Below is the second weekly digest from Hong Wrong’s new political commentator ‘Tony Wong’. We will publish a selection of his musings each week, but you can sign up for his full, daily newsletter by emailing ‘subscribe‘ to [email protected] It is “aimed at informed residents who are encouraged to further develop and rebut the arguments made here, and in the media, to create actual, honest and productive political dissent.”
CY’s National Day speech: Sadly, but not too surprisingly, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s speech is anything from inspirational, informative and shows no sign of character, vision, spine or courage. The continuous clamping to government statistics, indices, reference values and international rankings says nothing about where we are heading, what change we ought to expect or about the role that the government intends to play in our lives in the future. The way Leung presents these statistics we do not even get a good picture of where we stand, let alone of how we got here. Leung does not even attempt to take credit for some of the good positions that Hong Kong has achieved in the world, probably well-knowing that it might have as well be the absence of his intervention that makes us succeed. The greatest thing about the Hong Kong government has so far been it’s apathy and neglect of our issues, while at the same time not standing in the way of the community fixing our problems ourselves. At the handover at the very spot where Leung delivered his speech today Prince Charles complained that the Chinese present appeared like wax figures. Reading through Leung’s speech, that is far too easy to imagine.
Kowloon City cruise terminal: The Standard writes about Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s proposal to turn Kowloon City into a tourist magnet as it somehow needs to be ‘pushed up’. Tsang not only demonstrates his lack of imagination when it comes to developing the city, but also his insecurity regarding the flopping cruise ship terminal at Kai Tak. The cruise ship terminal, which formally opened last September still (according to their own website) only has one green minibus service connecting it to Kowloon Bay Station. The problem is that without apartments and offices in the area, the cruise ship terminal will remain empty, and unless it can be turned into just another massive shopping mall it will lay empty except for these rare minutes that cruise ships empty their guts. Without a constant streams of visitors the area will be completely unattractive to bus services, restaurants and remain a dormant waste of space for all eternity, reminding us how little the Financial’s Secretary’s more-tourists-reflexes help the city in creating livable and attractive space for its residents. If tourists aren’t even helpful in redeveloping the Kai Tak Runway, how will they be helpful in redeveloping the areas around it? The charm of Kowloon City is exactly that it is not quite overrun by tourists, shoppers and commuters. The area is incredibly attractive, has some of the best and most affordable food choices (Sechuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Pakistani, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, wow they have everything), beautiful Bauhaus-style architecture, a wide array of small independent businesses and a helpful neighbourhood culture. On behalf of all residents of Kowloon City we can hope the cruise ship terminal as well as Tsang’s dreams stay where they are, far away and well-ignored.
Money laundering: Samuel Chan reports in the SCMP about a 24 year old who was arrested for handling 567 million HKD between 2010 and 2012. He was legally in Hong Kong on a two-way permit, travelling forth and back between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. He legally opened a limited company here and got himself an account for that company with a local bank, a perfectly normal act for which the police calls him ‘self-declared company director’. He then used this corporate account to deposit, withdraw and transfer money. This process is referred to by the article and the police as money laundering, but it might as well be called operating a money transmitting service without the appropriate licenses. The fault of this man does not lie in having participated in some cross-boundary or fake electronics smuggling, or in drug and gun trade, forced prostitution, trafficking, blackmail, or kidnapping, although this is where the money possibly came from, the fault of this man is to not have acquired the appropriate licenses. The bank that this man had opened the account with will continue their business as normal today, and so will their accountants, lawyers and investors. The criminals who acquired and still own this money will continue their business as normal today too and their victims will not be better off either. Money laundering is an expensive business and about 30% of the original money gets eaten up in the process, but it is not people like the man in question who get rich in the process. It is frightening to see how little will there is to go beyond the straw man and to actually see who in this city is profiting from money laundering, where the money comes from and where it goes. Cases are just prosecuted as far as international law mandates it. Person arrested, case closed. “Police believed he acted alone and handled all the transactions himself, as officers had found no one else involved in laundering the
Alex Lo on domestic helpers: When Alex Lo accepted to write his column ‘My Take’ he did because he felt disgusted by the fact that there still might be people out there who look up to him. With yesterday’s piece he has become very close to his goal of making that number of people zero. The minimum wage of helpers increased by 90 HKD this year to 4,010 HKD, 3.7% above the levels of 1998. Since then, prices have risen by 8.8% according to the World Bank. Lo praises this increase and deems it not high enough, because he wants to rid the city of foreign domestic helpers. He argues that helpers don’t do a good job anyway and try to do as little as possible. He says they steal (he also says he would steal and do worse things if he were a maid). This is the point where Lo loses it. He says because of the “unproductive and destructive” maids, employers have to resort to abuse to discipline them and if there is someone to blame for this, then it is the system. Dear Mr Lo, sexual abuse and violence is very much the fault of the abuser, and they are solely to blame. Employers abuse their maids not because they need to discipline them, but because they can get away with it, as maids are disproportionately dependent on their visa sponsors. If your maid steals you can hire another person, but if they are abused they cannot look for another employer. To end abuse could be an easy thing, just allow them to quit their jobs if they feel they could get a better employer, or a better job. Allow families to compete over helpers more openly so that they can no longer get away with housing them in two square meter large bathroom stalls that they have to share with a family of roaches. That’s far more important than raising the income levels as it turns their serfdom into actual employment.