Nation secure for another week

Transit Jam investigates the Nathan Road fire, which left five dead…

Buildings Department (BD) says it issued a Fire Safety Direction to the New Lucky House Owners Committee (OC) in 2008, “requiring the upgrading of certain fire safety provisions of the building to a level in line with the current fire safety standards, including the replacement of fire doors, provision of fire resisting enclosures to non-emergency services and provision of fixed lights meeting the required fire resistance and the like.”

The OC appointed a consultant to follow-up the Fire Safety Direction seven years later, in 2015 and then replaced the consultant in 2020, with the work still not even started.

And so on, up to the last order that was issued – and apparently ignored – three weeks ago.

From building safety to national security…

The trial begins of the first person to be charged with disrespecting the national anthem…

…a video … showed Chan sitting down while the anthem was played and covering his ears. He also sang Do You Hear the People Sing, a song from musical Les Miserables that was popular during the pro-democracy protests in 2014 and 2019.

…[An] officer who testified for the prosecution … observed Chan, noting that when the China team scored, he made a thumbs down sign.

…said Chan told him under police caution that he sang the English song because he “does not like the China team and the Chinese anthem.”

At the start of the trial, barrister Steven Kwan said Chan has autism and ADHD.

A 41-year-old man is sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to incite others to commit secession online…

…the prosecution said leniency would be at odds with an earlier national security case in which Hong Kong’s top court ruled that guilty pleas, which typically carry a one-third jail term discount, could not reduce sentences below the five-year minimum for “serious” security law offences.

Delivering John’s sentence on Thursday, [Judge Ernest] Lin handed down an initial 78 months. Although John pleaded guilty, his sentence could not be set below the minimum five years.

Lin said John had “distorted history, demonised the Chinese government, and appealed to foreign countries to destroy Hong Kong and China.”

And a representative of Reporters Without Borders is questioned and searched for six hours before being denied entry at Hong Kong airport. She had flown from Taipei to ‘meet journalists and monitor a hearing of the national security trial involving media tycoon Jimmy Lai’.

The problem with treating members of the media like this is that they write stories about you. Predictably, this has been picked up by WaPo, Al Jazeera, ABC, UPI, etc. 

The Lai trial continues, with activist Andy Li testifying that he never met or had contact with the Apple Daily owner.

Hong Kong forecasts a huge drop in the number of primary school students…

Hong Kong schools operating Primary One classes should brace for a 36 per cent drop in the number of enrolled students over six years, according to the latest prediction by education authorities that are even gloomier than the one made in 2023.

…According to the latest projections released by the Education Bureau on Thursday, the number of six-year-olds expected to start Primary One will drop from 49,600 this year to 31,500 in 2029, a 36 per cent decline.

The bureau last year expected 50,000 six-year-old children to enrol in Primary One in 2029.

This calls for lateral thinking…

So Ping-fai, chairman of the Subsidised Primary Schools Council … called on authorities to count every child with special needs as 1.5 or two pupils when counting student enrolment.

Some weekend reading and viewing…

More on birth rates and emigration. The Diplomat looks at the impact of a cross-Straits war on Chinese and Taiwan demographics. Makes reference to Russia-Ukraine experience, and…

The Chinese authorities may be proud of thwarting the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and successfully implementing the national security law in 2020. However, they ignore the huge cost: weakening Hong Kong’s status as a financial center, destroying the bridge between China and the West, and not least the massive loss of population. In mid-2022, there were 180,000 fewer people aged 20-39 in Hong Kong than two years earlier. Political high-handedness and the zero-COVID policy jointly led to an economic recession, with births plummeting from 53,000 in 2019 to 33,000 in 2022, and the fertility rate dropping from 1.06 to 0.70.

Lingua Sinica catches up with Hong Kong authors and publishers at a Taipei book fair…

Another Bbluesky publication [editor Leslie Ng] brought to Taipei, a reprint of Allen Au’s 2012 travelogue Tide Pools: Wanderings in 20 Countries (潮池:浪遊二十國度的故事) had been pulled from the shelves at the Hong Kong Book Fair two years earlier. The reason, Leslie says, was not sensitivities around the book’s subject matter but simply the author’s identity. Au, who previously worked as a radio host for public broadcaster RTHK and a senior producer at pro-government station TVB News, was arrested by national security police in 2022 for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious materials. While the presumption of innocence still exists on paper in Hong Kong, the tightly controlled nature of national security cases means that an arrest alone is enough to pin a scarlet letter on one’s name.

That even books about travel cannot escape political sensitivities, Ng says, shows that, in the current environment, Hong Kong writers will not even touch controversial topics, much less cross red lines. “Things won’t be written directly,” he observes. “If it’s clear, it will be clear.”

Antony Dapiran reviews Vaudine England’s Fortune’s Bazaar

Rather than binary and tendentious grand narratives, England gives us a Hong Kong of many cultures, hues and stories. She embraces early colonial Hong Kong’s “fascinating mix of Indians, Parsis, Goans, Macanese, Malays, Filipinos, Japanese, and West Indians, and Lascars,” its Jewish families (including the renowned Kadoories and Sassoons), its “Portuguese” (a term which covered various people of mixed-race background originating in Macau) and its Eurasians.

…To give one example: the businessman Sir Catchick Paul Chater, born of Armenian parents in British Calcutta, literally changed the face of Hong Kong through his coordination of the Praya Reclamation Scheme, with the support of Jewish and Parsi business associates. Hong Kong’s central business district, which today ranks among the world’s most expensive real estate (including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Hong Kong Club) all sit on land that Chater imagined out of the sea in the late 1880s, with a road bisecting it that still bears his name.

On economics – a translation of a speech by Xu Gao, Chief Economist of Bank of China International, at Peking U. Noteworthy in that he identifies the astounding shortfall in domestic consumption in China’s economy (below 40% of GDP when it should be more like 55% – hence the US trade deficit). And for the disconnect between corporate profits and household incomes, owing to state ownership of so many large enterprises. With some good charts! What he’s saying is semi-subversive, in that it is counter to the mercantilist assumption that people are there to serve the economy, not vice-versa. Note also that Chief Economist of a bank is quite a lowly position.

On YouTube – What are China’s ambitions for the world order? Talk and Q&A with the Economist’s David Rennie.

On unrelated matters – I’ve had a slight discomfort with the idea of maiden voyages ever since, oh, 1912, and I definitely don’t get cruises. Atlantic writer Gary Shteyngart goes for it

The ship makes no sense, vertically or horizontally. It makes no sense on sea, or on land, or in outer space. It looks like a hodgepodge of domes and minarets, tubes and canopies, like Istanbul had it been designed by idiots. Vibrant, oversignifying colors are stacked upon other such colors, decks perched over still more decks; the only comfort is a row of lifeboats ringing its perimeter. There is no imposed order, no cogent thought, and, for those who do not harbor a totalitarian sense of gigantomania, no visual mercy. This is the biggest cruise ship ever built, and I have been tasked with witnessing its inaugural voyage.

…My new friend, whom I will refer to as Ayn, called out to a buddy of his across the bar, and suddenly a young couple, both covered in tattoos, appeared next to us … In the ’90s, I drank with Russian soldiers fresh from Chechnya and wandered the streets of wartime Zagreb, but I have never seen such undisguised hostility toward both me and perhaps the universe at large. I was briefly introduced to this psychopathic pair, but neither of them wanted to have anything to do with me, and the tattooed woman would not even reveal her Christian name to me (she pretended to have the same first name as Mrs. Rand). To impress his tattooed friends, Ayn made fun of the fact that as a television writer, I’d worked on the series Succession (which, it would turn out, practically nobody on the ship had watched), instead of the far more palatable, in his eyes, zombie drama of last year. And then my new friends drifted away from me into an angry private conversation—“He punked me!”—as I ordered another drink for myself, scared of the dead-eyed arrivals whose gaze never registered in the dim wattage of the Schooner Bar, whose terrifying voices and hollow laughs grated like unoiled gears against the crooning of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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9 Responses to Nation secure for another week

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Read the cruise story in The Atlantic last week (a good distraction). Just reinforced my desire to never, ever set foot on one of those Salmonella factories and mysterious falling-off-board platforms in my lifetime. I’ve heard from relatives that have done them that European river cruises are a pleasant, civilized alternative and often book lecturers to discuss topics of interest with passengers.

  2. Bernard Chanceyouareawanka says:

    Oh, come on you guys. Cruises are fun: bar hopping, wife swapping, bingo night and three buffets a day. What’s not to love?

    “Love……………it’s exciting and new………….get on boaaaaaaard……!”

  3. Wolflikeme says:

    Hong Kong is a massive cruise ship with even more rules going nowhere. Enjoy.

  4. wmjp says:

    Data trading has potential to become thriving industry in Hong Kong: Paul Chan

    And even better business for the NatSec popo chasing state secrets infringements

  5. reductio says:

    Redhill Peninsula, Nathan Road fire- a common thread is the lax attitude of the Buildings Department to violations. Some arses need a good kicking over there. And since the government with its new patriotic driven legislature doesn’t need to pander to the Heung Yee Crooks any more, maybe they could get the BD to check a few illegal NT constructions while they’re at it.

  6. Mary Melville says:

    “From building safety to national security…”
    But building safety IS an integral element of ns. Fires like this kill and maime, destroy homes and chattels, shut down commercial activities, generate considerable costs to the public purse re containment and follow up, and much more.
    This is reflected in the statement
    National security concerns the welfare of the 1.4 billion people of the whole country and is an important cornerstone of its stability.
    Most of these fires would have been prevented, or at least the damage reduced, if the administration had displayed the same enthusiasm in enforcing abundant existing regulations as that accorded to more recent legislation.
    Here in HK national security has been interpreted as state security. This “primarily refers to the security and stability of the governing authority or the state itself.”
    So resources have been diverted to the latter instead of addressing the many issues that negatively impact the welfare of the community.

  7. Young Charles says:

    @ reductio

    It would be very un-patriotic to suggest that a government department is not carrying out their duties to the highest possible standard.
    Sadly, nothing will change.

  8. Swine Flu says:

    Mary: “Most of these fires would have been prevented, or at least the damage reduced, if the administration had displayed the same enthusiasm in enforcing abundant existing regulations as that accorded to more recent legislation.”

    All laws are equal but some laws are more equal than others.

  9. Eggs n Ham says:


    Ah, a nice distinction you draw there: ‘national security’ as a deceptive mask for ‘state security’.

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