Apres Fishball, la deluge


Following the Fishball Riot, Hong Kong suffers a predictable deluge of righteous outrage in the pro-government media. Young radicals are obviously evil – end of story. The police are heroes. (However, some police are blaming their higher-ups for inadequate support and resolve. The force is certainly being abused, but these disgruntled cops should aim higher; they are being thrust into impossible situations to satisfy Beijing’s officials that the Hong Kong authorities are resolutely crushing CIA-backed pro-independence splittists.) All this is tempered by columns of inconclusive hand-wringing stating the obvious about violence being bad and government policies having room for improvement.

We also have a high-profile, heavy-handed crackdown on alleged ringleaders and fiends. As with the exploitation of the once-impartial and respected police force as a political tool, this is to satisfy Beijing officials. It is Mainland-style ‘strike hard’, rule-by-fear stuff, with Hong Kong characteristics – thanks to which it looks contrived and clunky. The authorities may well nab some actual rock-throwers, but only after much embarrassing overkill, not to mention Orwell-does-Keystone Cops weirdness


As with the Occupy/Umbrella movement, decisions over prosecution may take ages or be mishandled, and then the courts will throw many cases out. But by that time, the Stan-ListSuspCommunist Party’s enforcers in the Liaison Office will not be paying attention, so it won’t matter – unless you care about things like integrity of the law enforcement system, or Hong Kong’s broader reputation.

No doubt Beijing would like Chief Executive CY Leung to seize the Fishball Riot as an opportunity to clamp down on Hong Kong’s civil liberties and degrade rule of law. If we want to clutch at straws/find cause for optimism, we can expect the Leninist system to find pluralistic Hong Kong harder (or even harder) to subjugate than Tibet or Xinjiang.

Intimidating or otherwise undermining the independent judiciary will have grave repercussions on the business and investment environment. Meaningful repression of communications and the media will have the same impact. Maybe Xi Jinping doesn’t care about all that, but there are a lot of people in the establishment and wider ‘moderate’ ‘silent majority’ with material wealth and personal ties at stake.

While it seems that Hong Kong is split along one-dimensional pro-Beijing/pro-democracy lines, the reality is more of a three-way struggle. There’s a big population among the business community, the bureaucracy, the middle class and others who benefit from Mainland-related economic opportunities and who are insulated from the harm resulting from local political inertia. But they are uneasy about all these ‘lines being crossed’ – whether it’s a panicky cop firing into the air in Mongkok or Chinese agents abducting people even on Hong Kong soil.

People talk about CY and Beijing dividing the community, but the Communist clampdown in Hong Kong creates conflict within individuals. You can be a respectable, upstanding establishment member who frets about young radical hotheads resisting Communist Party encroachment of local freedom – and at the same fret about Communist Party encroachment of local freedom. The young localists are not some last line of defence.

I declare the weekend open with another cheering thought for those who can see silver linings: have you noticed how many Hong Kong stocks are trading at well below their NAVs?


Central, this morning.

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No ‘excuses’, lots of ‘reasons’


The strict official line on Hong Kong’s brief but bloody and inauspicious New Year ‘Fishball Revolution’ is that a small bunch of extremist radicals indulged in criminal violence and, as threats to society, must now be rounded up and brought to justice. Chief Executive CY Leung and his deputy Chief Secretary Carrie Lam will not accept that the riot had anything to do with governance. Loyalist groups and media dutifully go along with this (the South China Morning Post today offers this and – for fans of hardcore mouth-frothing – this).


The brick-throwing and firing of live ammunition were genuinely shocking. This was not, as some media reports said, the worst unrest since Occupy Central ended a year ago; it was the worst in living memory for most participants (inexact precedents date from the early 80s at the latest or the 60s). There is a constituency out there – off-line, grumpy, elderly – who would love to see uppity students hanged and flogged. But even many pro-establishment figures must suspect that the riot is a symptom of the city’s failed leadership.

Lawmaker Regina Ip calls not only for water cannon but for the administration to address ‘deep-rooted’ problems. Mainstream pro-democracy politicians and others similarly strive to get their own personal balance between denouncing the violence and blaming the governance.

A letter in the SCMP provides a quick reminder of the problems with the latter:

Legitimate requests are made to overhaul our education and health-care systems, have a universal retirement scheme and deal with cage homes and subdivided units. These calls are systematically ignored. In the meantime white elephant projects like the high-speed rail link to Guangdong and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge (being backed by Beijing) are put to the top of the agenda in Legco. It is no wonder that the feeling of not being included is finally taken to extremes.

The first person to blame for this is a chief executive who has refused to listen to Hongkongers and failed to recognise the feelings people had which were boiling over. Secondly, we should blame those ministers and secretaries who in their bureaus and departments should have listened and recognised what was going on. They failed to do this and did not act.

You can add an array of other contributing factors, from bureaucratic stupidity in administering street food vendors to Beijing agents’ abduction of booksellers.

Separate items in the Standard reject ‘excuses’ but insist on ‘reasons’ for the Fishball Riot…


We know throwing rocks at the police is wrong, and we know that if a government is doing its job properly, you don’t get rioting – but beyond that, we don’t have a clue.

An optimist would hope that officials would learn a lesson at this point, and do more to get governance back on track. There is a bigger picture and a more pessimistic and even apocalyptic point of view – of which more later. Meanwhile, an interesting look at police tactics here, and a taste of the apocalyptic here.

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Happy New Year from Guangdong Public Security Dept


As the New Year begins, so it will unfold. That is why everyone is scurrying to pay off debts, clean the home (ahem) and tie up loose ends in time for Monday, the first day of Monkey Year. It is also a time when people should be with their family, or – if they are absolutely unable to travel – at least get in touch. And so the Chinese authorities choose this moment to notify Hong Kong police about the ‘other three’ missing book-sellers, Lui Por, Cheung Chi Ping and Lam Wing Kee.

The Hong Kong government issues a brief release describing the contents of the long overdue notification. It does so without comment or embellishment, leaving us with this stark and clumsy statement that the three are – as everyone assumed – under investigation for some unspecified crime. The supposed crime is related to Gui Minhai, who after vanishing from Thailand was forced to make a confession on Mainland TV. The Chinese authorities thoughtfully enclose a separate note from Lee Po, in which he says he does not wish to meet Hong Kong police right now.

We can speculate that the five, incommunicado (and some not even aware that all the others are being held), are undergoing the Prisoner’s Dilemma treatment and being invited to incriminate one another, leading to some or all being framed on state secrets charges. The Hong Kong government is visibly helpless, as are Beijing’s local sympathizers. The city’s people and the international community see the Communist SCMP-FugitiveParty’s brutishness and thuggery for what it is. In short – nothing has changed.

On a lighter note, it can be tempting to make a public prediction that something you would like to see will not happen (or vice-versa). It is a win-win: if you are right, you appear smart at forecasting; if you’re wrong, you got the pleasing outcome. With this in mind, I confidently prophesize that if Hong Kong and Macau agree on an extradition system, for reasons of non-retroactivity or whatever, property tycoon Joseph Lau will not be sent over to Sleazeville’s rat-infested dungeons in leg-irons to face his bribery conviction. Nope.

I declare the glorious five-day weekend open with a little something purloined from the Foreign Correspondents Club magazine, as a public service for anyone who would otherwise have missed them – recent Harry cartoons that didn’t make it into the South China Morning Post



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China goes shopping

I suppose it could be worse – it could be called PsynGent@ or something. But apart from a company with a stupid name, what does state-owned ChemChina get for the US$43 billion it plans to pay for Swiss seeds and pesticides maker Syngenta?

The South China Morning Post files the story under ‘agriculture’ and sees the deal as an acquisition of cutting-edge crop technology and a boost to food security. Reuters says China wants to increase productivity on its degraded farmland. Syngenta has a big presence in the US, so authorities there will examine the takeover for possible repercussions to their own national security, and probably find nothing to worry about.

Why does the Chinese government (of which ChemChina is essentially an arm) feel a need to spend US$43 billion on a foreign company whose products may help improve its agricultural sector? The country could shop around and buy the best and latest in high-yield GM seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and other farm technology not only from Syngenta but from Monsanto and all the other players out there, at a fraction of the cost.

Maybe, like Victor Kiam, they were ‘so impressed’ and see long-term returns. As a Chinese SCMP-ChemChinastate-owned company enjoying favourable financing and protection from competition, ChemChina is probably sitting on huge piles of cash, and – like everyone else in the Mainland – would rather move it offshore. It is official policy to diversify; thanks to another recent acquisition by ChemChina, the Chinese public are now the proud owners of Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli.

But this is not about a sovereign wealth fund adding to its portfolio. This is about control – or more to the point, a psychological need for a sense of control. China has also bought Smithfield, the world’s biggest pork producer, and owns/leases farmland from New Zealand to Africa, and holds other supplies of resources overseas like mines. Other countries dependent on imports of vital commodities, like Japan, just buy what they need at market prices. This isn’t so much about national security as Chinese Communist Party insecurity. China’s leaders are paranoid and convinced the world is out to get them. Ownership of sources of raw materials makes them feel less vulnerable. Interestingly, rather than making China less reliant on evil barbarians, it probably exposes the country to new risks like sequestration, or devaluation of fixed assets, or a case of buyer’s remorse on being lumbered with a bad deal.

That bring us to the amount China is paying for this stuff. Chinese officials might rationalize these acquisitions in mercantilist terms: why pay foreigners dividends when you can keep all the profits yourself? But if the foreign shareholders are all too delighted to sell, it suggests that China might not be getting the fantastic and clever deal it imagines.

The Reuters report quotes a fund manager as saying that ‘Syngenta has never been valued so highly. Over the last few years the company has failed to demonstrate it can generate reasonable earnings on its own’, and pretty much adding that he can’t wait to grab the cash.

Syngenta’s boss is interviewed on CNBC. Too suavely European to drool openly all over the newscaster’s desk, he purrs about ‘a very nice premium for shareholders… a multiple of earnings…’ Mmmmm. Could there be a nicer bunch of people to do business with than the Xi regime?

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Hong Kong keeps ‘least representative election’ title

Hong Kong’s five-yearly ‘elections’ for Chief Executive are a stage-managed farce. You are supposed to think that the vote is restricted to 1,200 members of an ‘Election Committee’ who are mostly selected for their pro-Beijing credentials. But even such a tightly constrained franchise is too unpredictable for the control-obsessed Chinese Communist Party. The winner is in fact decided in advance in Beijing, and a totally dependable and obedient core numbering a bit over 600 members of the Committee vote in accordance with instructions.

People who mock CY Leung as ‘689’ for the number of votes he received in 2012 are therefore missing the point. Whatever the number of votes, the Election Committee was serving as a rubber stamp; his lack of legitimacy would be the same whether he had 389, 689 or 989 ‘votes’.

Still, as a quantifiable way to illustrate the absence of a popular mandate, 689 (make-believe) votes is pretty vivid. It’s barely 0.010% of Hong Kong’s population. Even if it were a real, open, non-rigged poll, it would be laughed off as so unrepresentative as to be meaningless.

Yet when Ted Cruz gets votes from just 0.016% of the US population in Iowa’s primary, it is a major story because everyone believes/hopes that it means something momentous. Specifically, they see an omen that Cruz can beat Donald Trump, and – Cruz being even more, and more genuinely, slimy, scary and loathsome compared with faking-it Trump – this in turn means Republicans will ultimately rally round the dashing Marco Rubio as a least-repulsive, theoretically electable candidate. It’s a lot of meaning to squeeze out of the red dots you can barely see here…


Similarly, people are reading a lot into the Democrats’ results. They see the tiny handful of votes and coin-tossings between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as a signal that the US is headed for Socialism with Vermonter Characteristics, or that Hillary is a definite shoe-in – it’s very clear and obvious either way.

The Hong Kong Election Committee is decried as a body packed with Communist-front patriots who believe anything they’re told and opportunistic shoe-shiners like property tycoons looking for handouts and free lunches at others’ expense. And with few ordinary citizens. Which indeed it is.

But what, then, is Iowa – especially primary-voting, caucus-enduring Iowa? An insignificant, mostly white state packed with Evangelicals who believe in a 6,000-year-old universe and farmers getting taxpayers’ subsidies for producing a crop that is converted into either an inefficient fossil fuel substitute or a synthetic sugar put in every foodstuff imaginable and which quite possibly screws up the human metabolism in such a way as to cause obesity.

Election Committee, Iowa… each has a disproportionate number of devout and unthinking followers of an outdated belief system and grasping parasites profiting by making everyone else’s lives worse. We can safely ignore both.

The difference, of course, is that the US’s search for its next leader will become more inclusive over time, with anyone free – in principle – to run, and everyone wielding one vote that they can cast as they please. In Hong Kong, the choice of Least-Repulsive among CY Leung, Anthony Leung, Regina Ip, or whoever lies not with the people, not even with an unrepresentative Committee of 1,200 boot-lickers, but with the Politburo in Beijing, compared with which Iowa, and most anywhere else you can think, of is a haven of humanity and decency.


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SCMP does humour

The op-ed page of today’s South China Morning Post is largely dedicated to attacking evil foreigners plotting to hold the glorious motherland back…


American academic Tom Plate traces market jitters about the Yuan to the West and its ‘fast-buck investment jackals’ responsible for the Asian Financial Crisis. And local pro-Beijing polemicist Lau Nai-keung rants that George Soros’s attempts to short the currency will fail and takes another 800 or so words to insist that we must therefore ignore the guy. Both authors sound hurt that anyone might imagine that China’s economy is in any sort of trouble. Their tone suggests that we should believe everything is in fact fine, or, if it is not, it is the fault of the aforementioned barbarian devils.

What a joy, then, to have a third item on the page that is actually entertaining, and indeed SCMP-ADayvery funny. Peter Kammerer hilariously suggests that Hong Kong’s divisions could be healed by having an annual celebration of the day in 1841 when the British seized the place. The idea presumably came to him just a few days ago, on January 26 – the 175th anniversary of the event, which he felt went unmarked (though, as we shall see, it did not).

The Hong Kong government – not to mention our sovereign overlords in Beijing – would of course find such a suggestion horrifying. The local authorities are currently eradicating colonial-era symbols from Post Office mailboxes and, and more to the point, are engaged in a struggle against freedom-loving residents to curtail the city’s pluralism and liberty. The official line on everything is relentlessly Mainland, Mainland, Mainland, and young people seeking to defend Hong Kong’s distinctive culture are viewed as enemies.

I am amazed that such a scurrilous article could make it through the SCMP’s in-house Patriotic Mass-Line Enforcement Committee. How could they miss the joke – the idea that we have an annual celebration of the British legal system, as a sort of light relief from the other 364 days a year when the government and its Communist Party minders are dismantling rule of law?


The author makes one slip-up. He believes that pro-colonial and anti-colonial camps switched positions in the city’s power structure after the handover in 1997…


It was not that simple. The Chinese government made a point of co-opting interests like the property tycoons and the rural Heung Yee Kuk – the very people who had previously most energetically shoe-shined the British. The local pro-Communist loyalists remained largely excluded from the post-1997 government.

Hong Kong’s tycoons and New Territories mafia now seem to be losing favour among China’s leaders, who have finally noticed that these ‘elites’ are dedicated purely to extreme avarice. But the traditional leftists are still mostly sidelined and taken for granted – used for United Front purposes as required, and kicked in the teeth for their faithfulness, as with Tsang Tak-sing, like beaten dogs that come back whimpering to their master. Beijing seems to have given up the idea of having ‘friends’ in Hong Kong.

Anyway – the 175th anniversary of the British acquisition of Hong Kong was in fact celebrated. I guess Peter Kammerer did not get an invitation to the Party No-one Came To. It probably helped if you lived in or around the neighbourhood where it all began…


A good time was not had by all.

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Lining up to slum it in Sheung Wan

A weekend stroll reveals my local temple packed out – not with the usual tourists slavishly obeying the guidebook, but with neighbourhood residents incense-burning and groveling to the gods for some last-minute help and fixing-of-affairs before the Monkey Year starts in exactly one week. Just round the corner, one of the area’s many narrow, dilapidated and trendy streets has similarly been deluged with (mostly) Hongkongers rather than visitors.

The street – Kau U Fong – has several supposedly outstanding hip and fashionable restaurants. Being outside the core Lan Kwai Fong/Soho Overpriced Themed Concept Dining Zone, thus in theory less burdened by high rents, they might be very good. But for some reason, they acquire a reputation that attracts people who are perhaps less interested in the food than in saying they’ve been to this or that chic new outlet. So those of us who are too cool to make reservations never get around to trying them, and stick to the dependable traditional outlets.

Except the old local places get catapulted past the up-market French seafood or BBQ-ribs joints as word spreads that something authentic survives among all the glossy and chic start-ups sprouting throughout Sheung Wan. So on one side of the street yesterday lunchtime, you get this…


And directly opposite, you get this…


Which ever way you turn, a line of lost souls stretches into the distance. Quite disconcerting.

The first is Sing Heung Yuen, which is basically a tent with little plastic stools in an alleyway. The house specialty is instant noodles in tomato soup, along with the ultimate in fine freshly-made toast. The secret (I suspect, without having tried the fare) is to lace the tomato with a bit of soy sauce and sugar. You could do this at home, except of course you don’t/wouldn’t have instant noodles there. Hordes of eager youngish types line up for ages in the cold to sample this vestige of old Hong Kong’s culinary heritage.

The second is Kau Kee, a renowned beef brisket and noodle place. I am not sure how you make beef brisket so exceptionally sublime that it surpasses everyone else’s in a city of 7 million for ever and ever. Maybe grandad’s recipe really is uniquely superb, somehow, or maybe the Gods of Marketing smiled on one above-averagely decent purveyor, and the place went viral to the extent that unthinking masses must wait in line for hours to try it.

Meanwhile, many of us have just days in which to sort out loose ends before the Year of the Goat expires and leaves us in the unfinished-business-at-Lunar-New-Year lurch. So a few quick links for anyone who missed them about what to expect as Xi Jinping leads China into a new Cultural Revolution – a man-made national catastrophe in the making, and how it plays out in little Hong Kong.

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Arthur Li – making enemies for Beijing


Is Arthur Li consciously or subconsciously imitating Donald Trump? The new and pro-Beijing chairman of HK University Council seems to have perfected the wig-wearing narcissistic populist mogul celebrity interloper’s technique. Talk crap you probably don’t even believe; lay on some more outlandish smears as dimwits who fall for it SCMP-StudenysActjump up and down in glee; bask in the shock, incomprehension and anger you provoke among your foes and indeed among many moderate and sensible onlookers.

The rowdy protest at the university campus the other night was not clever. The students and their supporters barricading council members in buildings were inviting a PR backlash. They are lucky that it was delivered by the unlikeable, mouth-frothing ‘King Arthur’; his predecessor Leong Che-hung’s ‘wounded innocent’ persona would have roused more sympathy (and anti-student feeling) in the wider community.

The students’ mistake is to focus on minutiae and symbolism distant to much of the public. The issue is not Arthur Li, or the University Council, or its members’ unsurprising refusal to accede to a boisterous crowd’s demands that they come out and ‘talk’. The issue is the Chinese government’s gradual but steady subversion of Hong Kong’s free society. Hong Kong’s main hope lies in Beijing’s malice and nastiness further alienating and provoking people. Trapping Council member Leonie Ki in an ambulance – while probably tempting – is counterproductive.

The good news is that, unlike students, Beijing has an apparently limitless capacity to alienate and provoke.

The backdrop here is China’s economy – non-reforming into stagnation – while Xi Jinping compensates with his neo-totalitarian rectification movement with Belt-and-Road characteristics. The international media are coming to terms with the very real possibility that China has jumped the shark. After the Washington Post’s commendable summary of the Communist Party’s illegal persecution of critics overseas, the Financial Times presents a good overview of Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong (if you ignore the Occupy-brought-city-to-standstill cliché).

The FT needs a quote from a pro-Beijing figure or two – and most of them are trying hard to keep their heads down at this sensitive and unpredictable time. Businessman-politician Michael Tien bravely agrees to go on the record, and opines that pro-democrats, radicals, Occupy folk and other dissenters have brought the wrath of Beijing upon themselves.


It is true that the Umbrella movement ‘provoked’ Beijing’s subsequent interference in local universities, but of course Beijing’s earlier refusal of democracy ‘provoked’ Occupy – and so on back through the years. Xinjiang ‘provoked’ Beijing into curbing Uighur religion and culture. Tibetans ‘provoked’ Beijing into shutting monasteries and imposing its own Buddhist order. By electing the wrong person President, Taiwan has just ‘provoked’ Beijing into hints of military attack. The FT article ends with a section about Hong Kong’s next round of ‘provocation’, namely the rise of young localists rejecting Chinese identity.

This has also happened in Taiwan. Indeed, where Taiwan is concerned, the Chinese Communist Party has blown it. China’s co-opting of exploitative business elites, the threats of violence, and the plain obnoxiousness – the complete inability to win friends by being nice – has lost the next generation and with it Taiwan, for good.

Hong Kong is constitutionally attached to the PRC. But Beijing just cannot stop itself from doing its United Front book-seller-kidnapping soft-power worst. Arthur Li is one extra little bit of alienation to ensure maximum resentment and hostility towards the glorious motherland. The students should welcome him.

I declare the weekend open with I Am Fishead for some rainy day viewing on psychopaths, pills and corporate leadership.

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Xi – calm, confident and in control

Remember that time in late 2012 when Xi Jinping disappeared for a couple of weeks? One story was that he had been hit with a chair when a brawl broke out during a meeting of princelings. As a red herring, this would be clever: so absurd and embarrassing that it couldn’t be made up. A deeper, darker suspicion was that there had been a coup attempt. The subsequent rounding-up of Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, General Xu Caihou, Ling not-NYT-InBookmy-dead-Ferrari-driver-son Jihua and others supported this notion. Now it’s pretty much official – Xi publicly states that the Party thwarted ‘political plot activities’.

Assuming that this isn’t another that’s-what-they-want-us-to-think ruse, the implication is that Xi is now totally in charge and all possibilities of treachery eliminated. So everything is fine and dandy.

But of course there is that economic cataclysm/slightly bumpy landing looming. The more frantically Chinese state media insist that everything is great, the data are accurate and reform is proceeding apace, the worse our expectations get. Last year’s stock market/exchange rate screw-ups were clear signs that there is no grand strategy – they are making it up as they go along. It looks like the sort of panicky decision-making you would expect when one man has assumed an unhealthy degree of control, doesn’t understand economics, and is surrounded by people who tell him he is correct and flawless. The clampdowns on human-rights-and-everything add to the impression of an emperor with no restraints and no idea of what to do next except cover problems up.

Wang Baoan, the guy in charge of China’s statistics has just been arrested, ‘apparently for corruption’. This is just a day or two after experts and reporters at Davos and around the world mocked (or continued mocking) the nation’s economic data as fabricated. As that Washington Post story reminds us, deputy head of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office Gong Qinghai was placed under investigation for corruption last week, just days after Tsai Ing-wen’s victory. And the same happened to vice-chairman of the Securities Regulatory Commission Yao Gang in November, a few months after the stock-market crash. And let’s not forget the other regulators and banker/fund manager types getting arrested and in some cases apparently committing suicide.

Xi might have defeated an attempted coup, but here is a classic case of the ‘enemy is us’ – his system’s own inability to get out of its economic morass. Real reform is out of the question as it means the Communist Party will lose its grip on power. Avoiding reform is also out of the question as the loss of legitimacy also means the Communist Party will lose its grip on power. The only thing he can be certain of is that the Party will not lose its grip on power. A conundrum he can only hope an ongoing slaughter of the scapegoats will solve.


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HK property to add to overall mayhem

All sorts of impending doom going on right now.

An international survey shows that Hong Kong has the world’s least-affordable housing. China’s state media reveals Beijing’s nervousness by lamely warning George Soros and others that ‘vicious shorting’ of the Yuan will hurt only the speculators. Hong Kong students brave the cold and angrily protest the Chinese Communist Party’s vindictive micro-meddling in the University’s internal affairs. The causes of such discontent in Hong Kong range from bad governance – issues like housing – to Beijing’s broader assaults on local freedom, such as the abduction of the five book-sellers. In the background is China’s overall clampdown on human rights. And on that note, an anonymous HSBC source tells Reuters that the apparent weakening of Hong Kong’s autonomy is one reason to stay domiciled in London.


“The situation in Hong Kong appears to be getting worse. You have to wonder if the city will remain a suitable base for an independent-minded, top global financial institution,” said an HSBC insider, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

There was a time, maybe up to a year or so ago, when HSBC appeared to be angling for Reu-HSBC-Bsome sort of tax or other sweetener to lure it ‘home’. Now, it seems, Hong Kong is unfit for multinationals’ HQs and – if it has to choose between the two – would rather host China’s kidnappers of publishers. (And CNN can go, too, if they don’t like it.)

A good summary of China’s clampdown appears here. In a nutshell: China’s looming economic crisis threatens the healthy development of Xi Jinping’s personality cult, but the Western world’s cowardice and hypocrisy over human rights come to the rescue.

On the face of it, speculators who see the Hong Kong Dollar as a proxy for the Yuan are misinformed. But this isn’t about the technicalities of currency arrangements – it’s psychology. Just the threat of attacks on either currency will increase jitters in the city about what is already obviously a bursting property bubble. We are now hearing real-estate agents pleading for cuts in stamp duty to prop up prices, and this is just the beginning of the squealing.

Compared with China’s lapse into economic gloom and dictatorship, Hong Kong’s housing may seem a sideshow. But nothing disorientates Hong Kong like declining property prices: the reversal of ever-rising asset values and landlords’ pricing power is like a Jacobin overthrow of the natural order. The people who gain are non-owners of property – serfs of no consequence in the city’s political system – so the government and its supporters (facing legislative elections in September) can only lose as the bubble deflates.

That means a more fevered and panicky climate, an administration under even greater siege, all the more seething and anger from the people – and in response yet more paranoia and brutishness from the Communist Party’s henchmen on this side of the border, where the world can see it up close.


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