Amazing surprise!

Seven million people faint with shock on hearing that the Lantau reclamation will benefit developers rather than people. 

The Hong Kong government can’t/won’t extricate itself from the trap of seeing land as a source of revenue for itself rather than as a vital resource for the population and economy. All governments compete with the population and economy when they demand a slice of our money, but – rather than raise it through broad-based revenue streams like income and sales taxes – Hong Kong sucks a huge amount of wealth out of the economy through land (all of which it owns). This system works best if you engineer a perpetual shortage of supply of (and thus high-priced) housing and business premises. The bizarre part is that, spread out over recent decades, most of the land revenue is surplus to requirements anyway, so it just adds to fiscal reserves. 

The model, which dates from the 1840s, depends on the Hong Kong economy profiting from valuable arbitrage (or ‘skim’) opportunities, inducing companies and people to pay anything to be here – think tourism (Mainland shoppers) and finance. But the city’s advantages in those activities are not guaranteed. If Beijing cuts domestic taxes on luxury imports, the Mainland shoppers have no reason to come here; without rule of law and a free press, finance and other sectors move out. The bureaucrats calculating miraculous financial win-wins from reclaimed islands are assuming nothing will change.

Asia Times reports that Beijing wants its own mega-reclamation project for Hong Kong, off the south west of Lantau. ‘In time for 2047’, whatever that means. Sounds even crazier than the Hong Kong government’s Greater Peng Chau plan. 

The official conspiracy theory is that this will enable Beijing to sideline the local developers and provide affordable homes. This makes no sense. The developers are as much an effect as a cause of the housing problem. And wouldn’t it be cheaper for the CCP just to shoot them or otherwise shove them aside? They’re not gods. That said, this idea does have a tremendously unsubtle, Beijing-tinted hint of infrastructural and social-planning force majeure about it. Two questions. Who would live there? Who would pay for it?

Some worthwhile reading in case you missed it…

Aaron Mc Nicholas looks back on the first 100 days of the NatSec Law. And does some more digging into the Government Flying Service’s role in tracking the 12 activists who ended up in the Mainland (hint: the cops ordered it – and we know who runs the cops).

Also on Twitter – couldn’t agree more with this take on the fate of the 12. Beijing could have just sent them back to Hong Kong and won a little ‘hearts and minds’, but instead the CCP just can’t resist its basic thuggish instincts, and is giving the protest movement a new cause.

A quick update on Celestial Empire affairs. Laos pawns its electricity network to Beijing. China seems to be moving into a Cambodian naval base. And a lengthy study of Serbia as a client state of China.

Public opinion on China in free developed countries has plummeted – and not by statistically insignificant margins of error. This is the Xi effect, not the Trump effect.

Michael Pettis looks to the icon of development economics for lessons on China’s dilemma – reform or stagnate.

And a valiant attempt by a Scot of Hong Kong descent to compare and contrast Glasgow’s deep-fried culinary depravities and the New Territories’ festive communal poon choi

…the munchy box [try Google images if you dare] simultaneously encourages the hungry consumer to engage with Glasgow’s diversity of cultures and also works against the idea of ‘authenticity’ within those same cultures … A 盆菜 meal is a very direct cultural memory of the now-empty walled villages, with those-who-were-left-behind and those-who-have-returned, with a way of life mostly extinct today due to migration. 

The main difference (to me) is that poon choi traditionally was a luxury in a mainly poor society, while the Glasgow munchy box is down-market trash-food in a rich country. The main similarity is that both have known health risks.

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27 Responses to Amazing surprise!

  1. Onecistern says:

    Sompawn “Pawn” Khantisouk was kidnapped in March 2007. He was the co-owner of an eco resort in Luang Namtha Laos. He had raised concerns about record flooding in the area which he attributed to illegal Chinese rubber plantations operating in the protected forest. After the news report there was an arson attempt at Pawn’s house. The police instructed him to file a report at the police station. On the way to the station he was stopped and bundled into a Land Cruiser never to be seen again. His American business partner was forced to leave Laos despite having dual citizenship.

  2. Lambox says:

    It has been a very long time since I munched box, but I can say that from my memory, it is a luxury like no other.

  3. Toph says:

    Sideline the local developers – yes. Provide affordable housing, eh, who the **** cares?

    Beijing has no more interest in providing affordable homes for us than they do for their own migrant factory workers or dispossessed farmers; what they have concluded from the last few years is that the local tycoons make subpar lackeys. Too grasping, weaselly and two-faced to either spy properly or back the coming ideological rectification campaigns with real fervour. Better to replace them with SOEs that can be counted on.

  4. Toph says:

    More crucially, the proposed project is in Mainland waters outside of Hong Kong’s jurisdiction. It’s part of Guangdong Province. The plan is to lease it to Hong Kong (New Territories: The Sequel). Would they even have to ask Hong Kong’s opinion? Would it even need to go through Legco, not that Legco is of any use anymore? Theoretically they could order it built entirely without Hong Kong public funding, with with Mainland money and Mainland investors and Mainland construction companies and Mainland developers, foist the whole thing on Hong Kong, and overnight the biggest developers and lenders in Hong Kong are no longer Sun Hung Kai, Cheung Kong, HSBC et al. Voila! Have a free island! What are you, ungrateful?

  5. Probably says:

    Who needs a reclaimation project when the taxpayer funded money losing HK Disney could just be auctioned off to the highest bidder? It already has an MTR link to serve all this much needed housing (sorry I missed the surveys that justify all of these shenanigans).

    Although I did hear from a connected person a couple of years ago that this is just to block US naval sail throughs such as in the Taiwan Straits, albeit delusional.

  6. Red Dragon says:

    Oh that HKG piece on poon choi is a corker!

    Hectoring, bossy, finger-wagging, patronising and pious, it encapsulates everything one needs to know about the “government’s” attitude towards a populace it first seeks to infantilise, and then to cow.

    Add to that the awkward, cliché-ridden English which characterises such communications, and you achieve a result which is at once risible and emetic.

    That said, I suppose we should all doff our caps in gratitude that our betters have alerted us to the possibility that poon choi poses a greater threat to public health than Covid 19. Who’d have thought it, eh?

    Mark my words, the next time I’m invited to sup with the good burghers of Sheung Shui, I’ll be making a bee line for the Munchy Box.

  7. where's my jet plane says:

    How fucking stupid can this administration get?

    Staff at the Royal Garden in TST have tested positive for the killer disease. The CDC has instructed the hotel to evacuate all guests by noon today. The RG is finding these guests accomodation in other hotels.

    Now isn’t that the best and most intelligent way to spread the WuFlu? Why not do a Diamond Princes and quarantine the lot?

  8. Big Al says:

    @ Red Dragon

    Not authentic governmentspeak as the title is ‘Enjoying “Poon Choi” Safely’ rather than the more encompassing ‘Let’s Enjoy “Poon Choi” Safely!’. Schoolboy error.

  9. Mary Melville says:

    Has anybody considered a JR against the police for allowing and assisting to abscond, via not taking preventive action, persons under court orders not to leave the territory?
    That the GFS action was mounted is indication of prior knowledge of a planned felony.
    The boat could have been halted in or near Sai Kung.
    Surely there is a duty on the part of the security forces to prevent or halt the commission of an offense, or to apprehend an offender, when it is in the law enforcement officers power and capabilities to do so?

  10. Roddy the Rodomontade says:

    Glasgow is home to several other culinary delights, including the stonner kebab. Supposedly it weighs over a kilo and is packed with an impressive 1,000 calories. Incidentally, the name “stonner” is the local Scots word for an erect penis.

    See here:

    I’ve never tried one. You don’t get that sort of thing in Edinburgh. Deep fried pizzas, yes, but nothing quite so dangerous. Have yet to sample poon choi.

  11. Chris Maden says:

    @Probably. The terms of the government’s deal with Disney is that, even though Disney has failed to exercise its right to the second plot out there, it still has the right to block whatever the government may want to do with it. So an American corporation is determining Hong Kong’s land supply.

  12. Casira says:

    @where’s my jet plane: Because half the guests in that “hotel” are working girls and it would be embarassing.

  13. MarkLane says:

    If there’s one good thing this pandemic has brought, it’s the (temporary) death of poon choi.

    Unfortunately, durian emerged unscathed…

  14. dimuendo says:

    Wheres my Jet Plane and Mark Lane

    The then government in 2003 quarantined immediately the hotel on the corner of Hennessy Road and Fenwick St in Wanchai when somebody therein came down with suspected SARS. Nobody in or out. Police guards. Pedestrians had to cross on the other side of the street.

    Changed its name many times since.

    However well known a guest had taken a professional lady back that night and they woke up to find neither of them allowed out. Apparently one of biggest headaches was accommodating said lady as neither she nor punter wanted anything to do with other.

    One of my earliest memories of HK in 1986 is a cheong clad lass very expertly mixing and pouring exotic drinks from one glass to another, in the lower then lounge area of the Royal Garden.

    Sorry to hear of it apparently having gone down market.

  15. dimuendo says:

    Sorry, my comment was in response to Casira, not Mark Lane, plus jet plane.

  16. Red Dragon says:

    Big Al.

    A fair point. I hear you.

  17. Richard Cushing says:

    Here’s the Napa Institute’s recent interview of Jimmy Lai on the subject of how his Catholic faith informs his courageous stand against the Chinese Communist Party:

  18. Low Profile says:

    @Where’s my jet plane – not quite as crazy as it sounds. My understanding from the TV news is that the outbreak is among the hotel staff. Consequently they’ve all been quarantined, leaving no one to serve the guests – a tricky dilemma. If I was a guest there, I wouldn’t want potentially infected staff serving me food and making up my room; would you?

  19. Red Dragon says:

    Richard Cushing.

    Funny thing, that old Catholic faith.

    Seems it can “inform” you in all sorts of ways.

    Just ask Carrie Lam.

  20. where's my jet plane says:

    @ Low Profile
    Yes, but just letting the guests scatter to the four winds is a bit slipshod for disease containment. Quarantine them, for goodness sake there are enough beds idling in Asiaworld intended for just that purpose.

  21. where's my jet plane says:

    @ Red Dragon
    And Donald before her.

  22. so says:

    The Five “Antis” – published by Mbongo Publishers,
    Cape Town, Southern Greater Region Africa, 2057


    At that time, in 2023, the communists in Hong Kong were operating from different salubrious quarters, from favoured North Point to cheaper Sai Ying Pun, but not on Kowloon-side.

    The communists embarked on the five “antis”campaign. They began by flushing out the five poisons of bribery, tax evasion, the stealing of government property, cheating on government contracts and stealing of PRC economic intelligence. All of these five “antis” were directed by the 2020 National Security Law.

    These lawful campaigns were, in turn, directed towards the wealthy and reasonably well off Chinese locals, the businessman, the property owner, managers of businesses, as well as older government officials, even if they, to secure their pensions, had signed an oath of allegiance (or perhaps because that oath had convicted them in the first place).

    All those Hong Kong locals who held any kind of grudge, denounced their fellows, which became a regular part of daily life, reporting on the five “antis”.

    For foreigners of all nationalities, the biggest problem was the entire lack of legal recourse and protection. The abuse of common law processes such as secrecy orders and midnight raids, to protect commerce, became commonplace under the common law, or rule of law.

    All locals, except those 40% of the Hong Kong population already under direct governmental housing fining control, faced five levels of “antis” fines, ranging from “rule by law, abiding” to completely “rule by law, breaking”.

    It was not long before businessmen were taking their own lives and those of their mistresses and extended families.

    Pressure for the return to the PRC of improper earnings even spread to San Francisco, London, Sydney and even the franco-phone Chinese diaspora, where branch managers received demands of ransom for their detained principals.

  23. Richard Cushing says:

    @ Red Dragon
    @ Jet Plane

    I hope you found Mr. Lai’s interview with the Napa Institute illuminating.

  24. where's my jet plane says:

    The lead from Alex Lo’s column in the SCMP today, Sunday:
    The former chief executive’s Trump-like online attacks have made him a fearsome critic of the government and opposition alike

    Criticising the administration – does not that make CY Leung guilty of breaching the National Insecurity law?

  25. where's my jet plane says:

    @ Cushing

  26. dimuendo says:

    Richard Cushing

    Could not be bothered to sit through an in parts incomprehensible narrative.

    Besides the points made above, essentially you can interpert Catholicism as you wish as long as you bend the knee, there are two I would make.

    One. Jimmy Lai and his side kick Mark Simon are well known Trump supporters, on economic, libertarian, ideological lines. I am naive or idealistic enough to believe that my enemy’s enemy is not necessarilly my friend. If Jimmy Lai is against the CCP, for democracy , then maybe fair enough. If he is for Trump then not fair enough.

    Two. Years ago I saw a cartoon in Private Eye (excellent UK magazine if you are not British). Three figures, clearly of high rank: Jew, Catholic/Anglican, Muslim, with speech bubble from all of them “my religion tops your ideology”.

  27. Stanley Lieber says:


    1. FYI, Mark Simon is not a “Trump supporter”.

    2. FYI, people other than Brits subscribe to and read Private Eye.

    Pip, pip!

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