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The Man Behind the Hong Kong Miracle

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Some of us just write about libertarian ideas. This guy actually made them public policy for millions.

For The FreemanLawrence 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 »

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Free Elections for Hong Kong

Civil Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Marches - Getty

For The Weekly StandardEllen 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’s Occupy Central ‘Referendum’ Explained

<> on June 1, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

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 thehk-protest 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 »


Want to Be a Millionaire? Move to Hong Kong

A luxury car parks at an old district area in Hong Kong Wednesday Jan. 15, 2014. Associated Press

A luxury car parks at an old district area in Hong Kong Wednesday Jan. 15, 2014. Associated Press

For China Real Time ReportJason 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 »


Why Japan’s high-Speed Trains Are So Good


Possible Snowden Plea Deal Developing

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For Washington Free Beacon 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 »


Tiananmen Anniversary in Hong Kong

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Tens of thousands have gathered in Hong Kong for the only major commemoration in China of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.

For BBC News, Juliana Liu reports: The organizers said some 180,000 attended the vigil, but the police put the crowd size at just under 100,000. The city retains civil liberties not permitted to mainland Chinese. The 1989 protesters wanted political reform, but the crackdown was ordered after hardliners won a power struggle within the ruling Communist Party.

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In Beijing, the authorities have imposed blanket security, particularly on Tiananmen Square, to prevent any attempts to mark the anniversary.

Dozens of activists were detained in the run-up to the anniversary, with foreign journalists ushered away from the square on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »


History: 1989 Cover Story About the Tiananmen Square Massacre


Venture Capital Firm Appoints Machine Intelligence as a Board Member

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Hong Kong based venture capital firm Deep Knowledge Ventures (DKV) has appointed a machine learning program to its board. Called VITAL, it’s an “equal member” that will uncover trends “not immediately obvious to humans” in order to make investment recommendations. This is probably an attempt to attract media attention, but it could truly be the start of a larger trend; it’s the world’s first software program to be appointed as a board member. The move could also herald a new direction in the way venture capital is done. The tool was developed by Aging Analytics UK who’s licensing it out to DKV, a capital fund that focuses on companies developing therapies for age-related diseases and regenerative medicine. DKV will use VITAL (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences) to analyze financing trends in databases of life science companies in an effort to predict successful investments. Read the rest of this entry »


South China Sea: Standoff Over Oil Rig Escalates, Vietnam Says China Rammed Ships

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(Reuters) – Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region.

The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi said the collisions took place on Sunday and caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships. Six people suffered minor injuries, it said.

See also: The Battle for the South China Sea Is Officially On in The American Interest

The standoff between China and Vietnam over an oil rig under construction in the South China Sea has escalated to dangerous levels, the New York Times reports

…Whether purposely timed or not, Beijing has escalated its rhetoric and backed up words with action ever since President Obama’s tour of East Asia. ”It is increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent,”warned one editorial in China Daily as soon as President Obama returned to the U.S. ”Ganging up with its troublemaking allies, the U.S. is presenting itself as a security threat to China.” The editorial also called U.S. actions in East Asia ”malicious.”

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“On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels,” said Tran Duy Hai, a Foreign Ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam’s national border committee.

See alsoVietnam dispatches 29 ships to intercept Chinese oil rig in South China Sea; standoff with 80 Chinese ships in China Daily Mail

Vietnamese naval vessels and Chinese ships collided Wednesday, a Vietnamese government official said, as Hanoi sought to prevent a Chinese oil rig from setting up in a disputed part of the South China Sea.

The official said no ammunition had been fired and there were no reports for injuries as a result of the standoff, the most serious in years between the two countries in the sea. If neither side step downs, some analysts said they feared full blown skirmishes could break out between the two navies in what has long been regarded as a possible global flashpoint.

“Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used,” he told a news conference in Hanoi. Six other ships were also hit, but not as badly, other officials said. Read the rest of this entry »


From The Chinese University of Hong Kong: A New Algorithm That Recognizes Faces Better Than People Can

faces in the wild
Faces from the Dataset Used to Test the Algorithm Described Below

It’s already a little eerie when Facebook suggests tags for who it recognizes in your photo, especially for faces that are small, blurry, or otherwise difficult to distinguish. What if Facebook were even better–better at recognizing people in pictures than you are?

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Two computer scientists are announcing they’ve made a program that is better at matching photos than people are, the Physics arXiv Blog reports. This is the first time a program has performed better than people at recognizing people.

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To be sure, the new algorithm, developed at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, outperforms people in a very specific task with a very specific set of photos. The Hong Kong researchers asked the algorithm to tell whether two faces are the same, drawing from a set of 13,000 photos of 600 public figures. Humans get the right answer 97.53 percent of the time, on this test. The Chinese University of Hong Kong algorithm is right 98.52 percent of the time. (You can try some sample matches at the Physics arXiv Blog!)

Read the rest of this entry »


Inside the Chinatown Gang That Lured Leland Yee into Arms Trafficking

Chow-Tub-apAWR Hawkins reports: California state Senator Leland Yee (D), who was indicted on charges of arms trafficking and public corruption, was allegedly lured into these crimes by a gang led by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, described as “the dragonhead” for “one of the most powerful Asian gangs in America.”

According to the Associated Press, Chow’s gang allegedly “lured state Sen. Leland Yee into its clutches through money and campaign contributions in exchange for legislative help.” The offers of money came at a time when Yee sought to amass the finances necessary to launch a campaign to become California’s secretary of state.

“…he ran prostitution rings, smuggled drugs, and extorted thousands of dollars from business owners in the 1980s.”

Chow was born in Hong Kong in 1960. He moved to the United States at age 16, dropped out of high school, and “rose within the ranks of the local Hop Sing Tong after he and his crew survived a 1977 shooting at a Chinatown restaurant that left five dead and about a dozen injured.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] FBI Sting Reveals San Francisco Chinatown Underworld

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SAN FRANCISCO – Beneath the strings of red paper lanterns and narrow alleyways of the nation’s oldest Chinatown lies a sinister underworld, according to an FBI criminal complaint that has stunned even those familiar with the neighborhood’s history of gambling houses, opium dens and occasional gangland-style murders…(AP)

Read more…


8 Suicides in High-Finance Sector Mystify Experts

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New York Post‘s Michael Gray writes: The financial world has been rattled by a rash of apparent suicides, with some of the best and brightest among the finance workers who have taken their lives since the start of the year.

“Jumping is much less common as a method for suicide in general, so I am struck by the number that have occurred in recent months in this industry…”

A majority of the eight suicides of 2014 have been very public demonstrations, which has suicide-prevention experts puzzled.

“The suicide-research literature doesn’t help very much with the question of why the method of these suicides is so out in the open.”

– Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Read the rest of this entry »


Press Freedom Under Attack in Hong Kong

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Protest for press freedom in Hong Kong. March 2014.

Kevin Lau, former editor of the local Chinese-language daily Ming Pao in Hong Kongwas brutally attacked with a knife and suffered serious wounds on February 26, 2014.

This was the latest of hardships that Mr. Lau had to endure in Hong Kong, a city increasingly hostile towards the press.  In January he had been ousted from his position as Editor in Chief at the newspaper Ming Pao, sparking enough outrage that 90% of the editorial staff at Ming Pao signed a petition demanding that the company state its reasons for dismissing Kevin Lau. Many speculated that it was his critical reporting of the Hong Kong government that was the reason for his removal as Editor in Chief.

Under Lau’s leadership, Ming Pao was critical of numerous government policies and pushed for democratic reforms in Hong Kong. The newspaper also exposed several political scandals, embarrassing political leaders in the city.

Read the rest of this entry »


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