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.
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.
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.
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.”
You're so right. I don't see what's so hard to understand. They broke the law, and they got thrown in jail, now their grand plan to get off is to break the same law again? And the best part, is people feed bogus explanations like this one:
"Surely, these individuals must have had reason to take action.
How can arm-chair spectators like ourselves ever understand the plight of the subaltern without having experienced what they have experienced?"
There are laws in Korea right? Sometimes I have to wonder... The Korean government is asking for special pardons because, "hey their Korean, let them go" (huh?!!? that makes no sense!) and now hanryuu stars are saying "the same globalization that made us stars is evil when it means anything other then bring money to Korea... let them go!" (what?! are you serious?) I wonder what John Stewart has to say about all of this.....
You missed the bit at the bottom of that SCMP article where Ms. Tang said she would go on a hungerrstrike until Wednesday. A two day hungerstrike. That will change the world. (Tried to trackback to this when I updated it to add a link at the bottom but it did not work for some reason)
When Elizabeth and her Korean friends start their next hunger strike I'm heading down to XTC ice cream, buying a huge tub of vanilla and another of chocolate, and sit in front of the tent eating the stuff.
How about a hunger strike against hunger strikes? Or perhaps a group of people doing a hunger strike in protest to the hunger-striking Koreans? hehehe. "I wont eat until they're back in jail where they belong".. or something like that.
I'll be with you guys in spirit as you eat Big Macs (or available 24-hour Egg McMuffins - my favorite) in front of their faces. Just for some background, protestors here in Korea routinely get away with violence directed at the poor, hapless and conscripted riot police. It's so bad that the cops' parents are starting to protest the abuse their kids are regularly subject to. You can molotov them, whack them with large poles, even pelt them with priceless university rock collections (Yonsei circa 1996), and YOU WON'T GO TO JAIL. Please teach these scum that a civilized nation (autonomous area?) doesn't tolerate their actions.
I still dont understand why some HK ppl would help those farmers. As if we cared about their rice problem... and messing up with the police is no use, they dont have the power to change your already miserable fate. Glad that a bunch of em have been arrested! Sue em!!
- Expressing xtreme hate cause i cancel'd my hot date which was a dinner over at Victoria Peak.
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.
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.
WTO MC6: Wrap-upI 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.
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?
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.
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.
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. âWe should put the thugs to work on a prison farm,â I tell them, âthen 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 â“ 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.â
Many people from Hong Kong, who can ironicly say with some pride that they don't know what it is like to be in the middle of a violent protest, made a mistake of getting too close. As did many of the media too inexperienced in this sort of thing to know better.
I imagine from on the ground it might not have looked clear. And yes after 28 hours with little or no sleep the police record is almost certainly not perfect. Boo hoo.
Water cannons are meant to drive people back. When they are far enough back they are turned off.
Pepper spray is Meant to be sprayed in the face.
I had not heard the tear gas one but I highly doubt one of the civil service disiplined units (hte police) would deliberately attack their colleagues in another disciplined unit.
As to the last one - very probably - as I said, 28 hours without sleep and people throwing large heavy objects at them, determined to do nothing but get past the police any way they could.
At the end of the day. Anyone who sticks their head in the lions mouth(journos and locals in this case) should expect a risk of getting it bit off.
The police repelled. In many other countries they would have charged. That shows remarkable restraint.
(Please excuse my typing - coordination is a bit off today)
BTW when I said people were fuming I was not only referring to the locals... the Korean farmers also were. Don't let the media fool you.
I imagine from on the ground it might not have looked clear. And yes after 28 hours with little or no sleep the police record is almost certainly not perfect. Boo hoo.
I think it is fair to expect a near-flawless record from "the Asia's finest police force". Either that or drop the stupid claim.
Water cannons are meant to drive people back. When they are far enough back they are turned off.
No, they were used AFTER people were retreating. Have a look at the TV footage again. And did they not say they would never ever use water cannons on people?
Pepper spray is Meant to be sprayed in the face.
No they are not. Have a look at the police guidelines sometime. They are only meant to be directed at the chests ONLY, at a distance of no less than 60cm, after adequate verbal warning.
The police repelled. In many other countries they would have charged. That shows remarkable restraint.
I'm not saying they were not showing restraint. They did. However we should be careful not to allow the police to use this incident to legitimize their increasing use of excessive force against protesters in future.
BTW according to the Korean press this is the first time ever their fellow citizens have been arrested for taking part in demonstrations overseas.
I'm a HK reporter who had personal experience with the chicken guy (a wanker, I was proud to get a peevish whining email from him) and the Koreans and the cops this last week.
Except for Fowl Tom, I think all others concerned conducted themselves fairly well. A little kerfuffle between kops and Koreans after all the polite posturing was to be expected. Nothing to get the proverbial panties in a wad about.
I also think anyone from the Lion Rock Institute should be taken with a gi-normous wad of shrimp paste.
Andrew's paranoid blathering reminded me of the folks in the US in the '60s and '60s railing about the "communist/socialist threat." He's just concerned that some of their activism may eventually result in something as radical as a minimum wage and maximum work week in Hong Kong.
The horror! The horror!
Spacehunt: if a person sprays graffiti on a consulate wall, they deserve to be arrested. If a person disobeys their previously agreed march permit, races down a major road and confronts police, they deserve to be arrested. If a person pushes and shoves against police, they deserve to be arrested. The Korean papers may not believe it, but police are there to uphold the law. When these protesters broke it, and they did, they were rounded up and taken away. Was the police response excessive? No. Check the link above to the Standard article - if you are a cop and a bunch of protesters is rushing at you with steel, you are entitled to use force. The key is proportionality, and the police were not disproportionate.
Spacehunt - I happily stand corrected on some of my points. I do not believe this will be used as a precedent. And I do not believe it was excessive.
George, Andrew may be radical in his beliefs which are for pure capitalism (Hong Kong is an example of that) amd no government intervention except to provide a level playing field. I would agree with him. As an entrepreneur and an employer the thought of a minimum wage and maximum working hours would be a disaster. The market should decide. Not governments else people like me who take risks that lead to other people having employment opportunities would never be able to get our small companies off the ground.
Simon: I am not saying that the Koreans should not be arrested. They clearly broke HK law, there's no argument about that. I am arguing, and I agree to disagree with you on this, that the police themselves have been using force illegally. I did not say whether they were using force proportionally or not, but should proportionality even matter? Surely you are not suggesting an eye for an eye here...
I think proportionality is the perfect word for it. You need to consider how much force is required to actually stop the protesters? It will, be definition, likely be more than that the protesters are using themselves. It has to be enough to regain control, to deter and to subdue. If someone is throwing a punch, throwing one back won't quell the situation. Spraying them with pepper spray might.
We can agree to disagree. I've seen the footage repeatedly and in a chaotic situation the police acting on impulse and instinct, but still within the bounds of proportionate response. Only two serious injuries is a testament to that.
Simon: There has to be better, more intelligent ways of using force to calm an angry mob than spraying pepper spray directly in the eyes of people. But yes, the police deserves credit for limiting the number of injuries on Saturday. Certainly much better than Cronulla.
Flagrant: Whether it will be used as a precedent or not, we will have to see. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, etc.
Flagrant you wrote "As an entrepreneur and an employer the thought of a minimum wage and maximum working hours would be a disaster. The market should decide. Not governments else people like me who take risks that lead to other people having employment opportunities would never be able to get our small companies off the ground.''
Yeah. Right. It's been a disaster in the US since it was introduced for women and children in Massachusetts in 1912.
And since when has Hong Kong ever provided a "level playing field" for anyone except the tycoons and triads?
Forgive the lengthy citation from an April 2004 Asia Times online piece by Gary LaMoshi, but I think it's spot-on. "Contrary to local mythology and the Heritage Foundation's annual ranking of Hong Kong as the "world's freest economy" or the runner-up to Singapore (see Singapore Inc peels a veil in the dark, March 26), the government has played a vital role in creating Hong Kong wealth, dating back to the opium trade. The property market is at the root of most modern Hong Kong fortunes, and since colonial times, that industry has been dependent on the government, which owns all land (and, contrary to another myth, creates more via reclamation of the harbor), sells it to developers and then - here's the key - the buyer negotiates with the government to determine what can be built. It can be a 76-story office/hotel/residential/retail complex instead of a six-story block of flats, depending on your clout.
The other half of the Hong Kong myth is that people just want to do business without any interference from government or the distraction of politics. While it's true that Hong Kong has never had democracy, politics has played a crucial role - for some people. Tycoons, such as Tung and Cheung Kong, Hutchison Whampoa's Li Ka-shing, father of dot-bomber Richard Li and putative Air Canada rescuer Victor Li - sat on the colonial governor's Executive Council. The great and good simply opposed letting the vast majority of Hong Kong people have a voice equal to theirs that might object to tycoons making a killing at their expense."
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.
ESWN comments on the protests and says they were a PR disaster for the police and media and that the protesters were the winners. He's now followed up with further observations of the local media's coverage and impressions on the PR war. Many in Hong Kong have been very sympathetic to protesters (before last night, at least), but personally I think the HK police have done an outstanding job.
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.
I took some issue with ESWN's assessment of the police, and ended up writing a big long spiel about it. Reading it (my work), I found it perhaps a bit overboard in the amount of speculation and the number of tangents I go off on, but I'll let it stand.
I'm sorry but Roland is talking blatant romanticised rubbish. As I stated in my post on the "riots" late last night the police have done a fabulous job. As a tax paying voter I am pretty damn proud of them.
In the history of WTO meetings, never before have protests been allowed so close to the actual venue. The police sent neogiators into the camps to try and facilitate the protesters with meaningful opportunites to make their point. Even when the first minor pushing and pulling happened the police soaked it up and did not react, just simply standing their ground. They did everything they could to keep the temperature down.
The Koreans were the ones who decided to up the ante. Trying to overturn police vehicles and turning maetal railings into weapons by bending the rails out into a row of sharp spikes then running them at the police means the gloves should come off.
The response was appropriate. They stopped them and held them in place - no running charges ,just stopped and encircled.
I would be quite happy for the rubber bullets to come out - the Koreans were shown tremendous hospitality and understanding (however misguided) and they spat in our face.
I'm with you both, but I fear Roland is reflecting a broader view, especially within Hong Kong. It seems the protesters have gained widespread admiration from Hong Kongers, even though that admiration should really go to the cops. As FH said, they've done an outstanding job despite at time extreme provocation.
Apparently Roland is dumbfounded by the police's slow pace. I'd say it's insidiously good PR: let the cameras have several more hours of watching the protestors refuse food offers from the police and effect a very non-violent end to the situation. It also reverts the tone of the protests to the one before the escalation: a sense that the whole thing is an organized spectacle, a play that the protestors and the police play out with no actual acrimony. The police will arrest because the protestors broke the law, but will give them food and not beat them up. The protestors will hold their ground until the inevitable for their cause, but will not sacrifice the creature comforts of rice cookers, Tai Chi, and Doll noodles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Isn't the WTO rally wonderful ? It is like a mirror showing all
the evils and uglies especially those bloody gwailo - they talk
about "freedom of expression", "fight for justice", "free
trade" on one time and they will yell "vandalism", "mischief"
and burn your factory/warehouse when things are not right
US gets antsy over sugar not because of local sugar producers (there's relatively few of them), but because it competes against corn syrup, and corn production has done an excellent job in lobbying Congress.
Similarly, that's the real pusher behind ethanol fuels in the US: the corn industry, which would be the source of that ethanol, and gets huge subsidies from the US government to grow that corn.
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.
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?
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.
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"?
the closest thing to citizen journalism i saw the post doingwas Post writer Norma Connoly holding her own video camera at the ''riot.'' but i haven't seen everything and shis is just a personal comment.
Regarding your response on 'cultural imperialism', free trade does not offer choice. There are many examples where aggressive Western companies stamp out the 'choice' - for example, there used to be several alternatives to Coca-Cola in India, such as Thumbs Up, but all competitors (locally run) were bought out. Even in Hong Kong, (one of the world's 'freest' economies) there is an oligopoly of only two supermarkets (no-one else can set up and compete mostly because Wellcome and/or Park n Shop tend to own the shopping centres too).
Basing the WTO on the Convention on Human Rights WOULD help matters, as it would mean the WTO would become a regulatory body to protect people - who are actually more important that enriching an already rich circle of executives. Companies must be regulated more, not less - as profit will always be put over people and the environment.
Governments DO try tot protect human rights, but are not allowed to maintain or set up laws to protect workers or the environment as these are 'barriers to trade', and the WTO will override them.
Let's take a look at some of the 'artificial barriers and constraints' the WTO is looking at scrapping in the talks here...
• Energy efficiency labelling on appliances such as washing machines, fridges and irons (challenged by Korea, USA and China).
• A European Union scheme that ensures imports comply with health, safety and environmental protection laws (challenged by China).
• Labels which show whether a product is recyclable or from sustainable sourcing.
• Safety testing on imported foods, like compulsory testing for lethal toxins in shellfish.
How do scrapping these benefit anyone except corporate stock prices?
I feel you are taking the WTO's mantra at face-value, looking beyond the WTO website will reveal the true nature of this powerful and oppressive organisation. I also feel that just by spending a few weeks living amongst the people these policies worse affect would change your outlook. If we’re going to have capitalism – which of course I have reservations about too - it must at least be a level playing field.
For those interested in my activism, and why I'm in a 'flap' over the WTO, I'm collecting some articles here on my website... http://www.globalcitizen.co.uk/rants/activism.html and will be making a tit of myself across the province over the next week.
Apologies for any typos or if I missed anything – this was written in a bit of a rush!
Your first sentence betrays you, chickman. Free trade only offers choice. It does not force consumers to buy. It does not force companies to close. It just allows people choices. If you don't like capitalism, that's another debate. But Coke coming to dominate in India is about Indians liking Coke. Don't blame the company - they play by India's national laws and consumer choose. That's the system working.
I don't understand why you want to turn the WTO into a regulatory body, given your first arguement said it wasn't democratically elected (true) and that was a bad thing (false). What do you mean by "protect" people? What kind of company regulations are required? Give me examples that we can talk about, not generalities.
What WTO treaties do is prevent governments from hiding trade protection measures behind "environmental" or "workers" standards.
I'm happy to take the WTO at face value - it's proved exceptionally beneficial to millions so far.
I'm pretty cool with capitalism and free trade, but the chicken does have some points on problems with the WTO's potential vision of free trade. In particular, I'm thinking of the examples of challenges to labelling (eg energy labelling on products) as a barrier to free trade. In both cases, absence of such labelling reduces consumer choice.
Sure, consumers could do their own research, but let's be realistic. Compulsory labelling empowers consumers and lets them make more informed decisions about issues that their (in the West, at least) democratically elected government deems to be a health, environment or other relevant issue. However, these requirements are being increasingly challenged on the basis that they are artificial barriers to trade which are prohibited under WTO obligations.
Another downside of the current WTO arrangements is that countries (eg China) are able to challenge another countries imposition of health checks on food. In the time of SARS and bird flu, this is quite worrying. As an example of where the WTO framework (? may have be another multilateral treaty) has been used to challenge such things in the past, see the US's challenge to the EU's ban on sale of meat containing growth hormones (if I recall correctly, they were found to be in breach of trade obligations and have maintained the ban and just paid the monetary penalties).
This doesn't mean I'm anti-WTO in general eg I think the Korean farmers are contemptible. However, it's a bit easy to oversimplify the argument to pro-free trade vs anti-WTO. There's a lot of nuances which are lost on both sides of the debate, which lets some real concerning issues slip through.
There's also a lot of dumbing down, particularly on the anti-WTO side. I read a booklet earlier this week claiming that the WTO was the cause of increasing rural poverty and suicide in the PRC, which completely misses the reality of the situation. From discussions with anti-WTO protestors (and I know a fair few), I suspect that some of them go to developing nations and, through a process of selective education, lead garment workers et al to believe that the WTO is responsible for all economic-related suffering. I base this suspicion on discussions with some protestors over various meals, attendance at some of their seminars (which varied in coherency and relevancy from poor to good) and their materials.
However, the dumbing down of the opposition doesn't free the "I like free trade in general"-minded proponents from thinking hard about what the WTO regime actually does and where its downsides are.
Just to add one note - I support limited violence against protestors if they are behaving idiotically. If Chicken Man is the guy who was standing behind the HK TV presenter who was wearing a hard hat - I'm fine with the crew forcibly turfing you out of the way. Whatever the validity of your point re: the hard hat being unnecessary, you demonstrated a fundamental lack of comprehension of the Cantonese audience who would take your behaviour as justifying the reporters attire.
Some of the arguments you raised in your post are quite valid, but it's all lost in the presentation of a big loud gwailo wearing a chicken suit.
Are you familiar with the Bruce Springsteen classic, "Atlantic City"?
Opening Line: "Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night // now they blew up his house too//Down on the boardwalk they're gettin' ready for a fight // gonna see what them racket boys can do"
Not that I'm suggesting anything! Just free association at work. Even though I don't agree with much anything of what the anti-WTO people have to say, I do support their right to peaceful protest, because if nothing else, it reminds us all that behind words like 'corporate restructuring' and 'mid-career re-training' are real people with families to feed.
I'll try and respond quickly to all comments; I'm a busy chicken this week. I've never partaken in a debate online like this before, but it's fulfilling as usually I preach to the converted…
The example of Coke dominating in India may partly be due to Indians liking Coke, but they've also bought out all competitors. This is no good for India and certainly doesn't create choice, if they stamp out the competition. My point also stands on supermarkets in Hong Kong - an example on our doorstep - there's little choice there. I also believe there are only 1-2 choices for power in HK. More regulation is required, not less - as the polices of 'free trade' demand.
Regarding what regulations are required: Laws on child labour, slave wages, working hours and conditions are all irrelevant under the 'free trade' idea. The WTO could reform and incorporate minimal standards for countries and companies to follow on each of these issues. And I've already given examples of some of the environmental regulations they're trying to scrap at this meeting - do you agree with them being overridden?
Regarding its undemocratic nature - I may have been misunderstood. I don't expect elections to be held in each country to decide who represents them at the meetings - rather, the organisation needs to allow working people, perhaps unions, to have a say in proceedings. I'm no economist, but when something has this much power, it is absurd that we don't have any input. Plus, the whole thing should be more transparent so we know what is being decided on our behalf.
And the WTO has done more harm than good - sure, the glossy website and such all looks great on paper (as does communism, capitalism etc...)
TIU FU FONG:
You've got the wrong idea about my TVB / ATV run-in. And it happened tonight too, live on Pearl. I was totally peaceful; the hard-hat only became 'justified' when the crew attacked me. I may file a complaint with the Journalist's Association - but I've got hold of the video (which I'll have a link on my website to soon), and it seems I did more harm than good for our side. In reality, I may have made the scene more dramatic and the reporter said, in Cantonese, that I was trying to stop the broadcast. Over the next few days, I'm toning it down to a Cantonese sign and will be filming the crew so I have evidence of their ridiculously violent behaviour.
As I said, it was peaceful direct action - subverting/hijacking a live broadcast on a station that is blurring the facts - and if you were there, I think even you guys would agree.
Posted by tom grundy at December 15, 2005 11:08 PM
Doktor: I have never said the WTO is perfect. Far from it. Most free trade advocates have beefs (pardon the pun) with the WTO, and I've said elsewhere there is actually significant common ground between the anti-WTO protesters on the streets and us free-traders. I don't know the arcana of the labelling debate, but I know that more regulation and rules often act as artificial barriers to trade as much as they are about enhancing consumer choice. The same applies to health checks - Japan has only just allowed American beef back into the country, after a 3 or 4 year ban sparked by the Mad cow disease fear. Previously America exported more than US$1 billion of beef to Japan each year. Often the science does not support these "health checks", and that's when there are challenges under WTO rules. That is the case in the EU/US battle.
The crux is the battle is not pro-free trade vs anti-WTO. It is pro- and anti-free trade; and seperately pro- and anti-WTO. There are many subtleties to consider in every issue, and trade issues are particularly nuanced. I agree there are plenty of shades of gray. Your anecdotes about anti-WTO activities in developing countries are particularly worrying; but you are right that those of us on the other side also are responsible for pushing our side, rather than sit smugly knowing we're right.
I'm happy to continue this debate in public, whenever you like. In the interim...
Coke is a big company with lots of money. That is because many people like what they sell. It also means they can buy smaller companies from the owners of those smaller companies. This is capitalism. Many countries (not HK) have competition laws to prevent dominant companies from abusing market power, to curb any excesses. But I don't see the problem in India having fewer Coke brands. As for your HK examples, you are right, the city is dominated by oligopolies, especially in capital intensive industries such as power or logistical ones such as supermarkets. Hong Kong is a small market and even with a competition law such oligopolies would exist - the same happens in Australia. Are consumers worse off? Hard to prove, but not demonstrably so. At times the goverment may regulate the industry (such as power in HK), but that leads to perverse incentives (such as over-investment in HK's case).
In short, usually more regulation is the problem, not the solution. Who would you rather sort out problems? Government bureaucrats or the market place? I suggest reading Wisdom of Crowds if you want the answer.
As for your proposed regulations, these are the very misguided policies that developing countries hate. Child labour laws make Westerners feel good while leaving poor workers in developing countries without any means to support themselves. One man's "slave" wages are another's pay packet. I'm not saying it's fair. The world isn't a fair place. But imposing such policies harms those you are patronisingly trying to "protect". People in developing countries know the potential that schooling offers, but sometimes having enough to eat matters more. Minimum wages destroy jobs by creating an artificially high price of labour. To give an example, if the government said Coke must cost $10 a can, fewer people would buy Coke and less Coke would be made. That's a sub-optimal result, beacuse there are people that would buy Coke for less and there are people who would sell it for less. Generally messing with markets makes a mess of things.
The WTO does allow NGOs and unions a say. Pascal Lamy has gone out of his way to canvas opinions from outside the governmental framework. But the WTO is, in the end, a Governmental body. What's the absurdity?
The case you fail to prove is "the WTO has done more harm than good", and that the WTO has so much power. The WTO only has the power that governments agree to give it, and that is only for dispute resolution. Otherwise it is only a platform for negotiating a multilateral treaty, which individual countries then agree to and ratify. Part of the WTO's problem is it has no power - it's power comes from that which its members give it.
Simon, I'd think more deeply about how "minimum wages destroy jobs by creating an artificially high cost of labour".
As you must have seen from various sources, particularly in textiles and shoes, for example, manufacturing labour is an incredibly small part of the overall cost base of most fashion good companies with international supply chains. (I believe we generally hear about figures like under $1 for shoes costing $150.)
As shoe manufacturing has moved to cheaper countries (not under the control of the brand owners, but their subcontractors) the savings made would have shown up in the subcontractors and brand owners' shareholder returns.
If (say) labour prices doubled overnight, while shareholder returns would be affected, I'm quite confident that *demand* wouldn't, because the cost of labour isn't a material part of the total cost of the shoes.
In the case of a domestic economy, I'd point out to you that in a broad sense, better paid workers have more money to spend and are better able to e.g. ensure that their children get basic education, which benefits everyone (except providers of capital in the short run.)
I totally agree with you that these things (and other issues like health and safety standards) are the provisions of governments, not the WTO. However, the WTO's ability to rule on those issues, and the fact that its policies have deep consequences on a lot of the stakeholders, mean that it also carries some resposibility.
Effects of specific policies aside, the protestors are simply vocalising to what could be a legalistic body that looks at trade in very narrow terms that their policies affect real people in the outside world.
You are partly right, and in fact hit the nail on the head. These policies are the responsibility of governments. The WTO is an intergovernmental forum. But it is not the right place to introduce policies that are the responsibility of national governments. Who is the WTO to tell China that it must pay its textile workers US$5 an hour? Even if it is a small component of the cost of textiles, at the margin it is significant enough to make a difference - otherwise why the scramble by the both the Americans and EU to negotiate "deals" restricting textile exports despite the ending of restrictions at the start of 2005.
Your Henry Ford argument is right - if you pay workers more, they can afford to buy your products. But that's up to the employer to decide.
As I said elsewhere - the world isn't fair. Some countries have low wages, wages far below what people would for in developed countries. But already China is finding upward pressure on wages as migrant labour starts to demand more money and labour shortages emerge in Guangdong. The market can sort these things out with a minimum of fuss.
I should add I'm no advocate of abusing human rights. Slavery and indentured labour is clearly wrong. But I still see minimum wages as doing more harm than good...and I've thought and studied this topic extensively.
But I do understand that people want their voices heard by the WTO, so that negotiators realise the consequences of their policies. I think that's already been done effectively by some groups (Oxfam springs to mind) but not by others (Korean farmers). The negotiators are all from governments, and even if not democratically elected governments depend on popular will to exist. They are constantly reminded of the protesters desires and Pascal Lamy goes out of his way to incorporate outside voices, despite no legal need to.
I am off to Nam for Christmas (please restrain yourselves before the ironic 'chicken flu' comments start to flow), but I'll try and respond to what's written above before I go... In the meantime, here's a letter I've circulated to the HK press.
Bear in mind that I was actually present at all of the major scuffles, and peacefully witnessed what really happened...
The scare-mongering sensationalist media circus, the over-the-top policing and bleeding hearts about Hong Kong's broken history of peaceful protest have all became quite tiresome.
I spent the week and preceding month touring the city in a chicken costume to raise awareness of the WTO's true nature. I worked to trivialise and undermine media attempts to create a climate of fear by decorating riot shield lines with Christmas decorations, I also subverted live TV broadcasts as the anchors went to air donning helmets especially to exaggerate the level of danger, when there was absolutely no threat.
I was amongst the 99% of completely peaceful demonstrators (who were still tear gassed without warning!). Those who caused disturbance were NOT 'rioting' in a chaotic 'war zone', smashing up shops, cars and infrastructure or beating up civilians and policemen. They were simply trying to get to the Convention Centre and the police were an obstacle. This 'militant mob' picked up litter and returned police shields after their protests and it was never more than a few dozen activists at the front using force to break police lines.
If a country invites the WTO to their city, authorities should not be surprised if some of the millions of desperate people it affects turn up to express their anger. I was shocked by the diabolical lack of journalistic integrity and fairness shown by reporters and have set up a website detailing my observations at www.tvb.wxs.org .
Posted by tom grundy at December 19, 2005 05:39 PM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tom, exactly how many Hong Kongers do you see involved in the protests? What about if you ask Hong Kongers? Most don't care for the protesters and most people feel more sympathy for the shopkeepers in Wan Chai.
Maybe it is time for you to check your eyes, the helmets are
black in colour, not green; and if you can spend a few minutes
getting out of your small pathetic expat circle, and spend a
few minutes reading the local press, then you will know the
HKers are touched by the protesters as well.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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."
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.
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.
At HKUST they sent us a series of guidelines for the week which include: Avoid the MTR and all public transit, avoid TST, avoid Wanchai, avoid Starbycks, avoid driving on roads (walk instead), avoid Victoria Park, and finally if you didn't get the point "STAY HOME".
what a laugh. i'm sad i'm missing it. fortunately your compatriots here in sydney have organised a few riots to make those of us who unfortunately missed the WTO meetings by a few weeks feel like we're still in hk but somehow it's not quite the same.
Writing "north of" (or "south of"), followed by a figure, should be extraditable, _from_ anywhere and _to_ anywhere. There should be international courts for that sort of thing. On reflection, shooting's too good.
It's about as acceptable as writing "useage" instead of "usage", although it is probably acceptable in the banking world.
I think what we have here is a disconnect on our front end deliverables which, if we ask the right question, we can get clarity around so we can pull the right levers on the roadmap and slam-dunk our way to nirvana and/or granularity, with a clear steer to the low-lying fruit.
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.
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.
A professor takes on the 3 common claims of anti-globalisers and anti-capitalists and comes to this conclusion: the anti-globalists and anti-capitalists aren't crashing the barricades on the road to prosperity, they are the barricades.
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?
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:
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.
This American Life is a rather good show! I used to listen to it several years back...will have to download their podcasts.
Every time I hear about people losing their jobs due to globalization, though, I always think of the counterfactual - if you legislate tariff barriers to keep jobs from being lost - you are taking a job from someone else, somewhere (not to mention the chance for a business or entrepreneur in your own country to provide a better product or service). I often wonder, if considerations of job losses are by definition nationalistic (rather than global) how on earth do protesters from different countries manage to march together?
In case it wasn't clear, the This American Life episode wasn'isn't about Americans losing jobs. Rather, it's about Cambodians losing their jobs to Vietnam, Thailand, China and other places.
Cambodia adopted a number of Western-style labor laws in the 80s and 90s - minimum wage, eight hour workdays, no child labor etc. They were able to do this because they were a preferred traing patner with the US under a special law adopted in the 90s. That law expired in 2003 (I think? can't remember the exact date) and now they're getting sqeezed big-time.
Re: this point:
> I often wonder, if considerations of
> job losses are by definition
> nationalistic (rather than global) how
> on earth do protesters from different
> countries manage to march together?
Well, I think you should make that "rich, democratic" countries. I doubt you'll see a lot of Egyptians or even Russians protesting there.
Not that I agree with them ideologically, but I think it's reasonable to ask whether democracy (or the lack thereof) should get you special consideration vis a vis global trade agreements.
Look at the Harbin benzene spill - would that happen in the (democratic) West? And, if so, what would be the political consequences?
Hi Derek, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I should point out though that not only are there Korean farmers here but also protesters from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations experiencing the structural 'squeeze' of not being able to offer competitive production (in terms of labor cost vs. skill sets vs. infrastructure) costs vis-a-vis China or India. I was marvelling at their mutual desire to protest together.
I definitely think the benzene spill could happen in democratic third-world countries - one need look no further than Union Carbide in Bhopal, India in the 1980s. The company was excoriated, yes, but the amount of compensation they were required to pay to the victims was pitiful.
You raise an interesting point by suggesting that trade be directed to democracies. It is an intriguing notion, but it seems to me that a counter-example is in US relations vs. Burma, and relations vs. China over the last 20 years. Both have been ruled by repressive, autocratic regimes. Due to foreign policy dictates, the US pursued a policy of economic isolation against Burma, whereas it chose to engage in a policy of engagement with China. Which regime seems closer to having a middle class capable of bringing about gradual political liberalization? The answer is clearly China.
I am all for democracy - but at the appropriate time. The world's stage is sadly littered with examples of countries that attempted a democratic transition before it has the institutions, the resources, and the level of social and economic development to do so. As Fareed Zakaria pointed out in his book the Future of Freedom, there actually is something approaching a magic formula - democratic transitions that occur in countries that have a GDP per capita above US$8,000 or its inflation adjusted equivalent are far more likely to succeed in their endeavor than one well below that line (the only exception being resource-rich states which tend to be centralized and do not depend on a large middle class for their wealth, like Saudi Arabia).
To me, trade should not be used as a weapon, but as a means whereby one encourages the adoption of free enterprise, secure property ownership, and meritocratic growth. The East Asian experience very much suggests that to be a winning formula. It would align the broadest number of people in a truly 'developing' (meant descriptively, not as an euphemism for permanent poverty) country with the original spirit that infused the framers of the American Constitution - promoting life, individual liberty and the pursuit of property (I believe 'happiness' was used as a polite replacement in the final version).
In that sense, I would not in the final analysis agree with your policy to reward democratic regimes with better trade terms, as although I would see such a policy as well-intentioned, I would also see it having a negative overall effect on world trade or indeed on promoting democracy worldwide in the long run.
Interesting to see that there *are* protestors from developing nations there. Hmmm...
Yes, I thought of the Bhopal disaster, and I think that's one more complication to throw in an otherwise brilliant point. ;) India is a democracy, but it's also amazingly corrupt (not to mention vastly more socialist back in the 80s). The sad reality is that "democracy" is hard to measure, so how do you tie trade to it? It would be an exercise every bit as political as anything else.
I also believe in constructive engagement with non-democratic states. Burma is a good example, Cuba is another. But these are also issues of national security, not just economics. In other words, trade is still about broader state-to-state relations, not just prices and jobs.
To be clear, I'm a free-trader. But the orthodoxy of free trade tends to gloss over the fact that there is an arbitrage game going on. "Specialization" and "comparative advantage" are clean-sounding words that mask, for example how much cheaper it is to bribe a plant inspector in Jilin than to abide by EPA regulations in the US.
As I say, I support free trade and think most of the WTO protestors are whackos, but the polarized political environment here in the US has escalated this issue into a near Holy war. Interesting that so many people here who hate the UN seem to love the WTO, even though the latter has much more of an effect on sovereignty.
Hi Derek, I do think that the WTO could do more to ensure environmental regulations are enforced in countries. But I think to democratize the institutions of the WTO and make all of its backroom neogtiations completely transparent would be a mistake that would prevent it from getting things done, and make it beholden to special interest groups that do not have the national interest of particular countries at stake.
You're right. If the WTO were a legislative body, nothing would ever get done. But lack of transparency also feeds public cynicism and provides a wedge for ideological opponents. I don't know how you overcome that.
Ultimately, its ideology that screws things up. The lefties have their ideology and the righties have theirs. But nothing gets done unless you find a compromise, and the people who make it happen are "sellouts" and "traitors."
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.
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?
OK, you've given us a slogan, but not a reason. Why is comparitive advantage a race to the bottom of workers rights? If you understood the theory, you would realise the workers are also consumers. Let me explain it to you:
Country A is the best at making both cars and food.
Country B also makes cars and food, is better at making food than cars, but not as good as Country A at either.
If country A specialises in only making cars, and country B specialises in making food, and they trade with each other, BOTH countries are better off. The workers get cheaper products for the same amount of wages.
That sounds like comparitive advantage is a boon for workers, not a race to the bottom.
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!"
I got skunked trying to find a hotel for next weekend...We want to get in to visit Santa before Christmas. It fell on the 3rd hotel and the room I got wasn't the first choice. They may not be full...but it is getting awfully tight.
"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.
"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.
Nice post, Simon. I like your suggestion of Wanchai Take Over. I've always also liked Waste of Taxpayer Outlay and Wankers Tired of Onanism. In its previous incarnation (GATT), I quite liked General Agreement to Talk and Talk...
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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):
I know someone who is going to do well out of the WTO meeting. Quarterdeck Bar and Grill at Fenwick Pier. They are within the security zone. They expect to be completely booked out for the entire period.
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?
"Does anyone else find it interesting how these anti-globalisation groups are great examples of globalisation at work?"
No, maybe it's because, as Wikipedia sez ...
"Many regard the term "anti-globalization" as a misnomer, and see this as a tag meant to discredit the movement; in fact, many of those involved in the anti-globalization movement do support closer ties between the various peoples and cultures of the world — in particular, they often show solidarity with peoples they consider to be oppressed and campaign for asylum and immigration rights — and are opposed only to capitalist globalization. This is why they tend to use more nuanced terms to describe their movement, such as anti-capitalist, anti-corporate or positive terms as alternative globalization (see Alter-globalization) global justice or fair-trade movement, Global Justice and Solidarity Movement (GJ&SM), Movement of Movements or simply The Movement, and use slogans like "globalize justice" and "globalize liberation.""
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.
i'm confused on this one. your economic analysis is clearly right on, but this government is not always rational in that sense.
i'm more perplexed by the absence of media coverage of the anti-WTO planning conference. in the indymedia coverage, the civil reporters describes some strange scenes: a key speaker started rambling about how Fiji signed onto WTO without reading the text; the meeting ended with a singing of the Internationale. Throughout all that, the overall sense is that the police is begging the protest organizers to have mercy on them, because it is really not that fault. Really?
There was a bit on this in the SCMP this AM. Apparently, these leftists are saying that they won't control their more violent comrades if the Police decide to act against them. They told the HKSAR Gov't to "trust the demonstrators and to avoid any overreaction that might provoke more radical action by individual activists".
Trust the demonstrators? Sure, and I've got a genuine Rolex that I bought in TST off a street vendor. .. It really sounds like they think they are above the law, issuing threats to the HK Police.
I hope the HKSAR authorities spell it out plainly to them: "You start a fight, we will finish you. You think this is San Francisco?"
Or they could always consider deploying the PLA Garrison...
I think they want to show how impotent the "forces of globalization" are by showing them (leftists) running amok with the authorities being unable to stop them (like in Seattle and Italy).
That would show how "powerful" their cause is. All done for effect. They want the authorities to stand down. I don't think that there was ever a demonstration by these leftists where they were met by equal force (or the will to use it against them).
That's because they do these things where they have politicians and fifth columnsts that support them. They have leverage that way. Now, HK should be a different animal now because it's part of PRC. Like I said before, deploy the PLA and dare the leftists to start trouble...
At least your friend in the HKP makes it sound like they're ready. Hope they act accordingly when the time comes.
I am not sure if anyone in the HK Sar has the authority to mobilize the PLA garrison command in Hong Kong. As far as I am aware, the commander is subordinate to his superior officers in the Guangzhou military region and of course Beijing.
I maybe wrong on this though, and maybe the HK Chief executive can exercise authority over them.
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."
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.
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.