Some weekend reading

Desperate Shoe-Shine of the Week Award goes to one of many lawmakers falling into line on Beijing’s appointment of John Lee as Chief Executive…  

Jeffrey Lam from the Business and Professionals Alliance said he believes Lee can unite different sectors, revive the economy and strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international finance centre.

“John Lee solved many cases when he was in the disciplined forces. Many cases are actually related to commerce. He had to understand about the running of the business sector,” he said.

“Therefore, he has communicated and cooperated with the business sector and other sectors in the society… John Lee can find talents who are familiar with different sectors to help him.”

Yes, Jeffrey.

Property tycoons join in the grovelling. And pro-government figures rush to participate in John Lee’s ‘campaign’. Everyone gets a chance to appear to be involved…

Daryl Ng, grandson of Sino founder Ng Teng-fong and son of the group’s current chairman Robert Ng Chee-siong, will manage HK$3.6 million of Lee’s electoral funds while Pauline Ng and Chan will be responsible for HK$7 million each.

Links for the weekend…

From HKFP, something for any of Hong Kong’s remaining overseas judges

Clearly the inaptly named Department of Justice does not see its role as including any protection for the prospect of a fair trial for arrested people. We are transitioning to a mainland-style system in which everyone who is arrested is guilty. The role of the court is to read the confession and pass sentence.

Also, a must-read by Holmes Chan and Su Xinqi on the plight of the pro-democrats detained without trial or bail for over a year already…

Charged with subversion, the majority have been held in custody for more than a year and the few granted bail must adhere to strict speech curbs.

Most of what has occurred during pre-trial hearings is blanketed by reporting restrictions, even though the defendants want them lifted. And their trial is not expected to begin until at least 2023.

“The prosecution and the court are making the defendants invisible in plain sight,” legal scholar Eric Lai of Georgetown University told AFP.

Hong Kong public libraries’ list of banned books is secret. Home Affairs Dept explained that disclosing the list…

…may lead to wide circulation of such library materials with malicious intent by other parties or organizations and is thus unfavorable to safeguarding national security. 

From TransitJam, snouts in the Smart Traffic Fund trough – ‘a notorious gold mine for consultants’.

Atlantic on Hong Kong’s decline as an ‘East meets West’ hub…

The consternation and anger [over the resignation of two UK judges] reveal the dilemma facing Hong Kong’s new political regime, placed in power through overhauled sham elections, unchallenged by opposition, and whose fitness for office is judged by a contorted metric that has confused patriotism with blind nationalism. The city’s government and lawmakers, casting themselves always as the victim, seldom let pass a chance to denounce and belittle the West, a nebulous collection of perceived evil forces blamed for many of Hong Kong’s self-inflicted problems. Yet these same officials pine to be accepted, respected, and welcomed as they were just a few years ago by their Western counterparts.

(John Lee, of course, won’t pine.)

The Diplomat on what Hong Kong, rather than Ukraine, tells us about Beijing’s plans for Taiwan…

…the crucial insight that is revealed by Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong is that the economy no longer dictates Xi’s priorities. 

(On a related topic – Foreign Affairs on how Putin misread the West.)

Translation by Geremie R. Barmé of a glorious lockdown rant by an old Shanghai guy to enforcers in hazmat suits. For fans of crazed Shanghainese – a younger guy giving the government a piece of his mind, and a drone telling people off for shouting from their apartments at night. There are clips of crowds fighting over food, a robot-dog enforcing rules, an abandoned real dog being killed, and much more. Oh, but you can order birthday cakes.

NPR on the mood up there

The first thing the orderly noticed when she arrived at the Shanghai nursing home was the rats.

Foreign Policy looks at shortages in the city…

The food scarcity is severe enough that some people are foraging, resulting in cases of food poisoning. Residents are swapping tips online for making vegetables last longer or preparing food that’s past its sell-by date. Unofficial shops have sprung up run by those who stockpiled over the winter, while there have been breakouts from locked-down compounds to buy supplies.

And ‘China is a joke’ – Washington Post (maybe paywalled) on Taiwan’s EyeCTV, a satire of  Chinese state media…

Imitating the mannerisms of Chinese officials is one of the group’s regular bits, and host Chen Tzu-chien, has more than a passing resemblance to former Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. The actors also produce news commentary, sometimes delivered while seated on a toilet…

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39 Responses to Some weekend reading

  1. donkey says:

    Let’s see….

    1. Once people start dying of starvation in Shanghai, will they also start fighting to survive by competing with neighbors and trying to steal their food stores?

    2. Honst question: is Xi just ignoring the economic disaster unfolding and hoping it goes away, or is he philosophically not interested in capitalism or any form of decadent materialism? I mean, he seems a lot stranger than I thought he was now that I see more of this unfolding.

    3. Still haven’t seen anything remotely condemnatory about Ukraine from the Chinese. Just some tut tutting and “well, i hope you guys get back together. sorry for your loss man.”

    In that kind of world, how does your basic everyday Chang or Liu feel about being Chinese in the world? Still feel like China is going to rule the world? China has the ability to end all loss, put an end to grief, lift up all boats on one singular tide innit? Hmm. Not so sure myself.

  2. Tom Hare says:

    Obvious, lah! Eat the rats — two birds with one stone.

  3. Low Profile says:

    “Legislative Councillor Priscilla Leung asked the government on Wednesday for a list of the [removed] library material … as well as how the government could ensure that government-subvented organisations and private libraries were complying with the sweeping legislation.” How long, I wonder, before the NSL cops start raiding your home and confiscating books they don’t like?

  4. Kwun Tong Bypass says:

    Re. drones: Slingshots can be made at home, make no sound, and ice cubes leave no traces.
    From your “Friendly Neighborhood Anarchist”.

  5. Carbon Dating says:

    Serious question for the room: Is there any country in the world, authoritarian or not where say more than 51% of the population is pleased with the person in charge?

    Opinion polls are of course not always reliable indicators of how citizens truly feel but when I take a look at the public commentary and approval ratings for Biden, BoJo, Macron etc, most seem to be down in the dumps (e.g. BoJo is at 30% approval as of the latest YouGov poll). And as for public commentary, the epic sledging Australians engage in against ScoMo make you guys look like the Roman Senate in terms of decorum.

    In a democracy of course you can vote the leader out but most of the time, it doesn’t seem like the replacement is much better.

  6. Kwun Tong Bypass says:

    @Carbon Dating
    You see, in a democracy, where freedom of speech and a free press exists, and you correctly state that a leader can be voted out, the argument that the ‘silent majority’ supports the government bears some weight unlike in an authoritarian, media and mind controlled country.
    Actually, in a democracy the ‘silent majority’ mostly just does not care, because their political environment is fine for them. And correct, you can say about authoritarian countries too. But watch what happens in ademocracy when really important matters come up. The people have the unfretted right to, and will rally, and all of a sudden you get 70, 80 percent participation.
    Look at the Hong Kong 2019 district elections!
    Or the protests in many democracies against China Virus (aka Covid19) restrictions.

    Likewise have democratic countries in Europe been bickering for decades about all kinds of matters, but now that crazy Putin shows his true colors, the countries immediately closed ranks. Good so!
    Hopefully, our Marx-Leninist ex-cave-dweller comrade Chemical Engineer, and his minions will learn their lesson!

  7. Joe Blow says:

    What are the chances that Vagina Ip will be tossed out of ExCo, considering that she is pushing 80, she has no power base whatsoever and even her friends despise her?

  8. reductio says:

    @Carbon Dating

    Yes, this needs airing from time to time. Just why is democracy better than authoritarianism? Ok I’ll get the ball rolling. Looking forward to a bit of debate here. If we look around the world at democracies there are some serious head-cases: Sri Lanka, Philippines, Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua … All have a lot of very poor people whose lives don’t seem to be getting easier. So here’s my take: democracy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a country to achieve its potential. What is needed in addition are rulers/parties who put their own people first above their own personal aggrandizement. How this concern manifests itself will depend on historical and cultural factors, but could be done from a standpoint anywhere from socialism or capitalism. Naive? Simplistic?

  9. Money for old votes says:

    The fact that John Lee, as Beijing’s man, apparently needs over HK$17,600,000 in campaign money to convince just 751 people (out of the 1,462 people specifically chosen for their ability to do whatever Beijing tells them to do) to vote for him in a rigged one horse race speaks volumes for his popularity and ability to reunite society.

  10. Mary Melville says:

    RTHK sinks to new levels of obsequity in this morning’s Backchat discussion on our CE-in-waiting. The station did not dare to provide a guest with even mildly contradictory views but trotted out Ronny Tong and James Sung for ra-ra-ra effect.
    Probably the saddest signal of how out of touch rule by patriots is the recommendation that the ‘anointed one’ goes out to meet the community and explain his manifesto. No need, people already know who its going to play out, increasing deprivation of liberties and its our way or a jail cell,

  11. Penny says:

    #Money for old votes
    When all the pro-establishment camp are being “urged” by HK’s CCP overseers to back Lee no campaign money is needed, so how will it be spent?

  12. reductio says:

    @Money for old votes

    17.6M$ – that’s the price of an admission ticket to this particular political theatre.

  13. justsayin says:

    We’re still at the ‘we know there’s a list of banned books, but we don’t know what’s on the list’- eventually if this trajectory continues even the existence of a list of banned books will be hidden and books will just disappear. Asking what happened to them will be also grounds for disappearing.

  14. Pope Innocent says:

    The benefit of democracies is simply that their particular governments only have a limited time to screw their citizens relative to one-party states. Who needs to be told what to do, think, and say (yes, I know, those “other people”)? The only good leaders are dead leaders.

  15. Low Profile says:

    @Carbon Dating – excluding the special case of Ukraine’s President Zelensky (with 90% approval), you need to distinguish between transient popularity ratings (“how pissed off are you with the PM this week?”) and longer term ones (“are you pissed off enough to vote for that twat from the opposition party instead?”) Jacinda Ardern, for example, is plumbing new depths in her popularity ratings, but still leads over the heads of New Zealand’s other main parties by a wide margin.

    @Money for old votes – comment of the day!

  16. so says:

    Index Librorum Prohibitorum was published for 100s of years.

  17. Knownot says:

    An Interview

    I
    A villa in Shenzhen. Secluded, leafy.
    In the garden, sun and shade are dappled.
    The breeze is fresh. Above the streets this day,
    Above the factories, the sky is blue.

    II
    An office/lounge, well furnished. A man and woman
    In armchairs seated, at a formal distance.
    He looks a rather ordinary man,
    A manager of sorts. His voice is quiet,
    But his words are chosen well, and final.
    Final. Though sitting, it seems that he is standing.
    She sits demure and proper. Her hair is neat,
    Her glasses straight, her jaw is firm. And yet,
    Her friends – if some there are – might gently say,
    “Carrie, are you sure you’re feeling well?”

    III
    Concluded. Both are standing. “You have had,”
    He says, “great challenges, which you handled
    With firmness in a patriotic manner.
    Your strength of character will be remembered.
    The Party and the Country will remember,
    And in the annals of our Country’s history
    Your acts will be remembered.” Through the window
    She sees the sun and shade (your acts will be),
    The leaves are waving and (remembered). Sudden –
    A blast of pain and noise shoots through her head,
    She trembles, steps back, sighs (remembered), sighs.
    “Mrs Lam – aren’t you feeling well?”

  18. Low Profile says:

    @reductio – I’m probably overdoing my quota of comments today, but you did ask for some debate on why democracy is better than authoritarianism, so I hope Hemlock will indulge me. Apart from the obvious benefit that it enables a lousy leader to be kicked out without fuss or bloodshed, the key advantage of democracy is that it allows for the free exchange of ideas. Where the merits of numerous competing ideas are argued by their proponents, there is a stronger chance of a consensus forming around the best one (though this is certainly not guaranteed). In a dictatorship, the leader is always right, so when he (or she) fixes on a bad idea which doesn’t work, like zero Covid, the usual response is to double down on it and treat those with different ideas as enemies rather than the “loyal opposition” which characterises a democracy

  19. reductio says:

    @knownot

    One of your best, sir.

  20. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Low Profile: Good summary.
    Personally I would have used: “In a dictatorship, the leader is always right, so when he (or she) fixes on a bad idea which doesn’t work, like invading Ukraine and assuming it’ll be a cake walk, the usual response is to double down on it…”

  21. Chef Wonton says:

    @Carbon Dating

    “Serious question for the room: Is there any country in the world, authoritarian or not where say more than 51% of the population is pleased with the person in charge?”

    Gallup have similar thinking to yours. On the eve of American presidential elections, they ask: “Is your life better or worse than it was four years ago?” Dating back to WW2, it turns out this is a near-perfect predictor of winning elections. Incumbent American Presidents will get re-elected with around 45-50% of people being pleased – ie, “less than 51%”. Examples:

    Clinton won re-election in 1996 with 50% saying “Yes, better off””
    Obama won re-election in 2012 with 45% saying “Yes, better off””

    The imperfection is Trump. On the eve of his re-election in 2020 a whopping 61% said Trump improved their lives – no other incumbent American president has come close. Which underlines how bad America rigged 2020 – even more than Hong Kong 2022!!

  22. Red Dragon says:

    Chef Wonton

    Are you really peddling the Trump claim that the 2020 US general election was “stolen” from him?

    The mind boggles.

  23. Chef Wonton says:

    @RedDragon

    I was just picking up Carbon Dating’s point/question about the % of people that are pleased with their government, and noted that in one country where “just under 50%” applies, Trump was a notable over-achiever.

    As to America’s 2020 election, absolutely it was stolen, it’s mathematically impossible that an incumbent populist (to reframe Trump) lost that cycle. But I call we leave it at agree-to-disagree otherwise Hemlock’s great comments section will go down the wrong rabbithole!

  24. donkey says:

    authoritarianism is bad for the simple fact that it is a kind of philosophy that gives no room for error. any error has to either be ignored, violently opposed, or concealed with other errors of similar intent. It’s funny that we debate or are being asked to debate authoritarianism and we are using public opinion polls as the questioning catalyst.
    Why not instead look at the absolute horror that is developing in China as we speak? It doesn’t get any clearer. look at the horrendous activity of Russians.
    I find it peculiar that advocates of China, especially, and advocates of regimes that are fascist and brutal hvae a really hard time acknowledging that YOU SHOULDN”T DO THIS TO PEOPLE OF ANY TYPE.

    and then they ask, so why is democracy better? fucking odd.

  25. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Red Dragon: Not sure exactly what the Chef was aiming at (maybe bad wording?) but I read it as: though 61% claimed tRump “improved” their lives (most likely through tax cuts and ways to further game the taxation system by keeping their wealth) they didn’t necessarily jump on board the whole white grievance, ranting and raving, it’s a giant rigged conspiracy against “us”. AKA the tRump doctrine.

    In other words…like most of the “elites” in the US…they cynically used the orange gasbag to their advantage.

    At least that’s how I read it.

  26. Henry says:

    Are we really having a debate about democracy v authoritarianism? You just need to consider the sound of the words and their dictionary definitions. No need for any debate – thats a trick played by authoritarian regimes, to pretend that there is a serious debate about the merits and demerits of each system. Whilst democracy might have several (many?) demerits, authoritarianism has no merits whatsoever.

  27. Henry says:

    @Chef Wonton
    China fake news factory? Trump approval ratings, however expressed never got anywhere near 61% – approval was mainly restricted to GOP wing nuts. Remember he lost the popular vote in 2016 by more than 2m votes, and by 8m in 2020 without any rigging.
    Gallup has no such numbers or metrics anywhere on its website. Best that they have is this
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/267905/gallup-election2020-center.aspx
    Pretty bad numbers and a long, long way from your “facts”

  28. Galluping to the wrong conclusion? says:

    @Chef Wonton
    I think you kinda have to temper that one poll with the other concurrent Gallup poll data on Trump:
    Their 2020 election centre has the mood of the nation on the eve of election broken down thus:
    Trump Approval: 46%
    U.S. Satisfaction (% satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.): 28%
    Economic Confidence Index: -4

    And their retrospective on Trump approval overall says:
    “Trump is the only president not to register a 50% job approval rating at any point in his presidency since Gallup began measuring presidential job approval in 1938.”
    And: “By the time of the 2020 election in which he sought a second term, his support had recovered somewhat, and 46% approved of the job Trump was doing.”

    While in Gallup’s article on 75 years of Presidential Approval ratings:
    “The president with the highest average job approval rating in Gallup history remains John F. Kennedy, while — as we have noted — the president with the lowest average job approval rating so far is Trump.”

    Given that extra data, Trump’s election result seems more consistent with an orange turkey than a black swan.

  29. Galluping to the wrong conclusion? says:

    @Henry
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/285593/say-better-off-past-elections.aspx
    Chef Wonton’s correct — it’s a genuine poll; what he infers from it, not so correct.

  30. Chef Wonton says:

    @Chinese Netizen
    @Henry
    @Galluping to the wrong conclusion?

    Thanks for the comments. If Hemlock will kindly allow one final pass at this one…

    All prompted by Carbon Dating’s question, and my answer, that approval scores for American presidents usually include long stretches “under 50%” approval. But, it doesn’t matter that much. Just having most people disapprove doesn’t preclude re-election. My point was that people weigh the overall performance of an administration, not if they “approve”, yay or nay. They hold their noses if that’s what it takes, and stick with whoever’s delivering in the hot seat.

    Prior to 2020 this was how American administrations fared v their first term approval scores. For both Ds and Rs, going back to the war.

    Obama – mostly under 50% approval. Re-elected 2012
    Bush – well over 50% post 9/11 / back to under 50% for final year. Re-elected 2004
    Clinton – half of time over 50% approval/half the time under 50%. Re-elected 1996
    Reagan – half over 50%/half under 50%. Re-elected 1984
    Nixon – mostly over 50% but briefly under 50%. Re-elected 1972
    Eisenhower – mostly well over 50%. Re-elected 1956
    Truman – half over 50%/half under 50%. Re-elected 1948

    Best source is fivethirtyeight.com

    Also. Back to 2020, worth noting that every previous re-elected American President had lower approval ratings than Trump at some point of their presidency. (Above ignores the amazing Eisenhower, although even his lowest approval went briefly under 50%; Kennedy, assassination; Ford and Carter as post-Watergate).

    The maths are obvious. Approval polls don’t predict (American) elections, and if they come close it’s only by coincidence. Administrations get re-elected if people see improvements in their lives from an effective administration. And, as mentioned, Trump 2016-20 runs away with that by a country mile. Clinton saw the same thing in the 1990s: “It’s the economy, stupid.” (Yet half the time Clinton’s approval was under 50%, but he still won re-election 1996). Hope that explains the point I was attempting, including why I stand by the 2020 election being stolen.

    Now… back to Hemlock’s great blog on things closer to home!

  31. Hamantha says:

    Welp… Chef Wonton is evidently on the same level as Reactor #4, if not worse.

    /And probably consumes a steady stream of right-wing news, ala Fox and NewsMax.

  32. Spuds MacKenzie says:

    @all
    This blog is mostly a left-wing echo chamber. Wonton keeps things lively.

  33. Mark Bradley says:

    “Welp… Chef Wonton is evidently on the same level as Reactor #4, if not worse.”

    Yup. The stuff he’s rambling about regarding the orange Turkey makes no sense. Trump’s job approval rating never reached 50% and conveniently he never focuses on that.

    It’s so delusional to claim the election was stolen when Trump did such a good job at being divisive and unlikeable.

  34. Mark Bradley says:

    “This blog is mostly a left-wing echo chamber. ”

    If this were a “mostly left-wing echo chamber” we’d all be singing praises of the CCP. Liberal is not that same thing as “left wing” and the election not being stolen isn’t a political opinion but a fact. Trump was widely disliked and only clowns say otherwise.

    Besides I lean more on the libertarian side of things though when it comes to social justice issues involving the police I’m right there with all the other liberal minded people worried about cops shooting Black people and/or Hong Kong teens wearing black shirts.

  35. Mark Bradley says:

    Also I don’t think government mandating wearing a face mask for public health reasons is tyranny. Indeed as “Hong Kong libertarian” I’m more concerned about face masks being banned due to losing the anonymity that they help provide.

  36. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Wonton: You lost me at 2020 being stolen from tRump. Now you’re no different that MyPillow nutjob and Sweaty Rudy.

    Mark Bradley summed it up sufficiently:
    “It’s so delusional to claim the election was stolen when Trump did such a good job at being divisive and unlikeable.”

  37. Bring Me Sunshine says:

    I’m staggered that contributors to this waste-of-time Gallup/Donald debate chose to stay indoors during glorious weekend sunshine (or zoned into their phones, if out) instead of enjoying probably the best weather this year.

  38. Low Profile says:

    What all the comments about elections and approval ratings seem to be ignoring, oddly, is that it takes two (or more) candidates to make an election. Voters don’t only consider their approval or disapproval of one candidate, incumbent or not, they compare them against the opposition. Even though many disliked her, and the devious Julian Assange manipulated leaked information to discredit her, Hillary Clinton still beat Trump in the popular vote, only losing in the electoral college. Joe Biden was widely viewed as more likeable than Hillary, so he gained more votes and Trump lost by an even bigger margin. The surest way to win an election is to face an unpopular or widely distrusted opponent.

  39. PK says:

    Chef Wonton
    “On the eve of his re-election in 2020 a whopping 61% said Trump improved their lives”
    Was his re-election in Feb 2020? Because that’s the date of that poll. If you can show a credible poll taken on the yen of the election of Joe Biden that showed similar results then you might have a point. Obviously Covid intervened and Biden had 8mill more people voting for him. The election wasn’t stolen from Trump, although he did try to steal it from Biden

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