Monday, March 11, 2019

Hong Kong, and China: rule-of-law, freedom & democracy tracking (#2, continued)

To me, the critical values a society has to protect above all are related to democracy. The rule-of-law (justice), independent judiciary/legislative/executive, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, protection of private property, freedom of travel, thought and expression. And once these are secured, the freedom for each citizen to elect who is going to represent them in government.

However, and maybe as a result, I also believe that equality of outcomes is not as important (if at all important) as providing equality of opportunities. Equality before the law trumps order. Opportunities to dream and be free to pursue these dreams more important than social normalization.

With the fall of the U.S.S.R., and the opening-up of China, the world could have hoped to reach, as Francis Fukuyama puts it, the "end of history"; liberal democracies as the final stage of society's evolution.

I still firmly believe in that vision but it is being threatened by autocratic populists on both side of the political spectrum, herding people, with comforting lies, ever closer towards the dismissal of these democratic institutions.

I do believe that the democratic culture will ultimately prevail in countries that have built it over centuries.

I am not sure that the same can be said of the countries that have, over hundred of years, been dominated by supreme rulers or single party systems.

I thought that the rise of the Chinese middle-class would also see the rise of the political will for change. However, it seems that repression and the CCP's propaganda machine have managed to 
effectively shut dissent 

I believe that the Chinese Communist Party is the greatest threat to the global freedom of individuals, and a major impediment to democracy's progress. I also believe that a rational look at the behavior and outcomes of the actions of the CCP is the best way to make sure that the Chinese people demand change for their governance and ultimately break the one party system.

I will use this entry and update it as I find more information which I consider important in that reflection on the suppression of the democratic thought process by the CCP, as well as events that are impacting Hong Kong's democratic institutions and aspirations.

Note: the following documentary gives a very thorough and fascinating background to the current situation in China and Hong Kong:

'Status report: pants still burning'

"A coalition of campaigners made the remarks two days after Hong Kong’s No 2 official Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said at the five-yearly Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva that the “one country, two systems” principle was successfully implemented.
When French representatives raised suggestions about guaranteeing freedom of expression, assembly and association in Hong Kong, the Chinese delegation said this was 'accepted and already implemented'.
When Canada recommended that people in Hong Kong should be able to join the government without distinction, the delegation said this was 'accepted and being implemented'."

'Liar liar, pants on fire!'

"Chen Zhimin, who held the senior security post from 2009 to 2017, said mainland authorities "have the names of every single one of these people," adding that they were wanted for serious crimes.
Chen, who is now a member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said Hong Kong had returned to China for more than 20 years but had still not reached an extradition arrangement with the mainland. He urged the SAR to improve, saying many foreign countries and even Taiwan had already reached such agreements with the mainland."

Absolutely a lie!

'Old goat'

"Hong Kong plans to make it possible for the first time to extradite criminals to China in a move that critics worry could be misused by Beijing to detain people passing through the international business hub for political or other reasons.

The territory’s security bureau this week proposed to amend a law that has long prevented the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong to either China, Macau or Taiwan, to instead allow extradition requests from the three jurisdictions to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The suggested changes would allow Hong Kong’s chief executive, who is appointed directly by Beijing, to issue arrest certificates. A final decision on the surrender of fugitives would be decided by a court as a safeguard for defendants’ legal and human rights."

"Taiwan’s top government agency handling cross-strait affairs has forcefully rejected the claim that it was responsible for Hong Kong’s latest attempt to update its extradition law.

Pro-Beijing heavyweight Maria Tam, who was attending the 'two sessions' meeting in Beijing, told reporters on Thursday that Taiwan had asked for the amendment, not China’s central government.

She added that, 'as far as she was concerned,' the HKSAR Basic Law Committee also did not discuss the extradition law update. Tam is the vice-chairperson of the committee, which is an advisory body under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Tam’s comments drew a strong rebuke from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which called her words 'utter nonsense, a complete fabrication, [and] purposefully misleading.'

'There has been constant scepticism from all sides since the Hong Kong government proposed the amendment. The relevant authorities should listen to the advice and reflect deeply on why they lost the public’s trust,' the council wrote.

'Spouting nonsense and deflecting responsibility will only show their ignorance, and this will not help Hongkongers achieve fairness or justice.' "

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Freedoms; when you have them, you tend to forget how precious they are

We were visiting Myanmar just a few weeks ago and were amazed at how our cab driver on our drive downtown from the airport was speaking about the need for better democracy, freedoms, and a clamp-down on military powers in his country.

Meanwhile, many Hong Kong journalists are apologetic about the dictatorship in the North which has relentlessly silenced opposition and criticism, has reinstated concentration camps where it has parked hundred of thousand of people, and has displayed imperialistic tendencies in the South China Sea.

I thought refreshing to hear journalists in Myanmar speaks about freedom-of-the press.


LAST MONTH, I was among a group of nine Myanmar journalists and activists who travelled to the United States to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program hosted by the US State Department.

I was aware that there is a relatively free press in the US, but I did not fully understand why until the trip.

We visited The Post-Standard newspaper and the WSYR-TV television station in Syracuse, New York and the Newseum, an interactive museum dedicated to free expression in Washington, D.C.

I learned that press freedom in the US is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution adopted on December 15, 1791.

It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Many media establishments in the US, including respected newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, have been the subject of tart criticism from President Donald Trump since he took office at the start of 2017. He has gone as far as labelling American media whose reporting he does not like as the “enemy of the state”.

Trump’s tirades against sections of the press have been relentless but have not affected the coverage of his administration by publications and broadcasters that practice ethical journalism.

I came to understand during the trip that journalists in the US are able to report without fear or favour because the First Amendment protects them."

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Recession in the U.S/World forecasted for Q1-Q2 2020

Here's my prediction...

There will be a recession in the U.S/World forecasted for Q1-Q2 2020.

The yield curve reversal has been the most reliable predictor of recessions in the past 40 years. According to it, we should see reversal in the next few months, and a recession in 12 to 18 months. Stock-market buy opportunities should follow in 18 to 24 months from now.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

The political divide in the U.S.

"Among other results, this year's midterm elections affirmed this much: in Washington, the two parties now speak for dramatically different segments of the American economy.

Republicans represent the smaller, fading segment, with less-educated, more-homogenous work forces reliant on traditional manufacturing, agriculture and resource extraction. Democrats represent the larger, growing one, fueled by finance, professional services and digital innovation in diverse urban areas."

Have a read at the full article:

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Hong Kong High Speed Rail; a far too expensive train to nowhere

With great fanfare and self-patting-on-the-back, the West Kowloon Station opened and the first trains left for mainland China (well, in fact, most of the traffic was south-bound, into Hong Kong). What is baffling to me is that the mere fact that the trains ran and that there were people on them seemed to be enough for the politicians to claim that they were right and protesters were wrong and should just shut-up.

There are many reasons why that position is untenable.

1.  The high-speed rail remains a sorry example of cost overruns and mismanagement.

  • The 26km high-speed line is HK $19.5 billion overbudget, a full 30% over-expenditure
  • 3 years late (60% time overrun)
  • Incorrect assessment of use:
    As of today, it would seem that southbound trips vastly outweigh northbound ones and overall, vastly under the forecasts (already revised down) which were said to be conservative (forecasts below).

    “With the nine trains procured by the MTRCL and current train path allocation of the MTRCL and the Mainland operator, the daily maximum carrying capacities of the XRL trains are around 136 000 for 2018 and 2021 and 225 300 for 2031 respectively. In other words, there is ample capacity for the XRL to accommodate more passengers. Having regard to the fast-growing economic and tourist developments around the short-haul destinations, we are optimistic that the actual patronage of the XRL would exceed the above current patronage forecast.”
    Yet, the West Kowloon Station has only reached that “conservative” 80,000 daily patronage once since it opened, on October 5th, 2018. The average day is about half of that.

  • Has yet to yield a net increase in cross-border traffic; the daily averages cross-border traffic before the West Kowloon Station opened, then after, is essentially the same. There is simply a shift from usage of the slow train service to the faster train service.

2. Convenience could have been fully achieved without illegally leasing Hong Kong land to China.

The immigration facilities arrangement at the West Kowloon Train Station actually has floors that are under mainland China’s complete and total jurisdiction and is treated as Chinese land. Many pundits have erroneously said that similar arrangements exist at the Canadian/U.S. border and in the U.K.
Firstly, the comparison is weak as in both of these examples, the laws applicable in the pre-clearance areas are the laws of the host land, except for immigration laws. For this lame West Kowloon Station arrangement, I blame weak Hong Kong politicians, too eager to please Beijing and get their prized choo-choo train project going, rather than negotiating for a better borders law-enforcement deal. Secondly, there is legitimate concerns in having mainland laws applied in Hong Kong as history has shown us that China has very little regard for the rule-of-law. In that sense, there is most likely less risk for an individual in getting justice for any incident at a U.S or U.K border, than at a Chinese one.
There is very little point arguing about this with CCP sycophants as their faith and/or fear in the system clouds any kind of logical thinking.
Secondly, it is mostly uncontroversial that the joint checkpoint was unconstitutional as per the Hong Kong Basic Law. It is outrageous that Beijing’s take on this would be considered as they are a biased party in this and, again, one not known for promoting or enforcing rule-of-law.

3. The line to nowhere.
For Hong-Kongers, the highspeed line makes little sense.  As a commuter line to nearby cities, it just doesn’t work. Not much time savings to Shenzhen over existing means of transportation, and not practical at all to get to Guangzhou as the station is way out of the business district. All the while being a lot more expensive ride.

Taking all these points into account, it is very clear that this high-speed rail is not meant primarily to serve Hong Kong people but rather, for Beijing to complete its Belt & Roads train network and serve Xinping’s over-dimensioned ego. Does it mean we should reject it? No. A more fundamental question is: why would Hong Kong pay any of this? We shouldn’t! If Hong Kong politicians had any guts or competence, they would have realized that they could have gotten Beijing to pay for most of it.

As a Hong Konger, should you boycott this new high-speed rail? Why would you? You paid dearly for it, use it as much as you can! But at the next elections, vote for a politician that did not rubber-stamp the project. These pro-Beijing apparatchiks are the ones that must be punished.

P.S. It is comical to read the sorry prose of Beijing cheerleader Yonden Lhatoo on the subject:  

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Plastic bottle pollution comes from mainland China

"Two-thirds of the plastic bottles that green groups found on beaches in Hong Kong and Taiwan had simplified Chinese labels instead of ones in traditional Chinese characters.
The bottles, believed to be manufactured in the mainland, are believed to have floated to the beaches.
The Green Earth conducted 10 surveys in August on beaches in Hong Kong, including Lap Sap Wan in Shek O, Lamma Island, Sai Kung and Sha Tau Kok. It undertook the polls with several green groups in Taiwan, which conducted four similar surveys on beaches across the strait, including Penghu, Wanli and Keelung.
A total of 5,254 plastic bottles were found, according to the surveys. But of the 4,441 bottles that were identified, 66 percent had simplified Chinese labels, while 28 percent had traditional Chinese characters.

Thirty-three percent of the bottles in simplified Chinese bore the Master Kong's label, followed by Wahaha, Nongfu Spring and C'est Bon at 16, 14 and 13 percent, respectively. More than 30 other brands were also identified.

In Taiwan, 85 percent of the bottles that were found contained simplified Chinese labels. Of the 1,776 plastic bottles that were found on beaches in Hong Kong, 38 percent had simplified Chinese labels, while 55 percent displayed labels in traditional Chinese. Other bottles that were found had different languages on the labels.
An Environmental Protection Department study in 2015 showed that only five percent of marine waste was from the mainland, while 95 percent was produced locally. However, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, Green Earth's director of environmental advocacy, disputed the ratio, saying the EPD should review its study methods as the surveys found that 38 percent of the bottles came with simplified Chinese labels."