January 16, 2006
Teaching Koreans

An op-ed in the Korean Times by Mike Weisbart, titled Three Cheers for Hong Kong Justice:

Everyone is probably happy to see the Korean farmers return from Hong Kong. But there are some good reasons Koreans ought to enjoy seeing that city’s system come down hard on the three Korean farmers who must return in March to face trial.

They’re happy now because the homecoming means Korea’s international embarrassment won’t be extended indefinitely, and they can stop feeling so hypocritical. Can you imagine the uproar if some foreigners came here and protested violently, disrupting lives and businesses, injuring hard working, everyday Korean policemen, only to be given a get-out-of-jail-free card just because their home government begged? If the shoe was on the other foot, Koreans would be screaming bloody murder.

Sending the men back to Hong Kong for trial will be a boon for Korea’s justice system and, by extension, a boon for the people. Call it the demonstration effect.

If you didn’t follow the news, 1000 Korean farmers converged with other protestors last December to protest the WTO talks in Hong Kong. When the meetings started, the Koreans were uncharacteristically well behaved and everyone praised them for their restraint. On the last day or so, however, things got ugly and there were arrests.

Koreans howled and the government sent a delegation to negotiate. Most of the protestors were let go, except for a hard-core group of 11. For them, Korea dispatched more officials and even enlisted the support of popular actors, as if the Chinese would be swayed by the threat of having the Korean Wave shut off. At the end of last week, charges were dropped against all, but the above-mentioned three and everyone was allowed to return home.

We shouldn’t criticize the Korean government too much. It was caught between an inflamed public demanding the rescue of its fellow citizens being ill treated in a foreign land, on one side, and the understanding that it would be outraged if the situation was reversed and Hong Kong was interfering in Korean jurisdiction, on the other.

It’s just too bad it can’t step out of itself and praise Hong Kong for dealing with the matter properly because that city’s justice system is exactly the model Korea should want to emulate, where the rule of law is respected and the courts and police are given their due.

There, the police made arrests and conducted an investigation. They talked to witnesses, reviewed photos and video footage, and determined there was enough evidence for prosecutors to lay charges. In Korea, the prosecutors would have done the investigation and decided whether to indict or not. If they opted for indictment, the judge would agree with the prosecution as a matter of course (if statistics are to be believed, that happens in 99 percent of cases) and, in the end, the ``accused’’ would have been advised by council to plead guilty and beg for mercy.

It was interesting watching the Koreans avail themselves of the justice system there, knowing full well that the same rights are not extended to the accused here at home. In Hong Kong, they were allowed a lawyer, and given the latitude to mount a real defense in which their defender could cast doubt on the evidence brought by the prosecutors, all done under an assumption of innocence that forces the prosecutors to carry the burden of proof. Because of that burden, the trial was fair.

In this case, the judge ruled the prosecution didn’t had insufficient evidence and let the men go. This isn’t an example of Hong Kong punishing Koreans for political purposes, as alleged by the Korean defense attorney, who comported himself with all the grace of a child whose candy was taken away. It was a matter of due process.

And what did the police say? ``We have done our best to present evidence in a way that is most fair to the defendants.’’ And then this: ``You have to present the case in a fair manner, in accordance with the rule of law. Evidence must satisfy the standard set by the legal system.’’

When was the last time such words were uttered at the end of a dispute of any kind in Korea? Here, the losing side would vow to fight on, as did the ringleader of the Korean farmers on the way back to Seoul: ``The clash was caused by police,’’ he said. ``We are furious that Hong Kong authorities did not drop all charges. The fact that 11 were released without any charges shows that the police are pursuing this on a political basis, rather than on the evidence.’’

No, the system worked the way it is supposed to work and Koreans should look to it and hope the same becomes reality here. They should hope for a separation of power between judges and prosecutors and, yes, they should hope for the police to take a more responsible position in the system.

The president’s laudable judicial reform agenda is off the rails and it would be like hoping against hope to look forward to it getting back on track again during his term. All we can do now is hope someone notices what really happened in Hong Kong and push the next guy into affecting some change here at home.

Also read ESWN's translation of an account by a Taiwanese WTO protesters 48 hours in detention.

On a completely unrelated note, archaeologists have uncovered a coin collector's tomb. Who knew such a useless hobby had such a long history?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:55
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January 12, 2006
Free Koreans

11 of the 14 WTO protesters were released yesterday as the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Doug Crets takes a look at the background of the 3 Koreans still facing charges. In short, one is the vice president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions - he is not a farmer. Another belongs to the Korean Peasant's League, although he only began farming in 2003 and spends at least some of his time working as a video and film producer. The last is a cucumber farmer, KPL member and has a heart problem. In short, all are professional protesters - they are free on bail, due in court again March 1 and are going back to South Korea tomorrow. See ya.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:05
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January 09, 2006
Hell is Korean protesters (Updated Jan 10th)

On Saturday I wondered past the Star Ferry at TST. A crowd had gathered around a tent, boldly declaring "We might have broken the law but we're Korean farmers so you should let us off". The impoverished farmers were snugly ensconced in their tent, with protective plastic sheeting, mobile phones, card games, heaters, jackets, sleeping bags and more. The local trade unionists helping out these "hunger strikers" had a collection box although it wasn't clear just how much it would take to make them all go away. Don't they need a licence to camp out on government property? A massive protest of 200 (although the organisers claiming it was 150,000) demanding the government and police retrospectively change the law and allow the 14 suspects to go home. The unlinkable SCMP reports another 1,000 Korean farmers are threatening to return to Hong Kong to demand their release. It makes one wonder who looks after their farrms while they do all this protesting, and how can allegedly impoverished farmers afford all this travel?

A small introduction. Hong Kong's law is based on the English system of common law. Commonly people that are arrested are offered bail, where they pay a surety while the case is being prepared to ensure they don't skip the country. The law is applied by courts without influence, fear or favour (at least, in theory). Once arrested the police present a court with the cicumstances and evidence to date, the court decides if there is a case to answer and if so may or may not offer bail until the full trial, scheduled at some later date. That's the system.

Letting these 14 suspects leave Hong Kong would virtually ensure they were never prosecuted. Their chances of returning to Hong Kong are about as remote as my chances of winning the Chinese New Year Mark 6 jackpot. Intimidation and protest may work elsewhere, but welcome to the rule of law. If you don't like it, don't come and protest here. We'd all be better off.

Other reading

ESWN on local press reaction and the dilemma facing HK authorities.
FH isn't impressed by Elizabeth Tang's hunger strike plans.

Update Jan 10th

I noticed 23 people signed a petition asking Hong Kong's government to subvert the rule of law. The government dismissed the request out of hand, noting that it didn't come from the State Council in Beijnig so it didn't count.


To take his mind off it, Odell asks me a simple but profound question. “Koreans… What the fuck?” I give him the country’s history in a nutshell. First, it was repeatedly invaded by the Japanese, then it was repeatedly invaded by the Mongols, then it was repeatedly invaded by the Chinese, then it was repeatedly invaded by the Manchus, then it got one big, maybe-they’ll-get-the-message-this-time invasion from the Japanese again, and in 1950 it invaded itself. This experience, I explain, has made these people the proud and noble mouth-frothing xenophobes we all know and love today, threatening to send hordes of vicious peasant warriors to Hong Kong if our Government does not honour their birthright as sons of the Hermit Kingdom, namely immunity from laws against assaulting policewomen with bamboo poles. Odell thinks about it. “Maybe it’s the other way around,” he suggests. “Maybe they kept on getting invaded because they’re assholes.”

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December 21, 2005
Assorted WTO briefs

While the delegates have flown home, the impact of the WTO meeting on Hong Kong is far exceeding the impact Hong Kong had on the WTO.

1. The government is to promote spending in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay to help shopkeepers make up for the losses they copped for being closed for a week.
2. Peter Gordon suggests the government establish a free trade think tank here in Hong Kong, helping advance our claim to being "Asia's World City".
3. 11 Korean protesters were denied bail but their detainment conditions were improved, while the potential for more serious charges to come later this week was also raised. As a sideline there's the potentially interesting case of a mainlander also arrested but claiming mistaken identity. The Korean government minister visiting Hong Kong has now apologised twice to the city, but also said the protesters will not face any action on their return to Korea. If the law operates properly these protesters will be prosecuted and if found guilty thrown into jail. Demonstrating Hong Kong's adherence to rule of law would tell protesters that they are not above the law. They abused Hong Kong's hospitalilty and whatever their grievances with the WTO, their rioting and destruction was not justified. Think I'm being biased? Try this from Doug Crets in The Standard:

After apologizing publicly for the violent clashes for a second time, Lee said the actions of the protesters were not directed at the Hong Kong government and consequently they did not deserve further punishment by the Korean government on their return.

"I [have] asked the authorities to give some special favor to look into this matter. The demonstration had nothing to do with the sovereignty of the Hong Kong government," Lee said.

In short, the South Korean government is asking for the Hong Kong government to exempt their protesters from the typical workings of the law. But wait, there's more:

A small public relations storm erupted over the weekend as some nongovernment organizations and sympathizers with the Koreans' cause alleged that police overreacted to the protest Saturday. But eyewitness accounts by reporters from The Standard support claims that police action was commensurate with the level of violence.

For more than four hours police warned the Koreans to assemble peacefully and that violent action would be met "with force." Tear gas was only used when the mob became unruly.

Doug also has more on the Curbside blog about his first hand impressions of the riots and Hong Kong's police. He concludes:
But these police didn't do that. They stuck to rigid positions. They followed protocols. They reacted to an action, they didn't, as far as I could tell, create an action. In fact, the very actuality that the Koreans were able to break through Central Plaza to get that far to the convention center tells me that the Koreans kept pushing till they broke the riot police's ideological stance. After that happened, it was all reaction, and then a clamping down.

As I have said before, these demonstrations were about power and control.

What I want to know is, can anyone tell me how I can arrange to spray paint the United States Consulate General and get away with it? Seriously, how does that happen?

4. The most interesting thing to come out of the WTO meeting was the local collaborative effort Curbside @ WTO. A joint venture between the University of Hong Kong's New Media course, blogger ESWN and The Standard newspaper was an outstanding success. Executive editor Susan Rossi, from The Standard, tells us of a virtual triumph for new media. For those interested in the intersection between blogging and mainstream media, this is a must read. Unlike their competition, who were begging for "citizen journalists", The Standard actually put it together and it worked well. For such ad-hoc, fast moving events, this kind of real time news has given us a glimpse of the future of media. It was a true combination of citizen and professional journalism. Best of all, The Standard actually gets it. Here's hoping this experiment was the first of many. ESWN also sums up his impressions of the Curbside experiment, optimistically concluding:
The core team for Curbside will be dispersed after they complete their coursework. Each one of them will probably have their own weblogs and/or fotoblogs. However, there was a moment in time when they all got together to work on a group project that was much bigger than the sum of each one of them.
Don't doubt the importance of this new emerging medium...and I'm talking to you, Richard Li.
5. What did China learn from the Hong Kong anti-riot police?
6. An optimistic Jagdish Bhagwati on the WTO meeting outcome.
7. Who really benefits from fair trade?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:42
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December 19, 2005
WTO MC6: Wrap-up I was taught to avoid using double negatives, but sometimes it is the only way to explain a situation. And the results of the ministerial conference can be deemed a success only because they did not fail. There was limited progress on some fronts, with the final key agreements including:
1. All forms of agricultural export subsidies to be eliminated by 2013 - achieved in parallel and progressive manner. A substantial part to be realized by the end of the first half of the implementation period.

2. All forms of export subsidies for cotton to be eliminated by developed countries by 2006.

3. Developed countries will give duty and quota free market access for cotton exports by developing countries once the policy is implemented.

4. The 32 least developed countries will enjoy duty and quote free access for their products in 97% of all product categories, excluding rice and textiles, which the USA and Japan are protective about.

5. For service industry, countries will adhere to the Doha Ministerial Declaration and continue to aid the developing countries, as stated in the Modalities for the Special Treatment for Least-Developed Country Members in 2003.
Others are also saying that it isn't much of a deal, but at least everyone is still talking and now have a year to come to a final agreement.

So as the conference packs up and the baby products convention moves in, what have we learnt? The Korean rampage on Saturday night was, sadly, inevitable. Hong Kong's police did an outstanding job and made the city proud - compared to the chaos at both Seattle and Cancun this meeting went relatively well. I'll return to this later.

More importantly, have Hong Kongers learnt something from the Korean protesters? The spotlight swings back onto the constitutional reform package this week - will Hong Kongers gain a new sense of militancy? That could be an interesting legacy of the government's staging of the WTO.

The final question - which city on Earth would bother wanting to host the next ministerial?

Other links

  • The aftermath from Saturday nights riots continues. The protesters got help from inside the conference centre from NGOs. Some are angered at the detention conditions of the arrested protesters. Others have put themselves into the police's shoes and asked who do you blame for the outcome? The arrest and chaos were exactly the result the Koreans wanted - don't think it was anything but a well planned and co-ordinated event.
  • Some have latched on to the couple of hundred locals who turned out in support of the Koreans as a sign of widespread support. That may have been true prior to Saturday night's chaos, but far less true today. In local eyes the violence of Saturday night shot down much of the sympathy locals had for the protesters.
  • Two excellent commentaries on Saturday's riots: Kevin Rafferty says the Koreans must be made to asnwer for the mayhem. He aptly compares the Koreans to football hooligans and says the same measures should be used in dealing with them.
  • The second great commentary is from Andrew Work of the Lion Rock Institute, who talks about the violent enemy within - a good hard look at the Korean Peasants League. He warns Hong Kong's trade unions not to pay any heed to the KPL example. He notes the Korean farmers have spent at least US$2 million for this week's protests, all to protect sixty-three percent of their income comes from government support totaling almost US$20 billion (HK$156 billion). Like a desperate heroin junkie, they are willing to resort to violence to ensure the next hit. All at to the cost of Korean taxpayers and consumers. They think their livelihood is more important than that of a street-sweeper, semiconductor factory worker or a single mother working as a waitress. If you feel any sympathy for the KPL, read that article.
  • Pascal Lamy's blog was last updated Saturday, but hopefully he'll have more to say.
  • For the keen, a copy of the WTO ministerial conference draft final text.
  • The SCMP reports the Korean government is sending an envoy to ensure the release of their farmers. I do hope the HK Government will also leave the envoy with a bill for the damage caused.
  • Trade unionist and HK People's Alliance on WTO head Elizabeth Tang is rightly taken to task over yet another ridiculous press release. Thank goodness this thing's over so this group can disband...and Elizabeth Tang can return to be irrelevant.
  • ESWN translates some interviews with Hong Kong police involved in the riots.
  • Braving the wilds of Wan Chai, Spike reports first hand on the damage the riots did to the workers of Wan Chai.
  • Hemlock's got the right idea on what to do with the Korean arrestees:
    Being in a merciful and rehabilitative frame of mind as we count down the days before Christmas, I urge my fellow commuters to consider a more educational approach. “We should put the thugs to work on a prison farm,” I tell them, “then make them sit in chains in street markets, trying to sell their produce at 10 times the price other stall holders are asking. For this, they would receive 10 dollars a day, but they would have to pay for their food. Their menu would have two options – Korean beef and rice for 25 dollars a bowl, or foreign beef and rice for 5 dollars. Plus extra kimchee for good behaviour in economics classes.”
  • Some Koreans want Hong Kong to keep the arrestees.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:13
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December 18, 2005
WTO MC6: Days 6-7

Inside the game of brinkmanship continues, with little progress being made. Typically deals are only concluded at the last minute, if at all, so what you see from the meeting itself is only negotiation tactics at this stage.

But last night the protesters got what they wanted when the long anticipated violence erupted. Wan Chai turned into a riot zone. The Koreans were joined by others, caught the police off-guard and finally got the confrontation they were looking for. The convention centre went into lock-down and traffic on the Island came to a virtual standstill - the Harbour tunnel was shut, as were most of the major roads and public transport routes in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. Most of all, this demonstrates how little of this kind of thing Hong Kong normally sees. Quote of the day is from the SCMP:
Police chief Dick Lee Ming-kwai said security at the convention centre, which was locked to ensure protesters did not storm the building, was not compromised. He said he had not contacted the PLA garrison and saw no reason to do so.
Given all the kit Hong Kong's police have in riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas and the like, the PLA is probably jealous.

Below the jump is the SCMP's full report on last night's chaos.

Other links

They had warned Hong Kong all week that Saturday would be their day and so it was.

Korean farmers were joined by thousands of others from around the world for the first time - a motley collection of local troublemakers, students, NGO delegates and an assorted rent-a-crowd - but it was the Koreans who had the guile to lead them all to the edge of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre rather than the desolate Wan Chai cargo area set aside for them.

Police had authorised a 2pm march from Victoria Park and had prepared with the week's biggest battalion of officers - 2,000 - backed up with giant saltwater cannons, pepper spray and a barricade which saw them tower above the mob.

This was to be the biggest official action by protesters for the day and police were ready. But if you are a fanatical peasant or unionist from Korea with a reputation for violence, you don't follow plans. Plain and simple, the police were caught out.

The Koreans realised most of the riot police would be gathered around the official cargo-area protest site, leaving the majority of police on the streets in normal uniform and not kitted out for a riot or to battle such a well-drilled and experienced army.

By 3.30pm the first small and, surprisingly, local group, was engaged in another series of futile battles with police blocking the path to the WTO venue far in the distance.

But while the crowd chanted "Shame" and "F*** the police", in Victoria Park there remained a large contingent of militant Korean unionists and members of the National Peasants' League who had fuelled the violent clashes with police all week.

When they decided to move, they moved fast, separating into groups in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai.

Then they arrived at Marsh Road in Wan Chai, the entrance to the cargo area. But instead of continuing to the protest site they turned and used brute force to charge through the thin blue line of officers and started running down Lockhart Road.

The first real clashes with police were savage, running battles, with individual protesters armed with bamboo poles charging at officers, seizing their shields, batons and even attempting to roll a police van.

Officers were left stranded and set on by groups, some falling to the ground and being set upon by the mob. Taking advantage of the chaos, the group then retreated back to Marsh Road and began running down Hennessy Road.

Police were nowhere to be seen as some turned down Fleming Road and others down Luard Road, before bolting into oncoming traffic on Gloucester Road and surging into Fleming Road.

Fate had found them in the perfect place for the oncoming brutal battle that was about to take place.

A line of riot police stood before them, with long metal gates blocking them from direct contact with the batons and shields.

The first clashes were just before 6pm.

While they had only been armed with bamboo, now they seized the metal gates dividing the police and pulled them to the back of the crowd as protesters and onlookers continued to flood the area.

They had come to the vicinity of of the convention centre and were planning their final stand.

At the back of the crowd, a section of the group was busy pulling the barriers apart as the drums sounded and more protesters continued to make their way to the site as word spread that they had their chance to storm the WTO.

The barriers were gone, and police now stood face to face with their enemy. The noise intensified, with the Koreans standing and chanting while random protesters taunted the police ranks.

The unionists and farmers took the front line on both sides of the road divider, which filled with onlookers, many with cameras.

It was nearly dark when the first outbreaks of violence occurred. Groups of protesters targeted the mobile riot officers, who had only small shields.

But no longer were they armed with only their fists. Metal rods from the gates and even flagpoles were used in the vicious assaults on the police from all sides.

By 6.30pm, the attacks had reached their zenith, and the fear in the eyes of the police on the front line had turned to weariness.

Protesters like Rakesh Tiket from an Indian Farmers' League proudly displayed the broken shields they had seized from the police to the roars of the crowd.

The Koreans had turned the metal skeletons of the barricades into battering rams, and the police line retreated from repeated assaults. Others dismantled the wooden shutters put in to protect the windows of Central Plaza.

Emboldened by their victory, the crowd surged forward, a large contingent split from the pack to form a third front and began taking on the police in the forecourt area of Central Plaza.

Again, police were caught unprepared, and one-to-one combat broke out between officers and armed demonstrators.

By 7pm, and despite what looked like an impenetrable cordon of riot police, the group broke through. Police unleashed at least three canisters of tear gas into the crowd, while those that broke through ran to within metres of the convention centre's main door.

The police then fired another four canisters of the tear gas into the first group. People fell to the floor, vomiting, tears streaming from their faces. But the Koreans in the front kept going, so another two canisters were released.

"Help me, help me," one woman screamed from the floor as retreating protesters trampled over her.

Amid the choking gas, the final group continued to push on before five canisters of gas saw them turn on their heels and flee.

On the Fleming Road overpass, protesters cried and washed their eyes as a lone Korean farmer tried in vain to break a stolen police shield.

The heart of Hong Kong had been turned into a battle zone and as the protesters gathered into the night on Gloucester Road, it was far from finished.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:56
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December 16, 2005
WTO MC6: Day 5

The cynics are out, asking why would Hong Kong want to associate itself with a failed meeting? Such cynicism is misplaced. Firstly, Tonga successfully was admitted to the WTO yesterday, making a neat 150 members. Secondly it appears a deal over allowing the "least developed countries" (LDCs) full and free access to developed markets is nearing completion. In a neat change the EU is taking the high moral ground, having already granted such access to many LDCs, while the US is busy trying to exempt Bangladesh and Cambodia (they're too good at making certain textiles) and sugar (because American sugar farmers can't compete without handouts). On the downside, the developing countries are digging their heels in over a services agreement. The problem with that is the EU, Japan and Americans will not consent to an agriculture deal of any sort without some kind of concession on services. And what's the concession? It is merely to change how the services agreements are negotiated - that's right, they're argueing about how to negotiate negotiations. Finally, Hong Kong's Tourism Board may have found a new advertising angle: tourists from Singapore find this whole protesting thing quite novel.

In the protest stakes, a day of mixed results. The pro-free trade rally got good coverage. According to the SCMP, the Koreans are not even pissing off their fellow anti-WTOers:
Protesters are complaining of being upstaged by South Korean demonstrators, a leading international activist says. Protesters who had not taken part in demonstrations with the Koreans had complained of "grandstanding" to the detriment of other causes, she said.
The Koreans can't even agree if they had declared suicides a protest option. On one hand they are busy threatening an escalation in protests and "fight to the death" but on the other they deny they canvassed the suicide option and are saying the media got it all wrong.

To cap it all off, Donald Tsang was in Central with a loudhailer, although it wasn't clear if he was defending his constitutional reforms or protesting the WTO. No pepper spray was used on him.

Other links

Updated throughout the day.

There's an ongoing debate between the Chicken Man, myself and others on the merits of the WTO and free trade.

  • Read a digest of what the world and Chinese press is saying about the WTO. LfC also has snaps of the local Hong Kong papers' coverage.
  • The Standard's got a gallery of photos from yesterday's protests.
  • China may benefit "unfairly" from the WTO talks. You see, China's developing but its also developed when it comes to American trade paranoia.
  • An interview with Trotskyite Greg Bradshaw, a young Australian socialist who flew a Boeing on Qantas, wears Adidas and came to Hong Kong. Then he and his mate Mark Boothroyd headed off to McDonalds for lunch, saying "We're not against hamburgers. The problem is capitalist society." I challenge anyone to make sense of that.
  • At the "fair trade" fare, the SCMP notes a can of Pepsi is marked up 30% higher than the regular retail price. Fair trade comes at a cost.
  • Doug Crets looks at the reality of protesting.
  • Today's must read: the WTO can promote both free trade and human rights.
  • From the Guardian blog on the horse trading in the "green room" - the backroom where the trade agreements are really hammered out.
  • Who gains from agricultural subsidies? French farmers and the Queen.
  • Violent protest and the media's role.
  • Lots of good stuff at Hong Kong blog: looking at the American problems in this negotiation and Africa's interests in liberatisation are two examples.
  • Dan Drezner on deja vu in Hong Kong.
  • Pascal Lamy's blog is updated...talking about some progress but with much still to do.
  • The protesters are winding down with some wierd jamboree with the usual folk singing and dancing. Behind them is a sign saying "WTO Kills Farmers". I thought they killed themselves?
  • It's 17:45 and the Koreans are out spray painting the outside of the US Consulate. Amazingly neither the Marines, nor Hong Kong police, nor King Kong, have emerged to stop this vandalism. Where is the long are of the law? How can such wanton destruction be condoned? And if this is the Koreans upping the ante, the major question remains: are they serious? Graffiti is as radical as it gets? The lack of creativity is a major disappointment.
  • It's hard to describe the farce that is these protests. It seems the cops have moved in after a couple of protesters stupidly tried to storm the Consulate gates. It was hard to see with the wall of flashes and cameras. The media scrum was huge. If you ever doubted it before, these protests are as much a media production as they are genuine outpourings of feeling.
  • The graffiti says "Down, down WTO" and an observation of Hong Kong's sterile concrete cityscape: "No Bush". Yes, more greenery would be nice.
  • A final note: the leader of the protesters has a small flag, just like regular tour groups that wonder the streets of Central. It somehow seems apt, beause these protesters have been more like tourists than anything else.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:19
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December 15, 2005
WTO MC6: Day 4

In short, again nothing happened at the meeting yesterday. The Europeans have dug their heels in, the Americans offered a little and the developing countries are huffing and puffing how unfair it all is while still not contemplating opening any of their own markets. Apparently negotiators are going to come up against an immovable object:
The conference must finish by then to make way for a trade show, a consumer baby products exhibition and carnival expected to attract up to 200,000 visitors. Wilkinson said many delegations have booked hotel rooms for at least some members through Wednesday, assuming last-minute talks will roll into extra hours despite official vows to end the conference on time.
Maybe the negotiators are planning to buy stuff for the kids? You can't mess with conventions in this city. Even the rioting isn't what it seems. Doug Crets in The Standard reports the police strategy is working, containing the protests:
Televised images make the clashes between protesters and local police appear violent and chaotic, but up close the incidents seemed controlled and almost ceremonial.
And the Koreans themselves repay the compliment, according the SCMP:
"Soft, gentle" and "a bit merciful". That was how South Korean protesters described their police rivals after two days of ferocious confrontations that saw injuries as the police used riot shields and pepper spray to keep the raucous protesters at bay.

Today's links and comments

Updated throughout the day. Keep scrolling day for the rest of today's posts.

  • What do the non-Korean Asian protesters want? What are the protesting protesting, exactly? And who is Superman?
  • The WTO may as well give up: the fair trade mob had a fashion show. It's enough to shake the hardiest free trader.
  • ESWN reports on the progress of civilian journalists during this meeting. The SCMP's plea for citizen journalist pictures and reports doesn't seem to have lead to much.
  • From the inside, a report on the maneuvering over agriculture.
  • Sanity is slowly returning to Hong Kong TV: it's all English soccer this morning. And even better news: our Coke machine was refilled last night.
  • It's 11:20, it's 14 degrees Celcius and for a nice change the Koreans have made way for five or six Indonesians, one of whom is not wearing a shirt and must be freezing his nipples off. I think they're protesting about the lack of police brutality, but it's hard to tell as all the media's cameras keep getting in the way.
  • Pascal Lamy's blog is updated: he says the engine is starting to turn, albeit slowly. Don't take too long, the baby convention moves in Monday morning.
  • I had lunch at a place not far from Tamar, and watch a group of protesters march by. By my count there were 20. The TV alternates between assorted marches in and around Victoria Park. There hasn't been any more cops vs. Korean farmers face-offs yet...maybe today is a rest day?
  • Flagrant Harbour went along to today's pro-WTO/free trade rally, with pics and reports.
  • There doesn't seem to have been any pepper spraying yet today. What a shame.
  • For the Chicken Man and other anti-trade protesters, try this game based on the work of Bertil Ohlin. Free trade - it's child's play.
  • So far there hasn't been any Korean suicides, any self-immolation, just a few cuts and bruises to the head. Is it wrong to be disappointed?
  • Tom Grundy, the Chicken Man, has sent the following:
Thought I'd respond to your entry about my recent protesting in Hong Kong as I believe the 'ignorance' and 'confusion' is on your side (though I will try to be less derogatory).
Regarding the WTO being democratically elected - it is a powerful organisation which affects the lives of millions across the world, undermining the governments people elect - so we should get a say and it should be more transparent. I've lived amongst villagers in Uganda and slum-dwellers in India and have seen the effects of these trade policies. (I now live in Hong Kong, as a teacher, I'm not a random demonstrator from the UK). The WTO appears to be on its last legs anyway.

And about the UN - there's a difference between globalisation in the sense of corporate/cultural imperialism or 'coca-colonialism' and the globalisation of government. We are protesting about the collusion of government and corporations.

Though I understand the US and capitalism as a system are the underlying forces at work here, I actually believe the WTO should be reformed and either incorporated into the UN and based around the Convention on Human Rights, rather than corporate profit.

An excellent concise summary of the true nature of the WTO can be found here.

And might I add, when I 'look around Hong Kong', I don't bask in wonder of the 'widespread prosperity', I wonder at what price Hong Kongers have paid environmentally and socially, and how it affects the majority world (or '3rd world')

Tom Grundy - the "insult to chickens"
Let's go through this in turn. The WTO is exactly like the UN - a multilateral organisation compromising of governments. It is not democratically elected. It is a forum for negotiations. People can have a say - Pascal Lamy goes out of his way to cater to NGOs and dissenting voices - and they can try to influence their national governments to present their views. But to claim the lack of elections makes the WTO somehow "bad" fundamentally misunderstands what such organisations are about. There may be a difference between "cultural imperialism" and the "globalisation of government"...but that's not the point. My comparison between the UN and WTO is not in each organisation's aims, but in their structures. As such they are very similar groups.

What is "cultural imperialism", anyway? People have always have a choice - if they don't want to drink Coke, watch Hollywood movies, eat Big Macs and drive Fords they don't have to. But many people, including the poor, choose to use these goods and services. Don't patronise the poor by telling them what's good for them and restricting their rights to accessing them, just as the rich world should not bar the free trade in goods and services (including labour) from the poor (or each other, for that matter).

How would basing the WTO on the Convention on Human Rights help matters? Trade is precisely about profit, from the biggest multinational to the smallest farmer...everyone gains from a bigger pie. Protecting human rights is the responsibility of national governments, and if those governments fail there is the UN. It is a seperate issue from trade. A most fundamental human right is to let people make a living in peace, without artificial barriers and constraints. Millions in China have been lifted out of poverty thanks to such basic ideas as property rights and free trade, both intra- and inter-national.

Finally, when you look around Hong Kong, you might notice a city of 7 million people, many of whom came here to escape a despotic mass-murderer who was causing economic chaos. The city is one of the richest and most prosperous in the world. Yes there has been pollution and that is now a major issue the government is being forced to address. But those 7 million people know they will have food on their plate, a roof over their heads and the freedom to make a living however they see fit. If you ask most Hong Kongers, they are happy with the "price paid" for their prosperity. Why deny that to the "majority world"?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:56
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Colonialism Redux?

The WTO circus in Hong Kong made me wonder what the conservative American libertarian think-tank, the Cato Institute, had to say on MC6. I was not disappointed; there is a very interesting, thought-provoking article by Marian Tupy on why sub-Saharan Africa was failing in an age of falling tariff barriers.

Now I have always been of the opinion that the populations of many developing countries depend on agriculture for their sustenance and survival; the farm subsidies of the development world therefore seem rather unfair in that they remove even comparative (as opposed to absolute) advantage from many such countries in the one area in which they might be expected to be competitive. There are counter-examples of course, like Argentina or Brazil. But by and large, the European's CAP (or should we say CRAP) put such hopes beyond reach.

However, the author harbors no such illusions. She believes that Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is in the state it's in not as passive losers in a global trade regime, but as masters of their own destruction due to highly protectionist policies (discouraging investment), trampling on property rights (discouraging saving and investment) and colossal corruption and mismanagement (again, discouraging investment). Allow me to quote her:

SSA is destined to remain poor, the conventional wisdom holds, unless the rich countries change their economic policies. African leaders are only too happy to play their part in that charade. Blaming African poverty on forces beyond the control of Africa's political elites takes the spotlight away from decades of failed economic policies, wholesale looting of Africa's wealth, and loss of countless lives to political repression and ethnic conflicts...But blaming others will do little to improve the lives of millions of poor Africans. In order to escape poverty, SSA countries must begin by liberalizing their trade with one another and with the rest of the world...Trade opening will result in welfare gains for SSA. But those welfare gains will not be on a scale that will drastically reduce African poverty. Indeed, the benefits of trade liberalization will be severely restricted unless trade opening is accompanied by far-reaching economic and political changes on the African continent.
Fine sentiments, though difficult to imagine their execution. The Cato Institute author of course did not advocate Western involvement in running such states, as did Britain, France and other colonial powers tried a century ago, but given the past record of political malfeasance in that region it is difficult to imagine what other prescriptions she might suggest. It reminded me of Niall Ferguson's book Colossus, about how America, to truly lead, had to accept a new form of colonialism in failed states. It seems that many in the first world have forgotten by what means their ancestors were forced to retreat from former colonies, and the global rise of outsourcing in all areas makes people think that even governance can be outsourced. I have grave doubts.

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 11:38
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December 14, 2005
WTO MC6: Day 3
It's a tough day for Hong Kong's press. Nothing happened inside the WTO ministerial conference, and not much happened outside with the protests, either (much to the police and government's credit). Inside, everyone agreed to postpone talks on the services agreement. Pascal Lamy, the WTO director-general, waved a magic wand but even he was sceptical of its charms. Best of all, Mr. Lamy has established a blog/diary to record his thoughts during the conference. It begins from Monday:
Greetings. Loads of bread and bananas already stocked to keep me going through the week...I overslept so I could only do a quick run at the gym but, given the vastness of this Conference Centre, I may be able to get all the exercise I need simply by moving from meeting to meeting inside this facility.
It's not easy being a Director General. He also tells a group of trade ministers this conference is not just about Christmas shopping...demonstrating his anti-Hong Kong retail trading bias.

But there have been winners as well. Hong Kong Disneyland announced its first ever sell-out and Ocean Park saw a 40% jump in attendence thanks to many schools shutting for the day. So at least Hong Kong's taxpayers will get some benefit from the conference.

Below the jump is a telling photo from today's SCMP. As I said yesterday, it seems the media and police are far outnumbering the few "militant" protesters. Can you say "manufactured for the media" and "publicity stunt"? If the most militant thing these Korean peasants can do is swim in Victoria Harbour, then full power to them.

Other links

This will be updated throughout the day. You can also follow the Curbside at WTO site for more reports.

  • The Standard has an image gallery of various photos from the protests.
  • A few facts and figures on the meeting. It turns out the government spent HK$250 million on the meeting, including 700 civil servants as volunteers and 9,000 cops for security.
  • A report of what's happening inside the ministerial meetings.
  • A brief media digest of what both Chinese and English media are reporting on the WTO.
  • Here's the piece I mentioned yesterday in The Standard on the lack of local support for the anti-globalisation crowd.
  • Another pro-free trade event being organised by the Lion Rock Institute. Don't let the anti crowd have all the fun!
  • The Wall St Journal says Welcome to Hong Kong, again pointing out how this city is one of the best advertisements for globalisation and free trade.
  • What delegates think about Hong Kong's WTO ads.
  • It's 12:45 and the TV is showing the standoff between the Korean peasants and cops. Plenty of pepper spray, a bit of push and shove...and that's just the media! Best of all was a temporary truce, negotiated so one protester could retrive his shoe. This could be a game of inches...it looks like the police line has retreated exactly 3 inches since yesterday, which just leaves 20,000 more to the convention centre. The Koreans are wearing Glad Wrap over their eyes and ears to protect themselves from the pepper spray. It doesn't appear to be helping.
  • Dan Drezner reveals the various types of agricultural subsidies that exist.
  • Now it's almost 13:00, the Korean farmers had a go at the police line, kicking and punching, but were met with a wall of pepper spray a judicial kick in the privates. I've rung the Jockey Club but they aren't taking bets on this one, which is a shame because the cops are dominating at the moment. This is great lunchtime entertainment. And now the farmers have backed off for a smoke break. This is rioting at its most civilised. Now there's a musical interlude - guys with yellow flags in their hats are banging drums and dancing...but the cops don't seem tempted to join in. Half-time entertainment!
  • What the Chinese press thinks of the Korean protesters.
  • For some high-brow analysis, the Global Economy Journal has several articles dedicated to covering the Doha round. And Foreign Affairs magazine has a special WTO free trade edition (via Ben Muse).
  • More proof of how civilised this protest is: the Koreans just handed over a police shield back to the cops.
  • Harry Hutton notes that Columbian girl Santas are non-tradeable goods.
  • Richard Welford takes issue with the reporting of the WTO protests.
  • Asia Times looks at the WTO protesters and what they're on about: WTO hype and all that junk.
  • It's 14:30 and looks like lunchtime is over - a group of perhaps 40 Korean protesters charged the police line, to be greeted with oodles of pepper spray (it looks just like silly string). The cops haven't budged an inch and are giving as good as they're getting. Give 'em hell, boys. That said, the media is getting desperate - they're starting to replay highlights from the morning session and one even cut across to other news.
  • Josephy Stiglitz on the failure and problems with the Doha round.
  • The WTO can promote both free trade and human rights.
  • Pascal Lamy has updated his blog, noting the gulf between the public's perception and reality of the WTO. It's an interesting insight into to mind of a key player in these talks.
  • Do these Korean farmers realise the water bottles they are using to wash the pepper spray out of their eyes is Bonaqua, owned by the Coca-Cola company?
  • Here's a pro-free trade blog covering the ins and outs of the ministerial conference and negotiations. And another by a pro-trade economist.
  • Huge uproar over a TV reporter who donned a helmet despite not being in danger.
  • It's now 19:30, and the protesters are holding a candlelight vigil. Besides freezing their butts off, many are wearing green hats...and green hat means something quite amusing in Chinese.


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:40
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December 13, 2005
WTO MC6: Day 2

The first day of the conference proper. Inside, the Americans have already upped the ante, saying the elimination of cotton subsidies (deemed a key project to helping developing countries) is tied to broader agricultural subsidy cuts and saying a heads of government meeting may be needed to take talks forward - that's a vieled sleight at trade ministers, saying they need their bosses to take over because they're all useless. Good luck to the city hosting that gathering!

But as usual there's far more interesting things happening outside the convention centre. The SCMP is going to town on this, with liftouts and massive coverage, including a prominent pointer to their website...which requires paid access, and a cheery "We welcome all the delegates and wish the meeting every success." That should put delegates in the right frame of mind! They even ask for "citizen journalists"...see below.

For those that are wondering what all the fuss is about, Jake van der Kamp save me from having to explain why Italian textile workers and Korean farmers are their own worst enemy in opposing free trade, stealing from the poor to give to themselves and missing the real problems of the WTO. The full article is below the jump.

Other reading

This will be updated throughout the day.

  • The SCMP has thoughtfully put together a graphic and article of all the crowd control techniques to be used. See below the jump at the bottom.
  • More amazingly, the SCMP is getting in on the "citizen journalist" act:
    Here is your chance to become a citizen journalist. With the WTO ministerial conference getting under way today, opportunities abound for capturing newsworthy images on your mobile phone or video camera. SCMP.com would like to highlight the very best video clips and still images produced by citizen journalists....The SCMP - and our readers - look forward to seeing your work.
    Remember, SCMP.com charges for online access. Outsourcing journalisms' moment has arrived! What if citizen journalists do a better job than the SCMP's own team? This citizen journalist thing seems to be taking off.
  • A look at the precautions the press are taking in covering "the story of the year". I imagine many reporters dream of reporting from a war zone, and this is as close as most Hong Kong journalists will ever get to it. That's partly why they are talking up the chances of violence.
  • That said, when the SCMP reports the Korean Peasants League considers suicides a legitimate option in protesting the WTO talks, you realise how lunny some of these people are. That said, this same group couldn't get themselves organised enough to book hotel rooms at the Metropole. Perhaps suicide is Darwin's way?
  • Doug Crets at Curbside reports on the security preparations for the big event, including that hotels are spending HK$500,000 each on security.
  • Lin Kui-Ming in The Standard has an excellent op-ed noting why Hong Kongers are not behind the protesters and the potential for violence is lower than in Seattle or Cancun: because Hong Kongers are pro-globalisation. Glutter explains her gut instinct is to support the principles of free trade. Also Joanthan Cheng describes why Hong Kong is a great example of the benefits of free trade.
  • Immigration let in Jose Bove, well known McDonalds renovator, into Hong Kong after a slight (6 hour) delay. All these detentions at the airport are amazing - I always thought you had to be a Filippino to be stopped.
  • Here's a peaceful motto for you: Derail, dismantle, destroy (via FH)
  • Over at Curbside ESWN translates a Chinese blogger on the WTO in Hong Kong: My mom, or terrorist.
  • Fortress Hong Kong girds for the WTO - another review of the expected chaos. With so much expectation, surely the reality can only disappoint?
  • A WTO protester's diary.
  • More pictures and reports of closures and disruption due to the meeting.
  • Shaky's swampy count is currently at zero.
  • Salon on why South Korean farmers are the WTO's most lethal enemy.
  • The protest march is going on as I type this (around 14:20 HK time) - as this sorry band march through the streets of Causeway Bay, it seems there are more people watching than protesting. It appears yellow rainjackets are the clothing du jour. As a co-worker observed, there's far less people in Causeway Bay than on a typical shopping day. No Korean farmers have committed suicide....yet. They're not going to get the WTO quaking in their sweatshop sneakers with this. For a bunch of peasants, they all seem very at home protesting in the big city.
  • Prominent blogger Dan Drezner is in town for the meeting. He's reporting on what's happening inside the ministerial meeting...which in short appears to be not much.
  • And it's official, the protesters are nuts. They are swimming in Victoria Harbour, just outside the convention centre. Not only is the water cold, it must rate as amongst the most polluted ocean water in the universe. One guy's carrying a South Korean flag. Perhaps this is the first attempted suicide?
  • The current score: Pro-WTO protesters: 1, everyone else: 0. The media's looking at a real problem: deadlines are starting to loom and nothing's really happened. Long Hair got peppered sprayed and that's about it. And there's acres of newspaper to fill? Actually, Hong Kongers are coming out winners: the traffic is great right now.
  • Aren't Hong Kong's cops looking spiffy in their riot gear. Talk about money well spent. And they haven't even got it dirty or spoilt yet! At the moment (17:00 HK time) we've got the cops, media and protesters all standing on the street looking at each other and waiting for something to happen. I dare someone to scream out "Korean rice farmers suck"!
  • It's been a couple of hours and the police line has held. Liberal use of pepper spray and there seems to be more spectactors than there are protesters. Dare I say this is more a "for media" production than a real protest. Long Hair seems to be receiving more than his fair share of pepper spare. Are other scores being settled?
  • Irony alert: Behind the scenes at Tamar, the official protest site...is a BMW showroom!

Protesters shoot themselves in foot when they oppose free trade

"Many workers have lost their jobs and their wages have gone down in Italy. The working conditions have also become worse. Textile workers in Italy are most affected. We have come to protest against the talks and we want to tell the world that workers' rights should be respected and we should not be exploited."

Italian protester
Anti-WTO rally

Let us take it straight to the statistics. I have in front of me a United States labour department survey on production wages across the world in 2004. It puts the average wage rate in Italy at US$13.10 per hour. At current exchange rates that would be more like US$15.50 per hour.

Now let's try some comparable production wage rates in poorer Asian countries. These were not covered by the US labour department survey as they fell below its horizons but I have them from statistics published directly by these countries.

For China we shall make it US$6. This is worked out as an estimate from the official figure of 14,000 yuan a year. For Indonesia we come to about US$3.70 and for Bangladesh about US$2.40.

Oh yes, there is one thing I forget to tell you. These last three figures are for average daily wages, not hourly and I believe we are talking of more than an eight-hour workday in these countries. Let us just say that the average Italian production worker is paid somewhere between 30 and 40 times as much as the average poorer Asian one.

So are we to take it as the Italian point of view that the rights of workers mean the rights of Italian workers only and that it is the right of Italian workers to be on the winning side of this income disparity forever?

It is certainly an interesting notion. Exploitation in Italy is unfair. Exploitation in Asia, well, who cares? If textile workers in Bangladesh can compete with their Italian counterparts, then they must be cheating and not allowed to export their wares.

Here is another one from yesterday's paper, this time from a representative of a South Korean farm workers union - "Many farmers feel desperate as they can't make a living in Korea and they are deprived of their right to survival ... The WTO supports free trade, but farmers' and workers' rights are totally ignored."

Now turn to the bar chart. It shows you a comparison of retail prices for rice in US dollars per kilogram for those Asian countries that publish these figures. The rice varieties vary but I have taken the premium variety in each case.

Yes, Korean rice farmers do not gouge their customers quite as severely as Japanese ones do.

Japan is a byword in the world for inefficiently produced and costly rice.

Korean farmers do quite well for themselves, nonetheless. If they still cannot make money from rice sold to consumers at seven times the price that prevails in poorer Asian countries, then perhaps they should do a bit of research on their rice growing techniques.

Try it another way. The red line in the second chart shows you the retail price in US dollars per kilogram of locally produced beef in Korea. The blue line shows you the equivalent price in Hong Kong. We in Hong Kong pay only about 11 per cent of what Koreans pay for a cut of beef and yet we raise no cattle ourselves. Of course, Koreans also have the alternative of imported beef and it costs them only a fourth of what their local beef does. This is what upsets Korean farmers. They want beef imports, already highly restricted, banned from their market.

If you were a Korean consumer and made aware of these facts, would you really have wanted to join Sunday's protests here against free trade?

I accept that the WTO is still somewhat of a rich countries club held hostage to the self-interest of its richer members. I also accept that this results in inequities for poorer countries.

But let us make a distinction between what wealthy WTO hypocrites say and what they do. What they say is right. Free trade is a very worthwhile cause for the world's poor. It is the only way to bring fair wages to those Bangladeshi textile workers and fair prices to Korean consumers at last.

What they do is another matter but it amazes me that so many protesters fail to make this distinction and protest against their own interests when they object to free trade.


Blunt facts about mob control

As the WTO ministerial gets under way, a key issue is an extreme form of customer relationship management: crowd control. The authorities have reason to fret about how the inevitable protests unfold because major WTO events usually degenerate into riots spearheaded by anti-capitalist radicals. In fact, violence has become such a staple that Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar Games has developed a WTO riot game called State of Emergency. No wonder police are reportedly stocking up on riot shields and rubber bullets, while the Highways Department is ensuring paving slabs are firmly in place so that protesters cannot use them as missiles.

Despite the rise of internet- and mobile-phone-enabled planning, at its core, rioting remains an enduringly primitive, almost caveman-like activity. In contrast, the technology designed to curb and prevent it has evolved dramatically.

Originally, cops around the globe relied on sticks, sorry, hardwood batons, with which they battered demonstrators into submission. Stick fighting was destined to be superseded by rubber bullets and Tazer, both of which are potentially deadly; another successor, tear gas, is relatively harmless but can drift with the wind.

Hence the emergence of an armada of hi-tech alternatives. One, the "non-lethal acoustic device" pioneered by police in America, and now deployed in Iraq, uses loud, focused sound that can travel about 2km. Commenting on its power, the head of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department technology exploration program Commander Sid Heal reportedly said: "You don't appreciate how powerful this stuff is until you stand a mile away and can't see the transmitter - but can hear every word in a Queen song."

"At a quarter mile, it sounds as clear as a car radio; at a half a mile, you have to raise your voice to talk to the guy next to you; at three quarters of a mile, labourers raking up leaves were putting in music requests," Mr Heal said.

Up close, a blast can be disturbing enough to disperse a crowd. Closer still, the sound can be scary and painful - or worse.

Earlier this year in Jerusalem, the Israeli Army used a device dubbed "The Scream" to break up protesters. They must have scattered fast because The Scream emits noise at frequencies that affect the inner ear, inflicting dizziness and sickness, or even damaging hearing.

Another fearsome hi-tech crowd control weapon, the Active Denial System (ADS), fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam meant to heat skin and cause pain, but no physical damage. Built by the Massachusetts-based hi-tech defence firm Raytheon, which prides itself on developing "hot technologies", the ADS is slated for deployment in Iraq by 2006.

The ADS resembles a TV dish, and rides mounted on a Humvee. Critics fear that, despite Pentagon assurances that it does no lasting damage, "Rumsfeld's ray gun" could cook victims, causing cancer, or just blinding them.

The pulsed energy projectile (PEP) built by California-based Mission Research and meant to be aimed at ringleaders, is a ray gun with a kick. The PEP fires an invisible plasma pulse that heats up the air so that it explodes and creates a "flash-bang" designed to rock and hurt, but not kill.

Nonetheless, like many non-lethal weapons, the PEP appears distinctly sadistic. The sensible solution may lie left-field. Think "calmatives" and gross, but gentle, "malodorants".

Calmative agents include a profusion of psychoactive substances whose effects range from inducing sleep to overpowering hallucinations. Some such as ketamine, which was used to treat combat casualties in Vietnam, manage both.

Malodorant agents ("stink bombs") have existed since the World War II. Blessed with names such as Who-Me?, they sound silly, but are crudely effective.

Guess which smell is most effective. Clue: in 2001, one obscure Texan biotech firm patented the smell of human faeces to secure its grasp on the ultimate malodorant, which would surely erode the will of any mob, no matter how angry.

Other offbeat options include sticky foam and super lubricants designed to cause slip-ups. To some, these innovations may seem rather slapstick and raise the spectre of the proverbial mad scientist.

However, if protesters play up here, the ideal tactic might well be to neutralise them with soft, strange weapons rather than get physical - that is, thrash and shoot them. Nobody wants to see the blood that defines a real state of emergency.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:50
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December 12, 2005
Living with the WTO

If too much WTO isn't enough, you can always trail through the WTO category posts.

My office is about 1 kilometre from the Wan Chai Convention Centre, where this week's WTO meeting is being held. Here's some observations of what life is like at the moment:

* Security is incredibly tight. Our office building foyer is swarming with security staff, who have established a single checkpoint for staff and a seperate one for visitors. Lunchtime was chaos, with multitudes of deliveries going cold as delivery people registered. Each elevator has a security guard in it, an impressive feat in a building with 8 banks of 4 lifts each. Then there's the regular patrols of security throughout the building.
* On top of that, half our staff have been moved to the contingency/backup site, just in case, to allow the smooth functioning of operations. And we had a full fire drill late last week as a pre-WTO test.
* The Coke machine won't be refilled all week.
* On the streets of Central I counted 5 sets of police patrols in the space of 10 minutes this afternoon.
* The b@st@rds at the Cheung Kong Centre have closed the small park behind their building, forcing everyone up and down Battery Path instead, and 8 guards were protecting the blocked off park. Why? Are trees anti-WTO?
* The Christmas marketplace in Chater Square is going strong.
* Many schools are closing tomorrow, including JC's - even though it's in Aberdeen, on the other side of the island. Don't ask me why.
* While yesterday was a glorious, clear and warm sunny day, today is grey, overcast and cold. This anti-WTO mob brought the gloomy weather to suit their gloomy mood.
* Hosting this thing is costing Hong Kong north of HK$150 million. There's they typical newspaper blather of what a waste and why would anyone want to hold such a meeting. Don't believe it - Hong Kong's loving this. It gives us a precursor to life when the PLA leave the barracks to suppress the pro-democracy movement.
* Here's an idea of security around the convention centre.

Feel free to add your own observations.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:23
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WTO MC6: Day 1

Sunday marked the first day of WTO protests, both pro (crowd estimate: 1) and anti (crowd estimate: 4,000 - although using last week's democracy march counting estimates, this number could really be anywhere between 4 and 40,000).

Who are the real winners and losers out of the WTO talks? The losers are easy to identify: already business is down in Wan Chai, ironically hurting the myriad small businesses and migrant workers these anti-WTO types pretend to stand for. Security is noticeably tighter at office buildings and hotels across the city. The protesters are getting prepared for their "peaceful" marches, purchasing gas masks and stealing uniforms.

The winners are harder to pick. The local media are having a field day. The English language press are preparing for blanket coverage while running full page ads from protectionist groups: today's is one from US steel manufacturers with a little girl standing in front of a portrait of a steel mill and asking "What if this were the only way our kids could see a U.S. factory?" It's intended to be a rhetorical question, although I don't know there are millions of America schoolkids clambouring for an excursion to the local factory, or that it's a good excuse to subsidise and prop up "ailing" manufacturers (who are doing better than ever). Clearly the other winners are tunnel users and the vast entourages wondering around Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's luxury retailers. No one spends like a trade ministry delegation.

What do the protesters stand for? It's a diverse collection. There's the migrant workers, the rural protectionists, the manufacturing protectionists, the anti-globalisers and the merely confused. In short, it's a collection of all those who don't understand economics and aren't interested in eliminating their ignorance. For example, try this guy in a chicken suit:
British activist Tom Grundy was dressed as a chicken and held a sign that said, "WTO: more dangerous than chicken flu." "We need to raise awareness of the true intention of the WTO," he said. "It's undemocratically elected. It undermines and overrides any law a country wants to bring to protect workers and the environment."
"It's undemocratically elected" - just like FIFA and the UN. Just to remind you, this is a meeting of the trade ministers from 149 countries. What's to elect? Undermines and overrides laws? You bet - that's what treaties do. This guy is an insult to chickens.

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

When the various protesters look around Hong Kong and see widespread prosperity driven by unilateral free trade and capitalism, will it cause any of them to question their flimsy assumptions? Unlikely, because logic and rationality seldom triumph over dogma and faith.

Other links

This will be updated throughout the day.

You can follow all the events and updates via the Curbside at the WTO site, maintained by The Standard and HK University. I will be helping them out.

Outrage strikes! Our Coke machine won't be refilled this week due to the disruption! Now they've gone too far! Let the Coke through...us greedy capitalists need it. And another point - if these gas masks were stolen to avoid tear gas, would anyone notice in Hong Kong's polluted city centre?

Revealed: one of Hong Kong police's major weapons against WTO protesters: playing at loud volumes the Christmas Carol musak that is taking over shopping malls and elevators all over the city. Film at 11.

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

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:47
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December 09, 2005
Brief brieflets

Back from Tokyo, where I couldn't help but wonder a couple of things:

  • Jared Diamond lauds Japan's excellent forestry management (albeit while still having a dig at their outsourcing of "resource exploitation"), and yet Japan's the world's third biggest greenhouse gas producer. Does one cancel the other?
  • There has been talk elsewhere that people don't often bother to vote because in economic terms the marginal value of a vote is very close to zero. The best counter to that is what's happening now in Hong Kong - many people are giving up hours of their time to march, or to organise, or to blog, or to write articles, or to lobby for democracy. Assuming pro-democracy campaigners are rational (economically, at least) there must be a value for voting that is significantly non-zero.
  • While on democracy, in a way liberal democracy has basically "won" the ideology war. The proof? Even dictatorships pay lip service to it. North Korea is a "Democratic" republic; China's leadership often talks about it (even if it doesn't happen in practice). Why do they bother with lip service unless even these recalcitrants recognise that democracy is the most stable and most popular (albeit still imperfect) political model?
  • Next week is WTO week here in Hong Kong. While nobody is looking forward to the dreaded chaos, I suspect (or at least hope) that it will not turn out half as bad as we all fear. Judging by the dual-layered shipping container barriers at Tamar, the anti-WTO protests could turn out to be nice cheap entertainment for the non-Disney goers amongst us.

On the subject of WTO, there is to be an anti- anti-WTO march on Sunday at Victoria Park. If you're rational, realise that free trade is a good thing and Hong Kong is a prime example of the good even unilateral zero trade barriers can be, go along. It won't be 250,000 people, but it would be good to prove the rabble-rousers and "peasant leagues" (ie professional protesters) that there are actually people that know they're wrong.

Before I get to the newest Jamestown Foundation China Brief, full service should resume Monday, WTO chaos permitting. OK, China Brief time:

1. China's countering of US influence in Asia - Willy Lam uses alphabet soup to summarise the newest version of the Great Game.
2. The costs of China's modernisation - industrialisation can be dirty, and it's now getting to the point China's environment is becoming a domestic political issue. What do you call a Chinese environmentalist? A red green? A green red?
3. Hu spurs debate on North Korean succession - maybe when Hu's finished with China (and he's come up with his obligatory theory to insert into the constitution) he can take on the Hermit Kingdom?
4. For you military nuts, there's modernising the PLA's logistics. That's the military logistics, not the PLA's corporate logistics. That's much tougher.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:02
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Ravings of an Trade Xenophobe

As we all know we will soon experience a visit from the World Trade Organization. The detentions have already started, with two members of the International League of People's Struggle and one from the May First Movement, all from the Philippines, kept back for several hours before being allowed into Hong Kong. My view is that the fact that these professional protesters are being allowed in at all is a significant concession on the part of the local authorities.

I stumbled onto a website this morning called CommonDreams.org, and had an article from a planned protest attendee about the Hong Kong Ministerial. It was a fascinating insight into the flaccid arguments of these anti-globalization protesters, who appear, at base, to be against growth in countries like China or India.

I do not think a refutation of this particular trade xenophobe's thesis is necessary, but I will quote some of the highlights:

The WTO aims to consolidate a series of policy reforms that many countries have implemented over the last 25 years, following IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs in developing countries, and Reagan-Thatcher prescriptions in the US and Europe. Referred to as “free trade,” “ the Washington Consensus” or what we call “corporate globalization,” the policies include privatizing public services, weakening labor laws, deregulating industry, opening up to foreign investment, shrinking the non-military government, lowering of tariffs and subsidies, and focusing on exports over production for national markets.

This time period has seen a sharp decline in economic growth worldwide.

The WTO has failed to produce economic growth because this entire model is actually geared to increase the power of corporations in the governance of the global economy. Rather than governing just trade, the WTO is better understood as a global corporate power-grab, aiming to impose a one-size-fits-all set of rules on national issues of public services, intellectual property, agriculture, industrial development, and more. Under this flawed model of corporate globalization, not only is economic growth sluggish, but economic inequality has vastly increased, diminishing prospects for development and the attainment of universal economic human rights.

It will be hard for her to find people here that buy into the idea that the last quarter century has seen a "sharp decline in economic growth worldwide."
Land reform, food subsidies for the poor, and sustainable production are core elements of a fair and healthy food system. But the WTO rules are based on an ideology of food for export, not for eating.
I rest my case. For a more balanced view of the upcoming round, the Economist has a thoughtful piece, and reminds everyone that European taxpayers are subsidizing their inefficient farmers to the tune of 40 billion Euros a year.

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 11:10
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December 06, 2005
True motives of WTO protesters

Out of the mouth of babes and all that...from The Standard article on claims HK Immigration is trying to keep anti-WTO activists out:

A senior government official said he believes the NGOs will increasingly resort to tactics of lying about harassment from police and issuing allegations of abuse at the hands of government officials for the sake of publicity.

"You're not going to get your name in the paper if you act like a flower- child," he said.

Sadly, he's right. Hong Kong is the right place to hold the WTO meeting - a demonstration of all the benefits of free trade and open markets. If these anti-WTO activists could take off their Reeboks and Levis for just one second they'd see that. But they're professional rabble. Unfortunately they are likely to get what they want.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:00
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November 30, 2005
Revolting Korean peasants

Peasant: 1. A member of the class constituted by small farmers and tenants, sharecroppers, and laborers on the land where they form the main labor force in agriculture.
2. A country person; a rustic.
3. An uncouth, crude, or ill-bred person; a boor.

The word peasant conjures up an image of a dirt poor rural labourer, struggling to make ends meet. Their daily struggle is to survive, let alone enjoy their life. Some see their way of life threatened by the WTO because they believe their local consumers should subsidise them, clinging to antiquated notions of the need for food security and the benefits of farms. Among the most militant is the Korean Peasants League. So can someone explain how this group is able to send at least eight members to Hong Kong for a few days to scout out the protest areas and complain (according to the SCMP report) that the 1 metre fences are 70cm too high? As Hemlock said about "the economic illiterates of the anti-globalization, anti-capitalism movement", they are simply saying "We're too stupid to understand the theory of comparative advantage and it makes us mad as hell." I propose we greet these protesters with sprinklings of cheaply produced foreign rice. That should scare them away.

Do real Korean peasants know their hard earned won are being spent on junkets to Hong Kong?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:00
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November 25, 2005
No room at the inn

Hong Kong's hotels have announced they no longer expect to be full during the upcoming WTO meeting, which again calls into question how much holding this event will cost Hong Kong. The Chinese embassy in Karachi gets a faxed statement warning luxury hotels in Hong Kong and China could be attacked, to which China says, "Go ahead, make my day." Hong Kong Disneyland announces it has passed the 1 million guest mark, if they include all the warm up days, visits by contractors and government officials, people that intended to go but didn't get around to it and double counting rabid dogs and beetles.

Meanwhile things keep getting better for Hong Kong's menfolk: the proportion of married women falls thanks to a gender imbalance, improved educational attainment of women, and a rising trend of Hong Kong men marrying Mainland women.

Welcome to Fantasy Island...."the plane, the plane!"

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:13
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November 24, 2005
Nothing to protest

"Trade blocs lower their sights still further for HK talks" screams the front page of the SCMP on the upcoming WTO* talks. Being a silver lining kind of city, we're told this is a good thing:

Key members of the World Trade Organisation have acknowledged they will be unable to agree on a framework for a trade liberalisation pact at next month's Hong Kong summit. They have only outlined a road map for concluding the current trade talks by the end of 2006.

Activists readying to stage protests at the six-day gathering said the leaders' acknowledgment meant demonstrations would not be as volatile as predicted..."It is obvious now that not much will be coming out from the summit. Everyone involved has adjusted their expectations. Since not much is going to happen in Hong Kong, protests will not be as heated as people had thought," one activist said.

Which hopefully means the idiots from the Korea Peasants' League will keep their arson kits for more home grown activities:
"Today the [South Korean] government declared a death sentence for 3.5 million farmers," said a joint statement from the Korea Peasants' League and six other farmers' unions. "We hereby declare an uncompromising struggle against the current government. and we will stage campaigns to stop foreign imported rice from entering our ports and set fire to foreign rice storage facilities."
This is in reaction to the passing of a slight liberalisation of Korean rice imports, raising the quota from 4% of comsumption to almost 8% in return for a 10 year grace period before liberalising imports completely. Some thanks. What a shame they won't be visiting us.

* Does WTO stand for Wanchai Take Over?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:53
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November 04, 2005
Missing the point but hitting the foot

It seems Hong Kong overflows with organisations who's sole purpose is to act as a front for its "President" or "Chairman". There's David Akers-Jones's mob, for one. Another would be Dolores Ballabares' United Filipinos in Hong Kong. Doug Crets tells us Dolores has engaged her mouth without her brain.

The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body and the United Filipinos in Hong Kong - local organizations that assist migrants - announced Thursday the beginning of month-long protests that they hope will "junk the WTO."

According to Dolores Ballabares, chairwoman of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, up to 5,000 migrant workers will next week turn the SAR into a carnival of parades, singalongs, door- to-door protests and street-corner teach-ins. "As migrants, we are calling to junk the WTO, because we believe it affects domestic workers and our profession here in Hong Kong," Ballabares said..."What the Hong Kong government is doing is implementing the policies of the WTO," Ballabares said.

She said that this was part of a twofold struggle, since most migrant workers come to the SAR to escape the same policy in their home countries...The actions, which are part of a global campaign to "defeat the agenda of neo-liberal globalizations that destroy [migrants'] lives," begin with an education series on November 6. Migrant worker representatives will conduct open-air teach-ins at the Star Ferry terminals, on the streets of Central and wherever they can gather a large number of migrants. On November 13, migrant workers will sing songs in Central at lunchtime and during evening commutes. Then comes "embassy hopping," when migrants from six Asian countries will protest at their respective embassies.

The highlight, according to organizers, comes on November 27 with the Hong Kong People's Mardi Gras "against globalization and the WTO."

What a month of fun November will be.

Dolores would like to junk the WTO because free trade has allowed hundreds of thousands of her compatriots to escape crushing poverty, chronic corruption and incompetent governance and make a living for themselves while providing the largest source of foreign exchange for the Philippines. If not for the minimum wage even more of Asia's poor could find a chance to do the same, while sending back money to family in their home country. At the same time in those home countries exports have often proven the only viable and growing sector in economies shackled by cronyism, rigged markets and corruption. Free trade has proven to be a boon for economic growth in both developed (ie employer) economies and developing (ie employee) economies. So Dolores should be encouraging Hong Kong to implement the policies of the WTO, rather than organising a spreading of the ignorance she is so deeply steeped in.

I would like Dolores or any of her co-loonies to provide an example of the agenda of neo-liberal globalizations that destroy [migrants'] lives. All I see is pig-headed populism.

If Dolores could get away from her Mardi Gras plans for a minute, she'd realise there is a court case of massive import for the people she supposedly represents. The Standard reports on a potential High Court review of ban on right of abode for domestic helpers.

The Hong Kong government's immigration policy of excluding all foreign domestic workers from being considered as "ordinarily resident" and, therefore, ineligible for unconditional stay could face scrutiny in the High Court if leave is granted for a judicial review next month....[Justice Hartmann] agreed to adjourn the hearing until December 12, when he will decide on whether to grant leave for a judicial review.

The Immigration Ordinance states that a permanent resident can be "a person not of Chinese nationality who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document, has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years and has taken Hong Kong as his place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region." However, "a person shall not be treated as ordinarily resident in Hong Kong while employed as a domestic helper who is from outside Hong Kong."

Despite domestic helpers contributing an estimated HK$13 billion a year to the local economy, not to mention saving the Government a bundle in child and elderly care, they are still widely and official considered second class residents.

In short, Dolores is cursing the people she should be thanking and missing the story she should really care about. Does her organisation have elections?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:50
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September 21, 2005
Stranger danger in Hong Kong

Unsurprisingly Hong Kong's Immigration Department allegedly has a "watch list" of those who pose a security risk and that list includes Falun Gong members, according to a court case reported by the SCMP:

Four Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioners were refused entry to Hong Kong to attend a religious conference two years ago because they were on the Immigration Department's "watch list", the Court of First Instance heard yesterday...immigration officers had revealed in court affirmations that the four posed a security risk to Hong Kong...

They were stopped at Chek Lap Kok airport in February 2003 after arriving from Taiwan to attend the Hong Kong Falun Gong Experience Sharing Conference, organised by the Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa. They were among 83 overseas Falun Gong practitioners refused entry to Hong Kong at the time, 80 of them from Taiwan.

But perhaps times have changed...
The four were allowed to enter Hong Kong from Taiwan on Monday to attend yesterday's hearing.
They're too dangerous to have them sit and conduct breathing exercises, but not dangerous enough to stop them from attending court.

By way of contrast, Hong Kong continues to get ready to welcome all sorts of genuine security risks, in the form of WTO metting protesters. Wan Chai District Council, where the conference is to be held, has said they understandbly do not want to host the protesters at Sourthorn Playground. It's bad enough that most of Wan Chai will shut down for the duration of the December meeting. Schools will close. Roads will close. In short, Wan Chai will come to a standstill, the police are ready with riot gear and Hong Kong is bracing for the inevitable violence. Who's the real security risk?

I hope Wan Chai will be re-opening each night. Otherwise what are the WTO delegates to do? And I'm now taking wagers on the nationality and number of men who mysteriously wake up in their hotel room sans wallet and pants.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:16
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August 09, 2005
Make chaos, not peace

The Standard reports Hong Kong's boys and girls in blue are plotting strategy for WTO protests expected in the Big Lychee in December.

Hong Kong's law enforcement officials say they are bracing for radical anti-globalization protesters at December's World Trade Organization talks who may seek to paralyze the Central district by forming a human barricade at the exit of the cross-harbor tunnel,

According to intelligence received by the government, an official said Monday in a wide-ranging briefing, protesters are also expected to attempt to damage the glass walls of the hotels in Admiralty and Wan Chai where political and business leaders from around the world will be staying.

Will anyone notice if they blocked the tunnel? The traffic doesn't move at the best of times. The obvious solution is to let mini-bus and taxi drivers do what they do best - drive like maniacs at speed regardless of anyone getting in their way. But with such a dangerous rabble and fears the police aren't adequately prepared, what to do? Well, there's always sod off, swampy. But the cops are way smarter than that:
Hong Kong authorities, however, have formidable assets on their side. The SAR is largely accessible only by air, which gives them the ability to identify and monitor protesters in a way that officials at other WTO protests were unable to do. Cheap accommodation is also difficult to find.
Are the cops planning to use Google Earth to track down the protesters? The protesters have even asked the Government permission to sleep in parks to avoid accomodation costs. How dare they undermine one of the police's best tactics! Capitalism strikes another blow against the anti-globalisation zealots.

Why is Hong Kong bothering to stage this anyway? The Government admits it will lose more than $150 million even after allowing for those ever mysterious "tourism receipts". They'd be better off spending the money to promote the Government's theme park. We might get some return on that investment.

ESWN has more coverage of police plans for the WTO conference from Next Weekly.

Update (August 11th)

Hong Kong's papers cover the great expectations for the WTO conference.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:05
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June 14, 2005
WTO security

There's growing worry that Hong Kong's police aren't adequately prepared for December's WTO summit.:

The police have little to say on the matter because, as Nelson Ng, chief information officer for the police public relations branch, said, "We haven't actually got the plan put together.''

Ng said police have yet to receive any notice from protesters, and so security preparations have been delayed...Commissioner of Police Dick Lee said Monday the police have no idea how many demonstrators to expect, or what will happen. ``We do not have sufficient information,'' he said.

Normally I'd be worried. But in fact the Hong Kong taxpayer has been funding both sides of this cause. As I said before, the police should make it clear to the protesters they are personally and directly liable for the costs and damage they cause. And the police could outsource the crowd control the various bouncers from nearby Wan Chai. They're very effective at dealing with the irrational and incoherent.

We should be thankful: compared to Australia's hosting of the APEC conference, Hong Kong is getting a bargain.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:12
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May 10, 2005
WTO in Hong Kong: value for money

Every day Hong Kongers are practicising their welcoming slogan to the expected protesters for December's WTO meeting in Hong Kong: Sod off, swampy. Back in February I looked at the estimated costs and benefits of holding the December WTO meeting here. The Government estimated HK$100 million in tourism receipts against an estimated cost of HK$250 million. Not such a good return, given even Gweilofest cost only HK$100 million to stage.

However perusing Australia's Federal Budget this evening (thanks for the tax cuts, your top marginal tax rate is still only 31.5% higher than Hong Kong's) I noticed this line:

Australia's hosting of APEC 2007: Total cost A$215.3 million
The current $A/$HK exchange rate is close enough to 6:1. Australia is spending HK$1.292 billion on APEC 2007, a talkfest of declining relevence best known for its litany of silly shirts* (see below the fold). They must have some bloody good shirts lined up.

Hong Kong's getting a bargain!

* The APEC silly shirt gallery (please let me know if you find more):

China (very small)


A small version of each set of the APEC silly shirts lineup is available at the APEC website. That's taxpayer money well spent.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:31
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March 01, 2005
Organised Chaos

Yesterday we discussed the costs of staging the WTO meeting in Hong Kong this December. I was wrong. The comedy value from the protesters is worth the money alone.

Protesters gearing up for the December World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong, a lightning rod for violent protest in other cities across the globe, say they cannot guarantee that demonstrations will go off without incident. Elizabeth Tang, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong People's Alliance (HKPA) said Monday the group intends to ask the police later this week to appoint special officers to mediate between protesters and security forces in the event of clashes...

Tang said the "unfriendly attitude'' displayed by Hong Kong police to date has made activists feel "uncomfortable.''

The police liason officer need practice only one phrase: "Sod off, swampy". The misnamed Hong Kong People's Alliance, the umbrella group organising the protest, have one aim: to cause chaos. They want arrests, they want riot police, they want the graphic TV pictures. Why? Because their message lacks merit so they need to draw attention to their cause. They rachet up the rhetoric. They wash their hands of potential violence by "calling for a non-violent, peaceful approach" but saying they cannot be held accountable for the actions of protesters. That's the lie. Make this umbrella group directly liable for the costs and damage as a result of any violence. The onus should be on them to live up to their words.

Does anyone else find it interesting how these anti-globalisation groups are great examples of globalisation at work?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:33
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February 28, 2005
WTO in Hong Kong

While 5,000 anti-globalisation morons prepare to be met with Hong Kong's traditional greeting, the Government has been busy trumpeting the "benefits" of December's WTO meeting in the Big Lychee. The conference will bring an estimated HK$100 million in tourism receipts with 15,000 visitors. The event will cost HK$250 million to stage.

Work with me here: income = $100 million; cost = $250 million. The Government says Hong Kong has been facing fierce competition and needs to participate in more international events to boost its image. Even Harbourfest cost only $100 million to stage. Why not boost Hong Kong's image by not participating in these events. It would save us a fortune.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:47
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February 21, 2005
Sod off, swampy

Those intending to protest at December's WTO meeting in Hong Kong already know what to wear. Now the protesters are gathering for a HK taxpayer subsidised conference to discuss their tactics. Today's SCMP, ironically headline Anti-WTO activists in HK to draw up war plan:

More than 100 anti-globalisation activists will arrive in Hong Kong this week to draft protest plans for the WTO's sixth ministerial conference in December. More than 100 anti-globalisation activists will arrive in Hong Kong this week to draft protest plans for the WTO's sixth ministerial conference in December. They will join 70 local unionists, students, green activists and social workers at a City University seminar at the weekend to discuss the World Trade Organisation meeting.

Groups include the Focus on Global South, Public Services International, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty Campaign and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. But no representatives from radical groups such as Global Resistance and the World Development Movement would take part at this stage, Ms Au said..."We will ask police if they have a blacklist of activists, so we'll know who will not be able to come."

It's great to know my HK taxpayer dollars are going both to the organisers of the protests and the police who will be doing battle with them. I can't lose! It's jolly decent of the police to let the protesters know who isn't invited. Best of all Invest HK can add to the "Hong Kong:World City" campaign a section saying Hong Kong is a global player in protest organising. Let's see Shanghai do that.

Come October the Government will replace the current inane ads for Hong Kongers to smile and greet visitors with open arms. In it's place, a simple three word greeting: "Sod Off, swampy."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:57
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February 17, 2005
What to wear when visiting Hong Kong

Planning to come to Hong Kong in December? Not sure what to wear? You could follow the constantly good advice over at Spirit Fingers, or you can take mine: flak jackets, gas masks and a thick hide.

Hong Kong will host the World Trade Organisation's gab-fest from December 13th to 18th this year. This means 10,000 politicians, public servants and media will descend upon the Big Lychee. It also means the anti-globalisation crowd are headed this way. Despite wearing their Nikes and Levis, despite being rich enough to be critical of globalisation, despite being patronising in knowing what's best for "the world's poor", the typical ragtag crew will do their best to disrupt the meeting. Ironically the meeting is being held in China, the world's greatest beneficiary of globalisation and a major factor in raising literally millions out of poverty.

If you intend to engage with the protesters, please don't bring logic, facts or rationality. For example check this picture from a small protest in HK yesterday.

From the SCMP: Taxing tactics: A passer-by watches protesters from the United Filipinos in Hong Kong as they denounce moves by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to raise value-added tax by 20 per cent. Rallying at the Philippine consulate-general in Admiralty, the group branded the Philippine president a "reverse Robin Hood for stealing from the poor and giving to the rich".


The sign on the left reads "Globalization = Low Wages and Taxation". I would have thought low taxes were a good thing, especially if wages were low. Does it not strike the young lady holding the "No to Neoliberal Globalization" sign that she is actually a beneficiary of globalisation by her being and working in Hong Kong? And what the hell does "neoliberal globalization" mean anyway? Are there different political types of globalisation.

Oh, I forgot. I tried to use reason to understand. We should all retreat to our native lands and barricade ourselves against the evils of the rest of the world. Although that could cost the Philippines quite a bit: overseas remittances were US$8.5 billion last year, or 10% of GDP.

If you don't want to enjoy the many benefits of globalisaiton, that's up to you. But don't foist your idiotic views on the rest of us.

Update: From Hemlock:

A PHONE conversation with Morris, the greatest living Scotsman in the Hong Kong Police. I ask him about the space-age crowd control materiel Asia’s finest are acquiring ahead of the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference next December. “Oh aye,” he replies. “We’re tooling up big time. The first anti-globalization protestor to step over the line gets it – Pooof!” So what’s the story behind the rubber bullets? “Och – forget ‘rubber’. We call them baton rounds. They’re made of depleted uranium. The first hairy European anarchist with an Arab scarf and a ‘save the whales’ T-shirt to stick his ugly head over the barricade – Zap! Don’t mess with the HKP, Jimmy! And we got tons of tear gas, too.” I wonder aloud whether it might be better to give the protestors economics lessons. Morris considers this. “Erm…” I hear him scratch his head. “No,” he concludes. “Tear gas.” Fine. We’re in capable hands. There are times when it’s a privilege to pay tax in this town.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:44
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