Farewell, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was always going to be China’s acid test. Thatcher, Britain’s last conviction PM, was never keen on returning it to China. She never trusted Beijing to abide by its commitments further than to interpret the Anglo-Chinese Joint Declaration whichever way suited it best. Originally inclined to hold onto the colony, she relented only because the Chinese were prepared and able to starve and dehydrate Hong Kong into submission.

Hong Kongers knew what they could expect. Some, such as Carrie Lam and Jackie Chan, sold their souls to the Party. Both have done well out of it. Carrie Lam, for all her uselessness and incompetence, was appointed Chief Executive of the territory. Jackie Chan is the CCP’s poster boy. He is the model that Beijing wants all Hong Kongers to emulate. Speak Cantonese if you wish, be a Hong Konger if you must, but never forget that Xi Dada is your lord and master and that you must bow to Beijing’s whims without complaint or question.

Of course, much of Hong Kong’s business elite have taken this position. So, frankly, has the greater portion of Hong Kong-based criminal syndicates. When there were protests, frequently heated, a singular, obvious fact was pointed out by many advocates of a liberal Hong Kong. The vast majority of thugs and troublemakers could not speak or understand Cantonese. They were Mandarin-speaking. That is, they were brought in from the Mainland to do the Triads’ and Chief Executive’s dirty work for them. The odds of someone recognising a Hong Konger would be too great.

By taking this approach, Beijing ensured that the movement would be crushed without having to use the People’s Liberation Army. The consequences within Hong Kong, however, have been profound. The Hong Kong Police, until recently a well-respected institution, are now hated and seen as an extension of Beijing rather than a community-based institution. By effectively banning the pro-democracy bloc from the LegCo (legislative council), Beijing via the LegCo and HK Chief Executive has effectively rendered Hong Kong elections moot. They will, of course, proceed but they will be no different than East German elections. In theory there will be multiple parties, in theory elections will be contested but in reality, it will be a Hobson’s choice.

This leads one to wonder if it was truly worth it to have the uprising to begin with. After all, the ultimate consequence was that Beijing simply cracked down even harder on Hong Kong than it did on neighbouring Macau. Macau, never particularly attached to Portugal and the Macanese, never particularly nostalgic about Portuguese rule, have had an easier go of it. Portugal permitted all Macanese adults to retain Portuguese citizenship. Those who made use of it generally settled in the UK, Ireland, Sweden or elsewhere in the EU. Some, of course, did settle in Portugal as well. Domestically, Beijing has never perceived Macau as a threat or disloyal. But this would miss a simple detail. Whatever laws Beijing imposed on its two SARs, the moderate version would be given to Macau, the more severe to Hong Kong. Whatever criticism Beijing had of Macau would be tempered and discreet. Whatever criticism Beijing had of Hong Kong would be shrill and malicious.

Hong Kongers, in short, knew that they were doomed. Those who could obtained full British citizenship prior to 1997. A singer I rather like, Alfred Hui, is British by citizenship despite never having lived in the United Kingdom. Not even a year younger than I, his case is far from unique. This situation was made possible by a simple legal quirk. Hong Kong residence was based on having a residence permit. Prior to 1 July 1997, Hong Kongers were British Nationals Overseas. After 1 July 1997, they were Chinese citizens with Hong Kong residence permits and no right of abode on the mainland. Their unique status was further enhanced by having the prerogative to hold special Chinese passports reserved for Hong Kong residents and/or British BNO passports. Both could be used until recently for travel as the residence permit was more important than the passport itself.

Others left. My Cantonese teacher has Hong Kong parents and has spent a significant amount of time in Hong Kong, but she is Canadian by birth, citizenship and residence. There are large populations of Hong Kongers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The United States similarly has a large population of Hong Kong émigrés. Not all had this option. Most had to make due and hope for the best and hold out as long as possible. Once it was clear that the writing was on the wall, they did what they could to tear the veil. Hong Kong was doomed from the moment the Anglo-Chinese Joint Declaration was made. If Britain could do nothing for Hong Kong, then Macau was in an even weaker position. What could a poor Portugal, utterly reliant on Chinese largesse, hope to do? No… The one place that could still be saved was Taiwan.

Taiwan, of the three territories that China coveted, was destined to be the toughest one to obtain. Lisbon had wanted to wash its hands of Macau since 1975. Britain’s lease on the New Territories was running up and China was in no mood to renew it. Once London and Beijing had hammered out a framework for Hong Kong, Lisbon and Beijing simply had to agree on a few cosmetic changes and copy-paste a few details into it and call it well enough for Macau. Taiwan, on the other hand, was in effect its own country. Once Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek died, control was passed into the hands of native Taiwanese. Li Teng-hui started the “Taiwanisation” process. Taiwan’s language, culture and education would become localised. It was fitting that Li, himself a member of Chiang’s KMT, never learnt to speak Mandarin with full proficiency. He spoke his native Taiwanese and fluent Japanese, a product of his upbringing in Japanese Taiwan.

After Chen Shui-bian was elected president in 2000, he further moved Taiwan away from China’s sphere. Although not a particularly brilliant president, he did leave Taiwan one great and lasting gift. Taiwan’s fate cannot be decided by Taiwan’s politicians. Taiwan’s fate can only be decided by Taiwan’s people. By rising up, Hong Kongers knowingly hastened Hong Kong’s inevitable demise. There was only going to be one outcome and they knew it. By rising up, however, they showed exactly what “one country, two systems” really meant: one county, one system and a bit of garnish. The international business class and diplomatic establishment had hoped that Taiwan would, gradually, become a third Special Administrative Region. After all, for some years it seemed to work okay for Hong Kong and Macau — at least from the outside looking in. Even in Taiwan, a significant minority of the business elite were inclined to at least consider throwing their weight behind that. Now, no serious person in Taiwan can even countenance that and hope to be taken seriously. Global businesses have been forced to hedge their bets. China, for all its sweetheart deals, is not the promised land they thought it was even 5 years ago. Most importantly, the liberal world has been forced to face up to what China really is. Between Hong Kong’s ultimate sacrifice and the recent pandemic, China has come out far more badly damaged than anyone expected.

Hong Kong might not have only saved Taiwan, but it might have saved us, too. We have been forced to pay attention at long last to Beijing’s pernicious influence in universities, in investments and in business deals. Do we really want to be another Sri Lanka, Portugal or New Zealand? Especially after China showed its hand in its dealings with Sweden and Australia (fortunately possessing rather more significant a spine outside of Comrade Kim Jong-Dan’s People’s Republic of Victoria) this isn’t anything we can risk.

Howdy

Just thought I’d follow up on Sheona’s question about being able to write original posts.

Not much to really say. I’ve been extremely busy, balancing three jobs and a busy study schedule. Managed to slip out of California for a week to visit Texas. Will fly back to California tomorrow. Would prefer to be in Europe, but Boris managed to destroy that for me and I’m working on getting to Sweden.

Whither Australia? (And New Zealand, the UK and, indeed, the rest of the world!)

I recently came across this bit of prose.

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

It is from a very short story called “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The full text, which seems to be in the public domain, can be found here.

https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cabarrus.k12.nc.us%2Fcms%2Flib09%2FNC01910456%2FCentricity%2FDomain%2F4127%2F2081%2520SS%2520Harrison%2520Bergeron.doc&wdOrigin=BROWSELINK

A little more research took me to this film, here: https://youtu.be/XBcpuBRUdNs I think it is worth watching.

Having followed some of what has been going on in Australia and, to be fair, France as well as one or two other countries, I cannot help feeling that our antipodean friends are well down the road to a Vonnegutian dystopia. By contrast, Zimbabwe, for now at least, seems the be the epitome of sanity and adherence to human rights.

What say others?

. . . a few of my favourite things . . .

It’s a funny old world, innit?

  • Ash Barty. Just as Sam Stosur starts getting to be just a bit past it, along comes young Ash. What a girl! Will she take out Wimbledon? I’ll keep my fingers (and toes) crossed.
  • Nick Kyrgios and Venus Williams, did you watch their last match? Tennis at its very best, with Nick clearly in awe of playing with such a goddess of the sport. Shame he’s now had to withdraw after injuring himself.
  • Covid – we’ve kept our infections and deaths down pretty well, but our vaccine roll-out has been pathetically slow compared with many other countries. Logistics, all is logistics – our pollies hadn’t even heard of the word until a couple of minutes ago!
  • China. Has reverted to the 1800s, has gone utterly doolally, has a lot to answer for, and is stupefyingly dangerous. Handle with great care until they recover.

That’ll do for now. 😎

We all laughed but it was no laughing matter

One of the most prevailing stories of the 1974 football World Cup happened during the Brazil v Zaire (as they were then called) match. As Brazil lined up a free kick, a defender broke free of the Zaire wall and booted the ball as far as he could, receiving a yellow card for his troubles. African ignorance of the beautiful game was cited and laughter and derision was thrown at the men of the Congo. In fact, that kick may have saved lives. After losing 2-0 versus Scotland, then being thrashed 9-0 v Yugoslavia (as they were then called), the Zaire ruler threatened the players and insisted that they not lose against Brazil by more than 3 goals. The time wasting tactic at that free kick helped the Zairian footballers cause. They only lost the game 3-0. I’m not sure if they lived happily ever after. At least they lived.

The then ruler of the African nation was Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (meaning “The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake). Now there’s a name for a monster. Every day is a school day, they say. Alas, just like at school there’s no way I’m remembering that.

I do remember the free kick.

Parkouring in Gaza

While watching the, now five years old (Happy Birthday da da da), Africanews channel on YouTube (FYi, as I know Charioteers like a stat, I was one of 47 watching; a select band you could say) a segment came up showing a collection of youths parkouring in the rubble of Gaza city. Well played those Gazans, their attitude to the current crisis was , hey you know what, life goes on and let’s make the most of this opportunity.

ANZAC Day. What would that generation think of this?

My maternal grandfather fought and was wounded at Gallipoli. It was not his first armed conflict. 15 years earlier, he had joined a Highland unit that had been raised by his brother to fight in the South African War.

Grandfather had several sons, two of whom fought in WW2 and were awarded the MC. He also had some nephews who distinguished themselves. One became a notable commando who was involved in numerous military excursions, including the disastrous Dieppe Raid, the D-Day landings, at which he was piped ashore, and the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Churchill said of him, ‘the handsomest man who ever cut a throat’. Another nephew, also my mother’s cousin, founded the SAS. My own father was in the SOE and was parachuted into Albania, so that side of the family did not do too badly and that is without mentioning the fact that his grandfather fought in the Peninsular War and was wounded at Quatre Bras, shortly before Waterloo. There were other brave men from countless other families, from around the world, especially so from Australia, New Zealand and other colonies. There was a better generation of women in those days as well; one whose members sacrificed their own wellbeing for the good of the nation.

All this is not to say that I am an advocate of war. I am not. What I am saying is that the men of past generations appear to have considerably more courage and moral rectitude than the current lot who seem to be terrified of a disease that poses minimal threat. Those men took huge risks and were prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect their freedoms and the freedoms of their kinfolk. This generation is prepared to sacrifice its freedoms to protect their lives from a disease that has almost no chance of killing them.

I think the real ANZACs along with my ancestors, would be truly horrified by the craven behaviour of their descendants and those who now lead them. For this generation to celebrate their heroics, is an insult to their memory.

As for that wretched New Zealand woman….

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the…

I take malicious joy in watching people here squirm. I know, of course, that it’s not very kind of me. After years of toxic bile directed towards Blighty, the lot have had to face the reality of their own ineptitude. No, Germans trains do not run on time and save for a very select few lines, they’re not particularly clean or brilliant, either. The famed ICE is really no better than the Bristol to London-Paddington GWR line. The country is hardly efficient. If anything, the albatross that is the state weighs heavily on the necks of the country’s peasants.

After so many years of hearing about how Adolfina Honecker, er, Angela Merkel I mean, is a leader superior to Boris, Toxic Tess (not difficult to be) or David Cameron (again, not exactly a challenge) it’s all come undone. Germany has managed to bungle everything terribly. Take, for example, the vaccination drive. Elderly people were expected to complete a ten-step online appointment registration process with a two-step online ID-verification procedure. The procedure would give me a fit of the vapours and I grew up using this technology. I bloody well can’t imagine my 89-year-old nan who has never used a computer in her life or the 77-year-old neighbour who thinks it’s all bollocks to cope with it. (This isn’t a swipe at the venerable, rather a swipe at the fact that Germany is yonks behind the UK, Australia, Sweden and USA in respect to digitalisation)

The glorious German government is now at the verge of collapse with both major parties heading to historic defeats. The CDU and CSU are caught up in scandal after scandal, reaching as high as the health minister himself. (His husband was profiting from government procurement contracts given the company he works for.) Between general incompetence and corruption, the sense that the CDU/CSU just need to leave and that SPD have betrayed everything they should stand for, Germany’s heading to a frightful coalition.

Then, when things were already going badly, they waged war against the Oxford jab for political reasons. This isn’t my opinion, this is the view of the Italian health authority! As Britain passed the milestone of 50% vaccinated, the German government has finally started to grasp that it might need to simplify its vaccination process. Not that it much matters to me. I’ve given notice of intent to vacate to the landlady, made sure that my papers in the UK are in order and have my aeroplane tickets booked. Oh, and I have made arrangements to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot jab whilst in California. I might as well get something out of my tax dollars.

The World is too much with us . . .

Wordsworth

I am aghast at the global shenanigans caused by one mediocre Mercan actress and her juvenile, brain dead poodle of a husband. The sooner Liz and Phil remove their titles and banish them fully from The Firm, the better. They have turned the UK’s Constitutional Monarchy into a third-rate soap opera and anyone who says so is culture cancelled by the woke brigade – poor old Piers Morgan, for example.

And another thing –

Cressida Dick, who until now I regarded as the best Metropolitan Commissioner of Police since Sir Robert Peel, has screwed up right royally by allowing her officers to act as though they were aspiring to be American thugs (so-called Police) by beating up and arresting many defenceless women on Clapham Common (a place I know well, but that’s quite another story) who were there in memory of a local girl who was recently murdered by a Metropolitan Police thug who had been serving in the Diplomatic Protection squad – that means armed – until his mates finally threw him in the clink.

They should have been supporting the lasses rather than wrestling them to the ground and handcuffing them.

O tempora, o mores!