Amusing, positive and interesting things happen

Hong Kong starts the day with a smirk. The Securities and Futures Commission orders the ‘unwinding’ of the sale of hotel suites at Cheung Kong’s Apex Horizon project on the grounds that it was technically an investment scheme that needed its authorization. In other words: give the mugs their money back.

Tycoon Li Ka-shing’s deputy assistant sub-running dog Justin Chiu puts on a brave face, saying in effect that Cheung Kong is 100% in the right and could easily mash the crummy little SFC to a pulp, but won’t because social harmony is so important. Coming after Li’s discomfiting brush with striking dockworkers, this is the sort of thing that brings a little ray of sunshine into our lives. (All this and the giant rubber duck…)

The Apex Horizon fiasco could get even funnier. Several dozen buyers have already flipped their units to earn such life-changing quick returns as HK$85,000. Cheung Kong will nonetheless try to repurchase the properties via them, which assumes that these speculators know or care about the whereabouts of the secondary buyers (or tertiary ones?) and are, in principle, willing to give back that fast, easy profit they made – if they haven’t blown it in Macau. Presumably, Cheung Kong will end up waiving this and paying off that to get the suites back.

So heart-warming is this story that the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling to allow a transsexual to marry gets relegated to second place on the front pages. The Equal Opportunities Commission and others are predictably happy to find that bewigged senior members of the judiciary are so hip and groovy about gender identity and, by implication, the ever-growing array of other sexual minorities. One part of the judgment in particular stands out…

The Court further held that whether a consensus regarding a transsexual’s right to marry exists among the people of Hong Kong is not a relevant consideration since reliance on the absence of a majority consensus as a reason for rejecting a minority’s claim is inimical in principle to fundamental rights.

In plain English, this says two things. First, regardless of how many guitar-playing pastors and mewling teachers the mouth-frothing Biblical-literalist freaks of the Society of Truth and Light gather at protests, they can go stuff themselves. Second, there are such things as universal rights, and apologists for the Chinese Communist Party and others who dismiss the idea as a Western plot can go stuff themselves as well, so there.

Finally, something interesting – a bit, anyway – happens in the world of local publications. Behold: Harbour Times.

From what I can gather after an extensive few minutes’ snooping around, this is a libertarian project with links to our very own Lion Rock Institute and the US-based Center for Freedom and Prosperity. In the manner of so many think-tanks-turned-lobbyists, the latter is a proponent of flat taxes and our inalienable right to stash our profits offshore beyond the Internal Revenue’s grasp. Among interviews and features concerning politicians, diplomats and various policy areas, readers can expect a lot of emphasis on free markets and, specifically, warnings of threats to banking secrecy and offshore low-tax regimes, not that Hong Kong needs much convincing on these matters.

So it sounds like some Koch Brothers’ front pushing the interests of billionaires who don’t want to pay tax. However, they say they want a forum for Hong Kong’s entire political spectrum to engage in lively and civil discourse. It’s bilingual, will be in print as well as on-line, will have some sort of companion publication for local diplomats and will be free for political VIPs (and probably not very widely read if it charges the rest of us). It will take advertising. Intriguingly, it specifically mentions political advertising – a field in which Hong Kong is sadly backward.

Note that the title uses the British spelling for ‘Harbour’. This could be a clever device to disguise radical right American corporate funding and ideology. (The Koch brothers are, of course, trying to buy up mainstream media. Could this be Step 1 in grabbing the South China Morning Post and Sing Tao)? Then again, the publishers are talking about selling subscriptions and carrying ads, which suggests they’re hard up, so it could just be that the Canadian editor can’t abide ‘Harbor’. Either way, a bit more anti-Communist, Western cultural-imperialist propaganda is always welcome. 

Click to hear Phil Ochs’ ‘Pleasures of the Harbor’!


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28 Responses to Amusing, positive and interesting things happen

  1. Our Mr Criswell, then man who sees into the future, has forecast that by 2013, 90% of Hong Kong people will be living in tents and 10% in highly guarded boutique hotels. The backdoor property Rachmans are taking over, turning every clapped out tenement into an overpriced boutique hotel. And no, they don’t sell you a room. It’s pay and pay and pay. An investment scheme for Indian wheeler-dealers.

    I am glad that marriage has caught up with these people with happy-go-lucky lifestyles likes gays, lesbians and transsexuals. They should suffer too. I hope marriage becomes compulsory for them eventually.

    Still in shock from seeing Regina Ip at Watsons (awful legs by the way) and in hyperventilating from reading RTP’s latest record-breaking comments, I did look at Harbour Times. It did the trick and I felt myself nodding off. Être can have a circumflex even when capitalised. I just did it. Obviously a low-brow publication.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    I had a look at it early this morning. I give it six months, since the publisher and editor both seem to be jacks-of-all-trades.

    Something else: wasn’t Dr. Adams supposed to start publication of a hard-copy edition of the NTSCMP ? Whatever happened to that ?

  3. Property Developer says:

    Harbour Times has the hallmarks of being written by a commitee, as shown by the bilingual form and inconsistent spelling system, and is at present far from the “lively” forum it hopes to become.

    The only worthy rival to Hemlock I can see is NTSCMP: less analytical, certainly less fair-minded, occasionally off the mark, but always entertaining. Beijing Cream has its moments, but seems to be slightly suiviste, afraid to branch out on its own.

  4. PD

    Oh…a stroke! The e-cheque is in the fax. We are not a rival to Hemlock. It is synergy, love, being together, partnership, being complementary, sharing, touching the rainbows and fording the streams.

    NTSCMP mag…well…I thought at least Mr Murdoch would notice and buy us out but another dream destroyed. Mags are REAL HARD WORK.

  5. Oik says:

    I seem to recall that Miss W’s boyfriend/fiance/figment of her imagination was wholly unaware of her gender background.

    I wonder whether being secretive, dishonest and manipulative were part of her make-up before the sex change or just came free as part of the package….

  6. Sojourner says:

    The Lion Rock Institute and their ilk are hardly into “anti-Communist, Western cultural-imperialist propaganda”.

    I have had several of their acolytes tell me with a straight face that if universal suffrage in Hong kong leads to higher taxes and more welfarism they prefer the pluotocratic status quo, thank you very much.

    I have never heard a single one criticise human rights abuses on the Mainland either.

    They are, in short, scumbags.

  7. Mongkok Mzungu says:

    It appears that the ownership of New Work Media, the publisher of The Harbour Times is straightforward: Mr Andrew Work holds 60% of the shares, and his companion Mr Graham Newman holds the remaining 40%. The Companies Register also shows their Hong Kong ID numbers, as many would be pleased to know.

    Any external sources of funding would have to be so sinister they don’t even want to leave a BVI-routed paper trail, and would have to have a lot of faith in Mr Work to give him majority control.

    From the shareholding percentage as well as their bios, it would seem Mr Newman is the side-kick, involved with the design although probably genuinely concerned with inequality and other social issues. Mr Work strikes me as the political and media-savvy brain of the operation.

    By the way, the much-too-long Harbour Times says this is first and foremost a publication for policy makers, not for the general public per se. By Regina, for Regina, something like that.

    Anyway, since Messieurs Works and Newman apparently didn’t even have the insight to select a content management system that is actually capable of handling a bilingual publication, and instead have resorted to just display the Canto translation below the English epistles, I think Joe Blow’s six months estimate is already optimistic.

  8. Headache says:

    Bela! Your remarks on marriage almost made me snort coffee out my nose.

  9. Real Scot Player says:

    @ Sojouner

    Figures. Remember, Ms Ip’s line in 2003 was that universal suffrage elected Hitler in 1933

  10. Bela says:

    Headache. That’s a paraphrase of a very funny American called Greg Giraldo…a lawyer turned comedian..alas died too young…bits of him are on NTSCMP and he is on Youtube a lot. His unforgettable analysis of marriage is towards the end of the Broke Back Mountain segment of his first album. He did two recorded albums. Masterpieces.

    I always tell happily married couples – the ones who always say WE instead of I, we saw this, we went to the theatre, we don’t like that – that even Charles Manson is eligible for parole and that you never know a woman until you’ve divorced her (last part MINE ALL MINE). They don’t laugh.

  11. maugrim says:

    The NTSCMP is a great idea, unfortunately most of the gags are a direct rip off of Private Eye and illustrate more chips than a packet of Walkers crisps. Marks for trying I spose.

  12. mjrelje says:

    HT ad rates are ridiculously high…. $35,000 for a 2,000 free distribution (bin fodder). J’ai mes doubts.

  13. Nury O'Vines says:

    I would like to apply for a position with the Harbour Times. I am certainly qualified. Here is a precis of my ongoing career:

    72-79 Sub-editor, The Star

    79-84 Junior sub, The Standard

    84 Feature writer, SCMP (2 weeks)

    84-94 Free-lance poofreader

    94-95 Society columnist, Eastern Express

    95-97 Owner of a real English pub in Tai Po (“The Real English Pub” in Tai Po)

    97-2001 Senior editor, HK Magazine

    2001-2005, Janitor, RTHK

    2005, PR executive, Ted Thomas Public Relations Ltd (3 weeks – company went out of business)

    2006-2008, Ad sales executive, Target Newsletter

    Presently looking for a new challenge.

    For a full-length copy of my CV (12 pages) please leave your email and you will be contacted, like, soon.

  14. Big Al says:

    Going back to the court case involving the transgender Ms W, I think the lawyers have got it all wrong. Ms W started off as Mr W, as per birth certificate, right? And the law says the birth certificate is always right and that same-sex marriage is not allowed. The answer is simple. Just ask Ms W to marry another transgender individual, let’s call him Mr X, who started life as Ms X. Thus two people with one male birth certificate and one female birth certificate between them. No problem!

    And for those who raise the obvious issue, let’s face it, I doubt a real bloke would want to marry a bird who used to a have a pair of bollocks, so she’s bound to end up with a bloke who used to have a pair of tits. Sorted!

  15. Oik says:

    @Big Al

    Re. last para – out/my/words/mouth/took/the.


  16. Fiona says:

    I miss Target.

  17. Fiona says:

    …the b/w paper version, just to clarify.

  18. Bela says:

    Maugrim – Thank you for reading NTSCMP! Fifteen of the twenty pages on NTSCMP are our own invention and have nothing to do with Private Eye. Of course, we are inspired by the Eye. No one in their right mind isn’t. And by every other British and particularly American satirical idea we can get hold of, such as Greg Giraldo or Patton Oswalt. You have to be original and should only steal from the best, as Woody Allen said.

    Something tells me you are heavily married.

  19. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    @Nury O’ Vines. You forgot to mention the false story you planted in the Eastern Express about covert monitoring of Cheung Kong offices by what turned out to be an innocent satellite dish.

  20. aghast says:

    @Nury O’Vines

    Shurely the last position in that tale of media mediocity, short term jobs and failed publishing ventures should be ‘English Tutor’???!?

  21. Chimp says:

    Dear Nury,

    Free lance-poof reader? A very peculiar niche, though I suppose someone has to do it.

  22. Chimp says:

    Bloody hyphens…

    Free-lance poof reader.

  23. pcatbar says:

    I thought it best to get stuck into HT straight away so will share with you my reaction to the Lion Rock guy’s awful opinion bit on Europe, (meaning France) HK and robots:

    “Please tell us what you think of Harbour Times!”

    I am writing in response to your above invitation having checked out your new publication today.

    I am a HK resident of nearly 30 years, originally from UK. I am a self employed legal practitioner and take a keen interest in local politics, economics and legal matters.

    As I do not read/write Chinese I was particularly interested to see an addition to HK’s English news media.

    Congratulations and good luck!

    So far I have only read the article, ‘Can HK afford to follow the path of Europe?’

    A couple of points:

    Firstly and less important, I note this is an English translation of a Chinese piece and I am sorry to say the quality is not good. If you are going to use Chinese writing in translation this will have to be improved as it simply looks as if the work has not been adequately edited.

    As to the quality of the ‘opinion’ I regret that it is rather superficial. This is disappointing. As someone of the political centre and a strong supporter of the free market I can broadly support the sentiments and concerns expressed. Obviously HK will fail to maintain its success if it succumbs to the lure of Euro style socialism.

    However, there is frankly no sign whatever of that occurring and to suggest otherwise based only on recent industrial conflict in the container port is naive.

    Instead, the real threat to HK’s continued freedoms and prosperity lies in the insidious corporatism whereby an unspoken (at least publicly) alliance of business cartels and civil servants is denying us efficient and fair competition in our markets as well as democracy in the political system. If only the economy were truly free then living standards could improve such that the ‘masses’ here would be most unlikely to vote for the charlatans of the left if/when universal (or something like it) suffrage finally arrives in 2017-2020. Instead by stiffling small and medium enterprises and artificially inflating property prices while doing little to ensure competition, (beyond the telecoms sector) we are in danger of seeing significant convergence between the ‘red state capitalism’ of the mainland and the version of capitalism operated in HK. I do not see how this can be consistent with the fundamental tenet of the Basic Law and the mantra of ‘one country two systems’!

    I will not go on but wanted, for now, to simply point out the shallow nature of this opinion and the need, if your publication is to succeed, to embrace a deeper as well as broader variety of commentators.

    Kind Regards

  24. Property Developer says:

    Chimp, Actually I prefer your original version, with its suggestive “lance-poof”, particularly if it’s followed by “… someone has to fill it”.

    As I’m sure you know, the hyphen in free-lance largely disappeared in the middle of the last century.

  25. Chimp says:

    PD, not bad, at all.

  26. Real Scot Player says:

    @ Nury O’Vines

    LOL. Very good.

    Bless Nury The perennial bore of them all. I think the only funny thing he did was a Lai See piece on Chris Patten’s daughters. But even that was so pish I’ve forgotten the details

  27. I did appreciate “poofreader”, having once lost a client by failing to spot a missing “l” in “public”!

    I had never heard of Harbour Times before today. Nor has anyone else yet, judging by the fact that when I Googled “Harbour Times Hong Kong”, all I got was a dozen stories about a giant rubber duck.

    It wasn’t universal suffrage as such that brought Hitler to power – it was universal suffrage plus a massive wealth gap, widespread poverty, and resentment at big business, so couldn’t possibly happen here – oh wait…

    I’m curious about your musical tastes – there can’t be many people who are fans of both Margaret Thatcher and Phil Ochs!

  28. Andrew W says:

    Thanks to BL for posting HT and the comments. It will definitely help us to get an FAQ together. It’s out first outing and neither of us are newspaper people, but hopefully learning fast.

    The website is definitely a work in progress and since we are doing it in an, ahem, cost efficient manner, it will be a bit rudimentary for a while. Yes, that was three euphemisms in one sentence.

    It’s modeled after publications like The Hill Times and Embassy from Ottawa and The Hill and Roll Call in the US.

    My background as a libertarian is no secret! We are making an effort to get others on board as well. We actually tracked down Lee Cheuk Yan to see if he could do something (photo of me talking to him in the print edition) but he was a little busy wrapping up the Cheung Kong scene. Fair enough on his side. We’re new and there is mass media he needed to take care of for his constituency’s sake.

    The biz model is trade media – so not mass media at all. With publications like The Hill Times in Ottawa, 99.9999% of Canadians have never heard of it and that’s quite OK. 99.9999% of people have never read or heard of ‘Industrial Sausage Makers Monthly’ either, but people in the sausage biz probably love it (it doesn’t actually exist, just riffing off v.Bismarck’s mis-attribution about politics and sausage).

    Hoping to do some good in Hong Kong by providing a platform for a different level of discussion away from the day to day bloodletting in the mass media. We’ll see what we can do. The print leader was about democracy and featured the ATD. But you would need to get your hands on the real deal, the flagship print edition to see that. Web ain’t everything for our target audience.

    Thanks again and look forward to more commentary. Specifically –

    BL: Why Harbour with a ‘U’. You nailed it. Founders are Canadian and British – we wouldn’t have it any other way. Andy why Harbour – politically neutral and hey, who doesn’t love the harbour?!

    pcatbar – got it! Definitely some work to do.

    NO’V – got your CV. Two just like it actually. Thought it was a dupe but they had different names…

    Hoping to hold a small drinks thing and invite media people so we can answer questions. Will meet some at Frites in Wanchai tonight. Cheers!

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