China's former president, Jiang Zemin, has written a travel diary amid much fanfare in the state-owned press...which seemingly includes the SCMP, given they have both a front pager with the stunning revelation that Beijing didn't want God Save the Queen playing just before midnight at the handover and another large article a few pages later lauding the tale of a Chinese President strutting the world stage. Mind you this is the same paper that every few months sends a report to Wanchai to report on the seedy underbelly of life in Hongkie Town. This time the intrepid Barclay Crawford braves Fenwicks and finds hookers selling coke. It's a difficult job:
Wan Chai does not sleep, and even at 1am on a Wednesday the first thing that strikes you in Fenwick the Dock is the swirl of humanity on the dance floor. The largely besuited crowd of drunk, desperate and dateless have long forgotten their wives or girlfriends at home as they gulp their drinks and cavort with women for sale from across Asia and, more recently, South America.
A girl dripping in makeup grabs your bottom, laughs and shows off her surgically enhanced cleavage beneath a tiny top. She is from Venezuela, her friends are from Colombia. She prefers Japan but there is money to be made in Hong Kong.
This may be Hong Kong, but you could be in Latin America judging from the row of tables filled with girls chatting in Spanish at this large disco at the bottom of the East Town Building in Lockhart Road. The girl in green tells you she only knows how to speak English un poquito - a little - but she certainly knows how to order her drink from the scowling bar tender - "tequila rock'n'roll".
You collect the $110 bill, of which she pockets about half, smiles, and asks whether you would like cocaine. "We have the best. Colombian," she says, eyes rolling back in her head, imitating the effect. She asks for $1,500 but you say you've only got $1,000 - the same price she whispered previously in your ear if you want to take her home.
A number is dialled, you make out "coca, coca" and the deal is done, the delivery is on the way. Britney Spears covering I love Rock'n'Roll blasts from the DJ's booth in what could be a cue to the girls, and she asks you for another drink - along with $1,000 for the cocaine.
But don't worry....
The reporter did not buy drugs for this story.
I'd still love to see his expense report for this story. And Fenwick's doesn't even have to pay for this kind of advertising...or was this done on a comp basis?
All of which leads to an interesting new news site set up by a few ex-Standard editors and Philip Bowring: Asia Sentinel. With competition like the SCMP, they should do well.
Tequila rock 'n roll costs $140 at Fenwick, not $110 - unless the writer received a discount out of professional courtesy* or in exchange for the positive review. (The girl gets $80 commission on the $140 drink.) Just goes to show you can't believe anything you read in the scmp.
(* as in "why won't a shark eat a lawyer?" "professional courtesy")
Mark Clifford has sent many reporters off to cover hookers but he doesn't like those stories one bit. And didn't Peter Kammerer stumble into Fenwick's with a similar story not long ago? And the Standard did Laguna because it was owned (shamefully) by an ESF principal. They also did a general piece on Wanchai hookers from the Phils etc. Pus a thing on Macau hookers. Sex sells.
Mark Clifford sent no reporters to cover any hookers. His subordinate editors did (over his objections, in at least two cases).
Mark Clifford seems to regard sex in general as shameful and tawdry - at best a messy necessary evil in order to procreate - whether it's paid for or free.
The school principal had/has a partial interest in Laguna. He didn't/doesn't own it.
The real story in Wanchai is the 7-Eleven House O' 24/7 Debauchery at which a certain underage offspring of a certain editor of a local English language paper has been seen bleary eyed, tongue tied and painless more than once in early a.m. hours.
Two months ago Donald Tsang told us air pollution isn't that bad in Hong Kong. This week he's seen the smog and launched the Action Blue Sky Campaign, ironically on one of the most polluted days of the year. But the Don needs to stop this campaign immediately before he adversely affects our health. The unlinkable SCMP reports:
Despite the city's lifestyle and often choking pollution, its men live longer than those anywhere else on the planet and women's life expectancy is second only to those in Japan, a Japanese government survey has found. The average lifespan of a Hong Kong man is 79, ahead of Iceland and Switzerland with 78.9 and 78.6. Japanese men live for an average of 78.53 years.
Hong Kong women were second at 84.7 years, just behind the Japanese. Help your fellow citizens: turn your air conditioning up and let's celebrate with some dim sum.
Hong Kong has three tunnels that join the island with Kowloon. The best located one is also the cheapest and thus extremely congested at all times of day and night. Meanwhile the two alternative tunnels cost more and are used far less. So in a startlingly example of stating the obvious, the SCMP blows the lid on an earth-shattering report the government has sat on:
An unpublished report by prominent academics claims that by manipulating Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls during peak hour, congestion could be eased so much that harbour reclamation or a fourth tunnel would be unnecessary...An unpublished report by prominent academics claims that by manipulating Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls during peak hour, congestion could be eased so much that harbour reclamation or a fourth tunnel would be unnecessary.
The estimate for a 4th tunnel is about HK$6.6 billion, give or take a cost blow out or two. What are the objections to this seemingly simple plan? It would be confusing, it would require consensus, it would pass costs on to public transport passengers, it's not feasible, people might slow down or speed up just prior to changing toll times...not one of these is a real objection. What's lacking is the political will to implement such a solution, even though our friends in Singapore managed to do so years ago.
It's not just economics, it's common sense. It won't happen.
Whenever I take the through train to HungHom and I need to get to the Island...I grab a taxi and tell him where I need to go and then tell him, 'the western tunnel is OK.' It costs a few bucks more, but you get there in a decent amount of time.
1. Doesn't say but it's implied that it's not a recent report.
2. Tunnel is a bottleneck and the alternatives are about 10 to 15 minutes drive away, but are also away from the centre of town so they are more geographically peripheral.
He seems frustrated with his lack of legitimacy and mandate to get anything done. Perhaps instead combining Hong Kong's tradition of civil liberties with the ballot box is the better solution, Sir Donald?
The pap of Tsang's and that idjit expat Hong Konger's ignorance (or acceptance and admiration for) the Hitler-with-a-heart clampdown in Singapore is astounding. As is the reporter's unquestioning stenography in just copying down what was said with no background for readers who might accept it at face value.
Reading an Economist article over the Falkland Islands brought to mind another ex-British colony, albeit with different circumstances:
Britain insists that, regardless of how many countries Argentina can line up in support, it will never discuss the sovereignty question with the government in Buenos Aires unless the islands' 3,000 inhabitants, who consider themselves British, request it. Tough talk from Mr Kirchner will only alienate them further. “We believe it would be morally unacceptable”, says a British embassy spokesman, “to force them to change their government.”
Anyone recall Hong Kongers being asked, especially those on the island and south of Boundary St?
I managed to confuse a (Chinese) colleague of mine a couple of weeks ago. We were chatting, and the subject of Gibraltar came up - as it often does in casual conversation.
Twice now, the government of Gibraltar - the locally-elected council, the approximate equivalent of ExCo and LegCo - in order to derail talks between the governments of Spain and the UK over Gibraltar sovereignty, has called a referendum. On exactly the same basis as the Falklands thing, current international law essentially says that the views of the local population should take precedence over the desires of the colonial government.
Although Gibraltar is still very much a colony, the locals are very happy that way, and the local government has enough of a backbone that they've gone up against the British and Spanish governments twice, and won conclusively both times. The first time was in 1967, in the days of the Franco government, and understandably the vote was massively, overwhelmingly in favour of the status quo - only 44 people voted in favour of Spanish sovereignty, out of a total of over 12,000 votes. The second time was in 2002, and things were slightly less overwhelming - that time, 187 people voted against the status quo, out of over 18,000 votes.
I don't know if the numbers would have been as overwhelming here - I think they might have been in 1967 - but if the Hong Kong government had the will and the backbone to go up against the British and Chinese governments and called a referendum in 1984, I think it's fair to say there would have been a clear majority in favour of the status quo. Different part of the world, different players, and, to some extent, a different time.
Would you go as far as support Native American resolutions to ignore their "limited sovereignty" status prescribed by their colonial holder?
And dissolve them into the united States and the federal government, which also hold sovereignty of the same lands? While I support the concept of race-neutral government, and would thus encourage the dissolution of the tribes, I doubt many tribal councils have agreed...
There's plenty of fuss over the new FIFA football rankings...thankfully the Big Lychee has only slipped one spot, down to equal 117th with Kenya and New Zealand, and just pipping the Palestine team. Unfortunately Singapore is a few places ahead of us at 111th and the glorious motherland is a heady 89th. Macau is 183rd, ahead of several other tinpot little countries such as Luxembourg, Aruba, Guam and the Philippines.
You might enjoy this, Simon. I was watching the Singaporean Channel NewsAsia last night (please don't ask me why!) for a few minutes, when I noticed a bit of text running along the bottom of the screen. In just the right tenor to spark outrage amongst heartlanders, the wording about Australia's FIFA ranking said: "Australia becomes number 1 ranked team in Asia, but complains that it should be higher." Both clauses of course, are meant to offend Singaporean sensibilities - one that Australia should be an Asian team (and introducing, shock horror, another very decent side into the pathetic agglomeration of teams that comprise Asian Football), and then the 'ridiculous' notion that they should feel offended that they are not ranked higher than number 1!
Australia is of course ranked 33 in the world, despite the fact that a team they clearly dominated (except for a bad ref and a dodgy 'keeper), Croatia, is 9 rankings higher, and Italy, a team they had under the cosh (until another dodgy penalty decision), is now ranked second...
While it's easy to get carried away with the lamentable state of media in Hong Kong, we must always remember one thing: at least we're not in Singapore. Mr Brown is a popular Singaporean blogger and newspaper columnist. He's been writing for over 10 years. A week ago he wrote a seemingly linnocuous column titled Singaporeans are fed, up with progress! A humourless government press secretary then writes to the paper where the article appears accusing Mr Brown of sarcasm and distorting the truth (which is the point of sarcasm, but never mind) and of "exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government's standing". So what does the newspaper do? It fires Mr Brown. Today is owned by Singapore Press Holdings, which is partly owned by Temasek, the Government holding company. From Wikipedia on SPH:
Shares in SPH are regulated by the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act of 1974, which requires all newspapers to be publicly listed into both ordinary and management shares, with management shares having 200 times the voting rights of ordinary shares and approval from the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts needed for any management share transfers. Past chairpersons of Singapore Press Holdings have all been civil servants, with notably strong links to Singapore's secret police, the Internal Security Department. SPH's current executive president Tjong Yik Min served as the head of the ISD from 1986 to 1993.
Needless to say, the humourless public servant mentioned above is the Minister of Information, Communication and The Arts' press secretary.
In 2004, Streats was merged into Today as a result of SPH and MediaCorp merging their television and free newspaper operations. As part of the deal, Today continues to be published by MediaCorp independent of SPH, but it incorporates the Streats name on its masthead.
The SPH press release says:
MediaCorp will retain a 60 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press Pte Ltd, which will continue to publish TODAY. It will sell the remaining 40 per cent share to SPH at a consideration of S$19.16 million.
Upon legal completion, SPH will merge its free newspaper, STREATS, with TODAY. TODAY will then incorporate the STREATS name in its masthead and it will continue to be managed by MediaCorp. It will operate independently of the stable of newspapers under SPH.SPH owns 40% of TODAY even if MediaCoprp operates "independently" of SPH papers.
It doesn't really matter who owns what because it is all controlled by Temasek Holdings, which is the main investment company of the Singaporean government. Temasek is run by Ho Ching, who just happens to be the wife of Lee Hsien Loong, the current PM of Singapore.
Today's SCMP reprints an op-ed piece by ex-French PM Michel Rocard on the Mittal takeover of Arcelor. Let's take a look:
The story takes place in France, Belgium and Luxemburg. But it is really a pan-European story, and in economic terms, it encompasses the entire globe. Mittal, the biggest steelmaker in the world, has gained control of Arcelor, the second-biggest, through what initially was a hostile takeover bid.
This is no mere corporate takeover; it is a conflict between business and social models. Arcelor, originally French and Luxembourgian but now predominantly Belgian, has a strong base in Brazil and operates throughout much of the world. It specialises in high-quality, special steel products designed for the most complicated uses. These products are purchased on middle- and long-term contracts, mainly by long-time customers. It depends very little on the highly speculative world market for raw steel, and its workforce is highly qualified and stable.
Mittal, by contrast, is a conglomerate that has come out of nowhere to become the world's leading steel company in a mere two decades. It did so by brilliantly consolidating and rationalising steel plants throughout the world. Its president is Indian, but it has no factory in India.
Like all good stories, we've got a setting and we've introduced both the goodie and the baddie. That mean upstart Mittal, which is lead by an Indian but isn't really Indian (what that has to do with anything is hard to fathom), is grabbing at that grand dame Arcelor, a company that was created through (gasp) a merger only 5 years ago.
Mittal is a strong but fragile company, for it is highly subject to the speculative waves of the global market for raw steel. It tightens costs and outsources work as much as possible, so its workforce is paid less than Arcelor's employees, and is less stable. Moreover, Arcelor represented a perfect takeover target: most of its capital belongs to diverse shareholders. The opposite is true of Mittal, where owner Lakshmi Mittal and his family hold over 60 per cent of the shares.
Can something be "strong but fragile"? Mittal got where it is by making more for less. This is a "bad thing". And poor, defenceless Arcelor was at the mercy of the predatory Mittal because it has lots of money-grubbing capitalists as shareholders. The horror.
The stakes are clear. Mittal has an obvious interest in gaining control of Arcelor to improve its global geographic balance, boost its market share in high-end steel products, and reduce its vulnerability to the speculative jolts that occur in the raw steel market.
Conversely, Arcelor has absolutely no interest in the success of this takeover. If it is led into a more adventurous strategy, its sustained policy of research and heavy investment in upmarket steel products may be weakened. Its workforce faces erosion of its advantages in wages and job security. This explains why the management, most of the workers and the unions of Arcelor refused Mittal's offer.
Actually, Arcelor's management accepted the offer. Why would Mittal's control lead to a decline in research and investment? Steel jobs and wages were under pressure already - the takeover will probably help protect many workers by bringing them into a more diversified, stronger company. Arcelor has every interest in the success of this takeover, just as Mittal does.
But Arcelor's shareholders have made their choice: the immediate profit offered by Mittal was enough. So the shareholders chose to cash in on a temporary bonus, taking a risk on the progressive erosion of the firm, and perhaps the end of its policy of focusing on high quality while treating its workers with respect.
This choice directly concerns more than 150,000 employees. Indirectly, it concerns all of us, for the choice made by Arcelor's shareholders is far from being an exception; on the contrary, it reveals the deep economic and social significance of corporate takeovers of this type.
The Arcelor shareholders made their choice in a legal, legitimate takeover, where Mittal offered them enough money to make them sell their shares. It's not a "temporary bonus" - it is a transaction just like the share trades that happen on every exchange in the world everyday, including in Paris. It is the fundamental right in a market economy that the owner of something has complete control over it. In the same way, each citizen has a right to vote for whomever they choose, temporary bonus or not. I'm not sure how Mr. Rocard has had access to the thoughts of every shareholder when they made their decision, but he was a Prime Minister, so maybe they have ways?
Where are our societies heading if company owners consider that quality is too expensive and that workers must be made insecure in order to make them less demanding? A system governed by such rules is prone to give rise to various social conflicts, and perhaps to violence. Above all, such a system is neither viable nor sustainable in the long run.
For this reason, it is dangerous to maintain the outdated legal concept according to which a company belongs only to its owners or shareholders. Indeed, in reality, the company is a community of men and women who draw their incomes from the same economic and technical venture. It would be prudent to adapt the law to this state of facts, and to give employees, too, a say in their destiny.
In the wake of this takeover, governments must address this gap in the law, as no society can afford to permit the economic system to continue its march towards indifference to the welfare and security of workers.
My emphasis. This "gap in the law" has been the foundation of modern capitalism, the world's most successful economic system. The idea that a company belongs to a shareholder is not just some legal nicety, it's the fundamental building block of the system. If everyone looks after their own self-interest, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" guides us to a place where we're all better off. There is another system where "stakeholders" are all considered owners of the factors of production - Karl Marx wrote about it. It doesn't have a good track record.
Above setting certain basic rights the less a government or economic system is involved in workers' welfare, the better. Ironically France is excellent proof of that.
I was quite amused by an article in the People's Daily today that expressed how China was 'soured and saddened' by Western press reports condemning the railway, not least from the Guardian newspaper in the UK. The funny thing is, they dredged up a report on railways in India, apparently from the Guardian a year ago, that had this to say:
"in India, nothing can link up the whole country but rail routes... From a broader sense, railways gives India a sense of unity."
Of course that is true also in a tragic sense this week. Now I've done a quick search of the Guardian website to find the article they reference, and I couldn't find it, so it's possible that this was not said, but I think it is entirely plausible given that I've read similar things expressed about railways in many other places.
The point is, I have to agree on this point with China. Why begrudge China's right to put a railway line in its own country? I think we must all be realistic and accept that Tibet, after over fifty years, is not going to be allowed its own independence by China. That being the case, why criticize a move that might help move at least a trickle of the economic prosperity enjoyed further east to Tibet? Some say that rampant tourism will wipe out what remains of Tibet's indigenous culture. But is that so that wealthy Western tourists can still fly up to Lhasa and, travelling a bit further, find some sort of Shangri-La untouched by time? Because there is no point trying to keep Tibet in stasis until some revolution somehow gives it back its independence.
If you travel to Germany, you don't expect, except on special occasions, Germans you meet to be wearing lederhosen. Does it make sense that we feel it's OK to want to expect indigenous costumes and historic poverty when we go to Tibet? Is it right for us not to want a railroad to a country, so that it remains too poor to afford anything except ethnic homespun?
'Free Tibet' is a pipe dream. The sooner people get over that and hope that people in Tibet can afford more opportunities, improved healthcare, safer roads, and more education, the better.
I think it is just part of ever-present cynical attitude towards everything China. It seems like China can never be right in achieve some sort of net positive for its people unless CCP today just politically slit their wrist and "embrace democracy(???)".
The see the same sort of hilariously cynical attitude in alot of the commentators that when they open their mouth and spew out waves of tired rhetoric, it is hard to not laugh or take them seriously.
The fundamental mindset is that, after the collapse of communism, "Democracy" has evolved from the "best way" to the "only way". Its application is all purpose and universal. Any solution to the contrary is heresy.
IMO, some people needs to stop treating "Democracy" like a religion and return to the examination of the human condition.
So I did a quick google news on Tibet and I found the some headline talking about the railroad and immediately i see some extremely hyperbolic headline such as "Railroad from hell" and "Blow to Tibet's independence".
Can't help but be amused and cynical at the same time.
But I guess the potential is there for cultural genocide such as the American Indians.
Look, I do think what has happened to Tibet was unfortunate, and certainly it is debatable whether it was an independent state historically like Korea and/or Vietnam, or a dominion of China.
But as much sympathy as I have for displaced Tibetans that chafe at the idea of Chinese rule, those debates now are in the past. Given the rise of China and the global geopolitical tectonic shifts that entails, China's absorption of Tibet is a fait accompli.
Once one comes to terms with it, you realize that any efforts to spur economic development of that dirt poor area is a good thing. And to decry globalization there as 'Sinification' is like 19th century Victorians objectifying the 'noble savage'. Yes, there is troubling evidence of forced ethnic heterogeneity by the thousands of Chinese settlers China has encouraged to move there. But the railway has no racial bias - it can only help people there rise up from the poverty that has blighted the region from before even the Chinese takeover.
While I agree with your assertion that Tibetan independence will never happen, I disagree with all this talk about moving economic prosperity to Tibet.
People who believe this are usually the ones that haven't traveled extensively to minority regions in China and/or have no idea what REALLY is going on. Just visit minority group-themed destinations in China such as Lijiang or Dali in Yunnan where the minority groups have been pushed out and Han Chinese settlers have moved in to cash in on their 'minority culture'. Fake cultural shows, tacky shops that sell minority trinkets are all features of them.
Take a look at last weekend's Standard article about a small town on Lugu Lake straddling Yunnan and Sichuan to see what economic development has done to minority people:
"....hope that people in Tibet can afford more opportunities, improved healthcare, safer roads, and more education, the better."
If Tibet was being unified with Canada or Australia then I would agree with you. I'm not sure how often you travel in China, but the health care for the vast majority of Chinese are terrible (visit a MASH-like Chinese hospital if you dont' believe me), safer roads don't exist and education in the rest of the country is in crisis mode.
Nobody asks what the ordinary Tibetans want (other than independence that is), the Han tell them what they need. If they do want economic progress why haven't any of them spoken up about it?
My advice is to go to Tibet, talk to a few Tibetans and see what they think about this tourism/unity with China circus. You'll quickly learn that many of them realise that independence is out of the question but they just want to be left to their own devices. Kind of like many Taiwanese people...but that's another story for another day:)
The railway is an impressive feat of engineering. Like most impressive -- and ergo expensive -- feats, there is plenty of room to debate the rationality of the thing. But now that it's there the Tibetans will get some benefit. Personally I hope to take the thing at some point.
I'm more bothered by that freaky giant Mao Zedong statue.
Dezza, I don't care for tacky Chinese tourism any more than the next guy, and yes, I've seen it - all over the country. They belittle all the 'quaint' cultures of all the 'minorities' of China. It made my experience in Kashgar one of the most disappointing stops of my life (everything afterwards on the Pakistan side was way cooler).
But even with the huge influx of Han Chinese, I still thought that overall, Kashgar had overall become a wealthier city - as has Lijiang, Dali, and lots of other places where the tourism dollars had made its way. And while the chief tourism enterprises, many of them national, were run by Han Chinese, I definitely saw a decent share of my tourism dollars going to local minorities, and to their employment.
Sun Bin: I've traveled extensively in Tibetan areas of Northern Yunnan and Western Sichuan. Although I've never traveled to Tibet itself, Tibetans in the areas I did visit go back and forth between Tibet and their homes in the above mentioned places.
I've talked extensively with regular Tibetan folks, even been invited into a few homes for chats, check out my website for photo evidence. I think it's pretty safe to say they cast a weary eye on all this development talk and feel left out and pushed out. I also speak with Han Chinese residing in these areas who think Tibetans are dirty, lazy and stupid because most of them just want to live on the land and herd yaks. There is definitely a lot of animosity between the minority groups and Han Chinese.
Fellow travelers and Tibetans themselves have even remarked that the Tibetan areas outside of Tibet are more authentically Tibetan than Tibet is now. I guess I'll have to see that for myself when I visit Tibet next year. I hope it hasn't turned out into another Lijiang by then..
HK Dave: if you can stomach what Lijiang and Dali have become then you're a bigger tourist 'man' than me:)
Bobby Fletcher: it's been awhile since I've been to Hawaii, I'll have to check out that cultural centre some time. What state are those cement teepees in?
I've seen cement teepees not on reservations, but outside or near them in southerwestern Colorado and in New Mexico.
I also believe I recall one outside of Tuba City, Arizona circa 1975 during a travesity of a road trip - but that might've been the drugs)))))
Tacky and absurd as they are -- they're used as adverts or picnic shelters, not housing -- they compare somewhat favorably to some of the horrendous housing on the actual reservations.
When some people talk about "evil train" it's obvious that the point is not the "train" but the "evil". In other words, the problem is not whether China has or not the right to put a railway line in its territory (of course it has), but the evil China did in and against Tibet in the last 50 years. If you miss this point, your post makes no sense.
Actually I've always wanted to ask this question but never got a chance to. Every god damn backpacker seems to have some innate knowledge on the "pulse" of Tibetans and seems to have gained some sort of socio-political wisdom. I know that 99% of the schmucks backtracking in Tibet can barely speak a lick of Chinese, let alone Tibetan. Also 99% of Tibetans and Chinese likewise don't speak any English. How are people like Dezza communicating complicated social and political concepts with "regular" natives when the grasp of the language is at best tentative or generally non-existant? Grunting can only take you so far.
It is really nothing "EVIL" about building a train to Tibet. If you want to talk about the policies there's a time and place for it.
The hypocrisy is so deep sometimes that people fails to see things for what they are. It is simply another part of the infrastrucuture development that's going on all over China. Not some neferious scheme to "wipe out the Tibetan culture".
Even if Tibet is an independent country, the train would STILL be just another part of globalization that's inevitable. People can't honestly be suggestion that instead of a train they should build a wall?
Look, Chinese travelers travel the way they want to. We can criticize them when they travel abroad, but when they travel in their own country we can't really tell them how to do it. As much as I hate whistle-stop bus tourism sandwiching in crappy food, stupid rip off 'handicraft factories' that pay commissions to the tour guides and ritualistic, soporific, pathetic 'cultural performances', if a billion people like travelling that way there's not much you or I can do about it.
And anyone that thinks that despite what Chinese domestic tourism is doing to historic or cultural environments, that it is not also bringing in money to the local economy, is totally deluding themselves.
Tibet is a part of China now. Get over any Quixotic quest to hope something will change the status quo and roll back five decades. That being the case, China not only has a right, but a responsibility to bring economic development to the region.
And on my favorite subject - I fervently hope for total culinary colonization of Tibet by China. Stop tsampa!
It would seem that the Chinese are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The predictable response came even before the plans for the railway had been laid. But if the Chinese didn't build a railroad, it's possible that some would have accused the Chinese of trying intentionally to box the Tibetans in.
I also think that tourism would be a good thing. Remember, the Vatican gets millions of visitors a year, and they are still very much in business.
Hong Kong is a city where the average punter is at best ignored when it comes to politics or money. For example: say you owned a telephone company. You bought into it when there was much hype over the future of the telecommunications and then proceeded to watch the guy running it destroy massive amounts of value thanks to a takeover of an old world telecom utility by a new-fangled internet/property venture (and no, I'm not talking about AOL/Time Warner). After watching the share price sink, finally there's a glimmer of hope when a couple of private equity types say they're prepared to pay a hefty amount for the company's assets. But these private equity types may pose a threat to national security by running the phone company, so Beijing makes its displeasure known. This is despite the share price sinking because the market (and world) has decided that old world telecom companies are being rapidly superceded by broadband internet, mobile phones etc.
Thankfully a local financier is ready to come to the rescue of the major shareholder in the company, buying him out and effectively gaining control of the company without having to launch a full takeover bid. The major shareholder, despite being the son of the richest man in the land, is so grateful to be out of the mess and feels so guilty he is even prepared to pay a special dividend to the minority shareholders who are again going to be stuck.
Here's the maths of the PCCW deal. Richard Li is going to pay a special dividend of around 35 cents a share to the minorities. The share price was about $4.80 before all of this fuss. Francis Leung is paying $6 for Richard Li's shares. The other bids were around the $5.60 mark. But $4.80 plus 35c gives you $5.15. The minority shareholders are at least 45c a share worse off under this deal. Francis Leung, on the other hand, gets control of PCCW without having to pay a takeover premium, without having to make an offer to all shareholders and knowing that at least two other parties value to the firm at $60 billion, as opposed to the $40 billion or so his purchase implies.
Somewhat unbelievably, Richard Li has effectively gifted about $20 billion to Francis Leung. And there's this mea culpa:
Li, PCCW's chairman since 2000, said he will step down from the post after Leung finishes paying his initial 30 percent, or HK$2.748 billion. "I think [Leung] will make a much better new chairman of PCCW because of his experience in finance," Li told reporters. "I don't think I have been doing a particularly good job."
PCCW shares went as high as $140 in the internet share bubble, and were $80 6 years ago, $15 5 years ago. No, Li hasn't done a very good job at all...except for getting himself out of his self-created mess. How frustrating to know someone is prepared to pay 50% more for your shares but are blocked because of false protectionist reasons - Li must be truly desperate to cash out of PCCW. It's not exactly a vote of confidence in the company's future from its current chairman and erstwhile major shareholder. And for all those who jumped up and down when CNOOC was blocked from buying an American oil company, welcome to the same thing in reverse.
What a fine day to be Francis Leung and a terrible day for PCCW minority shareholders. I wonder if David Webb will weigh in?
Update July 12th
Today's SCMP reports that somewhat bizarrely, the source of financing for Leung's purchase of Richard Li's shares is....Richard Li. The bankers are apparently not interested in financing the purchase, and given how high profile this deal is you can bet the banks would have all cast a close eye over the deal. But Francis Leung is not a silly man and obviously has an ace or two up his sleeve.
When I read something so well written and well reasoned as this, I find myself thinking there would be some way to get this in front of more people. The only idea that comes to mind is a letter to the editor of the humorously inadequate SCMP. Maybe translated and sent to Apple Daily instead?
I never bought PCCW stock because I always knew that Richard Li was a fraud propped up by his loathsome father but a lot of other people seem to worship the ground that Li Ka-Shing shits on and have allowed themselves to be bilked once again.
Beijing/China Netcom (virtually the same entity for the purposes of this deal) are just buying time so they can get their heads around the private equity proposals, while Richard Li is busting to get out. Beijing and CN would probably prefer Li out so they can deal with Leung's cooler head.
I suspect this is why the payment to Li is staggered over 18 months - that provides enough time for PCCW to select one of the private equity deals to proceed with, then returning the proceeds to its shareholders (including Leung's syndicate) so that Leung can pay out Li in full and walk away with upside.
Only risk is that the private equity offers get withdrawn, which leaves Leung stuck with a stake in PCCW that he probably didn't want to hold long term. He may be happy with this, but I suspect that he was prompted by Beijing to step into this role in the first place and that a long-term holding is not his intention.
Spike - appreciate the sentiment but I ain't sending it to the papers. No point giving them good material for free.
TFF: I suspect you are right, and indeed that Leung has been given a hint that his downside is limited (not to mention his financing is likely to be at least partially sourced from the mainland). But he'd much rather be buying the stock here and now than 5 years ago at three times the price. There's plenty of potential upside in PCCW, which is why both Macquarie and Newbridge are bidding for its phone assets - they clearly see more upside from $60bn, and Leung is getting in for the equivalent of $40bn. In terms of value investing, paying 50% less for something is a great buffer.
The one thorny problem is the political one...but who would be surprised when Netcom turns around and bids for the whole thing down the track?
I suspect China Netcom would not do a buy out as it lacks the expertise to run PCCW properly and doesn\'t want to have the responsibility of a 100% holder of PCCW.
On the other hand, the foreign options would look very attractive to China Netcom, I think. Assuming China Netcom retains a strategic stake in the purchasing syndicate (whether it\'s Macquarie or Newbridge) - and this will be pretty much a prerequisite for Beijing to allow either of them to get their hands on these assets - this also presents an opportunity for China Netcom to get a look into how assets can be run efficiently. Call it one more chapter in the great intellectual property and know how transfer from the West to China.
Li's personal one page announcement in SCMP refers correctly once only to PCRD as the PCCW shareholder and for the rest of the time as "my stake", which it is not. PCRD has minority shareholders. The only way Li can personally pay out PCCW minority shareholders is if PCRD pays a dividend to Li himself and other PCRD shareholders. Singapore law criminalises abuse of minorities.
There is no withholding tax on dividends in Singapore. Singapore adopts an imputation system for tax purposes. That is, to the extent a dividend is paid from profits previously taxed at the corporate level, no further tax liability will arise. In this regard, every Singapore resident company is required to maintain a "Section 44 account" which is credited with the taxes paid by the company at the prevailing corporate tax rate. This Section 44 account balance is reduced whenever non-tax exempt dividends are paid. However, if a dividend in excess of the amount "supported" by the balance on this Section 44 account is paid, then a tax charge at the prevailing corporate tax rate will become payable on the re-grossed amount of the dividend. This charge will be treated as a prepayment of corporate income tax and can be used to offset any future income tax liability. Non-resident companies are not required to maintain any Section 44 account.
Have any of you seen this ridiculous ad being shown on English-language TV: "Stop illegal cultivation" because illegal cultivation erodes hillside slopes.
While this is a perfectly valid message, the fact that government funds were being spent on English language television ads is ridiculous. I can't imagine the 2% of English speakers are major culprits in the illegal cultivation racket.
Are we talking about Lamma Island hippies growing their weed on hiking trails?
Some strict rules and laws must be passed against the ones destroying the god's most beautiful creation, Nature. Not only theft and decoits, but illegal cultivation is also an offence, and a severe punishment for the violators is must.
But if you're to criticise the government for effectively carrying through the bi-lingual requirements to serve a 2% minority on financial grounds, then the truly logical step would be to stop forcing over-the-air for-profit TV broadcasters to do English-language broadcasting altogether.
It just seems rather unnecessary to remind Hong Kong's english-speakers about the evils of illegal cultivation and how it can cause landslides in wet weather. Surely some sort of litmus test can be applied (if not a common-sense one); if there have been no instances of English speakers infringing on one of these vices that the government wants to educate the public about (e.g. illegal hawking, wearing protective ear-guards when using jackhammers), just don't bother with the english version.
I think the matter of having English language TV is a different matter altogether. It serves an educational purpose for the other 98%, especially during the day when it broadcasts programming clearly meant for ESL students. Also, most prime-time programming is in NICAM and is therefore available on Pearl and World in Cantonese anyway...a small price to pay for ATV and TVB for their duopoly.
My favorite English language HK TV public service ad is the one that warns us not to set the hillsides ablaze when we're honoring our ancestors.
This idiocy isn't just confined to Hong Kong or English, however. While on the Shenzhen MTR this weekend, my girlfriend noted two nw Chinese language anti-corruption posters aimed at government officials.
As she put it: "Who are those for? No Shenzhen government official would be caught dead riding the MTR."
I recall seeing a poster in English on the KCR once telling me not to spit or throw up on the train. A Cantonese colleague suggested that they should have just written it in simplified Chinese and left it at that.
Then there are also the moldering English language posters at the Lok Mah Chau border warning people like me not to smuggle dead chickens into Hong Kong.
The photo alone is priceless. A smiling, chubby customs dork triumphantly holding up a plucked purple-black chicken carcass by the neck which he's seized unwrapped from suddenly shamed Elder Auntie's otherwise packed-with-clothes suitcase.
My Cantonese in-laws and their relatives love trying to take all manner of Chinese "specialities" back home to Australia through customs. They see it as a challenge with no downside. They are well practised in their "What, we can't bring foetid eggs and thousand year bean curd back into Australia? Ah, we never knew!" act. I think Australian customs has a specially trained Chinese foods beagle squad for when flights from Hong Kong arrive.
The July 1st Hong Kong democracy march again did little to advance the cause. But the release of a summary of Regina "Article 23" Ip's thesis certainly will...so does that mean one person can make more of a difference than 57,000 (or however many marched)?
This week's must-read is from Roland at ESWN: the parachutist's adventure in Hong Kong. He points out how irrelevant the number of marchers is, and how bad a job the current democrat camp leaders are doing. And the fuss over Regina Ip's paper is simply proof of his thesis. Who'd have thought Ip would be the saviour of the democracy cause in Hong Kong?
As an anti-democratic DAB/CCP shill Roland will always diss the pan-democratic leaders. Any and every chance.
Yes, it would be expected that someone (Charles Mok) who didn't participate in marches since 2003, which was highly focussed not on universal suffrage but on Article 23, might be annoyed at the broad spectrum of issue groups involved in Saturday's march.
As for the marketing impact of these marches, one need only be reminded of the value of May Day Parades in Red Square in Moscow. In marketing terms, a picture is worth a thousand words.
As for polling data, it cracks me up that within a few weeks, Roland goes from saying that polling data doesn't matter (on Tamar) to saying that polling data is all that should matter.
Inconsistent when it fits his needs to bash Hong Kong's pan-democrats. If this is what you see as the best HK's bloggers can produce, then I'm afraid you've condemned HK's bloggers to irrelevancy.
Nope. I've got the right guy. He's very clever at marketing and disin-glenn-uous misdirection, but Roland's a shill.
Who's obsessed with the numbers at the march and specifically to rubbish and minimise their impact? Roland.
Who's pushing the mainland's Liaison Office line that democracy in Hong Kong is held back by poor or wrong leadership of the democracy movement in Hong Kong instead of by the CCP monopoly of power? Roland.
Who was pushing a year ago that low numbers at the July 1st March meant that it was in danger of being taken over by FLG? Roland.
Who was pushing that the DAB was the only solution to poor economic conditions in Kowloon and poor environmental conditions in the SAR prior to the last LegCo elections? Roland.
(and how's the air pollution improved over the last two years under the leadership of the DAB as the largest party in LegCo? how 'bout the economic conditions in Sham Shui Po or Kowloon Bay under DAB leadership? the DAB and FTU did a fine job of caving on the minimum wage bill in LegCo. the DAB and FTU did a fine job of caving at the labour negotiating table with New World after the government intervened.)
Remember when Yuan Hongbing and the other officials were seeking political asylum in Australia? Remember the statements about the Chinese running a large network of data gathering agents in Australia? Who was the blogger to come out and say the CCP "spy network" didn't and couldn't exist? Roland Soong.
Which HK blogger has the biggest obsession with the FLG? Roland Soong, while naturally and disin-glenn-uously professing that he's disinterested in the FLG.
In the same way as he's disin-glenn-uously disinterested in trying to run down the numbers on the July 1st marches.
hmmm ... i have been fascinated by the comments here. it seems that if you give spammers and trolls enough room to operate, they actually would not continue indefinitely. at some point, they even recognize that there is only that much 'return on investment' on their part and they have to move on to more fertile territory.
City's biggest bank to flog its staff quarters on the Peak thanks to sky high valuations. But won't someone think of those poor bankers, left on the street? But I know someone who can help:In April, Hutchison Whampoa managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning bought a detached house at 37 Deep Water Bay Road for HK$350 million.
Not a bad idea. He 's got a good oppurtunity to proove that humanity still prevails and he is of kind and sympathetic dispostion by giving shelter to those on the street. Remember, everybody pays for the bad deeds and get the friuts for the good ones.