Difficulties with Mainland-style policies

Health Minister Lo Chung-mau, who did so much for Hong Kong’s reputation and economy by insisting on emulating Beijing’s zero-Covid approach long after vaccines became available, seems to be embracing Mainland-style natalism…

Lo … said the government encourages married couples to have babies at a younger age to boost the success rate. Lo also described women and their eggs as “soil” and “seeds” as he pointed out that freezing the eggs cannot reverse the biological restrictions on women’s maternal age. 

“The ‘seeds’ will be preserved but the ‘soil’ has changed according to their increasing age,” Lo said. 

This went down badly with several female lawmakers. Remember that all LegCo members these days are vetted  – and most in practice simply appointed – for their loyalty to the government, so it is rare for them to criticize officials.

Several health inspectors are charged with stealing seafood being tested for radiation…

Their duties as [Centre for Food Safety’s Risk Management Division] members included checking the radiation level of food items to ensure they were safe for consumption. Radiation testing of imported Japanese food became part of routine food surveillance in January 2021.

The anti-graft watchdog said the accused spent more than HK$88,000 in taxpayer’s money to buy food samples from five food importers in mid-2022 and early 2023 for two radiation tests.

…[They] planned to misappropriate the leftover samples after the tests. This was in violation of internal guidelines requiring officers to properly dispose of the residual samples and keep a record.

ICAC officers later uncovered more than 80 unused food samples at the home of the five, including canned abalone, white truffle sauce, crab bisque, Japanese rice and pasta.

The surveillance of Japanese seafood is not a scientific policy – simply a political performance in line with Beijing’s after the release of treated water from Fukushima. So, no surprise that everything they test is satisfactory.

Some might argue that, by not throwing the food away, they were actually making good use of taxpayers’ money.

On the subject of efficient use of available ingredients in the kitchen: by popular demand (OK, one commenter) – how to make fermented chili sauce. Quite simple…

Chop up a combination of washed and dried chilies and tomatoes. The ratio should be roughly 80-20 (though any combination will work). Ideally, the chillies should include some small Thai-style ultra-hot ones, plus some milder Scotch bonnet, jalapeno, etc. The tomatoes should include some small sweet ones as well as regular bigger ones (or just regular ones and some sugar to provide an equivalent sweetening effect).

Chop up some garlic and ginger – a ratio of around 3-2, adding up to roughly 5% of the volume of tomatoes and chillies. (Again, any amount will work – it all depends on taste.)

Now blend the whole lot into a mash. Exact consistency up to you. Add enough non-chlorinated water to make the mixture however runny you want – maybe increasing the overall volume by a third or so. Then add non-iodized salt equivalent to around 2-3% of the weight of this whole mixture*. Stir it well.

Now put it in a clean wide-necked jar. If you don’t have a fancy pickling jar with an airlock, you can press plastic wrap over the liquid to keep air off it, at least for the first few days of fermentation. Screw the lid on and leave it somewhere at a warmish room temperature. (It’ll probably be fine if you don’t bother with the plastic wrap, but best stir with something clean every day so nothing gets round to growing on the stuff before fermentation kicks off.) Put the jar in a plastic bag or something in case it starts to leak when fermentation does start. Open the jar every day to let gas escape.

Within a week, it should be ready for decanting (if necessary) and putting in the fridge, which stops the fermentation. The longer it ferments, the sourer it will get. (It will ferment faster at a warmer temperature, but the taste might be harsher.) 

You could strain the liquid to make a purely liquid sauce, if you insist, but the classic sauce is lumpy.

Pretty straightforward and foolproof, provided you avoid water and salt with antiseptic additives. Unlike pickling with vinegar, you are growing, rather than killing, bacteria. Lactobacillus. The result is more subtle and aromatic – and healthy if you’re into gastrointestinal microbiome stuff.

Obviously, you can pickle pretty much any veg (or fruit) this way, eg baby cucumbers (add dill) or string beans, carrots, etc. For sauerkraut or kimchi, you cut and salt the cabbage first, rinse off a bit and then pack it in its own juice. But same process. 

Fun for all the family.

* The process should work with something between 1-6% salt, but obviously more means a saltier product. You might get away with using tap water and iodized salt – but no guarantees. See here for some science.

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Beijing on Sumption

China’s Ministry of State Security responds (indirectly) to Lord Sumption’s criticism of the HK47 trial, saying…

…the verdict … was a deterrent to “anti-China forces and foreign forces.”

“Those who dare to challenge the bottom line of China’s national security will be severely punished by the law,” the ministry said in a Chinese-language post on WeChat.

…“A criminal and wicked idea brought them together and led them on a path of no return,” it added.

The ministry singled out former law professor Benny Tai, the key organiser of the primary election, as the “chief culprit” of the scheme that it said was directed at sabotaging the functioning of the city government and overthrowing state power. Tai was among those who pleaded guilty.

“The anti-China forces led by Benny Tai… through illegally trying to obtain a majority in the Legislative Council and vetoing the government budget indiscriminately, would create a crisis in governance,” the ministry said.

Some half a million voters took part in the pan-dem primary election in 2020 (following what looked rather like a ‘crisis in governance’ in 2019). Did anyone involved consider the exercise ‘anti-China’ or connected with ‘foreign forces’? Or in any way unconstitutional or illegal?

The Hongkonger talks to a Hong Kong lawyer who has moved to the UK and qualified as a soccer referee…

“Having come to the UK, I find the easiest way to make friends is to follow my hobby. Some of us are good friends by now, as we go to a pub after a match or watch other football games. It really helps me integrate into the community.”

Interestingly, his referee role also forms a lens into British lifestyle and culture. He has observed a glaring difference between men’s and women’s football: male players would argue with him, but the females would praise him to create positive reinforcement so he might be more inclined to side with them.

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More on non-permanent overseas judges

Regina Ip copes with Lord Sumption’s departure in China Daily

In his parting diatribe, Sumption let his emotions run away with him. In sharing the sympathies of naive bystanders who side with the seemingly decent “democracy” fighters in the case of “35+”, Sumption turned a blind eye to the criminal intent of the participants in the plot to reject the government’s budget with a view to forcing the resignation of the chief executive and unleashing chaos on Hong Kong. He was dishonest in saying that ordinary laws would have been adequate to quell the months of riots in Hong Kong.

…Sumptions’ vitriolic parting words are unjustified, uncalled-for, and a blot on his otherwise laudable career as one of Hong Kong’s venerable overseas judges. For someone who has worked with Hong Kong through its trials and tribulations in the past five years, his words were the unkindest cut, and will go down in infamy.

…Every passing storm showcases the Hong Kong’s judiciary’s resilience. Hong Kong’s courts have indeed remained “competent and independent”. They are sure to go from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, National Post reports that Canadian judge Beverley McLachlin…

…renewed her three-year appointment on a Singapore commercial court months before announcing she was leaving a controversial post on a Hong Kong court to spend more time with her family.

(Overseas judges on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal typically spend no more than one month a year actually on the job. As well as providing a nice little HK$400,000, it offers the perfect excuse to get away from your family after 11 dreary months with them.)

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Taking a break today…

…but a few words from outgoing Singapore Prime Minister Baby God, speaking recently to the city-state’s Chinese chamber of commerce and clan associations. A little reminder of a key difference between Singapore and Hong Kong…

In Singapore, all citizens should put Singapore and its interests first. While the Singapore Chinese share their ethnic roots with other Chinese around the world, and some Chinese feel that we are all “descendants of the Dragon”, it is important that we remember we are first and foremost Singaporeans. Recently a Straits Times journalist who was formerly based in Beijing shared his experience of being frequently questioned by locals on his identity. He would be told that since he was Chinese, he should understand and support China’s position. This journalist did not think that just because you share the same race, you would accept the same perspective. He pointed out that he felt a stronger affinity towards people who shared the same experiences growing up. He firmly believes that I am Singaporean and this is my country. I agree with him. As Singaporeans, we have our own interests to protect and our own positions to uphold.

For no reason at all – my latest toy (from Taobao): an authentic pickling jar, complete with chili sauce fermenting away.

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Then and now

A Timothy McLaughlin Tweet on the Hong Kong government’s response to the two million-strong protest march of June 16, 2019…

5 years ago today, Hong Kong CE says that the massive street protests,“embodied the spirit of Hong Kong as a civilised, free, open and pluralistic society that values mutual respect, harmony and diversity.” 

Today, a violent color revolution, black clad violence, separatism.

Organized and paid for by the CIA, etc.

More on contrasts with the past in a Tim Hamlett article about the differences between the 1967 riots (over 50 people killed) and the 2019 protests. The subversion laws in 1967 allowed for a maximum sentence of two years; the colonial government mounted a major inquiry, followed by significant reforms in the 1970s; and…

Another aspect of the 1967 outbreak which sheds an interesting light on current affairs is that by a little over two years later all those convicted had been tried, sentenced, collected the usual discounts and been released.

From the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China: what Hong Kong doesn’t want you to know on the courts’ refusal to hear testimony from Jimmy Lai’s foreign contacts…

It is clear that Mr. Lai’s alleged involvement with us, members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, is key to the case against him.Yet nobody in Hong Kong has approached any of us for a statement or evidence. Not once.

In any normal rule of law system, this would represent a serious failure in both the investigative and judicial processes. Mr. Lai is alleged to have committed serious offences. The failure to approach us – who the prosecution alleges to be witnesses and accomplices in Mr. Lai’s so called crimes – is an appalling omission that in ordinary circumstances would precipitate a mis-trial.

We wrote to you not once, but twice to make clear that we would be willing to provide evidence. Despite there being no legal reason for doing so, you have refused this opportunity.

All of which brings us to an SCMP op-ed politely suggesting that Lord Sumption’s recent comments ‘cannot be easily dismissed’…

This is not an attack from a British politician with an anti-China agenda. The distinguished judge served on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal for five years. He has also, in the past, been a staunch defender of the city’s legal system and the role of foreign judges on the top court, saying they should not be abandoned. Clearly, he has changed his mind.

…Sumption described the atmosphere in Hong Kong as oppressive, referring to sensitivity about anything deemed to concern national security, from protest songs to Tiananmen memorials. He said it takes “unusual courage” for a judge to swim against the strong political tide.

He did not mention the very high conviction rate of almost 100 per cent in national security cases. That has played a part in shaping such perceptions. So has the fiery rhetoric from officials which has sometimes accompanied arrests, prosecutions and verdicts.

As have the charges that led to many of the nearly-100% convictions, whether it’s trying to win seats in an election or wearing a T-shirt.

Speaking of which, HKFP reports that…

A Hong Kong man was denied bail under the city’s new domestic security law after he allegedly wore a t-shirt with a banned protest slogan and a yellow mask.

The Global Times story on the HKMAO’s Sumption commentary has a different take, portraying the former judge as both victim and villain…

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council slammed the latest remarks made by Jonathan Sumption, a British judge who recently resigned from Hong Kong’s highest court, saying he has willingly become a tool of British political manipulation, making people not only shocked but also feel ashamed and disgraced for him. 

…It is clear to the world that forcing judges to resign is a despicable political maneuver by the British government and politicians targeting Hong Kong, and one can imagine and sympathize with the pressure Sumption may have faced, the office said. 

However, as a former NPJ of the Hong Kong’s CFA and a judge of the UK’s Supreme Court, with a certain reputation internationally, Sumption has completely abandoned his professional spirit and ethics, and utterly betrayed the dignity of the rule of law and his judicial peers, the office added. 

…Sumption … willingly collaborates with malevolent forces, acting as a pawn and vanguard in the destruction of Hong Kong’s judicial system.

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Frog to make individual assessment on boiling water

David Neuberger explains why is one of three British non-permanent CFA judges who haven’t resigned…

“My feeling is that so long as I can do good by being there and so long as I think that I might cause harm by leaving, I want to stay and support my judicial colleagues in Hong Kong and support the rule of law as long as I can,” Neuberger said.

Neuberger, 76, said he understood the views of those who suggest that foreign judges should leave the city’s top court, and he is not suggesting that fellow British judges Jonathan Sumption and Lawrence Collins were wrong to leave the Court of Final Appeal.

He said he is aware of the “boiling frog syndrome,” adding: “It is a matter of individual assessment as to when the water gets too hot.”

Not perhaps the most ringing endorsement.

Your weekly Hong Kong government long angry response, this time to a (‘so-called’) annual report on Hong Kong issued by the European Commission. One of 22 paras…

“The HKSAR steadfastly safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests, and fully and faithfully lives up to this top priority of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. The HKSAR Government will resolutely, fully and faithfully implement the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance so as to address, combat, deter and prevent in accordance with the law acts and activities endangering national security. At the same time, it will safeguard the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people in accordance with the law. Its overarching goal is to ensure the steadfast and successful implementation of ‘one country, two systems’. The HKSAR Government strongly urges the EU to discern facts from fallacies, respect the international law and basic norms governing international relations, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong matters, which are purely China’s internal affairs.”

Bloomberg does another ‘Hong Kong falling property prices’ story, with a dash of ‘resigning overseas judges’…

Like other urban centers from New York to London, Hong Kong is suffering from a mix of rising interest rates, financial-sector job losses and changing work habits. But for many in the city, the property slump has also become one of the clearest market proxies for a more alarming phenomenon: a steady loss of faith in Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s premier financial hub.

…Resignations this month by two overseas judges from Hong Kong’s top court, along with the retirement of a third, have put a fresh spotlight on a legal system that underpins investor confidence in everything from property to the stock market and corporate contracts.

…Existing homeowners are increasingly contemplating what once was unthinkable — selling at a loss.

In the “real estate sector, we are seeing the biggest structural change in 50 years,” Ronnie Chan, former chairman of property conglomerate Hang Lung Group Ltd., said during the Bloomberg Wealth forum in June. “The whole asset value has to adjust in Hong Kong. If you don’t accept it, if you don’t recognize it, I will say you will be a very unhappy person.”

…Lilian Liu’s experience is emblematic of this new reality. When the 35-year-old accountant listed her sea-view apartment for HK$9.5 million last February, she thought it was fair. Two subway stops from Hong Kong’s financial center, the 26-square-meter (280-square-foot) unit boasted a rare balcony and soaked in the morning sunlight through giant windows. Chic cafes and bars dotted the streets below.

No buyers came, so she slashed the asking price by 3%. Then 15%. And another 5%. More than a year on, she still hasn’t secured any offers and already faces a loss of HK$1.2 million.

Can you get giant windows in a 280-sq-ft apartment?

A couple of weekend links, on China’s middle-class woes…

A Forbes column says China’s middle class is ‘disappearing’. Let’s say ‘shrinking’…

In January and February, the most recent months for which data are available, personal income tax receipts were measured at about 362.2 billion yuan ($45.1 billion), fully 16 percent below prior year levels … Since individuals earning less than 100,000 yuan a year effectively pay no personal income taxes, the drop in individual income tax revenues, according to the [Finance] ministry, reflects a movement of households to incomes below this level. And since this 100,000-yuan annual income figure also marks the low end of what China considers middle class, the revenue shortfall speaks to how many have fallen out of this coveted status.

… Gucci reports that its China sales have slumped 20 percent this quarter from levels a year ago, and Swiss watch exports to China have fallen 25 percent from levels in 2023. High-end restaurants in China also report declines, especially telling since traffic has picked up a lower end eateries. In another telling anecdote, second hand piano inventories have risen so high they have put significant downward price pressure on prices. Since a piano has long served as a sign of middle-class status, the inventory glut speaks to how many have had to give up the quest.

The SCMP talks to middle-class Chinese rushing to emigrate as Western immigration rules are tightened…

“…even if I continue to hold on to the properties I currently own, there is a high probability that they will continue to depreciate over the next year, or in years to come.

“So, selling some of my domestic properties in exchange for an apartment and citizenship in Europe for the family sounds like a better deal than it ever has.”

…“Children can get a more international education in Hong Kong, and you can invest in gold and foreign currencies more freely in Hong Kong, with higher interest rates than in domestic banks.”

…“You could say that this year may be the last chance to hop on the easy train for immigration, so everybody is sort of going crazy for fear of missing out,” she said. “The number of inquiries has increased significantly, and clients will have to go all-out.”

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More from Sumption, the HKMAO and Ronny to brighten your day

From the Guardian – Lord Sumption does an interview with BBC radio…

“The real problem, I think, in Hong Kong is the paranoid atmosphere there,” he continued. “This is said to be a response to the 2019 riots, but there were already laws perfectly capable of dealing with those. The object has become increasingly clear of the national security law was to crush peaceful political dissent, not just riots.”

Sumption said China was increasingly intervening in legal decisions in the territory.

“There is the problem that under the basic law, if China doesn’t like the court’s decisions, they can reverse them by what is called an interpretation, although it’s usually just a legislative intervention … It was initially unclear how frequently this would be used, but recent incidents have indicated that the Chinese are determined to use this provision in order to ensure that its opponents lose.”

At the end of May, 14 pro-democracy activists were found guilty of subversion in the largest application of the national security law to date. They included the former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, the journalist turned campaigner Gwyneth Ho and others who joined the mass protests of 2019.

“I think that the picture is getting darker,” Sumption said. “The judgment on 30 May against the 14 democracy activists was a major indication of the lengths to which some judges are prepared to go to ensure that Beijing’s campaign against those who have supported democracy succeeds.”

Reported by the SCMP, Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office offers a forthright view of Lord Sumption in an online commentary…

It said Sumption’s “dishonesty, untrustworthiness and lack of integrity” fully showed that he had willingly allowed himself to be “politically hijacked”, becoming a tool to politicians from the United Kingdom and other foreign countries.

“By destroying his own reputation and choosing to stand on the wrong side of history, he will inevitably face endless regret,” it said.

…The commentary also took aim at Sumption’s remark that justices had to operate in an “impossible political environment created by China”, which required “unusual courage” to “swim against such a strong political tide”.

“In order to provide a tribute to the UK and politicians from certain countries, Sumption has trampled on the dignity of the rule of law and insulted his fellow judges – this can be considered a disgrace to the legal profession,” it added.

Via the Standard, Patrick Keane, one of the Australian judges on the Court of Final Appeal’s overseas panel, says the Hong Kong judiciary remains independent…

…a red line for him would be if the government is pressuring the judiciary or refusing to accept the decisions of the courts, which he does not believe is happening.

”There can be a point it has been diminished to an effect that trials are show trials – from those I’ve spoken to they don’t see themselves as conducting show trials,” he said.

Critics have said calls from Beijing for the judiciary to be patriotic and direct criticism of decisions in political cases undermine the local system.

“Do you think it amounts to political pressure when news media in Australia criticize judges who give sentences they deem to be too short?” Keane said.

Is there an Australian equivalent of Ta Kung Pao?

The Hong Kong government imposes sanctions on ‘absconders’ like Nathan Law. As well as revoking their Hong Kong passports, the authorities have banned anyone from giving them financial assistance. Ronny Tong says even following them on online platforms could now be illegal…

Subscribers to the six absconded national security fugitives’ Patreon or YouTube channels might breach the law, Executive Council member and senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah said.

The latest measures will effectively prevent the fugitives from receiving funds for activities endangering national security, he said.

Tong said paid subscriptions show an obvious intent to support their illegal activities overseas.

As subscribers can see the fugitives’ content, they cannot argue that they did not know what they were supporting, he added.

Tong said free subscriptions that do not involve funding may also help the fugitives indirectly, as they can receive money with a high number of subscriptions.

He said Hongkongers should act carefully and avoid subscribing to the fugitives’ channels.

What about just looking at them?

For a breath of fresh air – a quick video panning Victoria Harbour ‘after rain’, with city lights reflecting from clouds, etc.

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Is Jonathan Sumption the new Stephen Roach?

The government and its supporters could refrain from making too much of ex-Court of Final Appeal judge Lord Sumption’s harsh words about rule of law in Hong Kong. But, if the fuss over Stephen Roach’s straightforward economic analysis is anything to go by, they are more likely to dwell on it. Responses from the Chief Justice and legal bodies here. Ronny Tong here – uses the word ‘philological’.

The Chief Executive doesn’t have much choice when answering questions from the press. He comes prepared with a sort-of ‘gotcha’ – in the form of Sumption’s Times article three years ago saying that ‘although Hong Kong did not have democracy while under colonial rule, its rule of law was maintained by judges’. John Lee also says judges should focus on the law, which is their area of expertise, not on politics.

It’s unlikely that Sumption will entertain the opportunity of a Roach-style public debate with the Hong Kong establishment. But if he did, he could suggest that maybe one or two things have happened in the last three years to convince him to change his mind. (He specifically called out the judiciary for its HK47 convictions.) And he might say that John Lee, as someone who has spent most of his career as a cop, is hardly an expert in politics (or economics for that matter). He could even stress his point that the intrusion of politics into the rule of law is the whole problem. 

That issue isn’t going away. Prosecutors close their arguments in the Jimmy Lai case, and the defence are preparing to argue that Lai has no case to answer. The authorities might want to prepare for more resignations of overseas judges.

Some other reading…

In the Diplomat, Eric and Anouk Wear look at recent arrests and other measures by Hong Kong authorities ahead of the June 4 anniversary…

Few places in the world police collective memory and art with this degree of rigor. How has this occurred in Hong Kong, which until recently ranked high for free expression?

…[Xi Jinping’s concept of] “cultural security” … is an extremely vague and ambiguous concept of “national security,” which can be applied to arts and culture without any of the safeguards necessary to ensure that a state is in compliance with international human rights standards.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Chris Tang spoke of art as “soft resistance” and called artistic expression a  “common modus operandi of those seeking to endanger national security.” Similarly, Chief Executive John Lee asked everyone to tell a “good story” of Hong Kong and has defended purging the city’s libraries of books containing “bad ideologies.”

Vague and ambiguous statements such as these encourage de-platforming and freelance censorship in the private sector. Creative artists protect themselves by self-censoring, steering away from politics and social reflection.

…By snipping off any buds of reflective discourse or “wrong” memory, society is channeled into narrowly productive ends. Those who can’t come to terms with this will either flee or find themselves harassed or in custody, as people in Hong Kong who seek to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre have experienced.

The Hongkonger on how Hong Kong NatSec police recruit informants and find ways to pressure dissidents overseas.

Five years after the 2019 protests, RFA interviews Hongkongers in exile – many with bounties on their heads.

And AFP talks to Hong Kong novelists in exile.

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Judges ‘no longer protecting subjects’ liberty’

Jonathan Sumption, one of the UK judges to recently resign from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, writes in the FT about his reasons for quitting…

The Basic Law … expressly authorises Legco to reject the budget, and provides that if it does so twice, the chief executive must resign.

Nonetheless, the High Court decided that rejecting the budget was not a permissible means of putting pressure on the chief executive to change his policies … The result is that Legco cannot exercise an express constitutional right for a purpose unwelcome to the government. Putting a plan to do this before the electorate was branded a criminal conspiracy.

…the decision is symptomatic of a growing malaise in the Hong Kong judiciary … But they have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.

…Pro-democracy media have been closed down by police action. Their editors are on trial for sedition. Campaign groups have been disbanded and their leaders arrested.

…There are continual calls for judicial “patriotism”. It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go.

Intimidated or convinced by the darkening political mood, many judges have lost sight of their traditional role as defenders of the liberty of the subject, even when the law allows it. There are guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly in both the Basic Law and the National Security Law, but only lip-service is ever paid to them. The least sign of dissent is treated as a call for revolution. Hefty jail sentences are dished out to people publishing “disloyal” cartoon books for children, or singing pro-democracy songs, or organising silent vigils for the victims of Tiananmen Square.

HKFP story with more background here.

The government’s response, dated 1.55 am, comprises some 25 paragraphs and goes over most of Lord Sumption’s points one by one…

…the Court of First Instance held that … Indiscriminate vetoing of the Government’s budget and public expenditure proposals, in order to compel the Government to accede to political demands and force the Chief Executive to dissolve the Legislative Council and ultimately resign … amounted to … offence of subversion of State power.  

…Real threats to the independent exercise of judicial power currently faced by the HKSAR courts indeed come from foreign government officials, politicians and political organisations, including blatant attempts to interfere with ongoing legal proceedings, and the despicable threats to impose so-called “sanctions” against judges…

…During the Hong Kong version of “colour revolution” in 2019, massive riots and violence occurred incessantly. Shops and public facilities were vandalised, set on fire and destroyed. Terrorist activities intimidated the community. People expressing opinions different with that of the black-clad mobsters would be intimidated, doxxed and beaten up.

 Any responsible government facing the same chaos experienced by Hong Kong in 2019 would take decisive action to curb the insurrection and violence in order to safeguard national security and protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Lord Sumption’s claim that the ordinary laws of Hong Kong were perfectly adequate for dealing with the riots is in total disregard of the actual situation of the insurrection.

It even mentions mega-events. RTHK summary here.

HKFP op-ed explores all the ways the HK47’s primary elections could have led to a constitutional crisis, and finds none. After overcoming numerous hurdles, including their re-election to LegCo, the 47 could at most have brought about another CE ‘election’. Yet the judges convicted those found guilty for plotting a ‘constitutional crisis’, with ‘dire consequences’ and a ‘paralysing effect on the operations of the Government’.

Stephen Roach’s remarks at the FCC last week…

[When I first visited Hong Kong in the 1980s] China was just beginning to stir, and this city was perfectly positioned as a major beneficiary of what turned into the world’s greatest development miracle. It all worked out brilliantly, lasting longer than anyone expected. And now, as I wrote last February in the Financial Times, it’s over.

Harsh words, I know. Take them more as a metaphor than an epitaph. So, what’s really over?  What’s over, in my opinion, is the imagery that many still cling to in looking to the future of a prideful city—Asia’s world city, Milton Friedman’s favorite free market. The Hong Kong of old is not the Hong Kong of today, and especially not the Hong Kong of tomorrow. The title of my article was intended as a wake-up call, an appeal for you in Hong Kong to come to grips with this seemingly harsh realization.

Any city-state economy – old Venice, modern-day Singapore, Dubai – thrives by providing a location for activities that for whatever reasons don’t take place in its surrounding jurisdictions. Without demand in the hinterland for spices or money-laundering services, it is just a dot on the map. Even when Hong Kong boomed as an apparently isolated (from the Mainland) manufacturing base in the 50s and 60s, it relied on an influx of Mainland industrialists and workers (as well as sanctions-busting cross-border trade). All Roach is saying is that Hong Kong can only do as well as the Mainland, which is now looking at a long period of relative stagnation, and the city needs to accept it and adjust.

Aside from the usual NatSec-era oversensitivity, perhaps the Hong Kong officials have reacted badly to Roach’s basic point because they know it is true. Tam Yiu-chung, quoted in Ta Kung Pao (in Chinese), accuses Roach of ‘smearing One Country, Two Systems’. Regina Ip complains

…Roach’s remarks betray the same shallowness and short-termism as befit a stockbroker, writing off investments when the going gets tough.

It is true that Hong Kong is facing some tough economic headwinds because of geopolitical uncertainty and structural problems. But its future is bright, because Hong Kong is working hard to restructure its economy.

But is it? All we see is officials trying to resurrect yesterday’s industries, from mass-tourism to the container port to the real-estate scam. The best transition Reg can point to is a merging of Hong Kong with the rest of the Pearl River Delta, which doesn’t really suggest a new special role so much as evaporation of the old ones. (This is before factoring in concerns over rule of law, etc.)

Local officials and pro-government figures’ inability to respond calmly and confidently to criticism reflects their inability to accept that the old boom days are over.

Pic of the day: students at a Taipei high school repurpose the campus’s statue of Chiang Kai-shek.

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HK government panics at sight of Roach

Former Morgan Stanley boss Stephen Roach came back to Hong Kong a few weeks ago after a previous spat…

“There ain’t gonna be any resilience here if China continues to underperform, period,” he said, pointing to the parallel slowdown in growth rates for the city and country at large. “It’s not something that I think you can necessarily count on to persist and project into the future.”

Rather than ignore him, the government issues a lengthy statement that can best be summarized as ‘ growing steadily blah blah international financial centre blah blah NatSec blah Greater Bay Area blah green finance blah Belt and Road blah blah’.

Back home in Connecticut (we’re not worth a long stay), Roach says the Hong Kong government is in denial…

…Roach told the Post on Thursday morning he was delighted the government had heard his message, but was discouraged to see it had dismissed his “data, and analytical-based arguments”.

He said the authorities’ rejection of his message over the troubles ahead for the economy lacked an “analytical” angle, and he was worried by their decision to resolve “tough problems” with a “descriptive spin”.

…During his speech, Roach noted the premise of his argument was based on the close connections between the economies of Hong Kong and the mainland economies following greater cross-border integration through flows of trade and finance, as well as tourism.

“The Hong Kong economy has effectively been swallowed up by the mainland economy – hook, line and sinker. With the Chinese economy likely to underperform over the foreseeable future,” he said.

He concluded that Hong Kong was unlikely to “spring back to life on its own”.

…“I would welcome the government’s response to my core arguments rather than counter their seemingly desperate attempts to throw up a smokescreen and deflect attention elsewhere.”

He also said in his speech that it was important for the financial hub to continue to allow for constructive criticism.

…“Solutions come from solving tough problems, not from PR statements.”

Hypersensitive reactions suggest that the critic concerned has hit a sensitive nerve – or in plain words, is right. The huge uplift in Hong Kong’s economy over the last 40 years mirrored, and resulted from, that of the Mainland. The city was in a unique position to leverage China’s abandonment of Stalinist economics, and it was an amazing coattails-ride. That phase of history is over. Officials would show real confidence in Hong Kong’s future if they acknowledged that and let go of the old high-property-prices zillions-of-tourists model.

Timothy McClaughlin adds

Hong Kong has some of the highest rents in the world but Stephen Roach lives in the government’s head for free.

After fretting about the exodus of shoppers to Shenzhen, officials claim it is a success story for the Greater Bay Area. Insofar as it’s a success story for market forces and lower prices for consumers, they’re right. 

Two British judges resign from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, one citing the political situation in the city.- unless you read RTHK, in which case he doesn’t.

In case you haven’t seen it – CE John Lee congratulates Ronny Tong on his puberty, twice, in video and text. (I mean it’s nothing – my brother’s 21st birthday was 40 years ago, and I still haven’t sent him a card.)

Some weekend reading…

Atlantic on Beijing’s bid to out-tech the US

Xi gambled that he could partner with Russia and Iran, undermine the U.S.-led global order, and build a military designed to challenge American power—do all that and still benefit from the U.S. technology the Chinese economy needs to advance his ambitions. Perhaps he believed that capitalist greed would override national-security concerns, or thought he could rely on inaction from a divided and preoccupied Washington. Perhaps, too, he underestimated the complexities of the semiconductor industry and what it would take to develop the chips China needs.

Whatever Xi’s assumptions, he picked a chip war with a superior power before he had the armory to wage it.

And Lowy Interpreter looks at China’s claims to own much of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone waters.

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