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:

-------------------------------
2019-APR-12
'C.Y 2.0'


"Nine democracy leaders responsible for the largest civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong’s history were on Tuesday found guilty over their roles in the 2014 protests.

Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng called the three founders of the city’s Occupy movement – academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting, 55, and Dr Chan Kin-man, 60, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, 75 – 'naive' to suggest that by encouraging people to block roads they could force the government to bow to their political demands."

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3005312/occupy-leaders-found-guilty-over-role-hong-kongs-2014

It is interesting to see how the CCP propaganda paper ChinaDaily presents this outcome:

"Hong Kong residents have plenty of reasons to feel proud of the city they call home and effective rule of law is no doubt one of the main reasons for many if not all. That is why so many locals went on social media to cheer the guilty verdict by the District Court Tuesday on a range of criminal charges against nine of the leading figures in the 79-day illegal campaign of 'Occupy Central', which caused huge losses to the SAR.

The guilty verdict was widely considered long overdue but most people knew the day of reckoning was coming. Many publicly condemned the criminal acts by some 'Occupiers' in the early days of the illegal movement. This was in sharp contrast to the hypocrisy displayed by some Western governments and politicians in encouraging such wanton challenges to Hong Kong’s rule of law — using concern about individual rights and freedoms as an excuse for illegal behavior.

Today, few if any still remember how the Western pro-democracy camp celebrated the Umbrella Movement, but people cannot but compare the recent and often violent yellow-jacket protestors in some European cities to the aggressive protesters in Hong Kong more than four years ago. Many of the demonstrators in Europe were arrested and charged with offenses such as reckless endangerment, vandalism and even arson in the wake of heavy-handed responses by local riot police and even the military."

What is probably more concerning is that some uneducated people will fall for these false-equivalencies; Occupy 2014 was by an large an extremely peacely movement. There was minimal violence, most of which was originated by the Hong Kong police force. There is definitely a reason why the nine occupy leaders were only charged with the minor crime of 'public nuisance'; because that's the only credible charge they could muster. It only makes the evidence of this Beijing-pleasing verdict more plain, by applying CCP-styled rule-by-law.


https://www.chinadailyhk.com/articles/74/123/138/1554913392334.html?newsId=67468
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Daily 



C.Y. 2.0...
"Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says claims her administration exploited the judiciary in the Occupy movement trial are wrong.

She made the remarks after pan-democrats slammed the trial as political revenge and Gyde Jensen, who chairs a German Bundestag panel on human rights, said it was unacceptable that protesters were intimidated when exercising freedom of speech.


Lam said: 'I think those comments are totally unsubstantiated and unfounded, and they will damage Hong Kong's international reputation in terms of our rule of law.'

She also rebuked former governor Chris Patten, who said 'anachronistic common law charges' were used in a vengeful pursuit of political activities.

'It's meaningless for someone to say whether the law is updated or anachronistic because any law on our law books are applicable,' Lam argued.

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=206761&sid=47387612

Either she is truly not the sharpest tool in the shed, or she is convinced that she must hide Beijing's pulling the strings at all costs... At any rate, she certainly seems to be clueless about the rule-of-law...




2019-APR-06
'Today in the press'


Hong Kong Basic Law Article 5: 
"The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."

"Basic Law Committee vice chairwoman Maria Tam Wai-chu says Hong Kong's role in the Greater Bay Area initiative will see the SAR keep its "one country, two systems" framework after 2047, when it is set to expire.

Tam also warned yesterday that if Hong Kong becomes a base for anti-communism, it will lose its special status and high degree of autonomy.

(...)

'But if Hong Kong becomes an anti-communist base, any cooperation will be difficult, and it will be difficult to retain the one country, two systems any longer.'

Tam said Hong Kong would be in the best position to keep the high degree of autonomy if it continues with its roles in helping mainland enterprises to go global, and introducing foreign investment to the mainland.

She also called on young people to visit the mainland every year to experience the improvements achieved in past years."


Carrie Lam is truly C.Y. 2.0...

"There is no basis for omitting white collar crimes from the proposed amendment to the fugitive laws, and such exclusions would not in any event have any bearing on fundamental problems arising from a different criminal justice system in the mainland, the Bar Association argued yesterday. 

'If the exclusions are motivated by concerns over the proposed changes to the extradition regime enabling rendition of persons to the rest of the People's Republic of China, these concerns should apply to all offenses and not just some,' the statement said.

The Bar Association also believes the protection that appears to be going into place with the exemptions is 'illusory' because business people can always be extradited with alternative offenses, adding: 'An allegation of infringing intellectual property protection laws (exempted) can also give rise to allegations of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception (not exempted).'

The administration has claimed repeatedly that it was a 'loophole' to have no long-term extradition arrangement to the rest of the PRC, but the Bar Association slammed that as a misleading assertion because it had been a deliberate decision not to include the rest of PRC into areas allowing fugitive transfers 'particularly in light of the fundamentally different criminal justice system operating in the mainland and concerns over the mainland's track records on the protection of fundamental rights.'"


"The first legislative step to amend the fugitive law was passed by the Legislative Council in relative calm, with the pro-democracy camp left with few openings to filibuster.

The first and second readings of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 came yesterday afternoon. Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu introduced the bill for the second reading.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki of the Civic Party made a quorum call before Lee started, and it took more than 10 minutes for enough legislators to return to the chamber for the meeting."


"The safety of reporters would be under threat if the fugitive-law amendment is approved, a joint statement by journalist groups claims.
The amendment first frustrated the business sector and pan-democrats. Now journalist groups have voiced their fears.
Four groups - the Hong Kong Journalist Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, trade unions of several print media, six online media and the director of the School of Communication and Journalism of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Francis Lee Lap-fung - issued the statement.
They are concerned not only of threats to journalists' safety, but also the 'chilling effect' on the freedom of expression.
'Numerous journalists have been charged or harassed by mainland authorities under criminal offenses covered by the amendment,' the statement said.
It suggested several Hong Kong journalists working in the mainland were alleged to have committed crimes on the list of misdeeds permitting extradition, such as drug possession and bribery."


2019-APR-06
'Really?'

While The Standard's Cheng Huan April 1st piece does read an April fool's bad joke. I wanted to address the last 2 paragraphs which state:
"Demographic trends indicate that the population of France is shifting toward being predominantly Muslim, and there's nothing anybody can do to stop it.

Beijing's leadership must be truly thankful that because China has not followed the democratic path it does not face the social dislocations and democratic disorder that plague Europe."
http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=206468

First, because the second paragraph is patently false; China suffers severe social dislocations as if the sending of over a million Uighur's to re-education camps, in the best neo-Mao fashion.

And second, because Mr Huan completely misses the point and core strength of democracy; its ability to bend and adjust.This is something that dictatorships such a the CCP's cannot do. It does create short term social unrest but eventually, stability returns as citizen-driven and democratic-institutions-driven adjustments are implemented. Meanwhile, post-industrial revolution dictatorships have never survived a century.

2019-APR-06
'How quick we forget...'


Over 5 years ago, Hong Kong saw an end to Occupy Central/Umbrella movement. The years following these events have seen a marked slide in Hong Kong's political independence from Beijing, and reduction of freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Hong_Kong_protests
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Central_with_Love_and_Peace
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Hong_Kong_protests

As the local 2-bit commies would have it, the Occupy Central/Umbrella movement was very violent and justified the severe restrictions to freedom of speech and assembly that resulted. 

First, maybe let's re-establish some basic facts since the same local commentators got these wrong and quoted "one hundred policemen were injured". The number is actually 65, and out of these, only 40 were sent to the hospital. This pales in comparison to the 220+ civilians that had to be rushed to the hospital for injuries during the same events.

"The storming and confrontations at different locations of unlawful assemblies in recent days have resulted in the injury of 65 police officers.  According to the records of the Fire Services Department (FSD), as at November 3, a total of 262 persons, including 40 police officers, were sent to hospital by FSD ambulances due to injury or not feeling well during the protest assemblies."
https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201411/05/P201411050729.htm

The idea is not to make it a numbers game; violence should be avoided at all costs. But if there's something that correctly characterize the Umbrella/Occupy Central movement, is the extreme attention to non-violence and respect of order taken by its leaders.

Contrast this to the Hong Kong police beating of activist Ken Tsang: https://youtu.be/oGwVXBEvPcs https://youtu.be/NLlauagU17Y

Maybe even worse than the crime of the police force itself, are the disgusting comments from Beijing aligned lawmakers:

"Legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said she respects the court’s decision but the officers might have been forced to do what they were accused of after being provoked and insulted by the protesters.

Ann Chiang Lai-wan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) also echoed Leung’s view, saying the case was an isolated one and their crime was the result of having been provoked."

http://www.ejinsight.com/20170216-police-chief-gives-pep-talk-to-staff-after-seven-cops-convicted/

Not to mention the Beijing-supporting media and commentators that pitched in support of restricting freedoms further or supporting police and government-led repression. Details here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beating_of_Ken_Tsang

Even to the extent that the CE's adviser happily spread fake-news about cop-beatings:

"The media-and-communications adviser to Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, Leung Chun-ying, posted a photo to Facebook on Wednesday that showed a grimacing, blood-spattered “cop” said to have been wounded in a clash with pro-democracy protesters the previous night.

The photo was being circulated by supporters of the police, keen to show that the demonstrators weren’t as peaceful as they claimed to be.

(...)

HKTV, the network set to air Night Shift, confirmed on Facebook on Wednesday that the image was of one of its actors. It posted the zombie-cop photo next to a picture of the show’s actor without his living-dead makeup."

http://time.com/3512521/occupy-central-hong-kong-andrew-fung-wai-kwong-zombie-cop-hktv-night-shift/

Did Hong Kong already forget the events of 1967 where pro-communist directly supported by Beijing actually exploded bombs and fostered true social unrest?

"By the time the rioting subsided at the end of the year, 51 people had been killed, of whom 15 died in bomb attacks, with 832 people sustaining injuries"

And remember that the DAB is, from its very foundation, a pro-Beijing, pro-communist party:

"Some of the members who participated in the 1967 riot have since regained a foothold in Hong Kong politics during the early 1990s. Tsang Tak-sing, a communist party supporter and riot participant, later became the founder of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Along with his brother Tsang Yok-sing, they continued to acknowledge Marxism in Hong Kong

In 2001, Yeung Kwong, a pro-Communist party activist of the 1960s, was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal under Tung Chee-hwa, a symbolic gesture that raised controversy as to whether the post-1997 Hong Kong government of the time was approving the riot.

In 2017, hundreds of protesters who took part in the 1967 riots were hailed as heroes in a memorial ceremony at Wo Hop Shek public cemetery to mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising. Former finance sector lawmaker Ng Leung-sing and the Federation of Trade Unions' Michael Luk Chung-hung, along with Chan Shi-yuen, head of 67 Synergy Group were some of the prominent attendees. They called for Beijing to vindicate of the protests, which they have continued to refer to as a 'patriotic act against British colonial tyranny'"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_1967_leftist_riots

It should be clear to all that the root cause of violence and social unrest in Hong Kong, throughout its history is the ever tightening grip of the CCP, via the unelected CE, CCP supporting political parties such as the DAB, Beijing-controlled press, and clueless political commentators...

2019-MAR-31
'One country, one hell'

"March 31, 2019

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive
Office of the Chief Executive
Tamar
Hong Kong
ceo@ceo.gov.hk



Re: Proposed Changes to Hong Kong’s Extradition Laws



Dear Chief Executive,

We are writing to express concerns about the Hong Kong Security Bureau’s proposed changes to two Hong Kong laws concerning extradition, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (FOO) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance. Amnesty International, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, and Human Rights Watch are concerned that these changes would remove existing safeguards from the process of extradition, allowing people to be sent to jurisdictions, notably mainland China, where they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, and unfair trials.

Under existing legislation, Hong Kong authorities can only extradite people to jurisdictions with which the Hong Kong government has standing extradition agreements or to other jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis. Changes to these arrangements must be ordered by the Hong Kong chief executive and scrutinized by the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The existing legislation excludes mainland China from these arrangements, a deliberate decision taken before Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, reflecting public and lawmakers’ concerns about China’s poor human rights record, and to build international confidence in the territory’s “One Country, Two Systems.”

But the proposed Security Bureau changes would expand the case-by-case extradition arrangement to mainland China, enabling the Hong Kong government to transfer criminal suspects to the mainland authorities. The changes would remove the LegCo from scrutinizing these individual executive requests, a crucial layer of governmental and public oversight.

The Security Bureau contends that the amendments contain adequate safeguards for human rights because, among other elements, the crime concerned must constitute an offense in both jurisdictions and cannot be “political in nature.”

In practice, the safeguards are unlikely to provide genuine protection. The Chinese government regularly brings criminal charges recognized as legitimate and non-political, such as tax offenses, to prosecute and imprison peaceful activists, human rights defenders, and those who oppose government policy.

Moreover, the ability of Hong Kong’s judiciary to withstand pressure from China in ruling on such cases is increasingly in question. Hong Kong courts are generally known for their independence and the enforcement of procedural protections.  However, these safeguards are unlikely to be adequate when dealing with extradition requests from the mainland, including because judgments of Hong Kong courts may be subject to Beijing’s “interpretations of the Basic Law.” In 2016, the Chinese government actively interfered in a highly political court case, ejecting two pro-independence advocates elected to the LegCo.

In recent years, the Hong Kong government has increasingly made use of the legal system to silence critical voices, bringing politically motivated prosecutions against peaceful protesters. The courts have convicted and sentenced a number of them. The extradition amendments, once they pass, can present a potent tool for the Hong Kong and Beijing governments to further intimidate critics.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which applies to Hong Kong, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Hong Kong is bound, as well as customary international law, prohibit the return of individuals to jurisdictions in which there is a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment, including detention in poor conditions for indefinite periods, or other serious human rights violations. We also note the obligation to mandatorily and generally refuse extradition requests where the person sought may face the death penalty, as reflected in present Hong Kong law and practice, and that any assurances as to its non-application would have to be reliable, effective, and open to judicial overview in Hong Kong.

China's justice system has a record of arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, serious violations of fair trial rights, and various systems of incommunicado detention without trial. These problems are exacerbated because the judiciary lacks independence from the government and Chinese Communist Party. As a result, we are gravely concerned that anyone extradited to China will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment and other grave human rights violations.

We urge the Hong Kong Security Bureau to rescind its proposals to amend the legislation.


We look forward to your reply and would be pleased to discuss these matters with appropriate officials at your convenience.


Sincerely,



Man-kei Tam
Director
Amnesty International Hong Kong


Law Yuk Kai
Director
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor


Sophie Richardson
China Director
Human Rights Watch




CC: John Lee Ka-chiu, Secretary for Security"

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/30/joint-letter-chief-executive-carrie-lam
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/03/31/dear-carrie-lam-hongkongers-risk-unfair-trials-torture-ill-treatment-new-china-extradition-plan/?fbclid=IwAR3h6PDFGxHwQ2t8n8a1DFK3qZK2UloE1nfWAZh1sVi7hzjmp3UYbkZuypE

2019-MAR-30
'One country, one country'

"Amnesty International Hong Kong warns of severe deterioration for human rights in its annual review

The human rights review highlights how the Hong Kong government is increasingly using 'national security' as an excuse to deprive people in Hong Kong of their human rights. Individuals who advocate for Hong Kong’s independence or self-determination, by non-violent means, are cast as a threat to 'national security', and their peaceful activism is branded ‘illegal’, in breach of Hong Kong’s human rights law and the government’s obligations to uphold international human rights standards."

https://www.amnesty.org.hk/en/hong-kong-freedom-of-expression-under-sustained-attack-with-human-rights-situation-in-rapid-decline/

2019-MAR-29
'More lies from the middle-kingdom'

Remember that less than 18 months ago, China was claiming that these camps did not even exist!

"China on Thursday hit back at criticism from the United States’ top diplomat who called its treatment of Muslims “shameful hypocrisy” after speaking with a former prisoner from a Chinese detention camp.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the comment after meeting with Mihrigul Tursun, a member of the Uighur ethnic group who has spoken publicly in the US about what she said was widespread torture in China’s prisons for the minority group.

Beijing claims the camps are “vocational training centres” that provide language classes and employment, steering locals away from extremism."

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/03/29/extremely-absurd-china-slams-us-criticism-treatment-muslims/

2019-MAR-18
'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'."

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3002071/mainland-chinese-and-hong-kong-officials-lied-un-human

2019-MAR-15
'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."
http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=205899

Absolutely a lie!


2019-MAR-12
'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.

"By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER

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."

https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/myanmar-needs-a-first-amendment

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

(Populisme) Que faire pour proteger les institutions democratique a l'ere du populisme

Deux articles qui se completent et, a mon avis, donne une bonne idee des raisons de la montee du populisme, et aussi de l’incapacitee de l’intelligentsia a y faire face.

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:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/15/charts-democrats-represent-modern-economy-republicans-left-behind.html


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.
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/09/23/cost-overruns-constitutional-debate-hong-kongs-controversial-express-rail-link-explained/

  • 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.”https://www.legco.gov.hk/yr17-18/english/panels/tp/papers/tpcb4-1500-1-e.pdf
    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.
    https://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/message_from_us/stat.html

  • 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.
    https://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/message_from_us/stat.html

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: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/transport/article/2165339/high-speed-rail-saga-exposes-sorry-state-anti-china