POLITICS – Interests of Conflict Weekly Digest #4

Interests of ConflictBelow is the fourth digest from our new political commentator ‘Tony Wong’. Hong Wrong 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.”

Friday, 18/10 – John Tsang Chun-wah – Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah spoke at the Lion Rock Institute’s annual dinner yesterday and he sure does know his audience. Tsang presents himself as a strong principled Libertarian who will do everything he can to expand the free market, allow more competition, keep taxes low and property rights strong. As close followers of Hong Kong’s government we know that all this is a load of nonsense. While it is close to impossible to pin any government policy down to a certain individual (we may call it a system of unaccountability), we know that either Tsang does not believe in what he says, or even within the government he is a redundant figure that noone pays respect to. There is no free market in Hong Kong, as everything requires a license, most of which the government no longer or rarely gives out (taxis, minibuses, dai pai dong, wet markets, guest houses, cross boundary traders, food stalls, fruit stands, pubs, clubs and so on). If you need to ask someone for permission to run a TV station or an airline you probably don’t live in a free market. If you aren’t allowed entry into a market, you can’t say you have competition. We don’t have low taxes either if we consider that the government makes a big chunk of their income by selling land. It is not uncommon to pay 50% of your income as rent, which ends up in the pockets of the city’s developers, private and public. And property rights? You can’t even own a piece of land in this city, you can only license it for a limited amount of time from the government, with heavy restrictions applying. With your office, your home and everything else ultimately the state’s property you will be lucky if Tsang does not take your civil rights away too.

Wednesday, 16/10 – HKTV  – The government has refused the application for the new HKTV free television station. The Executive Council listed programme planning, technical soundness, investment and public opinion as the reasons for the rejection. The decision is surprising not only because some of us didn’t know the Executive Council can decide what we get to see on television and what not, or because the ruling goes against the recommendation of the Broadcasting Authority, but especially because none of the reasons are any of the Exco’s business. In any industry it should be considered illegitimate, dangerous and harmful for the government to decide these things. The only one who should decide if the investment is worth the risk should be the investor, and the programme planning should be the producer’s decision, and it should be up to the viewer to decide whether they want to watch that program then. Why did the government decide this way? It seems unlikely that this is what it appears to be, outright censorship and control of public opinion, as HKTV unlikely put up a brave new political debate show onto the market, but no matter what it is, the veto of the Executive Council is of so little value in can pretty much only be abused.

[Click to view coverage of yesterday’s protest]

Tuesday, 15/10 – Occupy Central – Supporters of the ‘Occupy Hong Kong’ movement met yesterday and to nobody’s surprise they support Occupy Hong Kong. The meeting had a long agenda, among which such interesting and relevant ones like what an adequate nomination process could look like. There is a very lively debate going on among the people of Hong Kong regarding the ends and means of democracy and elections, mingled together with the complicated discussion of how to achieve these ends. Sadly this debate sees only very irrelevant coverage in the English speaking media of Hong Kong, with the SCMP only summarizing them through their internal election results. The title of Jeffie Lam’s article is “Majority of Occupy supporters say ‘block roads to disrupt Hong Kong’” which says nothing new about the group while the article almost dismisses the debates inside they group by summarizing them by how many members support what idea. We get the impression that we are witnessing an extremist group of democrats who decide everything by popular vote and then use violence to impose this decision onto the people. If Hong Kongers are as ill-informed about the group’s means and ends as the SCMP readers, then we understand much better why this group needs to sit down for weeks in the city’s financial heart to explain themselves.

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