Some mid-week reading…

China Media Project on Hong Kong’s new NatSec language

Local officials now decry “soft resistance” against the state and exclusively refer to the pro-democracy protests that drew millions of mostly peaceful marchers to the streets as the “black riots” (黑爆) and an attempted “color revolution” (顏色革命) orchestrated by foreign “black hands” (黑手).

Perhaps the most curious new addition to this dialect of officialese, however, has been “going into battle lightly equipped” (輕裝上陣). The four-character set phrase has been a favorite of Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu (李家超) when delivering promises about how the law will revitalize Hong Kong’s economy, which has been in the doldrums since the first national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.

As far as metaphors go, it’s not the most intuitive. But the logic is something like this: Hong Kong has, hitherto, been weighed down by threats to its national security. This need to constantly be on guard against hostile foreign forces has distracted authorities from developing the economy and solving long-festering livelihood issues like unaffordable housing and an overtaxed healthcare system.


…Didn’t Hong Kong’s economy thrive for generations while it was supposedly beset by insidious foreign threats, and didn’t it begin its present freefall precisely when the national security crackdown began? How is digging further supposed to get them out of this hole?

“Going into battle lightly equipped” is that rare breed of political slogan that not only defies reality but flips it entirely on its head. As “Asia’s World City” decides to go to war against the outside world by making cooperation with “international organizations” a possible security infraction, it is doing so more tightly encumbered and heavily weighed down than ever before.

An SCMP op-ed by Mike Rowse calls for the government to ease off on the inflammatory press releasees and high-profile pursuit of ‘absconders’…

Perhaps Hong Kong should start by ceasing to add fuel to the fire. Whenever government officials attack named individuals in a high-profile way using strong language, the outcome will only add lustre to their standing.

I was disappointed to hear the Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung and other government figures say that going after fugitives is likely to be the top priority following the enactment of the Article 23 legislation. Is this the best course of action? After all, the people involved will never come back and their host governments are highly unlikely to extradite them.

Surely the city government’s first priority should be to rule wisely and ensure social stability is maintained….

(His recommendation: get some old gwailos to talk the city up.)

Stephen Roach, of Morgan Stanley/upsets-Reg fame, asks why bother with the China Development Forum? (He sounds disillusioned but still eager to be a fan. Presumably he is using the gathering, at which he was sort of sidelined, as a metaphor for China as an investment location?) 

More on the 3 Body Problem problem… Background from AP/HKFP

An examination of Chinese sensitivities by the NYT

Instead of pride and celebration, the Netflix series has been met with anger, sneer and suspicion in China. The reactions show how years of censorship and indoctrination have shaped the public perspectives of China’s relations with the outside world. They don’t take pride where it’s due and take offense too easily. They also take entertainment too seriously and history and politics too lightly. The years of Chinese censorship have also muted the people’s grasp of what happened in the Cultural Revolution.

And perhaps best of all – Howard French in (possibly paywalled) Foreign Policy on the expanding scope of US soft power: ‘period epics [Netflix’s Shogun and 3 Body Problem] rooted in non-Western cultures for mass audiences that preserve space for non-Western characters and non-Western languages’…

The fiercely hostile online reaction of some people in China toward 3 Body Problem’s opening scenes reminds me of the famous quip by the writer La Rochefoucauld. “Hypocrisy,” he said, “is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” These popular criticisms derive from people who are likely finding alternative ways of streaming 3 Body Problem because for political reasons it has not been, and probably can never be, released in China. That isn’t because the Netflix miniseries gets anything wrong but, rather, because it gets this Chinese scene right. The best response, of course, would be for China to produce its own realistic dramatizations and accurate documentaries about this crucial recent period in history, in which an estimated 2 million people were killed, but of course official censorship could never tolerate this.

…Can Western audiences be carried along by non-Western actors who dominate the leading roles?

If the American entertainment industry can overcome this lingering racial timidity and provincialism, the sky would seem to be the limit. There are new audiences to be won on every continent with authentically told stories about dramatic periods in history that have little or no need for Westerners front and center.

On real-life disasters: how a Greek former scout led a group to safety out of Tarako Gorge after the earthquake. (Interesting if you have been to the Gorge – some photos from my last visit below.)…

Later in the afternoon, with the aftershocks gradually subsiding, Belbas heard a bird sing, interpreting it as a good sign: “If the birds are willing to sing, maybe Mother Nature is slowing down a little bit.”

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Will no-one think of the 500 million families worldwide?

Those who liked the idea of turning part or all of Fanling golf course into affordable housing and/or public park land are now full of remorse, it seems

Public opinion on building housing on Fanling Golf Course has made a U-turn, with many who had supported the plan now regretting it, says Heung Yee Kuk chairman and lawmaker Kenneth Lau Ip-keung.

…”When the housing supply was not sufficient in 2018 and 2019, many friends thought it was not a big deal if the government took back a small part of the land,” said Lau, a member of the Hong Kong Golf Club.

“But now they feel regret after the government actually did so, as the Hong Kong Golf Club had hosted a lot of great competitions on the land over the past two years.”

…”Some people actively pushed the government to take back the land in 2018 and 2019 as they were trying to divide society,” he said.

“But our society is advancing from stability to prosperity now and harmonious development is what we need to achieve prosperity. I believe the government could make a wiser decision.”

Not only that – the HK Golf Club would like taxpayers’ money while we’re at it…

The administration should reconsider whether Fanling Golf Course is the optimal location for constructing a public housing estate, according to captain Andy Kwok Wing-leung.

Speaking to a small group briefing, Kwok, the captain of the Hong Kong Golf Club, emphasized the significant economic benefits brought by the three-day LIV Golf tournament held at the course last month.

“The game was broadcast live to over 500 million families all over the world, with video clips about the tournament on social media hitting 24 million views,” he said.

…However, he noted the financial burden and post-game responsibilities taken on by the club, lamenting the lack of government support despite receiving an “M” mark status and subsidy for the tournament.

…Kwok appealed to the government for financial subsidies to facilitate the sustainable organization of more mega golf events.

He acknowledged the need for improvements to course facilities to meet the LIV Golf requirements but urged the government to retain the course for hosting additional mega events, as they would yield greater financial benefits for Hong Kong compared to constructing public housing estates.

Kwok also called for the return of management rights for a 32-hectare land at the course, which was reclaimed by the government last September for public leisure use, to enable the club to hold more mega golf events.

If the pro-golf folk were smarter, they would more blatantly pander to officials’ obsession with attracting rich white tourists to Hong Kong. They hint at it – ‘mega events’, ‘high-spending visitors’ and those half billion families – but it is obvious they are mainly determined to protect their own privileges and notoriously tedious pastime. (In previous arguments against using a small part of the course for housing, they have shown a curious concern with hydrological impacts and the preservation of swamp cypress trees.)

As it is, the government appears unimpressed, and unwilling to revisit its plans (though the amount of housing the site will yield won’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things). It’s almost as if someone in the post-2020 power structure – perhaps a Mainland advisor, definitely a non-golfer – sees the issue as a symbolic opportunity for the government to serve the masses. 

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More Hong Kong tourism angst


In the fourth quarter of last year, the city recorded 72,035 UK tourists compared to 158,702 in the same period of 2018. The number of US visitors declined from 377,613 to 216,965 in the same period.

…Hong Kong authorities have made winning back tourists a key policy goal. During the budget speech in February, the government announced it had allocated HK$1.1 billion to promote “mega events,” host monthly pyrotechnics and drone shows, and partner with influencers to promote Hong Kong.

…But tourists today are visiting a city vastly different to what it once was. Following large-scale protests in 2019, Beijing the following year imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, under which civil society groups have disbanded and scores of activists have been jailed.

The city has also revived a colonial-era sedition law, jailing dozens – including ordinary people – for allegedly endangering national security.

Following the passage of further security legislation in March, the Australian government updated its warning. “The law includes additional national security offences. You could be detained without charge for up to 16 days and denied access to a lawyer for up to 48 hours,” the advisory reads.

Some commentators blame airlines for not offering enough/affordable flights; others say airline capacity reflects passenger demand, not vice-versa. But either way, flights from North America/Europe via Tokyo/Bangkok/etc are not too pricy.

The SCMP reports

Hong Kong customs will alert police if visitors are caught with seditious materials and fail to give a reasonable excuse under the city’s domestic national security legislation, but did not offer a clear definition of what items fell foul of the new law.

…[Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho Pui-shan] was asked on Friday how authorities would respond to tourists carrying old newspapers, such as copies of the now-defunct tabloid Apple Daily, or returning residents with books covering military matters in Hong Kong.

The customs chief only said there were no import and export restrictions on regular books, but urged visitors not to transport anything that could be in breach of the law.

“When the customs inspects tourists who are entering Hong Kong or their luggage, if we find some suspicious publications and we have a reasonable suspicion that these publications have a seditious intent, where the tourists do not have a reasonable defence, only then will we alert the case to the relevant law enforcement units,” she said.

She also mentioned that there was no definition of ‘soft resistance’. Her statements were in response to questions from media, at a press conference intended to highlight NatSec-related training for Customs officials. She was trying to sound reassuring, but had to deliver an underlying message that visitors could end up being arrested simply for carrying books or newspapers. If anything she said is picked up overseas, that will be it.

And from AP

At an immigration expo during the law’s first two days, immigration consultant Ben Li’s booth was constantly busy, its small white tables all occupied. Inquiries about moving abroad jumped about 40% from last year’s expo. More than half of those asking cited the new ordinance, known locally as Article 23, as a reason to consider emigration.

“The Article 23 legislation has brought a significant catalyzing effect,” Li said.

…But since the 2020 law was imposed by Beijing after months of anti-government protests, [freedoms] have been sharply curtailed. Many pro-democracy activists have been arrested, silenced or forced into exile. Dozens of civil society groups have been disbanded. Outspoken media like Apple Daily and Stand News have been shut down. And many disillusioned young professionals and middle-class families have emigrated to Britain, Canada and Taiwan.

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‘Tacky Cartoon Figures’ Week

An SCMP review of Hong Kong’s recent Art Week…

[I encountered] a taxi driver … ranting about the quality of public art in the city. Last week, he had passengers from Beijing and Shanghai complaining about the “mainlandisation of aesthetics” around Hong Kong.

“They meant the tacky cartoon figures that are popping up everywhere!” he exclaimed.

…Lisa Movius, an arts journalist visiting from Shanghai, questioned the “quality control” for the city’s public art commissions.

“Just pandering to selfie-takers may hit KPIs but makes a city seem culturally unsophisticated. Also, the schlock often edges out quality art in funding and in our attention economy,” she told me.

“Garish graffiti sexy Asian fetish ladies in Sheung Wan have not the cultural draws of, say, small bookshops.”

Several of which have been closing after regulatory/enforcement hassles from the authorities. Something similar is happening with drama: HKFP lists various performances and other events that were recently cancelled for NatSec-related reasons…

In a February internal circular to schools, the Education Bureau asked artistic bodies to sign a declaration that their performances would not endanger national security, as a prerequisite for renting school venues. 

How can a play or dance endanger the security of the nation? If it was possible to threaten a country with drama, wars would be far less lethal, cheaper, and probably more enjoyable.

Some weekend reading and viewing…

What is behind Hong Kong officials’ determination to host rich folks’ fund managers, known as ‘family offices’? Such offices create lucrative work for a few lawyers and financial professionals, but are hardly a major GDP driver. Perhaps (as with talent visas for Mainlanders) the idea is to compensate for a net outflow in recent years. Anyway, there was much excitement among officials when a sheik apparently related to a UAE ruling family talked of setting up a US$500 million operation here. Then it transpired that he is also ‘a singer-songwriter with a fan base in the Philippines’. He then scraps the planned office. And now – a snarky editorial in the Standard

So far, no one seems to have been able to say categorically whether or not the 28-year-old is a Dubai prince.

…It would be too easy to accuse the government of not performing due diligence to check Sheikh Ali’s background before committing to high-level meetings with him as the SAR is desperate to attract capital from the Middle East.

This can also be a challenge for officials because, first, royal wealth in the Middle East is opaque and, second, the government lacks expertise in the Middle East.

Graham Allison was one of the group of business and other figures who gathered around Xi Jinping in Beijing last week for a meeting. Geremie Barme, with a 2017 piece by Arthur Waldron, critiques his ‘Thucydides Trap’ ideas…

[self-described acolyte of Henry Kissinger] Professor Allison might possibly believe that he is the right man in the right place at the right time. But the Harvard academic also has something of a ‘three-body problem’, shape-shifting as he does between his role as an academic, a market-oriented commentator and a new ‘old friend of China’. Like the three bodies of the eponymous novel and its screen adaptations, Allison is enmeshed in the gravitational pull of three personæ.

From YouTube: interesting film footage of Beijing in 1917, and a quick history of Japanese anime’s obsession with an idealized, typically pre-industrial, Europe. (Partly, the buildings are exotic and quaint; partly, it allows depiction of homoeroticism and militarization without upsetting Japanese prudes and nationalists.)

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That ‘giant sucking sound’ again

More whining as 1.5 million Hongkongers leave the city – mostly over the border – during the Easter long weekend…

…[Restaurants lobby head] Simon Wong Ka-wo warned that the trend of people spending holidays in the mainland will rock the catering sector’s confidence in the short term.

…”Overall, the catering business dropped more than 30 percent compared to the Easter holiday last year, when many Hongkongers stayed despite the border reopening.”

…He urged the government to promote local consumption by hosting large-scale events across the city, not just in specific areas such as West Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Wong said around 200 to 300 restaurants ceased operation over the past month and he believes the market will not improve this year.

…”I haven’t seen such a bad situation during holidays in Sai Kung for decades,” a restaurant owner said.

He added: “People either traveled overseas or visited the mainland – not many people stayed in Hong Kong. Authorities should pay attention to the situation. Building the Greater Bay Area is a good thing but we cannot push everyone there. What about Hong Kong?”

Restaurants demand more Mainland tourists – and government handouts in the form of ‘holiday vouchers’.

From Bloomberg

The record outflow was largely the result of people heading across the border to the mainland and Macau, where they can enjoy cheaper and a larger variety of entertainment, food and shopping. Hong Kong residents last month made 8.3 million departures via border checkpoints — another record since at least 1997…

…Hong Kong is increasingly losing out to nearby Chinese cities including tech hub Shenzhen and casino town Macau as a high-speed rail and a mega cross-sea bridge make cross-border travel faster and easier than ever before. 

The FT notes that it’s not just retailing…

Container throughput in Hong Kong fell 14 per cent last year to 14.3mn twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), according to figures from maritime consultancy Drewry.

This was the biggest percentage drop among the world’s biggest ports last year. Hong Kong is now the 10th-largest port in the world by volume

… Once the world’s busiest port, according to Hong Kong government data, volumes have fallen as the city’s manufacturers shift to mainland China and competition from other Chinese ports rise, analysts said.

…“It is always inevitable that Hong Kong would contract as a port,” said Tim Huxley, chair of Hong Kong-based shipping investment company Mandarin Shipping.

(Let’s not have a huge port! Think what the city could do with all that space.)

From Wikipedia

Arbitrage has the effect of causing prices in different markets to converge. As a result of arbitrage, the currency exchange rates, the price of commodities, and the price of securities in different markets tend to converge. The speed at which they do so is a measure of market efficiency.

Twenty years ago, Masters student Li Na at Lingnan U wrote a thesis titled ‘Price Convergence between Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland’, saying… 

I … find … a strong border effect between Hong Kong and the mainland. The nature of such a border effect may be due to big income gaps between the two places … Looking into [the] future, one would have the confidence to say that the speed of price convergence might accelerate in future years, owing to the increased economic integration of Hong Kong and the mainland, and reduced income and productivity gap. 

Weakening the ‘border effect’ through ‘integration’ and better transport links is longstanding government policy. But it apparently never occurred to officials that Hong Kong’s costs might have to come down as a result. Their obsession with cramming more tourists into the city reflects an instinct to keep the gap in rents and labour costs intact (partly to keep land revenues high). But not only is Hong Kong overpriced (and overcrowded) – it’s becoming less and less cool…

As an SCMP op-ed puts it…

International visitors go to places to experience what locals enjoy – Bangkok and Taipei, with their famed night markets, are classic examples – and not some artificial tourist construct.

…Taxpayer-funded gimmicks such as monthly fireworks displays and drone shows – tired, clichéd “attractions” disdained anywhere above fourth-tier mainland Chinese municipalities – will achieve little.

Absent from current debates – or what pass for them – are serious evaluations of whether earlier tourism-industry formulas are now outdated. Expecting further growth from a clearly declining model by continuing to offer more of the same past offerings cannot guarantee any pathway to success.

Rather than fight cost adjustment, why not embrace it and take advantage of it? Imagine how much more vibrant and diversified the economy could be if the rents were lower.

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Sesame Street today was brought to you by the word ‘worrywort’

There are two types of PR. One tries to influence or change public perceptions in order to improve your reputation. This is difficult, as the spin-doctors’ boss might balk at the sort of candid and open communication that wins credibility. For example, you might need to concede that you have made mistakes and now plan to do better. The other sort is simply aimed at pleasing the boss, say through flat assertions that you are right and critics are wrong. Far easier to do (and get paid for) – but hopeless at convincing the wider public. And if the boss prefers hypersensitive defiance, you might just alienate that wider audience.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments are rebutting every perceived criticism of the NatSec laws, with some ferocity. 

For example, the BBC and NYT

In a statement, a spokesman condemned the BBC for an “extremely misleading report” about remission of sentence under the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance and “the fact-twisting remarks made by anti-China organisations”.

Ma Chun-man, dubbed “Captain America 2.0”, reportedly did not receive an early release this week due to amended rules under the new homegrown security legislation.

…Separately, Secretary for Security Chris Tang hit out at NYT over an opinion piece titled “Hongkongers Are Purging the Evidence of Their Lost Freedom”, which questioned whether keeping old copies of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper could violate the law.

After the Hong Kong government criticized Radio Free Asia in January and February, the station closes its Hong Kong operation…

“Actions by Hong Kong authorities, including referring to RFA as a ‘foreign force,’ raise serious questions about our ability to operate in safety with the enactment of Article 23,” [RFA boss Bay] Fang said.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson declined to comment on “operational decisions of individual organizations,” but said authorities “strongly disapprove of and condemn all scaremongering and smearing remarks” in relation to the national security law.

(RFA’s parting shot – a gruesome report on abuse of political-activist inmates at a juvenile offenders institution.)

And a WSJ editorial and a Guardian piece incur the wrath of the Foreign Ministry…

Beijing’s foreign ministry arm in Hong Kong has told The Wall Street Journal not to be “a worrywart” as officials hit back at the US newspaper’s views on the new domestic national security law and its grim outlook for the development of the city.

The commissioner’s office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong on Friday issued its second statement in eight days that took a swipe at the news outlet’s editorial “Hong Kong’s Giant Leap Backward”, published earlier this month.

The news came as an official from Hong Kong’s Security Bureau sent a letter to rebut an article in The Guardian, an influential UK newspaper, which highlighted warnings by the city’s justice chief that “online criticism” could breach the legislation, mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Here’s a part of that WSJ editorial

The new legislation comes atop a controversial national-security law imposed by China in 2020 following mass protests over a bill that would have permitted Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to China. That law has turned out to mean whatever the government wants it to mean. Hong Kong’s secretary for security, Chris Tang, boasts of a 100% conviction rate in national-security cases.

Apparently that’s not enough. In defense of the new legislation, the government says it is merely following the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s miniconstitution. So notwithstanding Hong Kong’s underperforming stock market and a flight of foreign investors, the government decided it needs more tools to lock people up. The law’s reach is sweeping and its terms such as treason and insurrection are conveniently vague.

Chief Executive John Lee says he can now turn his attention to the economy, but it may be too late. Regarding foreign influence as a threat is incompatible with a world financial center whose prosperity is rooted in the rule of law and openness to foreign capital.

The US releases its latest – very thorough – Hong Kong Policy Act report (and imposes visa restrictions on Hong Kong officials). 

The government’s response is not exactly subtle…

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) today (March 30) strongly disapproved of and rejected the untruthful remarks, slanders and smears against various aspects of the HKSAR in the United States (US)’ so-called 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report and the relevant statement of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. It was apparent that the so-called report and the relevant statement were compiled to serve the political purpose of maintaining the US hegemony. By piling up false stories and narratives, they were clearly crafted to serve the political interest of the US in order to suppress the development rights and security interests of others.

“The HKSAR Government strongly condemns and rejects the wanton slander about and political attacks … The US once again told fallacies about Hong Kong by replacing the rule of law with political manipulation and confounding right and wrong, and blatantly interfering in Hong Kong affairs which are entirely China’s internal affairs. The US’ attempt to undermine the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong will only expose its slyness and will never succeed.”

…”The so-called ‘sanctions’ arbitrarily imposed by the US as mentioned in the so-called report, and the so-called ‘visa restrictions’ claimed to be imposed in the relevant statement, smack of despicable political manipulation to intimidate the HKSAR officials safeguarding national security. These grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs and Hong Kong affairs, and violate the international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The HKSAR despises such so-called ‘sanctions’ and ‘visa restrictions’ by the US and is not intimidated by such a despicable behavior…

The overseas criticism continues. A Minxin Pei op-ed for Bloomberg…

…Hong Kong … seems to be adopting two regrettable political traits which have long been genetically coded into China’s one-party regime.

The first is a tendency toward excess among lower-level officials. On the Chinese mainland, this manifests itself in the form of overzealous policy implementation by local authorities, who fear that acting more moderately and pragmatically could expose them to charges of ideological heresy and political disloyalty to the Communist Party.

…The speed with which Article 23 was introduced and passed appears to reflect similar zeal. Hong Kong leaders left little time for proper public consultation and detailed debate within the legislature. For that matter, they also didn’t leave themselves enough time to explain and justify the new legislation to their constituents, let alone an international audience.

The second trait Hong Kong seems to be acquiring from Beijing is political paranoia. Party leaders have a habit of seeing more threats than actually exist and making more enemies than necessary. As a result, they are prone to taking costly measures against imaginary foes. That can choke off the civil liberties vital to a normal society without doing much to improve regime security.

…it’s more likely that the new rules will be enforced strictly and restrictions expanded over time, not shrunk. Even though the Hong Kong government recently denied that the mainland’s Great Firewall would be widened to cover the former British colony, for instance, Beijing will inevitably be tempted to control information there as elsewhere.

…foreign firms might find themselves better off moving their Hong Kong-based operations to mainland cities such as Shenzhen or Shanghai. It will make little economic sense to keep operating in high-cost Hong Kong if they can’t count on stronger protections against arbitrary government action there.

If Hong Kong officials think passing Article 23 will assuage fears among foreign businesses, they are likely to be disappointed. The more the city’s leaders appear to be emulating their mainland counterparts, the more doubts they are guaranteed to raise.

No government respose as yet.

And the UN human rights Special Rapporteurs make their submission on Article 23. From a summary

Many of the offences are vague, over-broad, do not satisfy the requirement of legality, and are likely to criminalize and chill civil society, media and human rights defenders – including extraterritorially as a technique of transnational repression of dissidents

…The law also provides for excessive periods of pre-charge detention, which risks abuse against civil society. Increased penalties for some offences are also disproportionate

The law restricts access to legal representation and choice of lawyers, in violation of the rights of defendants and fair trial. It also enables the government to hand-pick judges in security cases, infringing on judicial independence and the impartiality of judges

The law potentially criminalizes innocent and legitimate civil society engagement with the United Nations, including its human rights procedures, contrary to human rights law and the spirit of the United Nations Charter

The rights negatively affected by the law include freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and movement; liberty; fair trial; privacy; participation in public affairs; & academic freedom

(Whole report here.)

Will the UN rapporteurs get the ‘slanders and smears’ treatment?

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A backlog of links ahead of the long weekend…

The Hong Kong History Centre at the UK’s Bristol University is producing a series of 10-minute personal, not-overly-academic videos on current historians of Hong Kong. They include Dr Vivian Kwong, Dr Kwong Chi-man (The 1941 Battle of Hong Kong), Dr Katon Lee (on how Western suits caught on in the city), and David Bellis/Gwulo (on his website), with more on the way.

From China Digital Times, a short article with a very long list – all 240-plus topics on which Xi Jinping has ‘pointed the way forward’ according to official reports. (Editor says ‘translating this was hell’.) A small slice…

  • the maritime economy (July 12, 2020)
  • how the Chinese economy will “weather the storm” (July 22, 2020)
  • accelerating the construction of a better Anhui (August 22, 2020)
  • the development of Tibet in the New Era (August 28, 2020) 
  • responding to global challenges (September 9, 2020)
  • creating archaeology with Chinese characteristics (September 30, 2020)
  • China’s realization of high-quality development (November 8, 2020) 
  • reshaping the world in the post-pandemic era (November 24, 2020)
  • the promotion of people-centric new-style urbanization (December 30, 2020)
  • building a better world (January 7, 2021) 
  • the development of the internet and info-tech industry (January 28, 2021) 
  • the future of humanity (April 21, 2021)

Al Jazeera examines Xi Jinping’s appeal for loyalty among all ethnic Chinese worldwide…

According to Associate Professor Ian Chong Ja, who teaches Chinese foreign policy at the National University of Singapore, Xi’s language suggests that the CCP sees ethnic Chinese across the world as a vehicle to mobilise support and advance Beijing’s interests, even if those people are not nationals of China and have no allegiance to the country.

…[Kenny] Chiu has spoken out about Beijing’s involvement in Hong Kong, and foreign interference in Canada.

He told Al Jazeera that Xi Jinping’s call for ethnic Chinese across the world to join the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation was “insane”.

“Imagine if the UK suddenly demanded that everyone with an English last name had to swear allegiance to the English crown,” he said.

…Xi has spoken about both [PRC citizen and non-citizen ethnic Chinese] groups as “members of the great Chinese family” who would “never forget their homeland China” and “never deny the blood of the Chinese nation in their bodies”.

According to Chong, this indicates that Beijing defines membership of the Chi­nese nation less in legal terms and more in ethnic and racial terms.

Asia Nikkei op-ed on China’s counterproductive alienation of India…

Ahead of this year’s spring thaw and possible new Chinese provocations, India moved an additional 10,000 troops to the frontier. “The possibility that we may face a similar situation that we faced in 2020 is keeping us active all the time,” Indian Defense Secretary Giridhar Aramane said last month.

China has also been expanding its troop presence and frenetically building warfare-related infrastructure along the inhospitable frontier. This has included boring tunnels and shafts in mountainsides to set up command positions, reinforced troop shelters and weapons-storage facilities.

In addition, it has planted settlers in new militarized border villages that are becoming the equivalent of the artificial islands it created in the South China Sea to serve as forward military bases.

…For four years, tens of thousands of Chinese troops have remained deployed in extremely harsh conditions along the Himalayan frontier. If Xi somehow came to an agreement with Modi about undoing China’s territorial encroachments, he would face questions about why he embarked on the aggression in the first place.

The longer the standoff persists, though, the greater the risk that Beijing turns India into an enduring enemy, a development that would weigh down China’s global and regional ambitions.

China has no economic or strategic need to push its Hiamalyan border with India/Bhutan a few dozen miles south. The frozen and barely accessible territory has no value. The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands similarly have no worth beyond hyped-up ‘first island chain’ symbolism. The South China Sea has some natural resources, but they are finite, and no country – China included – has an interest in the sealanes being disrupted. China also causes ecological and economic harm to communities in several Southeast Asian by damming and diverting water from the Mekong river. And then there’s Taiwan.

How does China benefit from quarrels with India, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc? What could it gain if it prioritized good relations with them? Which course would be more likely to convince the US to reduce its presence in the region? 

A (paywalled) SMH op-ed argues that China’s leadership prefers a less freewheeling economy…

…most foreigners have failed to understand that [the high-growth/stimulus] era is over. They assume that strong economic growth is inherently desirable. And they grew accustomed to a Chinese leadership that felt the same way. But Xi Jinping styles himself after Mao rather than Deng. He values control above growth. The game has changed.

One clear indicator of the changed priority: in the past year, China’s pro-reform central bank has been downgraded while the hawkish spy agency – the Ministry of State Security – has been promoted in the Beijing power hierarchy.

Xi has imposed restrictive measures on three of the country’s main growth engines [real estate, tech entrepreneurs, foreign companies].

…Xi Jinping’s ultimate objective remains unchanged – to build an economy fit to survive and win in the new era of Cold War 2.0,” write analysts Sam George and Matthew Johnson in a client note this month. “That involves enduring Ukraine-type scenarios and eventually outmuscling the US, China’s apex competitor, in the contest for Taiwan.”

In other words, Xi is preparing China for war, the “extreme circumstances” of which he has repeatedly warned his people. For that, he wants to make sure all parts of the economy are geared to respond to centralised control. And to ensure that investment and productive capacity are directed to the country’s war needs.

…Says John Garnaut: “The economy is on a structurally low growth trajectory, partly by design. He’s battening down hatches not worrying about household consumption growth.”

Chris Patten talks to Times Radio (it’s a video) about the UK’s allegation that China has hacked into British voters’ data.

The Guardian looks at China’s surveillance of Chinese students and activists in the UK…

Those who plan to keep speaking out, such as Fan are undaunted. He says the opportunity for protest and dissent in the UK has given him a political awakening.

“I feel like I’ve entered a new world,” he says. “Before, I didn’t realise there were so many amazing people who have the same political opinions as me, who are willing to do something for our country.”

WSJ (paywalled) on the constant rewriting of Beijing’s official history of the Qing dynasty…

Xi has enforced what he calls a “correct outlook on history,” aimed at fortifying his “China Dream” of national renaissance and autocratic rule. In practice, this means promoting nationalistic narratives that cast the Communist Party as the sole guarantor of China’s inexorable rise, while quashing alternative views about the past that contradict official canon.

Xi, in sweeping aside the relatively tolerant intellectual climate that prevailed before he took power in 2012, has left historians wrong-footed, according to people familiar with the Qing History project. 

“This is a product made for one customer but sent to another customer,” said one of those people. The shift in China’s ideological landscape since the project’s launch two decades ago meant that some theoretical frameworks that historians used “are no longer valid or politically correct,” the person said.

…Vetters said the manuscript should emphasize that Qing rulers governed a united multi-ethnic nation—a narrative that helps the Communist Party justify its current rule over a vast territory spanning areas inhabited by ethnic Mongols, Tibetans, Uyghurs and other non-Han Chinese groups, according to the person familiar with the project.

…Such demands reflect Beijing’s resistance to Qing historians—particularly in the U.S.—who have drawn on sources in Manchu, Uyghur and other languages beyond Chinese to produce work that contradicts the party’s narratives. Many of those scholars characterize the Qing as a Manchu-led empire that conquered China by defeating the Han Chinese-led Ming dynasty, and that went on to annex territory now considered to be Chinese borderlands.

Xi rejects portrayals of the Qing as “an empire of conquest,” because they could encourage separatist sentiment in borderland regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang and boost calls for the formal independence of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, according to Pamela Kyle Crossley, a Qing expert at Dartmouth College.

“According to Xi Jinping, there have been no conquests in Chinese history. Only happy unifications with people aspiring to be Chinese,” Crossley said. 

It isn’t clear when the history might be published. More than a dozen senior historians on the project have died, including Dai in late January at the age of 97, while dozens of others are in their 80s or older, according to a Wall Street Journal tally. 

…Mark Elliott, a China historian and Qing expert at Harvard University, who has met some of the project’s leading members. “Now politics comes first and the chapters they have are useless to them.”

For sci-fi/international relations/TV/feminism buffs – an in-depth analysis of The Three Body Problem

…how the theories, storylines, and characters of the trilogy are employed in digital discourse as metaphors and parables through which to bolster reactionary narratives and interpret international relations.

You might want to get up to speed with ‘realist’ international relations theory first…

Readers familiar with Chinese digital culture may immediately recognise how the themes of the trilogy are well aligned with the concerns of an online discursive and ideological formation known as ‘the industrial party’ (工业党 gongye dang). It is characterised by a firm belief in technological determinism, a social Darwinist view of the international system in which the survival of the technologically underdeveloped is perpetually threatened by the technologically advanced, and a contempt for anything the techno-nationalists find ‘sentimentalist’, ‘idealistic’, or ‘moralistic’ (for a sympathetic introduction to the gongye dang discourse, see Lu and Wu 2018). From this perspective, the main narrative arc of the Three-Body Problem can be easily summarised as humans repeatedly undermining efforts to ensure their own civilisational survival out of concern for morality and democracy. But eventually, the sustaining of civilisation depends on the ‘rogue figures’ who prioritise rationality and the determination to pursue survival over moral or democratic principles.

…the narrative structure of the Three-Bodies series, just like the gongye dang techno-nationalist discourse, is masculinist and misogynistic. Liu explicitly depicts human society under deterrence peace as ‘feminised’, noting the physical as well as mental feminisation of the ‘new era’ men. The qualities conventionally associated with femininity, such as love, compassion, and moral sentiments, are blamed for the extinction of human civilisation, whereas qualities associated with masculinity, such as rationality, determination, and aggression, are framed as key to civilisational survival. 

…Another theme in the discourse about the Three-Body series among techno-nationalists is Chinese international relations, with the relationship between Earth and the Trisolarans interpreted as a metaphor for Sino-American relations. 

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Scaring people scares them

Hong Kong’s Justice Secretary again has to try and clarify what might or might not be illegal under the new Article 23 NatSec Law. Responding to a question a few days ago, he suggested that reposting criticism of Hong Kong might constitute a threat to national security – depending on such factors as frequency and, ultimately, intention. Now he stresses that it’s OK for journalists to report criticism…

“It is very important to report on unfriendly remarks made about Hong Kong, so that we know about ourselves and our enemies. We have to know what those who are not friendly to us have been doing and saying,” Lam told a radio programme. 

Among the negative coverage has been a string of stories from overseas news organizations quoting businessmen, academics and others as saying they find the NatSec laws intimidating. Officials insist that Hong Kong’s NatSec laws are the same as those in, for example, the US and the UK. Yet those countries don’t jail people for Facebook posts or wearing a particular T-shirt, or stir fears about keeping old newspapers or admitting particular sins to priests during confession. If the authorities don’t want the NatSec laws to scare people, why have they drafted them this way? And the government gets angry about it…

The Hong Kong government on Friday condemned newly-updated travel advice from Australia, Taiwan and other regions, which said travellers coming to Hong Kong after the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance came into force may face increased risk and they could violate local laws “without intending to.”

A government spokesperson defended the new law required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, saying all stipulations were accurate and the penalties were defined with clarity. Ordinary travellers would not engage in acts and activities endangering national security and would not “unwittingly” violate the law, the government said.

“The HKSAR Government strongly condemned such political manoeuvres with skewed, fact-twisting, scaremongering and panic-spreading remarks,” an English statement from the government read.

Andrew Sheng, former Deputy CE of the HKMA, recently wrote an SCMP op-ed lamenting the US’s apparently inexhaustible appetite for foreign capital…

…while the US is able to sustain growth through its growing fiscal and trade deficits, albeit a worrying debt habit, much of the rest of the world is languishing.

Given that the next US president, whether Trump or Biden, is likely to continue America’s spending and debt spree, will the rest of the world continue to fund it?

Michael Pettis picks it up

This article from a former central banker shows just how confused many economists are about basic balance of payments arithmetic. It argues that the US is trying to maintain dominance by increasing its net imports of foreign capital.

Net capital imports are just the obverse of the current account deficit, so this is just another way of saying that the US is trying to maintain dominance by increasing its current account deficit, something the US clearly does not want to do.

And China and the rest of the world just clearly want the US to continue expanding … its current account deficit, which is another way of saying that they want to increase their exports of capital into the US.

In fairness, Sheng does imply that it’s the rest of the world that perceives ‘no alternative to putting one’s money in the dollar’ and recognizes that the US is ‘the key engine of global recovery’. If anyone is at fault in these imbalances, it comes down to countries like China, Germany and Japan, which suppress workers’ consumption (including of US products and services) and channel the savings into de-facto subsidies for domestic producers and purchases of US debt.

From David Webb

Phase 3, the bulk of the HK Govt’s “Trade Single Window” software project for trade documents has already gone horribly over budget. Originally at HK$1.4bn, the tender was recently awarded to “Aisino-Varmeego Joint Venture” for HK$3.01bn. 

By ‘HK$3.01bn’ he means HK$3,010,570,786. Guess they rounded down the pennies. 

While we’re on Twitter, a quick reminder that the magnificent ‘not Nury’ account is still monitoring and correcting one of Beijing’s more tedious cheerleaders. Worth pointing out that the British law mentioned in this post is aimed at the online equivalent of menacing or abusive phone calls – not political opinions.

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Seditious noodles to be on menu?

Shanxi place on Wo On Lane, Central.


Asked on a TVB programme on Sunday whether people who repost online criticism of the legislation may be in breach of the law, [Secretary for Justice Paul ] Lam said factors such as whether they intend to incite hatred against the government, or if they only wanted to start a discussion, would be taken into account.

The SCMP adds

“[Some people] might repeatedly circulate [the criticisms] online. Is this driven by a quest for truth, curiosity or a desire for relief? It’s challenging for me to discern the mens rea [guilty thought] at this point.”

He said prosecutors would evaluate each case to decide whether the individuals involved had intended to endanger national security.

So, in the interests of starting a discussion in the quest for truth, with zero mens rea

The Times of London hasn’t received the ‘tell good Hong Kong stories’ memo. A pseudonymous journalist writes of her experience since 2019…

Most of my family and many colleagues and friends have left, a bitter reality that I have to live with every day. For the past few years, I have been spending weekends visiting friends in prisons in some of the most remote parts of Hong Kong.

During these visits, it is strange to meet my former colleagues also visiting their former colleagues. It is almost like being back in the newsroom — except that we are in a high-security facility, and none of us are journalists any more.

…“Are you leaving?” has become a standard conversational opening for Hongkongers these days. My answer was always no. But over the past few weeks, as I studied the draft bill of Article 23, and saw how it was being rushed through, I began to have second thoughts. Could I be charged for my present work, freelancing for an overseas organisation? Do I need to second-guess and self-censor before I have even written a word?

The Guardian is more brutal

So farewell, Hong Kong. The vibrant, pulsating city-state that grew, under British rule, into one of the world’s great financial, business, cultural and tourism hubs has finally been brought to heel. Browbeaten, abused, silenced. Trust Xi Jinping, China’s dementor president, to suck out all the joy.

…Eating noodles is a seditious act now, if the noodles have secret foreign connections….

…John Lee, Hong Kong’s placeman chief executive – whose approval rating is at a record low – hit new highs of paranoia. The measures would “allow Hong Kong to put a stop to espionage activities, the conspiracies and traps of intelligence units and the infiltration … of enemy forces”. Translated, this means locking up ordinary people who dare to speak their minds. Unhappily, most no longer do.

…Chinese officials surely realise – and possibly do not care – that their risible over-the-top security crackdown is accelerating Hong Kong’s decline. 

Waiting for the government press release furiously denying that noodles can be seditious. But it’s no joke: a throwaway remark about keeping old Apple Dailies led to an international news story and now (see Paul Lam’s remarks) serious official explanations of how and when back copies of newspapers might land you in jail. If a T-shirt can be seditious, isn’t it theoretically possible for noodles to be? Say, if the recipe or menu item is called ‘Ga Yau lo mien’ or something? It seems all sorts of things can get people into trouble, like weightlifters being accused of supporting Hong Kong independence…

…[Hong Kong Weightlifting and Powerlifting Association chairwoman Josephine Ip Wing-yuk Ip] … called Hong Kong a “small country” yesterday, a day after the domestic security law came into force.

Speaking at the Weightlifting Invitations 2024, Ip, pictured, said it was the first weightlifting competition held after the pandemic.

…”This arrangement was recognized by the International Weightlifting and Powerlifting Federation as well as the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong. It’s also common in smaller countries, including Hong Kong and Australia.”

For sure, there were some audible gasps in the crowd.

Commenting on it later, New People’s Party lawmaker Adrian Ho King-hong said it is “utterly unacceptable” for Ip to declare “Hong Kong’s independence,” and demanded the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee to suspend the association’s membership for further investigation.

From the Diplomat… 

Just as on the mainland … “mission creep” of national security may have serious implications for citizens and the private sector alike. The SNSO also adds broadly phrased sections on state secrets and espionage, bringing Hong Kong legislation in line with worrying changes to Chinese law enacted over the past year. It claims extraterritorial applicability for many offenses, which for example means that all entities with a registered presence in Hong Kong could be prosecuted for perceived infractions. This raises key concerns for media outlets and rights organizations still based in Hong Kong, but may also hit corporate actors in information gathering or legal proceedings. 

Western companies active in China often use the mantra that “politics is politics, business is business” to explain why ever more repressive laws will not affect their bottom line. But Hong Kong’s mainland-style “securitization of everything” means that this distinction is becoming increasingly meaningless. Hong Kong authorities first targeted outright dissent voices and collective action, but political control is already curtailing civil society and media in Hong Kong – vital elements that keep politics and liberal market systems in check.  

Just like their mainland counterparts, Hong Kong officials are increasingly seeing the world through a security lens. The political uproar when Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi failed to play during a match in Hong Kong is just one example. Regina Ip, convenor of the Executive Council that advises the chief executive, attributed this to “black hands” trying to tarnish the city’s reputation – boycotts of and a hasty apology by Messi ensued. 

…There will be plenty to watch in areas like judicial independence, rule of law, and government transparency. In addition to obvious human rights concerns, governments and companies should be paying close attention to spill-over effects, as the hallmarks of mainland politics – political agenda setting, restriction of information, and arbitrary enforcement – become more prominent features in Hong Kong.

And University World News looks at how academics are worried…

“I will continue to conduct research on Hong Kong as I so desire, but I cannot do so in Hong Kong. I can now only continue my research outside of Hong Kong and I do not [expect to] return to Hong Kong anytime soon,” [academic Aaron Han Joon ] Magnan-Park said.

“I am not the only scholar who finds [themselves] in this geopolitical self-exile scenario. Those who chose to remain in Hong Kong have had to radically change their research agendas so that they are in compliance with the new political reality,” he added.

…“Article 23 is written so that you can be held in violation of statements and positions and acts that were made before this coming Saturday [when the law comes into effect]. So, if they catch you after Saturday, they can go back into the past to define a pattern of ‘seditious behaviour’.

“What at one time was legal, is now illegal.”

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Short of funds? Buy pointless death flowers

Kwun Tong District Council set up a display of (allegedly) funereal electric flowers because of… a lack of funds. (If I’m short of cash, I don’t buy hundreds of nasty LED flowers – but maybe that’s just me.) The sort-of attraction has now been covered up

The controversial LED roses installation at the East Kowloon Cultural Centre – which many online users say give off macabre vibes – was set up due to budget constraints, Kwun Tong District Council papers have revealed.

The areas on the steps where the white LED roses have been set up were covered with canvas yesterday after the display sparked online discussions that it looked like funeral flowers.

…It cost around HK$500,000, but it is worth it so long as it can attract visitors, [District Councillor KT] Cheung added.

If we can’t attract visitors, at least we get attention from overseas media. The WSJ laments a ‘sad silence’ descending on Hong Kong…

As China wraps its authoritarian rule more tightly around this once-boisterous metropolis, no corner of society has been left untouched. 

Bookstores are closing, shows have been canceled and opposition to the government—once a rallying force—is now mostly whispered between friends behind closed doors.

…The [Article 23] law, fast-tracked through the city’s Beijing-approved legislature, has sparked debates over whether people could get into trouble for transgressions as minor as having old copies of pro-democracy newspapers lying around at home. Some wonder whether spaces once considered sacred and private, such as church confessionals, are still safe.

…Police have called upon taxi drivers to report anyone they suspect to be involved in violence, terrorism or other crimes. There is a national-security hotline for tipoffs from the public that has received hundreds of thousands of reports.

Several independent bookstores known to support freedom of expression have said their businesses have been targeted by frequent government checks on anything from land regulations to whether their business license was clearly displayed. 

…The city’s arts community has seen a spate of dance and theater shows, whose members were known to be sympathetic to the city’s pro-democracy movement, canceled by their hosting organizations or venues, sometimes without a reason being given. One canceled show was to feature a group of deaf dancers whose leader had once interpreted a protest anthem in sign language.

The Guardian does pretty much the same

Overt and implicit limits on artistic expression are becoming increasingly clear. In 2020, after months of pro-democracy protests, Beijing introduced a national security law, which criminalised in broad terms secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Chinese authorities say it was necessary to restore stability; critics say the vague wording crushes dissent. More recently, authorities have been talking with increasing frequency about the need to tackle “soft resistance”, a vague term that appears to refer to the use of “media, culture and art” to defy the authorities.

All this has led to opaque or convoluted decisions from artistic venues. In January, the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture cancelled a lease agreement with performing arts group Fire Makes Us Human because of complaints from the education bureau, which cited national security concerns. The following month, M+, a museum of visual culture, removed the name of the film “Beijing Bastards”, a well-known feature about China’s disillusioned youth, from the credits and brochures of a screening. Explaining the decision, a spokesperson for M+ said: “Regarding the movie mentioned, the film title was updated by film-maker Zhang Yuan and M+ curatorial team.”

Reuters reports growing concerns in the business community…

Several corporations, worried about data security, are now treating Hong Kong, once a major Asian base for multinationals, in the same way as mainland China and shielding information about the rest of the company from teams there, said an executive with decades of experience as an advisor to international firms.

Another executive said his hedge fund was seeking legal advice on how to deal with regulators and other government officials because of the state secrets provisions.

“It boils down to a lack of trust in the Hong Kong government, that is beholden to China,” said a foreign executive who attended a recent meeting with senior Hong Kong officials.

…The lack of clarity around the terms and the implementation of the law was precisely what drove a hedge fund to update their contingency plans, an executive said.

“We’re urgently seeking advice on two key points – does our research of companies and individuals stray into risky areas, and how can we safely manage any relationships with foreign government-linked wealth funds. That includes how we share and store that research,” the executive said.

…A corporate investigator in Hong Kong for around 20 years said work that might no longer be viable could include looking into fraud or due diligence cases, as these discreet probes often scrutinize assets and companies.

These potential risks, three due diligence executives said, were already driving some consolidation in the sector, with some executives leaving the city.

“China’s security reach will increasingly extend into Hong Kong, including data regulations,” said the corporate advisor.

“And while Hong Kong is still more open, the broader direction is clear.”

And a word from the cross-strait (or cross, at least) compatriots…

Passage of Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law by the territory’s legislature marked “the darkest day for Hong Kong,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday, adding that it “strongly condemned” the Beijing-backed bill.

The legislation completed Beijing’s totalitarian takeover of Hong Kong, and the final destruction of the rule of law and human rights that had survived in the territory, the DPP said in a news release, citing the bill’s broad definition of “breaching national security.”

Implementation of Article 23 would have a chilling effect on speech and put every business, non-governmental organization (NGO) and foreigner working in the territory in legal jeopardy, the party said.

Officials at the Chinese Communist Party National Congress in Beijing brazenly ordered the nominally autonomous territory to pass the latest bill, which was done in less than two weeks, the DPP said.

The events show that the Hong Kong government and legislature have become the “thugs and rubber stamps” of China, it said.

China’s behavior in Hong Kong, which contravenes universal values and guarantees made by Beijing, was a demonstration of the regime’s totalitarian character and discredited its “one country, two systems” formula for Taiwan, the party said.

Some weekend reading…

The Critic on British universities’ China problem

As long ago as 2019 … the Times was reporting that British intelligence agencies were “concerned that a reliance on Chinese money and students, particularly postgraduates paying up to £50,000 a year in fees, was making some universities particularly vulnerable [to influence and interference by the Chinese government]”.

CNN on Chinese police tracking down Mainland Twitter followers of a dissident in Europe.

In the Guardian – online Chinese nationalism gets more extreme

Last month a patriotic blogger called Wu Wanzheng filed a lawsuit against China’s only Nobel prize-winning author, Mo Yan, accusing him of smearing the Communist army and glorifying Japanese soldiers in his fictional works set during the Japanese invasion of China.

…Elsewhere on Weibo, netizens have been posting videos of themselves pouring away water from bottles of Nongfu Spring, China’s biggest bottled water company. The company’s crime? Using a design on its green tea drink that allegedly looks like a Japanese wooden pagoda. Another offending beverage, a brown rice tea, features on its packaging fish that allegedly look like Japanese koinobori, flags in the shape of carps.

…“Traffickers in online nationalism have a vast audience from people who are pretty frustrated in terms of jobs, living standards and so on,” [Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago] Yang notes.

(These people are also apparently reacting badly to the Netflix adaptation of the sci-fi Three Body Problem. The TV version is largely set in the UK, and many characters are ‘race swapped’.) 

In the LA Times, an American wishes they could have 7-Elevens like Taiwan’s…

At any [Taiwan] 7-Eleven, you can pay your taxes, ship or pick up packages, drop off your laundry, check your blood pressure, return library books, send faxes, buy rail and plane tickets, purchase internet access and, as a bonus, use the receipts for everything to play a lottery.

At one point, 30% of Taiwan’s driver’s license renewals took place at a 7-Eleven…

…“In the U.S. you don’t need 7-Eleven to have a good life,” Chen said. “In Taiwan you cannot have a good life without 7-Eleven.”

In my experience, Taiwanese 7-Elevens are also good places to dump little bits of wrapping – they have bins. The Japanese stores are also pretty good. Even gourmets rave about the sandwiches.

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