21 June, 2006

Asian Cities are Rude

Via Miyagi, we learn that Asian cities came out at the bottom of the list in global courtesy rankings based on a survey by Reader’s Digest.:

CourtesylionA Reader’s Digest survey conducted in 35 various cities across the globe analysed and tested the politeness and helpfulness of people in each urban centre. More than 2000 separate tests of behaviour were conducted to try and find the world’s most courteous place….
Researchers awarded the cities points for various tests such as holding doors open for other people, assisting in picking up dropped documents and whether shop assistants said “Thank you” to customers after they paid…
Asian cities featured highly on the survey’s least courteous list. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Seoul were all ranked in the bottom ten. Other unhelpful cities included Sydney, Moscow, Milan and Amsterdam.

The bottom of the list is a who’s-who of great Asian cities including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. No mainland China or Japanese cities are mentioned in the list.

AsiaPundit is actually shocked by this, in no small part because New York captured the number one position as the most courteous. The Big Apple is a favorite city, but it does not have a reputation for politeness.

AP’s immediate reaction is to disregard the survey as a vacuous marketing gimmick, but he will briefly entertain the possibility that it is an accurate measure.

This article suggests there has been a change in NY since 9/11 and Rudy Giuliani’s politeness bylaws — noting a $50 fine for putting feet on subway seats. It the latter is the case, Singapore’s government should ask why its creation of a Fine City and it’s 37-year long courtesy campaign have been such a failure.

(Image of Singapore’s Courtesy Lion, ubiquitous in the City State, stolen from the Singapore Kindness Movement website.)

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by @ 6:57 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia

6 June, 2006

AsiaPundit Fashion Tip No.1

Bow ties add extra depth to empty suits:

Donald TsangThe papers today are filled with stories that are seen as proof that Donald Tsang did indeed attend a pro-democracy event in 1989, and to me they seem pretty convincing. I choose to believe these stories. And if they are true, it shows that Tsang once did believe in democracy. That is, until he got into a position of power himself. Now that he has power, it would appear that freedom of choice is only allowed if it is his choice. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But he does not have absolute power as he is just a craven toady to the bosses in Beijing. Which to me says he is so inept he cannot even be successful at moral corruption.

What has he been focusing his energies on? Coming up with a solution to the ever increasing air pollution that is driving people away and will lead to an enormous health care problem that will weigh down future generations of the entire community? Nope. Innovative ways to attract tourists and businesses here? Nope. Increase wages, create jobs, increase the social welfare in any conceivable way, shape or form? Nope? Stop the nonsense that keeps real estate prices artifically high? Nope. Break up the cartels that prevent true competition from existing in our so called “free economy?” Nope. Build a $150 billion dollar monument to himself in Tamar? Yep.

Hmmm. What might the dedication plaque read? “This building was the vision of Donald Tsang, a man who did nothing else while in office except collect a fat pay check, kiss Beijing butt and waste our tax money on this blighted behemoth.”

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by @ 10:34 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia

5 June, 2006

Asia Blog Awards: Q1 2006-2007

AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.

Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).

Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.

Region/Country Specific Blogs:

Non-region specific awards:

Podcasts, photo and video blogs must be based on original content — which means a site such as Danwei.tv is acceptable but TV in Japan is not (although it is an excellent site).

Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.

Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.

While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).

The names or sites of the judges will be public.

Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.

The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).

Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).

This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).

Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.

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by @ 3:02 pm. Filed under Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Thailand, Web/Tech, Weblogs, North Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Tibet

29 May, 2006

I’ve Got Pressure

AsiaPundit is behind the curve on picking up the ‘Bus Uncle’ phenomena. Who is Bus Uncle? He’s the latest accidental internet star — although more in the vein of Dog-poop Girl than Mahir Cagri.

The foul-mouthed ‘uncle’ unloads on Hong Kong teenager Alvin after being asked to speak more quietly on his cell phone on a Hong Kong bus, causing an even greater interruption for commuters, an arrest and merchandizing:

As can generally be expected, Roland has the best summary of links and multimedia..

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by @ 9:04 pm. Filed under Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

23 May, 2006

ESWN and Danwei TV

Two of the best China-focused blogs combine for the newest episode of Danwei TV.:

JeremyandrolandThis installment of the Hard Hat Show features Roland Soong of ESWN, guiding us on a short literary quest in Hong Kong.
We are looking for real places that feature in Eileen Chang’s (张爱铃) novella Love in a Fallen City (顷城之恋) which is set in Hong Kong. We find one of them in a rather surprising part of the island.
This is quite a tricky tale to tell in video: it’s about literature and writing, but conveyed with the superficiality of the the moving image. Any mistakes or problems are Danwei’s: Roland was an excellent guide.

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by @ 11:51 pm. Filed under Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Weblogs

11 April, 2006

shanghai: #1 in china

According to the Mercer 2006 study on quality of living for expatriates, AsiaPundit’s current home is the most livable city in China Mainland China. Although it falls far behind his former home of Singapore.:


Singapore overtakes Tokyo as the top Asian city, moving into 34th position. Despite Singapore’s gain, Japan remains the strongest Asian country with the next eight Asian cities based there. Hong Kong (68th) breaks that run, and China’s top city is Shanghai (103rd), falling one place. In India, the top cities are Mumbai and New Delhi (both 150th). Indian city rankings are improving slowly due to India’s improving political relationships with other countries. Also, local authorities in India are feeling pressure from multinationals who want to locate there to improve quality of living standards.

The survey ranks standards of living based on measures including personal safety and security, health issues, cleanliness and pollution, and transportation - all areas that AP will admit are much better in the Lion City.

For that matter, Singapore should beat most (if not all) of the cities in the top-10 were those the only measures (easily trumping number three Vancouver on cleanliness, transportation and security).

That said, Shanghai’s skyline easily trumps Singapore’s.:


The city claims the third best skyline in the world, while Singapore comes in sixth. However, Shanghai once again is rightfully beaten by Hong Kong.

(Via IZ)

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by @ 7:50 pm. Filed under Japan, Singapore, China, India, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia

29 March, 2006

bruce lee: the lost interview

This has been blogged extensively elsewhere last week, but for those who haven’t seen it AP is pleased to present .: 

Google video is unavailable in China, but the site can be viewed through proxy.

by @ 4:27 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Film

26 March, 2006

congress vs corporate china

AsiaPundit is not alone in noticing a rise in economic nationalism in the US. Hopefully this will all die down after the election cycle plays out.

China’s Lenovo, the owners of IBM’s personal computer division, are facing the ire of Congress after winning a sizable government contract. Mutant Frog comments.:

The New York Times today is reporting that a number of Congressmembers from both parties are in an uproar over an announcement that Chinese-owned Lenovo computers has won a bid to supply 15,000 machines to the US State

Red IbmThe opposition seems to be a combination of misguided economic nationalism, mixed with a vague but real appreciation of possible security concerns. Surprisingly, this article does not mention the security chip Lenovo has been installing on their domestic models. Now, it would of course be trivial to see whether nor not that chip is installed on the machines being purchased by the State Department, but doing a full-blown security audit would probably be enough trouble so that it would become more economical to just go to the next lowest bidder instead.

The real question is this: are the possibly security concerns serious enough to justify the panic? Supporters of the deal point out that the computers will be used only for unclassified work, but honestly that shouldn’t do anything to relieve you. Most of the government’s paperwork is unclassified, but still not public-think of things like personnel records and so on that would be of great usefulness as intelligence.

Meanwhile, ‘China’s’ Hutchison Whampoa is attracting attention for winning a contract to check cargo shipments for radiation. Milton J Madison comments.:

Hutchison Whampoa, a global leader in the ports business is being paid to install and operate their equipment in the Bahamiam port. Rest assured, however, that as indicated by hyper-partisan Chuck Shumer’s remarks [one of my hometown legislators that used to represent a district in central Brooklyn and is now the senior senator from New York State, and judging from comments that he made in the past in his representitive capacity, is amongst one of the most stupidest and most socialist members of US legislative bodies. Additionally, he along with Senator Graham are sponsoring legislation to slap huge tariffs on Chinese exports to the US in pyrrhic and useless push to preserve low paying manufacturing jobs in the US], that the do nothing Democrats will be using this as another wedge against Bush Administration in this election year.

The way that I look at this, is in fighting against terrorism, their is no silver bullet or perfect defense. But one can attempt to cut down the avenues of attack and work towards the ultimate goal of protecting the American homeland. If a foreign entity is hired to assist in this, and there is no American counterpart that is prepared or equipped to do the job, then foreign operated firms must be hired to do these jobs.

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by @ 10:48 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Web/Tech

27 February, 2006


The possible takeover of the management of six US ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW) has created what Asia Cable’s Todd Crowell calls, and AsiaPundit agrees, xenophobia run amok.:

I haven’t noticed that many West Coast lawmakers taking a stand on the ports controversy. Of course, the ports in question are on the East Coast, but I suspect that most of the westerners are praying that the whole controversy blows over before Congress does something really stupid, such as passing some law to ban foreign operations of port terminals. That would cause chaos on the West Coast.

PandoTake for example, the Port of Seattle. Of the three terminals, one is leased to an American stevedoring firm MSS America, one to Hanshin, the South Korean shipping line, and the other to the American President Lines (now APL) which, despite it venerable patriotic name, is actually owned by Singapore.

Port management is an international business that is dominated by foreign interests. That’s not hard to understand since there are obviously close synergies between ships and terminals. And an American merchant marine scarcely exists.

I said last year when the Unocal flap arose that if national security is so important in these issues, then why not nationalize Unocal. Why doesn’t Washington bid for the P&O shares itself? Add a few gild-edge shares to the national portfolio now filled with IOUs to China and Japan.

There was also similar uproar about the Hutchison Whampoa’s takeover of the Panama Canal, with critics alleging that Hutchison’s Li Ka-Shing was ‘too close’ to the Communist Chinese. That may be true from some perspectives - AsiaPundit doesn’t imagine that Hutchison has any desire to reform Hong Kong’s LegCo along more democratic lines. But suggesting that Li would put US security at risk is risible.

While Li has inarguably been enriched by the Hong Kong cartel system and Li’s cozy relationship with governments, British as well as Chinese, his shipping conglomerate was enriched by Hong Kong’s ability to function as a free port. The Panama Canal pursuit was based on nothing more than that.

Similarly, Dubai - more than anywhere else in the Middle East - has benefitted from running its own free port. The Emirate is not energy-rich compared to its neighbors and has gained its wealth by modeling itself after Singapore and Hong Kong. The investment by DPW should be no more feared than the investment by Hutchison, or any investment by Singapore’s PSA.

When it comes to keeping its ports operational, a bigger concern for US authorities should be the country’s own labor unions - who regularly tie up container traffic and resist automation that would help detect terrorists threats.

AsiaPundit would like to see America be a bastion of free trade and investment. If the country is to insist on liberalization abroad, it should practice it at home.

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by @ 11:45 pm. Filed under Singapore, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy

1 February, 2006

sir john cowperthwaite: 1915-2006

Via the Globalization Institute, sad news that is reaching us late:

2006-02-01-CowperthwaiteSir John Cowperthwaite was the main figure responsible for Hong Kong’s economic transformation, lifting millions of people out of poverty. While scholars like Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek put an intellectual case for the free markets, it was Cowperthwaite who provided the textbook example showing laissez-faire policies leading to swift economic development. His practical example provided confidence to the Thatcher and Reagan governments, and was a key influence in China’s post-Mao economic liberalisation.

Cowperthwaite read classics at St Andrews and Christ’s College, Cambridge. While waiting to be called up by the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), he went back to St Andrews to study economics. This Scottish education imbibed him with the ideas of the Enlightenment, especially the work of Adam Smith, who had been born nearby in Kirkcaldy. He was a liberal in the 19th century sense, believing that countries should open up to trade unilaterally. In 1941, he joined the Colonial Administrative Service in Hong Kong. When it fell to the Japanese, he was seconded to Sierra Leone as a district officer, before returning in 1946 to help the colony’s economic recovery. "Upon arrival," the Far Eastern Economic Review put it, "he found it recovering quite nicely without him." He quickly worked his way up the ranks and was made Financial Secretary in 1961, in charge of its economic policy for a decade.

When he became Financial Secretary, the average Hong Kong resident earned about a quarter of someone living in Britain. By the early 90s, average incomes were higher than Britain’s. Cowperthwaite made Hong Kong the most economically free economy in the world and pursued free trade, refusing to make its citizens buy expensive locally-produced goods if they could import cheaper products from elsewhere. Income tax was never more than a flat rate of fifteen percent. The colony’s lack of natural resources, apart from a harbour, and the fact that it was a food importer, made its success all the more interesting. Cowperthwaite’s policies soon soon attracted the attention of economists like Milton Friedman, whose television series Free to Choose featured Hong Kong’s economic progress in some detail.

Asked what is the key thing poor countries should do, Cowperthwaite once remarked: "They should abolish the Office of National Statistics". In Hong Kong, he refused to collect all but the most superficial statistics, believing that statistics were dangerous: they would led the state to to fiddle about remedying perceived ills, simultaneously hindering the ability of the market economy to work.

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by @ 9:21 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

20 January, 2006


A Hong Kong firm has just taken over the makers of FRISBEE®, the HULA HOOP® and the SUPERBALL®.  There has been no disclosure on whether Cornerstone Overseas Investments Ltd is in any way affiliated with the Communist Party, although AsiaPundit thinks this may be an attempt by the Chinese to gain a strategic advantage in the development of iconic round plastic objects.   

How did this happen without a Congressional hearing?!?

HulaChinese investors couldn’t buy an oil company or the maker of Maytag appliances, but now one Hong Kong group will be able to claim a real American icon — Wham-O Inc., the maker of Frisbee, Hula Hoop, Hacky Sack and Slip ‘N Slide toys.

Wham-O today said that it had been acquired by an affiliate of Hong Kong toy distributor Cornerstone Overseas Investments Ltd. for an undisclosed amount.

The 58-year-old company, headquartered for most of its existence in San Gabriel before moving to Emeryville in Northern California, in recent years has bounced around more than a Super Ball — another of Wham-O’s famed inventions.

(Photo stolen from the Tribune of India)

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by @ 12:59 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

12 January, 2006

et tu skype?

Fons noted, correctly, that it is odd that it is only US companies that get flack for aiding China’s censorship. With that, Businessweek reports that Hong Kong’s Tom.com and the Luxembourg-based Skype Technologies (now owned by eBay) agreed to censor Skype’s instant messaging service.:


Skype had a dilemma. The Internet telephony and messaging service wanted to enter China with TOM Online (TOMO), a Beijing company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. Li’s people told their Skype Technologies (EBAY) partners that, to avoid problems with the Chinese leadership, they needed filters to screen out words in text messages deemed offensive by Beijing. No filtering, no service.

At first Skype executives resisted, says a source familiar with the venture. But after it became clear that Skype had no choice, the company relented: TOM and Skype now filter phrases such as “Falun Gong” and “Dalai Lama.” Neither company would comment on the record.

Gordon noted at Rebecca’s groundbreaking post, that the MSN messenger service also seems to filter messages. AsiaPundit has not seen anything to indicate that Skype has implemented any means for state authorities to listen in to voice-over-internet calls. Although there is also no information to the contrary.

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by @ 9:43 pm. Filed under Blogs, China, Hong Kong, Asia, Northeast Asia, Censorship

11 January, 2006

hong kong expats endangered

AsiaPundit is based in Shanghai, a city that the authorities aspire to make itself into a financial center that will rival or overtake Hong Kong. AP has before argued that, no matter what incentives are provided by the authorities, the city has decades to go before it can conceivably catch up. Of course, AP’s previous arguments haven’t considered that Hong Kong would start to create disincentives for its multinationals.:

Picture-1Coming just days after the conservative Heritage Foundation awarded Hong Kong the top spot in its 2006 Index of Economic Freedom, the local government is debating a  “anti-racism” bill that would require companies to justify their offers of generous "expatriate packages" to foreign employees.

Under the proposed legislation, firms will have to prove the foreign recruit has expertise not readily available in Hong Kong, and permanent residents will not be able to receive such special terms.

The move, outlined by government officials on Tuesday, will force a rethink of long-standing hiring practices before 1997 when the city was a British colony. A local recruitment expert described the law as a "nightmare" and said it would make Hong Kong a less attractive place to do business.

UPDATE: Simon notes the facts of the bill differ depending on what paper you may be reading.

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by @ 1:44 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

10 January, 2006

pile on the heritage institute

AsiaPundit hopes to respond to Michael Turton’s rebuttal to the assertion that Taiwan’s KMT is more market oriented than the DPP. However, AsiaPundit will concede immediately that the Heritage Institute’s economic freedom rankings do have significant flaws. It is useful for providing a basic snapshot of economic liberties in relation to what it claims to measure, but by ignoring more unique elements of each market it does provide a distorted view.

Simon has a takedown on Hong Kong’s ranking by the SCMP’s Jake van der Camp here. But Singapore’s ranking as the No.2 freest economy also needs some review.:

MerlionIn Singapore, it is the government itself that stands in the way of the unfettered private enterprise that the Heritage Foundation’s criteria are supposed to favor. The major real estate, banking, transport, manufacturing and utility companies listed on the stock market are all government-controlled entities. They may be efficient, but is this an economy free of government intervention? The index also claims that "the market sets almost all wages." But actually "wages are based on annual recommendations made by the tripartite National Wages Council."

Tax rates and revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product are low in both cities. But governments control land supply and use it not just to raise money but to redistribute income in an off-the-books manner through publicly developed and managed housing provided with low-cost land, in which 83 percent of Singaporeans and 40 percent of Hong Kong citizens live. In Hong Kong, land prices for the rest are kept especially high, with the result that living space per inhabitant remains very low compared with countries with similar income levels. Land in Hong Kong is sometimes used for subsidizing favored industries and in Singapore tax subsidies - which by definition are discriminatory - are common.

Tax levels in Singapore look quite low. But how free of official imposts are its citizens when compulsory contributions to its Central Provident Fund take 33 percent of wages and are invested largely as the government sees fit, through nontransparent official vehicles such as the Government Investment Corporation? Compulsory savings help toward the accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves and a very high investment ratio. But the rate of return on those assets has been low.

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by @ 1:34 pm. Filed under Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Southeast Asia

8 January, 2006

ching cheong to be prosecuted

Further on press freedom in China:

ChingcheongAfter a couple of unexplained extensions of detention without charge, Straits Times reporter/Hong Kong resident Ching Cheong’s case has been handed to mainland prosecutors.

    Ching’s support group says mainland officials notified his wife, through the S-A-R government, that the case was transferred to the Beijing prosecutors’ office on December 30. The Straits Times reporter was accused of spying for Taiwan and has been held on the mainland since April, but has not been formally charged.

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by @ 9:27 pm. Filed under Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

5 January, 2006

stalinist photoshopping

AsiaPundit loves the art of Stalinist photoshopping. This originated with ESWN, but AsiaPundit links to Roland almost every second day, so instead a link to Diacritic, who expands marvelously on the original post, in which Chinese media indicate a photo from a Caracas riot is from the recent WTO protests in Hong Kong.:

Hongkong Caracas

That we cannot fully trust the photograph is not suprising. The visual manipulation of history and current events continues.

ESWN, who apparently posseses a picture perfect memory, shares a recent photographic trespass by Chinese media. The event: The WTO protests in Hong Kong. No need to explain here, the two pictures speak for themselves.

Yet somewhere deep inside, we cannot resist the temptation to trust the image. Seeing is believing.

As a blast from the past, more Chinese photoshopping in the Stalinist tradition. This work of art took place in state media ahead of Hu Jintao’s takeover from Jiang Zemin:


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by @ 12:10 am. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

27 December, 2005

andres interviews eswn

ESWN’s Roland Soong is profiled by Andres Gentry, who has resurrected his blogger profiles after an extended hiatus.:

17. Zhao Ziyang recently died. Non-Chinese seemed to have much greater interest in this story than Chinese. Is this observation correct? Whether true or false, why?

How many Americans or Europeans know who Zhao Ziyang is? You must be joking!!! Like 0.00001%! This question must refer not to general populations, but only to those who actually speak up. I once published an academic paper on the theory of the “Spiral of Silence” of Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann about the common fallacy to take the distribution of opinions of those who speak out as the same for the general population. This is a dangerous, because it was exactly how the Nazis created the impression that they represented the majority in Germany. On the matter of Zhao Ziyang, the distribution of opinions should not be based upon only those who are willing to speak out at this time.

ZzInside China, I would have liked to run an anonymous public opinion survey to ascertain how people feel, but that won’t happen, of course. So all is left to speculation. I would say that it is a function of one’s age and personal history. For the younger Chinese, it is likely that they have no idea who this person was. After all, they were 5 or 10 years old in 1989 and the subjects of Zhao Ziyang and the June 4 ‘incident’ have been excluded from the public discourse. As for those who were old enough in 1989 to know what went on, I can’t get a reading. For the majority of the country who are mostly rural peasants, they did not hear about Zhao Ziyang or the June 4 ‘incident’ back then, and it would have no material effect on them now. For those who were involved or paid attention at the time, I have no way to gauge the preponderance of opinions — a very tiny fraction have gone into exile and written a voluminous amount of protest materials; perhaps some are still despondent and angry; perhaps some have settled down in middle-class comfort; or perhaps others have even accept that what happened was necessary. I have no evidence about the distribution of these opinions.

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by @ 8:23 pm. Filed under Blogs, China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Web/Tech, Weblogs

22 December, 2005

hong kong democrats possibly pyrrhic victory

Gateway Pundit has a decent roundup of press coverage and photos on yesterday’s rejection of government ‘reforms’ by Hong Kong’s LegCo, but it is far too optimistic (be sure to read the comments).

it very much remains to be seen whether this can be called a ‘victory’ in the longer term, without requiring the addition of the adjective ‘pyrrhic.’ Simon has one of the better pieces of analysis.:

YanThe democrats will enjoy the headlines and kudos for the next few days. In the actual vote they played a smart political game and ran rings around the government and pro-Beijing forces. But what have they achieved? They’ve rejected a positive step forward towards universal suffrage for the longer term goal of a timetable. They have reduced the chances of eliminating appointed district councillors; they have rejected a chance to expand the electoral college that elects the Chief Executive in 2007; they’ve rejected an expansion in the Legco for 2008 that would likely benefit them and remove the functional constituency veto. Perversely, the democrats have voted to stymie democratic reform and played into Beijing’s hands. Beijing and The Don can now say they offered progress and were rejected. Beijing has won thanks to the democrats. This game makes for odd bedfellows.

In short, they’ve gone for a double or nothing strategy, but with nothing looking the more likely outcome. It highlights the short-termism that pervades the democrats in Hong Kong. It is all well and good to be a purist and hope for an instant transition to full democracy. But politics is the art of the possible and as such it involves compromise and messy reality, not high ideology. The lack of courage and leadership from the democrats is as lamentable as it was predictable.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong is the loser.

In a related note, it’s great to see Hemlock again be cited in Slate.

Photo lifted from Mooncake Productions, the commercial site of Glutter’s Yan Sham-Shackleton.

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by @ 3:24 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

12 December, 2005

anti-free traders invade world’s freest port

Legions of WTO opponents have descended on Hong Kong, possibly the world’s most free economy, to protest or advocate a myriad of conflicting causes. Simon, who’s office is just a stone’s throw away from the site of the WTO conference (unfortunate as protesters have been known to throw stones), is offering great summaries.:

Wto-1What do the protesters stand for? It’s a diverse collection. There’s the migrant workers, the rural protectionists, the manufacturing protectionists, the anti-globalisers and the merely confused. In short, it’s a collection of all those who don’t understand economics and aren’t interested in eliminating their ignorance. For example, try this guy in a chicken suit:

British activist Tom Grundy was dressed as a chicken and held a sign that said, “WTO: more dangerous than chicken flu.” “We need to raise awareness of the true intention of the WTO,” he said. “It’s undemocratically elected. It undermines and overrides any law a country wants to bring to protect workers and the environment.”

“It’s undemocratically elected” - just like FIFA and the UN. Just to remind you, this is a meeting of the trade ministers from 149 countries. What’s to elect? Undermines and overrides laws? You bet - that’s what treaties do. This guy is an insult to chickens.

There is another irony. To some extent the protesters have valid points. World trade is unfair as it stands, with massive subsidies and market distortions making the world’s poor poorer for the sake of rich French framers’ vanity. Labour does get exploited. But the answer isn’t to destroy the one multilateral avenue for negotiating improvements in world trade. To compound the irony, many of these same anti-globalisation protesters are fiercly pro-UN. Apparently some kinds of globalisation are OK.

Also, a prime quote from Hemlock.:

Which of the wide variety of brainless causes does our scantily clad friend here espouse? Is she fighting for higher food prices for Korean families? Higher clothes prices for Europeans? Higher steel prices for Americans? Or is she fighting for foreign-owned factories in Southeast Asia to be shut down so the workers are thrown back into subsistence farming and have to pull their kids out of school?

Photo from .

by @ 8:05 pm. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

10 December, 2005

eswn profiled

Roland of ESWN, who’s name AsiaPundit has never mentioned, has come out in the open with an interview in Hong Kong’s Next magazine. Letters from China provides a selection of money quotes.:

Roland Soong Eswn

Quotations from Mr Soong’s interview which may reflect his philosophy of blogging (after reading my “translation” (so to speak), you will sorely miss ESWN):

“I do not make comment. I put everything on the internet. Who is right and who is wrong, you decide.” (我不下評論,全放上網讓你看,對對錯錯,由你判斷。)

“Countries in the world are divided into the South and the North. The South is developing countries. The North is developed countries. I came from the West to the East. So [the blog] is titled East South West North.” (世界上的國家,分南、北。南是發展中國家,北是已發展國家。我由西方來到東方,所以叫東南西北。)

“If I think English media coverage is sufficient, I don’t translate it. Lots of people talked about Bush’s visit to China. You could guess the way the New York Times reported the visit. And it is even more pointless to translate the People’s Daily. (如果我認為英文已經足夠,就不理它。像布殊訪問中國,大把人講。《紐約時報》的報導形式,你猜到。《人民日報》,更加無謂翻譯。)

“Perhaps one would not know [a 78-year-old Hong Kong citizen placed advertisement in newspapers questioning when would there be universal suffrage] by reading the New York Times.” (看《紐約時報》大概不會知道有這種事。)

“I particularly want media people to read [my blog] so that they dare not distort the fact. For instance, when Chinese fleet visited Hong Kong, New York Times put it like that the mainland scared Hong Kong democracy. And that article was even published on the annual report of American congress. How can you say that? I showed you. Was your fleet visit an attempt to scare China?” (我特別在乎傳媒人看,等他們別亂來 …… 像中國海軍艦隊來香港,《紐約時報》說成是大陸恐嚇香港民主,那文章還在美國國會年報刊登。…… 你咁都講得出?我讓你看,你們艦隊來,算不算恐嚇中國?)

Roland also notes the LfC translation, and reveals more details on his nonpartisan leanings from a speech at an Internet conference in Hong Kong.:

I do this by becoming the single most hated blog in Hong Kong. When I write about something like the number of marchers on 12/4, the democrats are howling that I am a Communist Party shill. When I write about something like the new rules on avian flu reporting in China, the other boot falls. So I am hated by all sides.

But why is my political position so ambivalent? Because I have none. As an American citizen, my greatest sorrow is to watch how political partisanship has destroyed all sense of objectivity among the citizens. Take an event such as Hurricane Katrina and run a public opinion poll on satisfaction with the administration’s performance? Approval rates are 10% from Democrats, 15% from Independents and 90% from Republicans. People don’t look at the objective situation anymore — everything is about partisanship calculations. I do not talk politics in the United States anymore, because nobody is listening.

But when I write about something on my blog, I do not look at the party behind it. If something is wrong, then it is wrong. It is wrong to exaggerate the number of marchers just as it is wrong to order people to hide information about an epidemic outbreak. If there is a pro-Beijing rally in which their organizers claim 750,000, you can bet that I will review the evidence and condemn them for lying. If the Hong Kong government has the same orders about reporting avian flu, I would publish that information too. After living through Free China, Richard Nixon, the Cultural Revolution, Monica Lewinsky, the War in Iraq and all that, I am now insisting on a world of truth.

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by @ 11:42 am. Filed under Blogs, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs

fat burning

Justin of Shenzhen Zen partakes in a unique ’slimming’ treatment at an upscale Hong Kong spa, which allows its clients to ‘enjoy’ a small bonfire for the sake of vanity.

One the reasons I stay in journalism besides the fact that I’m lousy at math and possess no other marketable skills is that I still the opportunity to do things like getting set on fire in an upscale Hong Kong spa.

I felt a little like a human yule log. Or given that I’d just eaten 20 minutes before and my torso was basted in mysterious Chinese herbal oils, swathed in plastic cling wrap and towels with a fire flickering on my back, perhaps a living boil-a-meal was more appropriate.

It was all part of an “Aqua-Fire therapy” that Life of Life Healing Spa in Causeway Bay promotes as a rejuvination and weight loss treatment.

The spa claims that the fire’s heat hastens the oils’ ability to zap fat cells and detoxify the body….


Mandy Sea, a doctor and nutritionist at Chinese University’s Center for Nutritional Studies begged to disagreee said any perceived weight loss could be attributed to temporary water weight being sweated out and that if someone is obese and/or suffering from high blood pressure they may be playing with fire.

“The heat is not efficient enough to burn away your fat,” said Sea. “And if someone is suffering from hypertension and overweight the heat could raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

“The herb oils will not make any chemical changes to your body. There is no chemical data on how much penetration there might be or how it could affect your skin and health.

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by @ 11:28 am. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

9 December, 2005

we love hong kong, we love free trade

As the World Trade Organization is set to descend on Hong Kong protesters are preparing their usual antics to disrupt the talks. Simon Patkin is also organizing a protest, but in favor of free trade. Keen.

WtoWith the upcoming WTO summit, there will be a huge influx of up to 10,000 protesters from around the world — including around 1500 Korean farmers. The protesters (especially the farmers) have a reputation for violent protests to severely disrupt previous WTO meetings and cause damage to property (Melbourne, Seattle and Cancun). They now want to bring their extreme demonstration tactics to Hong Kong and someone needs to make a stand.

Capitalist Solutions is organizing a small rally this Sunday afternoon (Dec 11) in favour of free trade and to send a message to the protesters that Hong Kong is a great place that respects the rule of law. The rally will be held under the banner of "We love Hong Kong, We love free trade."

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by @ 8:59 pm. Filed under Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

3 December, 2005

what does it take to get through to china’s leaders?

Yan (Glutter) thinks the only thing Beijing seems to understand are protests. They get protests!

They get 500, 000 people on the streets shouting that they want free speech. They get a lot of people in Hong Kong standing up in the most visually stimulating way which is using what we have most, a lot of people in one very small space.

They get protests.

They really get it. The Chinese government gets it in a way that when pushed will bring tanks to break one up and spend the next 40 years hiding any traces of it having ever happened. They will spend billions of dollars blocking the internet and continue to put people in jail all over China for trying to get the truth out.

The Hong Kong government will shelve a bill that they were insulting Hong Kong people left and right by saying we didn’t understand a word of what was being said, and it was going to go through no matter what. They changed their tune when the they got half a million people walking on the streets saying, "We don’t think so."

Our government understood that, and haven’t had a peep of the word since.

Let me say it again.

They get protests.

I think the leaders in Hong Kong and Beijing feel the pressure of protests, but do they really get it?

by @ 6:51 am. Filed under China, Hong Kong, Censorship

29 November, 2005

singapore voting rights in hong kong

Via Simon World, a look at the 191-vote strong Transport Constituency in Hong Kong shows that Singapore, Dubai and - naturally - Mainland China have more say in how Hong Kong’s government is selected than its average individual resident:

HkdemoWe found that of the 191 eligible Transport electors, 36 are taxi-related associations, 19 are minibus associations and 10 are driving instructor associations. These three lobbies alone amount to 65, or over one third, of the electorate. Bear that in mind next time you hear their legislator whinging about diesel duty being too high, when it is far lower than the duty on unleaded petrol which private motorists pay, and when LPG is exempt from duty and franchised buses are exempt from diesel duty anyway. And don’t forget the $1.4bn in taxpayer grants handed out to get the taxi and minibus owners to buy LPG vehicles in the first place. Yes, in Hong Kong, we don’t charge the transport trade for air pollution, we pay them to reduce it.

The names of some trade associations suggest overlapping membership through their geographic coverage. While some of the apparently overlapping trade associations may exist separately for historical reasons, others may have come into being, or stayed separate, simply to claim another vote for their sector. Similarly, companies under common ownership may continue to exist separately rather then undergo a full merger, and thereby avoid losing voting rights in the constituency.

Our research also identified tycoons with heavy voting interests, including 1 family with stakes in 11 electors. We also found 3 electors which are controlled by the HK Government, and several which are controlled by overseas Governments, including Dubai, Singapore and of course mainland China.

It’s worth reminding our readers that we only looked at one sector. If we had extended our coverage to sectors such as the Real Estate, Hotels, Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and others, then we would have found many of the same tycoons controlling corporate electors in those sectors too.

Don’t worry too much though, a number of above-average residents do actually have more of a say in how Hong Kong is run that Singapore or Dubai. So it is possible for Hong Kongers to get a larger say in government, so long as they can become as rich and heavily invested in the territory as  Li Ka Shing or the Kwok brothers.

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by @ 10:13 pm. Filed under Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia

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