Exciting waterfront plan unveiled

An award-winning architectural studio proposes a bold, visionary, daring, elegant, accessible, attractive, like-normal-cities-have plan to turn the Central Ferris Wheel Themed Tourist Observation Rotating Device Concept Zone/old General Post Office HQ area into a ‘crowning glory’ waterfront public space.

The company concerned is British and also contributed to the disruptive and radical hare-brained scheme to pedestrianize Des Voeux Road. It devised this waterfront idea in conjunction with Designing Hong Kong, a well-known hotbed of pro-democracy subversives, and the Urban Land League, which is probably a Jimmy Lai/CIA-backed front aimed at overthrowing the Chinese government. The artist’s impression clearly shows that their intention is to leave precious real estate without buildings on it, thus reducing government land revenues, starving core Central of the office space we need to compete with Singapore/Shanghai/Dubai, and depriving construction workers of jobs…

…not to mention filling the area with dangerous trees.

Fortunately, this fiscal/economic/planning disaster will never happen. We can confidently predict that officials from the Development Bureau and Anti-Pedestrian Department will consult with our deeply patriotic property developers, who will hire experienced local architectural partnership Podiums R Us to use their famous No-Curvy-Bits ‘Maximize GFA’ design philosophy to construct tasteful good-feng-shui vast slabs of concrete and glass, and produce something more in keeping with our harbourfront aesthetics…

…obviously.

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A few links…

…for those with time to spare.

A ‘reality check’ presentation on how the world’s new amazing almighty superpower is more screwed up than its official line lets on – rural China. Also in the ‘more interesting than it sounds’ category (and indeed in the ‘more screwed up than the official line lets on’ category): an update on Hong Kong’s dolphins.

Not least, a big paper on Beijing’s United Front. Specifically about how the Chinese Communist Party is getting its claws into New Zealand – but applicable to every Western democracy, and other places and milieus as well, including Hong Kong.

An interesting parallel here is with the spread of Wahhabi/Salafi Islamic supremacism in Western countries (let alone elsewhere, like Southeast Asia). Like the CCP’s United Front, the Gulf/Saudi theocratic malevolence systematically exploits Western freedoms to infiltrate diaspora communities and influence broader society and policymaking. Both are aided by Western squeamishness about recognizing ethnic/religious-based threats.

The CCP, at least, is possibly over-reaching itself.

Meanwhile, deep down in the freezing pit of Hell – Maria Cordero mooncakes…

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The anti-independence frenzy gets sophisticated

While Hong Kong’s student radicals are taking a break before moving on to the next scurrilous Outrage-the-Communists gimmick, the ponderous, officially contrived Great Campus Independence-Poster Mouth-Froth enters its next stage. Behold the Wow-So-Nuanced-‘Discussion-Not-Propaganda’-Angle. According to this finely crafted logic-mangling, you can debate independence, but not advocate it – because that ‘goes against’ the Basic Law, blah, blah.

Beijing’s shoe-shiners and puppets feel they are getting closer to the real issue by becoming obsessed with ‘independence’ as a concept and subject rather than as an alarming slogan on banners. Government officials, meanwhile, imagine they are being bold pondering the opening-up of Civic Square, a small specific concrete area where protests have occurred and could occur again if the fences are removed. In both cases, pro-Beijing forces think that the more strenuously they fixate on minor, irrelevant symbols, they less they need to worry about big bad reality. Focus on the symptoms, and the causes will go away.

Let’s seek truth from facts: Hong Kong people are unhappy because of bad governance (favoritism, cronyism, misallocation of resources, a semi-feudal domestic economy, arrogant mediocrities masquerading as leaders, etc). They want better, accountable government. The Chinese one-party regime expressly forbids them from having it. Hong Kong reacts through protests, which result in a heightened Communist Party clampdown in the city, bringing us to this current cycle of tit-for-tat action and retaliation.

Beijing’s supporters can’t or won’t go there. So let’s refocus our efforts on ‘discussing without promoting’ independence, and all will be fine.

I declare the weekend open with one of SCMP cartoonist Harry’s outstanding (presumably insufficiently politically correct) recent rejects

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Oh, and he’s got a new book out…

Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten hits town. (His modern-day counterpart Chief Executive Carrie Lam dons an unspeakable blue jacket and visits the UK to hobnob with even earlier colonial relics – including an eerily preserved Lydia Dunn.)

For each minute of wit and each minute of wisdom, Patten usually comes up with several more minutes of self-serving platitudes about pre-handover decision-making – and some apparent naivety about the nature of China’s Leninist regime. His HKFP interview is no exception.

He misses the point when he insists that calls for Hong Kong independence are unrealistic. The ‘pro-independence movement’ was largely fabricated by Chief Executive CY Leung, presumably because the Liaison Office wanted a post-Occupy pretext for a heightened clampdown on opposition forces. Mischievous radicals quickly embraced the meme as a sure-fire way to anger and alarm Beijing. It’s hard to say who’s playing into whose hands. As China heightens repression in Hong Kong, ‘independence’ could take on more significance as a rallying cry among an angrier resistance. But as of now, no-one seriously foresees a city-state republic here, short of a collapse of the Communist Party.

Patten also pleads with the Chinese/Hong Kong leaders to debate and discuss with the young rather than alienate them through oppression. This is like advising Chinese officials to stop shaving beards off Muslim men in Xinjiang in order to improve relations with Uighurs – or to relax controls on the media, Internet and courts to nurture a more accountable government and innovative economy. Paranoid dictatorships don’t do obvious common sense.

The former governor is probably being diplomatic and prudent. Even the gentle suggestion that his successor should speak truth to Beijing will attract accusations of unacceptable interference in China’s internal affairs. And few other qualified overseas figures even take an interest. Meanwhile, over in London, perhaps the conversation is about how much a nice retirement place in Oxfordshire is likely to cost in 2022…

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Carrie Lam rejoices, nearly 5% through her term

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is finalizing her 2017 Policy Address (yes, it’s the second this year – predecessor CY Leung moved the vacuous ritual to January, and she is returning it to October). She will offer measures in such areas as housing, schools and the elderly aimed at unifying our divided community, in keeping with her earnest desire to restore harmony.

As Carrie spreads warm and cuddly vibes by announcing vouchers and handouts for the underprivileged and left-behind, citizens tuning in for the speech will detect muffled shouts, bangs and crashes in the background. That will be the Liaison Office’s latest United Front struggle – perhaps lawmaker Junius Ho nailing a pro-independence student to a tree, or Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen demanding 20 years’ penal servitude for academics and priests guilty of inciting others to incite others during Occupy.

Hong Kong is undergoing two parallel campaigns: Carrie Lam’s let’s-all-be-nice-to-one-another-and-heal-divisions thing, and the Chinese Communist Party’s obsessive-compulsive paranoid psychopath crush-the-enemy thing.

Carrie has to smile and pretend the Cultural Revolution with Hong Kong characteristics isn’t really happening. When her own officials pursue vindictive and contrived court actions against perpetrators of thought crimes, she has to state baldly that rule of law is intact. When patriotic lynch-mobs and deranged shoe-shiners like Junius Ho are on the rampage, she must try to ignore the blood-spatter on her cheongsam and do her auntie-knows-best tut-tutting about civilized discourse and decency.

It will be interesting to see how Carrie manages to maintain this semi-aloof stance as the ideological rectification mayhem continues around her. She must be loyal to the sovereign power that appointed her, but she can (she must be hoping) distance herself from the more disgraceful and loathsome Leninist excesses. (If you think Junius Ho is a pitiful embarrassment to the human race, wait until the authentically imbecilic Holden Chow starts Trying Too Hard to impress his Communist Party masters.)

We could ponder how the Liaison Office enforcers might want to help bolster Carrie, perhaps by restraining their more rabid attack dogs. They probably will if the counter-revolutionary purge becomes counter-productive. But otherwise she is there to help them, not the other way round. She is at the publicly acceptable end of the spectrum of useful idiots, and they are all disposable. The bright side – there’s only another 95% of her (first) term of office left to go.

 

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Coming soon: The West Kowloon Confiscating Drugs Absurdity

The poster advertising ‘Road to Ultra’ didn’t work on me, so I wasn’t at the West Kowloon music festival last weekend. As well as the unappealing advertising, it was one of those peculiar events where you get DJs instead of actual bands. The hype-prone Standard regaled readers with descriptions of drunkenness, exotic foreigners and ‘marijuana in the air’ – but I doubt it was that good.

Although sad, it is not really shocking that, amid the heat and revelry, one person died and several were hospitalized. But what better excuse for some major mouth-frothing about the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which controls the site? (Having also apparently dropped some bad Ecstasy, the government chooses this moment to appoint the hapless Henry Tang as the new figurehead for the West Kowloon Cultural Hub-Zone. Presumably the idea is that he has no connection or familiarity with the arts, so there is no conflict of interest – indeed, just no interest.)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Hong Kong bureaucracy feels a massive, obsessive, permanent over-reaction coming on…

We can safely predict that from now until eternity, the West Kowloon Themed Cultural Concept District will be The Place Where People Do Drugs and Die Unless We Stop Them. Every event will be subject to the most frantic, extreme and absurd security measures.

Little old ladies attending Chinese opera, already freaked out by the women’s private parts problem, will have their handbags probed mercilessly. Tourists planning to check out the National Palace Museum of Stuff the Kuomintang Left Behind will have their pockets rummaged for hours. As for open-air concerts aimed at young foreign-influenced degenerates – music fans will stand in line for hours as guards sniff out and confiscate aspirin, jelly beans, asthma inhalers, yellow umbrellas and all other suspect dangerous paraphernalia.

I make a lot of wild forecasts, but this is guaranteed.

 

 

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Carrie does Burma

As Mainlandizing-rectification continues, Hong Kong’s leaders will increasingly be forced to shed their cherished World City image and adopt a more defensive and ‘anti-Western’ public stance.

Domestically, we already see the supposedly multicultural city’s British-trained top officials awkwardly embracing Beijing’s Han-nationalism – for example, in urging patriotic education in schools. The recent and ongoing wave of political persecution has left them having to spout hollow Mainland-style arguments that rule of law is intact.

This will spill over onto the international stage. Take this unfortunate juxtaposition: Foreign Affairs lumps Hong Kong with army-ruled Thailand as regimes that abuse the law to silence pro-democrats; and Chief Executive Carrie Lam visits Burma in mid-ethnic cleansing to push ‘Belt and Road’.

As Beijing brings Hong Kong under more direct control, the city must gradually lose its Leninism-free reputation. For example, the current United Front mouth-frothing campaign against pro-independence banners points to criminalization of opinions before long, and it is easy to see intimidation of pro-democracy individuals becoming violent.

(It’s important to remember that this is nothing personal against Hong Kong. Xi Jinping’s clampdown applies to Xinjiang, the Internet, churches, tycoons and everything else that petrifies him. And in Hong Kong it goes beyond dissidents: our regulatory authorities look the other way as the Communist Party starts doing corporate governance in some locally listed companies.)

Criticism from the overseas press will rise. Cornered, Hong Kong’s leaders will have to abandon the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ pretense, and let go their former status as honorary junior members of the Free-World Rulers’ Club. Their new international role will be as presentable, cosmopolitan fronts for Beijing’s scowling xenophobes, useful for wooing Southeast Asian dirtbag dictators – reflecting Hong Kong’s descent to a semi-autonomous, sort-of classy banana republic.

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HK govt tries to get Internet thing, again

According to a friend of a friend of a friend, Chief Executive Carrie Lam recently hosted a casual, off-the-record gathering for selected members of the press. At one stage, an executive from TVB angrily banged the table and told Carrie that his organization would boycott government press conferences if her administration accredited and admitted online media. She asked him to inform his boss that it would be fine with her if TVB didn’t come to press conferences.

The government’s ‘official’ lame reason for barring on-line media from briefings is that dangerous radicals could pose as amateur non-profit reporters and disrupt the proceedings with protests and stunts. A more credible lame reason would be that the government simply wants to protect the establishment cronies who now own most of Hong Kong’s mainstream press – just as it outlaws Uber to help Beijing loyalist taxi-licence owners.

Then there is a serious, non-lame reason: the unpopular and incompetent government wishes to avoid scrutiny by independent media who might ask awkward questions.

Lurking in the background here we have Beijing’s string-pullers in the Liaison Office. If the government does recognize digital media, it will because the Mainland officials aren’t too fussed about who gets a namby-pamby press-pass. The way they are arranging things in Hong Kong, it seems only a matter of time before we start to get top-down censorship (on ‘anti-sedition’ or other legal pretexts).

One other obvious reason the government seems to be inching towards recognizing digital news outlets is that eventually there won’t be any other sort. TVB opposes change because it wants to protect its web-based platform – not its old on-air broadcast channel – from competition.

Meanwhile, independent voices seem to be vanishing from local English-language media. The South China Morning Post has apparently disposed of Shirley Yam for covering Beijing elites’ stashes of wealth, and Jake Van Der Kamp has been silent for three weeks since a column that mentioned the collapse of the Communist regime (and has no link on the his page at the paper).

All this is a long way of getting round to declaring the weekend open – with a plug for Hong Kong Free Press’s appeal for a new home

 

 

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A brief touch-down on Planet Earth

Just time for a quick, freakish and nightmarish glimpse of reality to intrude today. A shadowy Mainland conglomerate that no-one seems to own wonders how to cover the US$3.5 billion it blew on some Hong Kong land earlier this year, and find another US$10 billion to build ultra-high-class exclusive concrete boxes upon it.

The conglomerate has US$90 billion in debt already, so you could argue that, hey – it’s just a bit more. But banks are, as the Bloomberg URL puts it, ‘leery’. The apparently anonymous ownership of the murky conglomerate overlaps in some notional Venn diagram with the thuggish totalitarian Communist Party kleptocracy that controls China, which implies that it is fine to lend away. But then again, maybe Beijing has had some tiffs with its mystery moguls who pay bizarre prices for humdrum assets, and is nervous about unspeakable levels of debt in the overall system, so the banks have second thoughts.

One option is for HNA to re-sell some of the land. Since we are indulging in reality here, it would inevitably be for less than they paid for it. In slightly more human-scale terms of tragic humiliation, this would be like a socialite publicly taking a just-bought diamond-encrusted Louis Vuitton handbag to Milan Station because her credit cards were cancelled. Obviously it won’t happen (the article mentions alternatives). And the safe, comforting, usual fantasy-weirdness of Mainland political-business elites, their physics-defying financing arrangements, and extraterrestrial real-estate valuations will resume.

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Shut up, or this is what will happen to you

China’s big and tough, self-confident authorities ban Wu Rongrong, one of the high-profile ‘five feminists’, from leaving the country to study overseas (in supposedly-part-of-the-motherland Hong Kong, as it happens). On the Communist Party’s vindictiveness scale, the (10-year) ban is pretty soft. The Leninist system imprisoned and effectively killed Liu Xiaobo for writing essays, and it has just forced a public confession out of Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-che – and tormented his wife into the bargain.

Beijing makes no secret of the reason for this inhumane and humiliating treatment of people who speak out – it is to warn and intimidate everyone else. The message is: this won’t happen to you if you shut up.

The regime now insists that its local administration in Hong Kong also adopt this approach. That is why Joshua Wong and other student leaders are in prison, and it is why the authorities are trying so hard to bankrupt expelled lawmakers. The idea is to disrupt young activists’ studies, wreck their finances and damage their future career prospects – all to send others that same message: keep quiet, and this won’t happen to you.

Will such crude methods work in Hong Kong? One vague precedent could be the discrimination against leftist activists after the riots in the late 1960s. If that’s a bit of a stretch, we might look at Singapore, where dissidents are hounded to death or into exile – all in accordance with the law, of course.

Singaporeans seem to believe unquestioningly that their leaders are an elite, gifted with the sacred DNA of Lee Kuan Yew or otherwise of naturally superior breeding to the other 99% of humanity. Many Mainlanders (and some foreigners) swallow the notion that the Chinese Communist Party is similarly a rigorous meritocracy propelling the nation’s cleverest minds, with engineering degrees for added can-do, up to the top.

Of course, if these despotic leaders were really so smart they would not fear competing ideas or criticism – indeed, they would welcome and, most of all, ignore them. But Mainland and Singaporean rulers have become sufficiently competent in both governance and repression that their subjects largely submit to the idea that democrats, feminists and other ‘troublemakers’ get what they deserve.

Hong Kong is different. The culture of authority killing chickens to scare monkeys is alien, and if anything the tradition is that the population persecutes the officials. People already know that Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her grab-bag of losers in government have been chosen specifically for being lightweights, devoid of imagination or critical thought. Unless they are impossibly clever and subtle – or the opposition are seriously stupid and play into their hands – these unconvincing ‘leaders’ cannot suppress dissent without drawing greater attention to their own shortcomings.

 

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