From vintage everyday: Heres a collection of amazing color photographs showing everyday life of Hong Kong in 1969, taken by LIFE photographer Co Rentmeester. Dedicated to Pundit Planet‘s own co-founder and Legal Affairs Correspondent, Primatologist and Hong Kong Fong‘s Deb Fong, our Deputy Bureau Chief & Asia Photo Editor-at-Large, both stationed at our luxurious Hong Kong Headquarters. See the whole series from this 1969 portfolio, it’s a large set, worth exploring the whole thing.
Public discontent in Hong Kong is at its highest for years
AFP reports: Thousands are expected to take part in a major pro-government rally in Hong Kong Sunday to counter a civil disobedience campaign that has pledged to paralyse the city in a push for electoral reform.
Public discontent in Hong Kong is at its highest for years, with concern over perceived interference from Beijing and growing divisions over how its leader should be chosen in 2017 under political reforms.
“We want to let the world know that we want peace, we want democracy, but please, do not threaten us, do not try to turn this place into a place of violence.”
– Alliance co-founder Robert Chow
Pro-democracy campaigners from the Occupy Central group have pledged to mobilise protesters to take over some of the busiest thoroughfares of the financial hub if public nomination of candidates is ruled out by the authorities.
FLASHBACK 2012: SCMP’s Benjamin Garvey, who more or less live-tweeted the proceedings, tweeted this photo and message: “Cameraman was hit from behind, other cameramen lept to his defence, grabbed attacker, held him until police came.”
But the movement has been heavily criticised by Beijing and city officials as being illegal, radical and violent.
[Also see - Hong Kong Asks Beijing for Greater Democracy]
Organisers of Sunday’s rally, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, say the silent majority of the city’s seven million residents do not support the Occupy movement.
“We want to let the world know that we want peace, we want democracy, but please, do not threaten us, do not try to turn this place into a place of violence,” alliance co-founder Robert Chow told AFP.
More than 120,000 people have signed up for the rally, which started shortly after 1:30 pm (0530 GMT), but the turnout could reach up to 200,000, the alliance said. Read the rest of this entry »
Verdant Hong Kong
The most wonderful surprise for me has been the impressive natural elements found throughout HK – providing a beautiful contrast to HK’s more urban and iconic modern developments. Everyone knows HK is packed with glitzy skyscrapers and shopping malls, but even amidst all of that, you stumble across gigantic trees with sprawling roots that snake down city walls.
Parks are full of greenery, the surrounding islands are lush with foliage. Refreshing to view, perhaps all that plant life even helps make up for the occasional smog by pumping some oxygen into this fair city.
“What I discovered…Siri seems to be one of those things that polarizes views: people either loving it and using it every day, or dismissing it as a useless gimmick. Not too many people seem to fall between the two.”
Yesterday our Hong Kong Bureau Chief posted a tantalizing peek into the future of AI – “Real AI in Your Pocket” — and in the comments section, I posted an anecdotal description of a recent experience using the still-developing Siri, and it led me to wonder who’s writing what about Siri these days, and I landed on this. Though it confirms that most of what can be done with Siri is conventional, to the point of being disappointingly trivial, sometimes the smallest things can yeild daily benefits, and are easy to overlook. The question is valid: Is Siri just a party trick?
For 9to5Mac, Ben Lovejoy writes: When Siri lost its beta tag almost a year ago, I suggested it might be a good time for those who’d been frustrated with its early performance to give it another chance. What I discovered through your comments was that Siri seems to be one of those things that polarizes views: people either loving it and using it every day, or dismissing it as a useless gimmick. Not too many people seem to fall between the two.
But Apple has continued to work hard on improving the service, adding new capabilities as well as refining its ability to handle existing ones. It might not yet be as sophisticated as its creators envisage for the future, but a year on seemed a good point to revisit the topic and find just how many of its capabilities people are using …
“Most people know Siri can read your mail, but again you can be much more specific than this…”
Everyone knows you can ask Siri to call someone, and that if you’ve identified contacts by relationship you can say things like “Call my girlfriend,” but you can also get more specific. “Call my father on his work phone,” for example, or “Make a FaceTime audio call to Phil.”
Similarly, with text messages, you can be casual in your phrasing: “Let Sarah know I’m running ten minutes late.” Calendar queries, too, can also be more specific than general enquiries about your appointments, such as “When am I meeting Barbara?”
Using Siri to tweet? You can ask for your location to be added, along with any hashtags: “Tweet, with my location, having a great night out, hashtag drinking.” And if you want to know what’s trending on Twitter, you can simply ask “What’s going on?”
Apple Maps may not have gotten off to the best of starts, but there’s a lot of location-based functionality built into Siri to make your life easier. Some are basic, like “Give me walking direction to Alison Smith’s work.” Others are more sophisticated like “Make a reservation for two at a romantic French restaurant around here tonight at 7pm.”
Or fancy a movie instead? “Where is Guardians of the Galaxy playing?” will show you nearby locations and times, together with the Rotten Tomatoes review. If you’re in the U.S., you can also ask Siri to buy tickets. Not sure whether the movie is the right choice? “Play the movie trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Still got work to do in the meantime? “Show me the nearest WiFi hotspots.”
Location-based reminders are something without which I’d forget half the things I’m supposed to do. “Remind me to call Sam when I get home,” “Remind me to post the letters when I leave here” and “Remind me to buy milk when I’m at Tesco” are just a few examples. Read the rest of this entry »
Greetings from Hong Kong Fong! Continuing in my new role of China Deputy Bureau Chief and Hong Kong Photo Editor for Pundit From Another Planet, and following my inaugural PFAP post, The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong, Part 1, I now share with you Part 2.
— Marc Hilliker (@MarcHilliker) August 8, 2014
Pundit Planet is proud to welcome a new addition to our Hong Kong Bureau, Deb Fong.
My name is Deb Fong. I am American by birth, Chinese by heritage (my grandparents were born and raised in Guangdong, China, before heading to America), and now a Hong Kong-based expat recently relocated from NYC.
Funny where life takes you – I never expected to actually live here, although I have always treasured trips throughout Asia more than anywhere else in the world….
I plan to immerse myself in everything – the amalgam of cuisine, culture, the incredible natural surroundings, the promise of new friends with their own unique stories.
Hong Kong is also an incredible base for the rest of Asia, and I cannot wait to explore the continent in greater depth than ever before…(read more)
— WSJ China Real Time (@ChinaRealTime) August 7, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: A few days ago, The Butcher posted a link to a good article about the origins of “the Hong Kong Miracle” – a term that is justifiably used to describe Hong Kong as a near “capitalist paradise” of very limited government intervention into all aspects of the lives of its citizens, very low apparent taxation and nearly wide-open individualism and personal opportunity. I’ve seen pieces like this before and hopefully, people will be writing them in the future (and not discussions about how China “killed the goose that laid the golden eggs”).
“As part of my study, I’ve come to realize that there is a somewhat hidden key to the magic of Hong Kong’s economic, social and political success story.”
As an on-again, off-again resident of Hong Kong (“on” right now and for the next few months), I’m an avid reader of Chinese history in general, and Hong Kong history in particular. Last year I began the grueling process of becoming admitted as a lawyer (solicitor) in Hong Kong, taking the very difficult test administered to foreign lawyers from other Anglosphere jurisdictions as a gateway to that honor. (I’m nearing the end of that long journey now – in two weeks I’ll be in court here for my formal admission before a Chinese judge wearing the white wig and crimson robes that English judges have been wearing for over three hundred years, a wonderfully rich experience of the cultural melting pot that is Hong Kong.)
“And it behooves people who support the political philosophy (free-market capitalism and political liberty) underlying Hong Kong’s wonderfully free and open society to be aware of this key.”
As part of my study, I’ve come to realize that there is a somewhat hidden key to the magic of Hong Kong’s economic, social and political success story. And it behooves people who support the political philosophy (free-market capitalism and political liberty) underlying Hong Kong’s wonderfully free and open society to be aware of this key. Because, while I am as libertarian as they come, there IS a functioning government here that provides essential public goods. The seven million people who live and work here depend on the fantastically well-built and well-maintained physical and social infrastructure: Massive public works (like the great new airport – no one misses the dangerous approach to good old Kai Tak, huge bridges and tunnels), a clean, efficient mass-transit system, pretty darned good public schools, a semi-public health-care system, adequate police and an amazingly open and un-corrupted legal system.
[Also see: The Man Behind the Hong Kong Miracle]
The mystery comes from looking at all of these great elements of the public sphere in Hong Kong, and comparing it with the tax regime. The highest marginal income tax rate here is 18% (only the very highest earners pay this, and most of them figure out a way to avoid the highest rate), there is no capital gains tax, and there are very few other explicit taxes of any kind. Although most government services have associated user fees in the form of some kind of “stamp duty” (an Anglicism Americans understand as a tax), these stamp duties are fairly low – and would come nowhere near raising enough revenue to support the public sector. Likewise, while there are fees for riding on the MTR (the integrated mass transit system that includes subways, above-ground trains, buses, trolleys and ferries) and some tolls (for instance on the main tunnel linking Hong Kong Island with Kowloon and the mainland side), these charges again can’t raise enough revenue to support their overall function, much less the massive improvements in Hong Kong’s physical infrastructure I’ve personally seen in the 35 years since I first came here. Read the rest of this entry »
CHINA: PLA Lets Foreign Press Attend Monthly Briefing for First Time in Bid for Greater Transparency, WH RespondsPosted: July 31, 2014
Allowing foreign reporters access to the monthly press conferences of the People’s Liberation Army presents a challenge to the U.S. claim of unparalleled transparency.
From the South China Morning Post - Associated Press in Beijing reports:
Not many years ago, foreign reporters in China trying to call the country’s secretive military couldn’t even get a connection because phone numbers assigned to the journalists were barred from ringing through to the Defence Ministry.
“We especially hope that international society will have a correct and objective understanding of the Chinese military.”
This morning, the White House issued this statement:
“We believe that sending members of the White House press corps to China was the right thing to do. It is not, as some of our friends in the Republican party have suggested, an effort to limit press freedom, or retaliation for unfavorable coverage of the president.”
On Thursday, members of the foreign press were finally permitted to attend the ministry’s monthly news briefing, marking a small milestone in the increasingly confident military’s efforts to project a more transparent image.
“Look, we let these folks in the press keep their cell phones, and some personal effects. We gave them free transportation, courtesy of the Air Force. They’ll eventually be permitted to return. We’ll do our best to get them home by Christmas.”
– President Barack Obama
Restrictions still apply and there is no sign of an improvement in the generally paltry amount and poor quality of information released by the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest standing military with 2.3 million members.
Officers who oversee the briefings say the new invitations reflect a desire by the top brass to allay foreigners’ concerns over fast-expanding budgets, vast hardware improvements, and an increasingly clear determination to use the military to assert China’s interests and territorial claims. Read the rest of this entry »
Demand for ever-smaller homes remains strong due to cheaper prices, with developers expected to build increasing numbers of shoe-box flats
This one’s for our Hong Kong Bureau Chief, splitting time zones between a ranch in Houston and a tiny cage Hong Kong:
South China Morning Post reports: Developers are expected to produce more tiny flats in their future projects given the frenetic buying spree for shoe-box homes by young homebuyers and investors, industry observers said.
“Building more small flats will become a trend, as they are sought after by younger home seekers and long-term investors.”
– Patrick Chow Moon-kit, head of research at Ricacorp Properties.
A Midland Realty survey showed that land that had been sold in the past two years and designated for building small flats would supply 12,400 units over the next few years.
Here’s how award-winning Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has managed to squeeze 24 rooms – including a home cinema and ”spa” – into 344 square feet of apartment space.
Upcoming new home sales include those at Sun Hung Kai Properties‘ 968-unit The Wings Phase 3 in Tseung Kwan O, which will offer about 200 small units of 334 sq ft to 360 sq ft. The official launch date has not yet been set. Read the rest of this entry »
Some of us just write about libertarian ideas. This guy actually made them public policy for millions.
For The Freeman, Lawrence W. Reed writes: Three cheers for Hong Kong, that tiny chunk of Southeast Asian rock. For the twentieth consecutive year, the Index of Economic Freedom—compiled by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation—ranks Hong Kong (HK) as the freest economy in the world.
“Maybe this is why socialists don’t like to talk about Hong Kong: It’s not only the freest economy, it’s also one of the richest.”
Though part of mainland China since the British ceded it in 1997, HK is governed locally on a daily basis. So far, the Chinese have remained reasonably faithful to their promise to leave the HK economy alone. What makes it so free is music to the ears of everyone who loves liberty: Relatively little corruption. An efficient and independent judiciary. Respect for the rule of law and property rights. An uncomplicated tax system with low rates on both individuals and business and an overall tax burden that’s a mere 14 percent of GDP (half the U.S. rate). No taxes on capital gains or interest income or even on earnings from outside of HK. No sales tax or VAT either. A very light regulatory touch. No government budget deficit and almost nonexistent public debt. Oh, and don’t forget its average tariff rate of near zero. That’s right—zero!
“Over a wide field of our economy it is still the better course to rely on the nineteenth century’s ‘hidden hand’ than to thrust clumsy bureaucratic fingers into its sensitive mechanism.”
– Sir John James Cowperthwaite, 1962
This latest ranking in the WSJ/Heritage report confirms what Canada’s Fraser Institute found in its latest Economic Freedom of the World Index, which also ranked HK as the world’s freest. The World Bank rates the “ease of doing business” in HK as just about the best on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Weekly Standard, Ellen Bork reports: Over half a million people filled the streets of Hong Kong on July 1, marching for democracy on the anniversary of the British colony’s handover to Chinese Communist rule in 1997.
On June 29, an unofficial referendum organized by democracy activists concluded with 800,000 votes cast—more than one-tenth of Hong Kong’s population. The overwhelming majority supported a democratic election for Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
“The Obama administration’s response to the massive display of support for democracy has been more appropriate to a teenager shrugging ‘whatever’ than a major power expressing itself on a central pillar of the president’s Asia policy.”
Beijing has promised that in 2017, the Hong Kong chief executive will be popularly elected. Hoping to tamp down expectations of an actual democratic election with a competitive nomination process, however, Beijing issued a white paper on June 10 that identified “loving the country” as the “basic political requirement” for civil servants, including the chief executive. For Beijing, “love” means loyalty to the Communist party, disdain for civil liberties undergirded by the rule of law, and hostility to democracy. Read the rest of this entry »
Hong Kong: For CNN, Wilfred Chan and Euan McKirdy report: Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers have done something China’s 1.3 billion people can only dream of: cast a ballot to demand a democratic government.
In an unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activists and denounced by Chinese authorities, 787,767 people in the city of more than seven million have called for the right to directly elect their next leader.
But Beijing has insisted Hong Kong politics stays in line with Chinese rule, paving the way for a showdown in the city.
Who are the activists?
Occupy Central is a pro-democracy group founded in 2013. Their goal is to allow the Hong Kong public to elect its next leader without strings attached.
If the Hong Kong government doesn’t eventually give the public more voting rights, Occupy Central has threatened to “occupy” Central district, the city’s financial hub, with a sit-in that would disrupt businesses and block traffic.
How is Hong Kong governed now?
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, with its own executive, legislature, and judiciary.
A former British colony, the city was returned to Chinese control in 1997. But before the handover, China and the United Kingdom signed an agreement giving Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years after its return to China. This enshrined a principle known as “one country, two systems” in a constitutional document called the Basic Law. Read the rest of this entry »
For China Real Time Report, Jason Chow writes: Hong Kong mints millionaires faster than any of the world’s other top 25 economic powerhouses, according to a new survey on the rich by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management.
“Hong Kong is a particularly fertile place for millionaires.”
Tis the season of wealth reports – the new 2014 World Wealth Report is the second global survey of the world’s rich in as many weeks (Boston Consulting Group released its wealth tome last week). And again, the latest survey confirmed an obvious outcome of Asia’s economic boom: The region is home to more millionaires than ever.
“The city’s booming real-estate market, along with its ties to China, were cited as reasons for the huge surge in the wealthy ranks.”
But the Capgemini/RBC report says Hong Kong is a particularly fertile place for millionaires. In the past five years, the total number of high-net-worth individuals—those with more than US$1 million in investable assets, not including primary residence, collectibles or consumer goods—grew at an annual rate of 27%.
That growth rate of wealthy individuals is by far the fastest, above the global 10% average and far higher than the growth rates for Singapore and China, which sat around 12% and 16%, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) June 10, 2014
For Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz reports: Federal prosecutors recently held discussions with representatives of renegade National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden on a possible deal involving his return to the United States to face charges of stealing more than a million secret NSA documents, according to U.S. officials.
“It remains our position that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him…”
Snowden is currently in Moscow under Russian government protection after fleeing Hawaii, where he worked in NSA’s Kunia facility, for Hong Kong in May 2013. U.S. officials have charged him with stealing an estimated 1.7 million documents from NSA Net and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) and providing some materials to news outlets.
“…If he does, he will be accorded full due process and protections.”
– D.O.J. Spokesman Marc Raimondi
Discussions on Snowden’s return were held in the past several weeks between prosecutors in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Plato Cacheris, a long-time Washington defense lawyer who in the past represented several U.S. spies, including some who reached plea bargains rather than go to trial. Read the rest of this entry »