Tag: Hong Kong

Hong Kong: It’s a Revolution

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019

“In Hong Kong, revolution is in the air. What started out as an unexpectedly large demonstration in late April against a piece of legislation — an extradition bill — has become a call for democracy in the territory as well as independence from China and the end of communism on Chinese soil.” So writes Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, in The National Interest. Snippet:

“Hong Kong people may be able to inspire just enough disgruntled mainlanders to shake their regime to the ground. If one thing is evident after months of protests, the youthful pro-democracy demonstrators are determined, as are millions of residents of the territory.

In a contest where neither side will concede, anything can happen. Chinese regimes, let us remember, fray at the edges and then sometimes fall apart. It could happen this time as well.”

Note this: “Some of the protest messages were impossible to miss. In Wanchai’s Golden Bauhinia Square, a magnet for tourists from other parts of China, kids spray-painted a statue with provocative statements such as ‘The Heavens will destroy the Communist Party’ and ‘Liberate Hong Kong.'”

Hong Kong revolts


A picture from Hong Kong worth a thousand words

Monday, 17 June, 2019

The people of Hong Kong identify far more with their city than with mainland China and they have a very different concept of “freedom” than the autocrats in Beijing. The core values Hong Kongers cherish include the universal values of judicial independence, civil rights and press freedom, but these are listed by China as among the “seven unmentionables,” putting Hong Kongers on the frontline of a dangerous clash between liberty and the Communist Party’s need for total control.

Protest becomes rebellion in the eyes of Beijing when the masses take to the streets to demonstrate against proposed extradition legislation, and this is mortally dangerous because those who took part in the killing of thousands of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 are now in a position to send in the tanks against today’s protesters in Hong Kong. Regardless of what happens, however, this remarkable image of people in Hong Kong demanding and defending freedom will remain.

Hong Kong protests

Note: More than 25 percent of Hong Kong’s population of 7.4 million people protested at the weekend. By proportion, these are the largest protests in modern history.


China in Hong Kong

Sunday, 16 June, 2019

What’s going on in Hong Kong? For those of us not completely familiar with the situation, the BBC has created a useful explainer on Hong Kong and its relationship with the People’s Republic of China. The ongoing protests would seem to be about the extradition of “Hong Kongers” to Mainland China for trial, but a more fundamental struggle is taking place on the streets. All kinds of institutions are giving the citizens time and encouragement to demonstrate: small businesses, local bureaucracies and the unions. The teachers’ union is supporting student protesters and the transport union is backing bus drivers who deliberately slow down their service. Shopkeepers are handing out free water to demonstrators, while entrepreneurs are turning up with their employees to defend their civil rights.

Because Hong Kong is a huge economic asset for Beijing, the Communist apparatchiks face a dilemma. The island’s limited autonomy is based on a treaty that the mainland needs to respect to keep the money flowing, but this very autonomy is now undermining central government control. The authority of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, has been irreparably damaged and it would appear that it’s only a matter of time now before the mandarins order the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to carry out its core mission: attacking and killing fellow Chinese.

The United States gave Most Favored Nation status to China in 2000 and soon afterwards helped the country become a WTO member. The appearance of tanks on the streets of Hong Kong running over demonstrators defending democracy would have huge implications for Beijing and China’s Most Favored Nation trade status would be put in jeopardy. That would make the current trade dispute look like a minor matter.

The Atlantic has produced a powerful photo series on the Hong Kong protests. This is what real “Resistance” looks like.

Hong Kong


Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs

Thursday, 3 January, 2019

First up: WTF is Greater China? “While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” wrote Tim Cook in yesterday’s lugubrious, 1,400-word “Letter from Tim Cook to Apple investors.” The problem with the term “Greater China” is Taiwan. If you say Taiwan is a part of “Greater China,” it’s an insult to the many Taiwanese who consider Taiwan a part of the China whose legitimate government was the Republic of China, not the despotic People’s Republic of China.

And, depending on who’s doing the talking, “Greater China” can be an economic, cultural or geographical term. So, some Chinese nationalists might use it to refer to mainland China, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan or, for those nationalists who see China in cultural terms, it might encompass Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

What Tim Cook might have said is that the Chinese market is crazy and the iPhone had an awful last quarter, and he should have ended by adding that the iPhone is the gold standard of the smartphone business and he intends to increase its market share.

Better still, Cook should have copied the style of the earnings warning Steve Jobs delivered to investors on 18 June 2002. It was precise and concise and 1,200 words shorter than that presented yesterday by his successor.


Singularity approaching

Saturday, 4 November, 2017 0 Comments

What will life be like when the the predicted “singularity” arrives? Visual Suspect, a video production company based in Hong Kong, has come up with a depiction of what, for many, is a terrifying prospect. It’s terrifying because the “technological singularity” is the notion that artificial super-intelligence will trigger rampant technological growth, resulting in revolutionary changes to civilization.

The starting point for those wishing to learn about the singularity hypothesis remains The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology written by the futurist Ray Kurzweil and published in 2005. Three years later, Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis founded the Singularity University in California. It offers educational programs that focus on scientific progress and “exponential” technologies, especially AI.


Meet Sophia, the mechasexual robot

Monday, 6 June, 2016 0 Comments

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics has a daring goal: “We aim to bring-to-market the most compelling and engaging humanlike robots with greater-than-human wisdom, that are capable of developing a deep, trusted relationship with people.” The company’s mission is nothing less than “to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and compassion, achieved through millions of dialogs between our robots and the people whose lives they touch.”

Sophia is a Hanson robot and here she “dialogs” with Joanna Stern and Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. Does she prefer Mac to Windows? Android over iPhone? And, the big one: What does she think of Donald Trump?

Mechasexual: (1) Romantic and/or sexual attraction or behaviour between robots, androids or sentient machines. (2) The desire to have sexual relations with a sentient machine.


The memory hole in Europe and China

Wednesday, 16 March, 2016 0 Comments

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the “memory hole” is a slot into which government officials deposit politically incorrect documents to be incinerated. Thoughts of Orwell’s warning were awakened by two recent occurrences, one minor, one major. Let’s start with the minor. A Google search of this blog for references to Steve Jobs produces a results page that ends with the notification: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.” This is a consequence of the EU’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling, which is Orwellian in its implications.

Now, the major matter. A week ago, the Hong Kong Free Press reported that “All traces of Hong Kong English language newspaper the South China Morning Post have been wiped from social media platforms in China.” The writer, Karen Cheung, added the Orwellian aspect with this ominous sentence: “The paper’s disappearance from Chinese social media came weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to tighten control over the news in China, saying that ‘state media must be surnamed Party.'”

As an ex-English teacher, Alibaba’s Jack Ma must be familiar with the works of Orwell. If his bid for the South China Morning Post goes through, he may be tempted to complete its descent into the memory hole. Why would Ma want to buy the paper? “Maybe he’s been told to,” speculates Big Lychee. Orwellian.

Censor


An American Spy

Tuesday, 18 June, 2013 0 Comments

With all this talk of the NSA and its activities, espionage has stormed back onto the front pages. Perfect time to publish a spy novel set in China, the USA and Germany, one should think, and cometh the hour, cometh the man in the form of Olen Steinhauer. That surname suggests another Nordic star but Steinhauer was born in Baltimore and attended the University of Texas, Austin. He now lives in Budapest and he’s bidding to be the new John le Carré. Given the quality of An American Spy, he’s got a great hand of cards.

An American Spy And better again, Steinhauer has got a great sense of the Zeitgeist because he’s peopled An American Spy with characters such as Comrade Colonel Xin Zhu, the corpulent head of the Expedition Agency within Beijing’s Sixth Bureau of the Ministry of State Security. He’s had 33 CIA agents killed across the world in a breathtaking act of liquidation, but he’s got to watch his back because Wu Liang and his associate, Yang Qing-Nian, of the Supervision and Liaison Committee, a branch of the Central Committee’s Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, are not fans. Xin Zhu speaks:

“It wasn’t just revenge, you know. Everyone thinks that’s what it was — the committee, you, probably even the Americans. Revenge factored into it, but it was also a practical decision. That’s something I’ll have to explain on Monday morning. By eradicating one of their secret departments, we have sent a serious message to the Americans, the same message we want to send with the Olympic Games. That we are the primary force in the world. We are a nation that has suffered long enough — that’s the past. The present is this: We are a superpower of unfathomable riches, and we will not stand for interference, particularly from a country on the other side of the planet that still refers to itself as the world’s only superpower.”

Yes, it’s only fiction but le Carré’s fiction was infused with fact and there’s a lot in An American Spy to suggest that Steinhauer intimately understands the nexus of global strategy and dirty deeds, too. His portrayal of Zhu is measured and menacing and the useful idiots who marched in Hong Kong at the weekend in solidarity with Edward Snowden would do will to read An American Spy. There are no paradises upon this earth.


Vertical élan

Monday, 29 April, 2013 0 Comments

Surely, every possible angle of the Hong Kong skyline has been captured by now. Not quite. French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze adds a new perspective by pointing his camera heavenwards and capturing the dizziness inducing vistas of a city he describes as a “race to the sky”.

Hong Kong


The Architecture of Density

Wednesday, 2 January, 2013 0 Comments

The urban landscapes captured my Munich photographer Michael Wolf look like collages of pixels created by graphic designers who cut their teeth on Lego. But they are very real buildings in today’s megacities, especially Hong Kong. Although these are residential silos, what makes Wolf’s images so perturbing is the almost complete absence of human inhabitants. But in many of Asia’s great cities, the concept of space, both private and public, is dramatically different to that which is considered “normal” in the West.

Hong Kong living