Back next week

It’s been 18.5 months since I was last out of Hong Kong, and over six weeks since my second – but to the government, apparently pointless – vaccination. So on another ‘staycation’ for the next few days. Some artisanal hand-curated links for the gentry…

An HKFP op-ed argues that we should not always blame Hong Kong judges for the Justice Dept’s vindictive prosecuting work. (But surely judges are supposed to protect citizens from just such abuses of government power, and often mysteriously don’t – so are they not culpable?)

From hkcnews.com, English-language mega-graphics explaining the events of June 12 and July 21, 2019. 

In the Guardian, an academic explains how the CCP went from all lovey-dovey to ultra-oppressive towards ethnic minorities…

Three reasons, primarily: growing inequality, the forces unleashed by China’s experiment with capitalism, and the rise of ethnic scapegoating, fuelled by rampant Han Chinese resentment.

The Diplomat asks whether Taiwan was ever a part of China… 

The ROC … successfully continued Taiwan’s condition of political separation from China, a fact that has been in existence now for almost all of the past 126 years, and it has maintained full sovereignty for about seven decades. Chinese insistence on the idea of Taiwan as a part of China has failed to convince the roughly 23 million Taiwanese.

…Chinese views have been much more effective in shaping international opinion, but they do not change Taiwan’s modern history or the reality that Taiwan is a country. Individuals, countries, and companies can make their own choices about how to interact with China and its citizens, but they should do so with an accurate understanding of the underlying history.

A useful reminder from American Taiwan blogger Lao Ren Cha on why Beijing will not attack because someone ‘provoked’ it, but because it simply decides to. And another on why Taiwan’s attempts to get vaccines do not ‘inflame tensions’. 

Michael Cole on China’s quandary as other countries give more recognition to, or develop relations with, Taiwan (eg by supplying vaccines)…

The regime in Beijing, which continues its effort to isolate Taiwan internationally, is now in the difficult position of having to express its discontent over these developments while avoiding overreaction that could create the rationale for even closer relations between Taiwan and other countries…

…it is conceivable that Xi Jinping could call for a more confrontational stance in the coming weeks and months, aimed principally at Taiwan, not so much as a signal of a new policy or preparation for war, but rather as a way to appease an angry public.  

On out-of-area affairs – who can resist some cryptocurrency weirdness? A few worthwhile articles on the El Salvador regime’s wacky Bitcoin-as-legal-tender idea: the essential David Gerard, a quick Doomberg explainer, and a (perhaps more technical) thread. These spare you the powered-by-volcanoes angle.

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27 Responses to Back next week

  1. blowhard says:

    You sound like an utter shite moron when you shit on Bitcoin. Seriously. Educate yourself.

  2. Mark Bradley says:

    “(But surely judges are supposed to protect citizens from just such abuses of government power, and often mysteriously don’t – so are they not culpable?)”

    That’s certainly how I view it. As usual you are spot on.

  3. Joe Blow says:

    But the most important news of the day you have missed, Hemlock: today is the launch of my own crypto-currency, by the name of BlowCoin.

    If you buy into BlowCoin now, at a ground-level price, you can watch your investment grow daily into an absolute fortune. You will be BLOW-N away, one way or the other.

    This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Yes: BlowCoin !

    Old-school currency is for losers. Do YOU want to be a loser?

  4. Goatboy says:

    Ah, Bitcoin advocates! Always willing to engage with contrarian arguments….

  5. Andrew Mountford says:

    @Bitcoin,
    That kind of informative and constructive comment really will get people to appreciate and respect cryptocurrencies – have you thought of working for the DAB..?

  6. reductio says:

    @Blowhard

    Okay, let me educate myself (wiki, wiki, …) Ahh, what’s this? “Dogecoin”. Let’s have a peruse. I see what you mean. It’s. Seriously. Utter. Shite.

  7. Reactor #4 says:

    @blowhard

    So how much are you down this week?

    Let’s not beat about the bush. It’s a Ponzi scheme and I suspect its now 4-5 weeks since your mugging commenced.

    Cyptocurrency – more like craptocurrency.

  8. Mark Bradley says:

    “You sound like an utter shite moron when you shit on Bitcoin. Seriously. Educate yourself.”

    Try being constructive. I personally do support certain Cryptocurrencies and their blockchains due to their ability to make it impossible for law enforcement to freeze your assets unless they first beat the private key out of you.

    But that doesn’t mean I am going to support dodgy projects like the El Salvador project which also relies on a dodgy stable coin called Tether (TrueUSD or DAI would be far more preferable).

    You sound like a mindless bitcoin evangelist rather than someone who truly understands the benefit of blockchain technology (banking without needing banks that can freeze your assets) as well as appreciating its many shortcomings that need to be addressed such as how inefficient proof of work is (proof of stake is better from a carbon footprint standpoint) or how slow the bitcoin blockchain can be with confirmations compared to the visa/MasterCard network or how mining fees (transaction fees) spike up when the blockchain gets busy because it simply can not handle many transactions per second.

  9. Mark Bradley says:

    “Let’s not beat about the bush. It’s a Ponzi scheme and I suspect its now 4-5 weeks since your mugging commenced.”

    Bitcoin is a lot of things including legally recognized as a commodity, but it’s not a ponzi scheme. For it to be a ponzi, it would need a centralized actor ready to do an exit scam. But having said that, can bitcoin potentially hit 0? Absolutely. Just like oil futures did in 2020.

  10. Bloody Well Right says:

    The purpose of an independent judiciary, and duty of its jurists, is to uphold individual rights and make just conviction and sentencing decisions. There have been a few examples of this with protest cases, but mostly HK’s jurists have been rubber stamps for the government, convicting on the flimsiest of evidence and oppressive legal theories and then issuing draconian sentences, justifying all of it with statements that fly in the face of everybody’s experience. I don’t know anybody who respects the judiciary anymore and that includes some barristers.

    For blockchain education, the Biden SEC chair, Gary Gensler, taught an MIT course on blockchain and money available on YouTube. Gensler is a pretty smart guy and a blockchain supporter.

  11. A Simple Minded Man says:

    Blowhard and Mark Bradley – Serious questions I have been thinking about. Please try to educate the ignorant.

    1. Can you pay your taxes anywhere in the world with Bitcoin?
    2. How did the US government manage to track down and reclaim most of the bitcoin that Colonial Pipeline paid in its recent ransomware attack? Is it not as untraceable and anonymous as advertised?
    3. If Bitcoin, etherium, doge coin, etc…. can be generated merely by using some coding skills and a lot of electricity, does it mean anyone with the necessary brain and computing power can generate their own currency? If this is indeed the case, how can any of these “coins” have any long term value? There will always be a newer and better “coin” that attracts “investment” from the true believers.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  12. dimuendo says:

    My younger son came back this morning with a copy of Wen Wei Po, having been given it by the guard from the pile in our building’s reception. Which is a new pile, as far as I am aware.

    Should I suggest to the building management or incorporated owners committee that copies of Apple Daily (also) be given out? Or in the interests of equality copies of the SCMP for readers of English?

    PS How long/short will it be before English ceases to be an official language of Hong Kong?

  13. Mark Bradley says:

    1. No and I never said bitcoin is a currency. It’s classified as a commodity legally but they are popularly referred to as “Cryptocurrencies”. I do not believe bitcoin or any other cryptocoin will replace the dollar.

    2.

    a. Bitcoin is not untraceable nor is it anonymous. But personal bitcoin wallets are pseudonymous. What this means is you can create a wallet on your pc or phone or other computing device without providing any ID because your wallet address (think of this as a bank account number) is not generated by a centralised financial institution such as a bank. It is generated by your own computing device and it doesn’t even need to be connected to the internet to do it.

    You do not need to connect to the blockchain to receive payment to that address, but you will have to connect and sync with the blockchain if you want to move your coin to another address and this will expose your ip. There are options to use proxies such as tor to mask your ip but if a State actor is after you, the masking method has to be totally airtight and people frequently make mistakes

    b. Since the bitcoin blockchain is a public ledger anyone can check how much balance there is in a particular wallet and where they transferred the money. But many people including the media don’t realise this because they don’t understand the underlying technology.

    c. If you wish to convert your bitcoin to real world dollars this is where you potentially expose your real identity and this is also where the authorities can potentially seize your cash. The easiest way to convert large amounts of BTC to USD is through a licensed exchange. These exchanges follow the typical AML procedure of a bank. You have to provide them ID and your real bank account information so they can give you dollars. Also when you transfer any BTC to their BTC wallet they have custody of your BTC because it is their wallet and their private key. They then wire you USD to your bank.

    d. As a result it is possible for law enforcement to associate personal bitcoin addresses with real people by monitoring who they transfer money to. If law enforcement see regular transfers to a wallet they know is owned by a commercial exchange which converts crypto to USD they know who to serve a warrant to and they can easily gain access to the exchanges private key.

    e. Criminals will try to launder their crypto by mixing their transactions with clean ones and using crypto coins like monero which have an obfuscated blockchain. This takes a long time if done correct. Criminals get complacent, sloppy, greedy, overconfident, and may start cutting corners.

    f. The exchanges I described in d are usually licensed as money changers or have crypto specific licensing. Singapore and Malta are popular jurisdictions to run a licensed exchange. They have to follow AML procedures like banks. But there are peer to peer options of converting BTC to cash but when you are handling tens of millions of dollars this becomes hard if you need that money fast so licensed exchanges are preferred by criminals using mules.

    g. The ransomware gang clearly became complacent especially since they collected so many ransoms successfully. They didn’t launder their money through monero and only moved it through 6 BTC wallets before trying to exchange it for hard currency. This is how law enforcement was able to seize their assets: at the endpoint where they tried to convert their BTC to cash. Remember once it is at an exchange you do not have custody of the coins unlike when they are on your personal wallet.

    Also law enforcement in the Colonial Pipeline ransom only successfully managed to seize slightly over half of the money. The criminals still have the remainder and are still mostly at large. That is the cost of doing business for these criminals.

    3. Yes pretty much anyone can generate their own coin but unless your coin does something unique or you have a good marketing strategy it’s tough to take away market share from well known coins like Bitcoin.

    Bitcoin is popular because it was the first to market. Ethereum is popular because in addition to being a coin, it is also a decentralised Turing complete virtual machine. This means computer software called smartcontracts can be executed on the ethereum blockchain. This allows you to create software such as a bank-like service that offers loans, a peer to peer market exchange, a US dollar soft pegged stablecoin, a casino, etc that runs on the blockchain rather than on a central server. Monero is popular because its blockchain isn’t publicly visible unlike bitcoin; monero is used frequently for money laundering. Dogecoin became popular because it was pumped by celebrities and public figures. Dogecoin is pretty garbage and doesn’t offer any real advantage over bitcoin.

    You are right that these speculative commodities are very volatile and can change in value drastically. This is where “stablecoins” like TrueUSD and DAI come in. They are linked to the US dollar just like the HK dollar is, but they still use the same underlying blockchain technology where you have private custody of your wallet.

    It will be a stablecoin that may obtain mainstream adoption as a method of payment rather than be a speculative instrument. That is why Facebook has been developing their own stablecoin. They are facing regulatory hurdles though because their coin takes it a step further and allows easy conversion via traditional banking methods without having to use a separate exchange and also because it may no longer be classified as a commodity as a result of its clear intention of being a payment method. However I think it is a matter of time before we see a “Facebookcoin” or “PayPalcoin” just like how end to end cryptography is now commonplace even on casual chat apps like WhatsApp.

    See @Blowhard? This is how you do it. Calling Hemmers “shite” impressed nobody and invites ridicule. Also Hemlock is right *far* more often than he is wrong. And Hemlock’s bemusement over the El Salvador project wasn’t wrong anyway.

  14. Penny says:

    A Simple Minded Man – you write, “Enquiring minds want to know.”
    I very much doubt you are going to get any reasonable and sensible answers to your questions from the likes of Blowhard. His offensive and abusive post is a clear indication of his basic ignorance.

  15. A Simple Minded Man says:

    Mark Bradley – Thank you for the education! I am seriously considering buying small amounts of some of these coins just to have the ability to very quickly access larger amounts in a hurry if the need arises sometime in the future. I think many financially conservative people with limited technological knowledge of cryptocurrencies like myself are having similar thoughts these days. I would never think of them as investments, only as tools to have on standby.

  16. HKJC Regular says:

    I bet Enquiring Minds.. are sorry they asked now!

  17. Mark Bradley says:

    “ Mark Bradley – Thank you for the education! I am seriously considering buying small amounts of some of these coins just to have the ability to very quickly access larger amounts in a hurry if the need arises sometime in the future. I think many financially conservative people with limited technological knowledge of cryptocurrencies like myself are having similar thoughts these days. I would never think of them as investments, only as tools to have on standby.”

    In that case I recommend WireX if you are looking for a safe exchange. It’s a fintech app licensed in Singapore and you can get it from any major smartphone App Store or goto their website. It lets you buy bitcoin (and ethereum, etc) with a credit card.

    WireX also gives you a Visa debit card that lets you use your crypto coins with any merchant that takes Visa. Remember though that while your crypto coins are in the WireX app they are under the custody of WireX similar to PayPal or any normal HK bank account. But you can instantly transfer them to your own personal wallet where you have sole custody. For personal wallets I recommend Exodus wallet which you can also grab for free at the App Store. If you want to use your coins with the WireX Visa debit card you must keep them on WireX but it is easy and fast to transfer between WireX and your personal wallet.

    You may also want to consider Coinbase and Gemini as backup exchanges if you get the hang of WireX. Both are regulated in the US. Coinmama is an Israel based exchange which has money transmitter licenses in several US states though their fees are a little high.

  18. Reactor #4 says:

    If Mark Bradley is so smart with his cash, why the 4ck is he still loitering around Hong Kong? It’s not adding up.

  19. reductio says:

    @Mark Bradley

    Very much appreciate your time and effort. Food for thought, I’m going to go through this carefully.

  20. Knownot says:

    The Virus

    “Chief Executive Carrie Lam has hailed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for showing “great leadership skills” in combating the Covid-19 pandemic”
    – RTHK, 16 June 2021

    Thanks to the Party’s leadership skills,
    Determination, and resolute acts
    Covid success fills
    Our hearts. These facts
    Inspire us
    To recall and repeat:
    You beat the virus.

    But listen! The ghost of Dr Li
    Speaks, looking up from his patient’s eyes:
    Covid dead, I see
    Your laws, your lies,
    Require us
    To forget what you did –
    You hid the virus.

  21. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Mark Bradley

    Thank you.

  22. Mark Bradley says:

    “If Mark Bradley is so smart with his cash, why the 4ck is he still loitering around Hong Kong? It’s not adding up.”

    LOL because there is no capital gains nor dividends tax here you stupid MFer. Where else am I going to get that kind of deal except in shitholes like El Salvador? Also I own property here.

  23. Mary Melville says:

    FFS – all this for a stingy $5,000, and paid out in tranches. Never in the history of mankind has a return their money to the community scheme been so convoluted, drawn out, inefficient and costly to implement. They are so eager to ensure that no citizen transfer the benefit to worthy causes short of making it an offence under NS that finding ways around the restrictions will become the No 1 diverson in coming weeks.

    The Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, on Saturday warned people against cashing out the HK$5,000 spending vouchers to be dished out by the government in August.

    The vouchers will come in instalments and must be spent locally. The scheme is aimed at boosting the economy amid the pandemic.

    Speaking on an RTHK programme, Chan said authorities would take action against shops that were found to conspire with people to “cash out” their spending vouchers.

    “The operators of the electronic wallets will monitor the shops. If they notice any unusual transactions, they will follow up,” he said.

    “Authorities may blacklist these shops and they will be banned from joining the spending vouchers scheme. We will not rule out taking law enforcement action if any conspiracy is involved.”

    While people can get up to HK$5,000, the money will come in instalments spread over a few months.

    Octopus Card users will first receive HK$2,000, another HK$2,000 two months later, and then HK$1,000 several weeks after that. The vouchers can be collected by using Octopus Card readers at MTR stations or in shops, or via the card’s app.

    People who receive the vouchers via their AlipayHK, Tap & Go or WeChat Pay HK digital wallets will first get HK$2,000 and then HK$3,000 two months later.

    Registration for the vouchers will open on July 4 and as well as paper forms available from the Post Office and some government offices, people can sign up online or via the government’s iAM Smart app.

    Those using paper registration forms will not get their first voucher until September 1, with those who register electronically after July 17 also facing an extra month’s wait to get the money.

    Only adult permanent SAR residents and new arrivals in Hong Kong will be eligible for the vouchers and applicants will have to make a declaration that they are currently living in the territory.

  24. Mark Bradley says:

    @Mary Melville

    “FFS – all this for a stingy $5,000, and paid out in tranches. Never in the history of mankind has a return their money to the community scheme been so convoluted, drawn out, inefficient and costly to implement. ”

    Spot on. Also these oxygen thieves are missing the obvious loop holes that won’t require any collusion with shops. I already have a hypothesis on how to cash out my “forced consumption” voucher. Will be testing it out August 1st!

  25. Knownot says:

    Money is fungible. (I assume, Mark Bradley, that you know about economics and can add to this.) One can spend the $2,000 on one’s usual purchases, and so release another $2,000 for any other purpose.

  26. Mark Bradley says:

    “Money is fungible. (I assume, Mark Bradley, that you know about economics and can add to this.) One can spend the $2,000 on one’s usual purchases, and so release another $2,000 for any other purpose.”

    That’s the back up plan if I can’t just cash out the forced consumption voucher. Since the government doesn’t allow people to cash it out like the 10k handout I see it as a challenge to find out if there’s a way to do it anyway.

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