From the mouths of babes, innocents and Moody’s

I spent the weekend in sunny Shenzhen, delighting in such delights as Szechuan and Muslim cuisine. If only in Hong Kong we could get 25 dumplings for 15 bucks…


And then there was this…


(OK – the two above were separate places.)

However, there is a price to pay. Even for fairly frequent visitors, it is a nuisance to be just a few miles from Hong Kong and yet unable to check Twitter, to Google anything or to peruse YouTube. Also, you can’t get the online South China Morning Post. Which is why I missed the story about Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang’s anger at Moody’s cutting the city’s debt outlook from stable to negative. (Bloomberg report here, and Standard editorial here.)


Since the Hong Kong government has vast reserves and consistent surpluses, it does not need to issue debt except as PR stunts (like trying to stimulate a market in ‘Islamic’ bonds for no obvious reason) or to by-pass the Legislative branch on financing white-elephant projects (the third runway). Moody’s warning is on one level just academic.

Pro-Beijing and other detractors hurry to remind us that Moody’s gave overly generous ratings to mortgage derivatives and key players involved in the 2008 meltdown. This is true. Are they saying that the ratings agencies have not since mended their ways? In which case, we should conclude that Moody’s is understating the extent to which Hong Kong is screwed.

John Tsang and fellow officials are upset by what Moody’s is saying in its deep-down, between-the-lines sort of way. The agency suggests that Hong Kong’s high exposure to the Mainland economy is a Bad Thing – the exact opposite of the official line about Belt-and-Road/integration/blah-blah, but pretty similar to what young localist radicals say. Even more scarily, Moody’s says that ‘political linkages with China are weighing on Hong Kong’s institutional strength’.

Here it is alluding to a whole range of trends over the last few years that few members of polite society dare mention in public, let alone connect as dots:

  • the Hong Kong government’s selective/biased handling of broadcasting licences, university appointments, policing of protests, public-prosecution decisions, electoral rules;
  • a marked tendency for senior officials to parrot Beijing-speak (Belt-Road-babble, motherland/integration/cooperation-blather), growing use of government ‘public interest’ information resources for obviously political campaigns;
  • the growing influence of Chinese state-linked companies and businessmen in local media, finance, trading and other sectors, and the listing of whacko-governance Mainland firms on our exchange;
  • Beijing-backed intimidation/smearing of critics, and recently, a damning precedent for Mainland security agents to kidnap people off the streets of Hong Kong and transfer them over the border for forced confessions, with no reference to local laws or authorities.

We could add (though it is also a way to feed co-opted business interests) the vast expenditure of public funds on needless infrastructure projects to symbolize Hong Kong ‘integration’ (HK-Zhuhai Bridge, HK-Shenzhen High-Speed Rail). And more.

Moody’s mentions none of these items by name. But in the Hong Kong and international business establishment, it is not done to talk even about the possibility of any such things. You sweep these elephants-in-the-room under the carpet and don’t rock the boat. The bureaucratic elite play along. How else can John Tsang and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam stay sane? Otherwise, they have to face the fact that they have lost their moral bearings, serving an administration that is entangling Hong Kong into Beijing’s Leninist system of control. The pressure will be on the other ratings agencies not to follow Moody’s in finding that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.


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16 Responses to From the mouths of babes, innocents and Moody’s

  1. Enid Ronay says:

    The food looks revolting. I forecast you will be eye of a needle by the end of the week. But John Tsang is probably passing even thinner stuff.

    I thought you might have passed a few reflections about student suicide. I was invited by the SCMP to listen to Yonden Lhatoo and other bores today talking about education policy at the Marriott. Somehow my sock drawer needed rearranging at that time.

  2. mjrelje says:

    Seconded Enid. The food looks absolutely vile. God knows why on earth anyone goes anywhere near that hell on earth.

  3. The Yellow Peril says:

    Also have to agree. Pics look terrible. Couldn’t help noticing that big bowl of chilli sauce to perk up that big bucket of blandness next to it. I shudder to think under what conditions those dumplings were made. Probably, by a consumptive with dermatitis issues. Feeling queasy yet Hemmers ??

  4. reductio says:

    Yuk. However it’s not all finger licking tasty here either. After having seen, and smelt, quite a few pig farms in the NT let’s just say I avoid pork in Hong Kong.

  5. LRE says:

    Did you stick with the goat or did you get adventurous and go for the dog hotpot?

  6. WTF says:

    If Hemlock is going to get his rabies shot at a public hospital out in the NT, then he better brush up on his Putonghua. Cantonese is no longer the lingua franca of any government organ offering free/cheap services.

    Heung To College in Taipo just got their lease jerked out from under them this week, so that makes two schools in a month in Taipo being order closed to allocate more existing private schools for the children of the.cadre’s 2nd wives. Meanwhile class sizes have gone from 24 to 33 children in one year at Taipo’s public elementary schools. Is it too soon to predict the little tots will be taking a flying leap? That would make Eddie Ng’s job easier if they all just up and died.

  7. WTF says:

    “existing private school” should read “existing public school”. ie:” the public school buildings were sold to private school operators.

    I’ll now add that Buddhist Hui Yan College was sold to mainland interest to open yet another “international school. At this rate, will there be any public schools left in the NT by the end of the school year? My guess is Eddie Ng heard bad news about Lufsig and has stepped up the pace, a real fire sale – bargains galore. I’m not going to answer my phone anymore tonight. Hemlock likes to link songs, perhaps he’ll find a appropriate post for this one.

  8. Cerebos says:

    Hemlock – when it comes to food you are an arriviste hillbilly peasant. Period.

  9. dimuendo says:


    Your song link repeatedly comes up “404 – Not found”

  10. RSG says:

    Shenzhen is a mediocre food city compared with Guangzhou, but it’s still nice to have some variety other than 10,000 versions of cha chaan teng. I think that food looks pretty good. What exactly are Dongbei style dumplings supposed to look like if not that? Do the readers here think that Northern food actually looks much like the stuff they serve at Maxim’s various “Northern” restaurants? As the old Sam Adams Beer commercials used to say, “Don’t be afraid of flavor.”

    “Cantonese is no longer the lingua franca of any government organ offering free/cheap services.” Simply untrue. In the Western NT the government health service workers pretty much only speak Cantonese or occasionally English.

  11. WTF says:


    Suggest a quick glance at your brower’s url address field should reveal all. You’ll have to delete the part of the url that got added automatically to the link after posting. I could put the correct url again here, but it would generate the same problem.


    I’ll concede it’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Last week took my nephew to the government dental clinic for a follow up in Fanling (East NT). While a number of the children could speak Cantonese it was balls to the walls Putonghua speakers for all the mother and fathers, 12 + in all and not a one of them could really understand Cantonese, the receptionist even gave up calling out messages to the waiting pack in Cantonese (forget about English, not on the menu). Hence my point More interesting, many of the dentists and nurses were able to communicate back, quite loudly, in what was obviously their first/mother dialect. Turns out they are all on contracts. I could go on, but what’s the point.

  12. @Yellow Peril – perhaps rather better conditions than the open kitchen in Shanghai where I observed one of the makers of hand-made dumplings energetically picking her nose with an exploring finger, before reapplying the said finger to her work. Needless to say, we ate elsewhere.

  13. RSG says:


    Fair enough but hasn’t been my experience in other parts of the NT. I do believe Fanling and Sheung Shui are areas where a large amount of “anchor babies” are living (or staying transiently), with parents frequently crossing the border. This is a natural byproduct of the asymmetry between government services in HK vs. Mainland China, which is of course exacerbated by the granting of PR status by birth to children of Chinese citizens without residency.

  14. dimuendo says:


    Thank you. I will ask my 13 year old to translate.


    Tend to agree with WTF. Last three times have had blood taken at Prince of Wales it has been by a putonghua speaker. On one ocasion when I made a complaint (becasues of something that happened) I received an explanation that partly due to “communication difficulties” as they could not recruit enough “plebotomists” without going to the mainland.

  15. dimuendo says:


    Done, thanks, At beginning of url. Not previously heard of Mr Minchin.

  16. WTF says:

    Just dawned on me that Hemlock was actually trying to pull off an investigatory scoop of the year for a blogger, and find out where the booksellers had spent their long weekend in Amsterdam. His only goof was bringing English materials with him over the border to hand out to the dinners. It was probably graciously accepted as being softer than the local loo paper.

    He should try blogging some of this sites stuff in simplified characters, intimate he’s going to publish a book on Ultimate Leader for the China market, etc. then he might get invited one night to go over the boarder on a special, first class in a chauffeured Merc, no need to pay for his train ticket to the camp.

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