control.

The ‘two meetings’ in Beijing provide China’s officials with another opportunity to whine and rant about Hong Kong people, demanding that they ‘focus on the economy’, which is longstanding code for ‘shut up about bad governance’. Elsewhere in the empire, the masses are happy. Any complaints or unrest are instantly rendered invisible by censorship, secret police or other means – the resulting silence and harmony confirming that the Communist Party is perfect and never makes mistakes. The constant criticism and protests coming out of Hong Kong are an intolerable affront.

There is only one response. The Communists seem to be assuming that Carrie will go along with CY Leung’s psychopathic, United Front, mouth-frothing, berserk, crush-the-opposition stuff – but with a softer, feminine touch, so we don’t notice or mind.

The Chinese Communist Party cannot handle a pluralistic society. Carrie is presumably supposed to put a gentle face on the regime’s struggle against ‘opposition’ and discontent. In other words, she is supposed to put a gentle face on the ongoing witch-hunt against elected pro-democracy lawmakers, of whom nine now face various legal actions. She must put a gentle face on the farcical situation whereby Triad-connected sleazebags shoe-shine the Communist Party by trying to donate money to cops convicted of criminal offenses. She is supposed to sugar-coat the co-opted property cartel, the fawning media, and all the rest of this steaming pile of doo-doo – when the lady’s core competence is setting up committees.

And it’s just another four months to go before we have the 20th Anniversary of Being Governed by Malevolent Ghouls Who Hate This City, complete with Xi ‘Mr Empathy’ Jinping and his touchy-feely military parade. Fun for all.

It has been drawn to my attention that the Wikipedia page for ‘Hong Kong Chief Executive’ features (as of 10am Mar 7 2017) some sort of mistake

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Fake ritualized drivel update

Which is the most inane, contrived or purely pointless drivel to come out of this year’s NPC/CPPCC gatherings so far? We’ve got Communist Party Bureaucrat Guy wondering if Hong Kong has too many white-skinned devils as judges. There’s Patriotic Rail Engineer Guy suggesting that we can dispense with border controls between Hong Kong and the Mainland as of now. And Deputy Assistant Economy Scapegoat Li Keqiang predicts 6.5% GDP growth as the nation transforms ‘from a chrysalis to a butterfly’.

South of the ‘boundary’, there is no escape from the suffocating pretense that something important is happening amid vacuous ritual. A debate pits Beijing’s chosen ‘winner’ of the Chief Executive quasi-election Carrie Lam against dark-horse/slight-oddball/joke candidate Justice Woo Kwok-hing. The retired judge gives poor Carrie a rhetorical slapping over such issues as Hong Kong’s social divisions.

The absence of the (superficially) popular third candidate John Tsang highlights Carrie’s weaknesses as an unfeeling, out-of-touch, ‘incurious’ (as Woo put it) bureaucrat. The official line among Beijing’s relatively articulate apologists is that Carrie is the ablest of the three supposed contenders. While not exactly saying much, there might be something to it. The thing is, she needs the affable-but-bumbling John beside her to provide the contrast to help her look competent.

In short: John’s non-appearance at the debate further undermined Carrie’s weak public image. Whether this was cunning cynical calculation or just chance, I couldn’t possibly say.

A quick scan of a South China Morning Post column apparently about beer reveals the phrase ‘Rugby Sevens’, which convinces me to read no further. But only after I absorb the first paragraph and its tired cliché. One word…

‘Midwifery’.

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RIP R Ip

And so a busy couple of weeks come dribbling to an end. The next week or two will probably, by contrast, be relatively quiet, as Hong Kong’s political ‘heavyweights’, co-opted tycoons, pro-Beijing shoe-shiners, Communist-worshipping zombies and all-purpose human annoyances go on their annual pilgrimage to the nation’s capital for the ‘two meetings’ of China’s rubber-stamp legislative and consultative bodies.

The soap-opera known as the Hong Kong Chief Executive election will continue. For those who missed the last few episodes: supporting actress Regina Ip has – as widely expected – finally been written out of the script. She is not happy, whining about her loyalty to the sponsors and no doubt bitter about how hard it is for women her age to land a decent role. But the truth is the producers never intended her rebellious character to remain in the show this long, overshadowing the duller leading members of the cast, notably star Carrie Lam, the wholesome girl-next-door, who is the focus of the fading and absurd drama.

How can you answer this question in just 600 words?

The article is fawning towards the unlikeable lawmaker – but in these strange times that is actually a somewhat seditious position to take. The ironies! Regina wins votes in the real, free democratic elections we have for the Legislative Council. She gambled, through energetic obsequiousness, on her no-nonsense style being acceptable to the Communist Party. Now she has ‘lost’ in a quasi-poll deliberately rigged to appoint someone safe and spineless. She would have been better off being a feisty and serious pro-democrat all along. So hard to sort out the injustice from the justice here.

Maybe there is hope for her yet. I declare the weekend open with a job-opportunity brainwave…

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Hilariously Funny Headline of the Day Award…

…is a tie:

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Letter to the editor

Just received, worth passing on during this week’s interlude:

I think things are becoming very interesting in this rigged CE selection. I don’t think Beijing has as much control over the Election Committee [as] it likes to have … the fact that Carrie Lam received only 579 nominations proves it. This falls short of the 601 nominations she needs to win.

To make matters worse for Carrie there are around 272 undecided pro establishment voters, there are rumours that there are many disgruntled pro establishment voters that didn’t appreciate publicly nominating Carrie under duress and intend to vote differently during the secret ballot election, the pan democrats control 327 votes, and the cherry on top is John Tsang has 20 pro establishment nominations to top it all off…

Carrie Lam is also doing herself no favours with her joke of a campaign that has more in common with Henry Tang’s failed campaign than it does with CY’s campaign. Her popularity is waning, she’s already being mobbed by protesters, and her gaffes are just plain embarrassing.

I think the blatant very visible manipulation of the CE selection is starting to backfire horribly for the liaison office, and John Tsang may end up getting elected despite the liaison office’s best efforts to thwart that.

This leaves Beijing the nuclear option of refusing appointment. But would they really do that? I doubt it, especially since President Xi did shake Tsang’s hand and Tsang has been a principal official of the HKSAR government for years. They already appointed Donald Tsang despite the fact that Donald wasn’t Beijing’s first choice and a he’s an Anglophile  …  It’ll cause even more resentment in the pro establishment camp than there already is, not to mention massive angry public protests, and push HK even further away from Beijing than it already is.

The alternative theory is that Beijing are executing a cunning Machiavellian strategy and actually want John Tsang to win by showering Carrie Lam with their toxic support, but I do not believe those extremely thick skulls up north are capable of planning anything beyond clumsy ham-fisted psychopathic brute force, threats, and extortion.

Brief thoughts:

Beijing doesn’t have as much control as it would like over anything.

Yes, the ‘Machiavellian’ theory is too outlandish for Beijing. Carrie is undoubtedly the official choice (barring a deus ex machina). Beijing has sufficient zombie/loyalist-reserves on the Election Committee to make sure she ‘wins’, though possibly with an embarrassingly low margin and with dire public opinion ratings. The ‘appointment’ power is an emergency button – a superfluous security blanket for the paranoid thumb-sucking CCP.

Beijing has put itself in this position – whatever outcome it contrives, it alienates Hong Kong through the process and by delivering an administration with no mandate or credibility. (And, as the manifesto suggests, Carrie looks set to be the least-confident CE so far. John would be most lightweight.)

The point about her campaign looking like Henry’s gets Spot-On Observation of the Week Award. That handing-of-job-on-plate-to-dupe-massively-out-of-their-depth smell is unmistakable.

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A quick link…

here.

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The Manifesto

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive-select Carrie Lam officially launches her election Manifesto today. Even by the standards of pointless, half-hearted, vacuous platforms for rigged elections, it will be stunningly insipid. It will make a Donald Tsang Policy Address look exciting and ideas-packed by comparison.

It will be interesting to see how the press treat this classic Emperor-with-no-clothes event. Presumably most of the establishment media will feign to take it seriously. If they were honest, they would identify one theme that runs through the document – the idea that Government is the Solution not the Problem.

No-one has told Carrie that, as CE, she will no longer be a mere administrator. She clearly sees bureaucratic process as 99% of the task of solving every challenge. The Manifesto spells out very few outcomes, results, ‘deliverables’, outputs or what the public thinks of as ‘stuff’. Instead, it promises efforts by officials to enhance or strengthen cooperation, coordination, communication, etc. (You wouldn’t believe how much coordination is coming our way.) And it describes, over and again, how a task force, committee, commission, summit or other official body will be formed to consider the possibility of doing something about [whatever the problem is].

To the extent that the manifesto mentions some sort of policy action, it is noticeably on the interventionist side. Tax breaks to attract big-name foreign companies in desirable sectors (tech/innovation) to set up their regional HQs here (like Turkey or Malaysia or somewhere). More tax breaks – more like blatant subsidies – for companies that conduct the correct, trendy type of R&D. Government is repeatedly described as a ‘facilitator’ and ‘promoter’, and will send its own officials around the world to do more trade delegations, bilateral treaty-signings, free-trade agreements and economic ambassador-stuff (plus ‘Belt and Road’, of course).

Carrie has had to grovel to various Election Committee beggars for nominations. The result is tawdry promises of help for retired sportsmen, career opportunities for Chinese medicine practitioners and favours for other vested interests who will soon be spoon-fed your tax-dollars.

Least surprising of all – vague promises to diversify the economy, alongside much more enthusiastic-sounding promises to boost the very tourism industry that is squeezing other economic activities out.

That’s it for a few days – but if the above is not depressing enough, there’s this.

 

 

 

 

 

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