Tag Archives: CY Leung

Warning: make contain whistles

14 Jun

whistleThis week I have to write a little bit about this guy who blew someone’s whistle. I’m not sure if it was technically his whistle or the US government’s whistle but it was bloody loud enough to get everyone’s attention and now you can’t move for news of him. I’m talking of course about Edward Snowden, the former IT bod at defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who became China’s new favourite person after fleeing to Hong Kong to avoid capture by the US and possible charges of treason.

My observations are as follows:

IT technicians at defence contractors get paid too much. The Mira is a friggin’ swish hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui where Snowden was holed up, the inside of which I only ever get to see for IDC analyst conferences on virtualisation. Before that he was rumoured to be staying in the W. Seriously, this former information security engineer should be used as a poster boy to get more kids into IT: excitement, intrigue, a $200,000 a year salary, Hawaii home, a hot girlfriend who’s a professional pole dancer. And he still wasn’t happy? Some people. Let’s see how he likes the inside of Guantanamo.

Second; I can’t work out whether he’s incredibly naïve or very smart. Out of pure schadenfreude I’d quite like to see Snowden bundled into the back of a black van and never heard from again due to his decision to flee to Hong Kong because the people here “have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”. Part of that is true – people love complaining, usually with whistles, about the government and their rapidly eroding rights – but how often do they get their way? Only when it suits Beijing. Case in point, three pro-democracy activists have just been convicted of burning the HK flag in a protest. Seriously, in 2013 people are still getting done for that…

It doesn’t stop there. A Hong Kong Uni poll last month revealed the majority of people here (48 per cent) think the press in HK actively self censors, while Reporters Without Borders ranks it 58th on its World Press Freedom Index, four places down from 2012. Freedom House doesn’t rate Hong Kong too highly either – ranking it 71st in the world in terms of protection of civil liberties and listing it as only “partly free”.

This place exists in a “one country two systems” regime which protects civil liberties, press and internet freedoms and preserves the rule of law, unlike mainland China. But it’s never really been tested yet. The regime only continues to exist in this form because it allows HK to flourish as one of the world’s great financial capitals. In reality, the former British colony is ruled by property moguls and bankers and the politicians they elect and become; and who as a property mogul or financier wouldn’t want to appease Beijing with its huge coffers and vast potential market?

Having said this, I think on balance Snowden’s smarter than this.

He is appealing to HK-ers’ natural proclivity to fight for free speech, which they will do – again with whistles – at a rally on Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t matter that the free speech on this occasion is being threatened by the US rather than Chinese government. In fact, this unusual twist will also appeal to Beijing. Whether it’s part of the plan or not, he’s been making himself an attractive asset for the Party to keep hold of by disclosing some hugely embarrassing secrets about US state surveillance of its own citizens, as well as revelations of NSA hacking attacks on China and other countries. It’s all given the Communist Party huge leverage in the on-going cyber blame war with the US and will surely mean Beijing will not want to step in and over-rule Hong Kong’s decision on extradition – which could itself take forever.

save snowden

I should really be happy that the warrantless surveillance of citizens by US security agencies is being uncovered by an IT droid, but there are a few things that made me take an instant dislike to this guy.

First: “Edward”. The only people I know who actually use the full length version of this name are politicians, former kings of England and people trying to give themselves more gravitas than they innately possess. Unless it’s The Guardian that is trying to give Ed more gravitas than he innately possesses, in which case ignore me…

Second: The Guardian interview. Have you noticed how Snowden is at pains to say “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me”, and that “my sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. Err, why didn’t you just try and stay anonymous then? Not easy, granted, but there is a touch of the Assange about his carefully rehearsed, media-friendly declamations.

Third: failure to grasp basic employment law. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he told The Grauniad. Again, I think you’ll find that disclosing top secret state-run surveillance programs is against the rules according to your former employer and possibly treasonous.

Fourth: I hate IT nerds in glasses and I can’t abide whistles.

That last one was a joke.

As for the future. Well, Hong Kong’s media unfriendly CEO CY Leung was giving nothing away in this cringe-worthy interview by what looked like a Bloomberg TV intern.

Despite the above rant, though, Death Noodle hopes Edward Snowden is able to stay exiled in Hong Kong for as long as possible. With any luck, until after 2047 when the “one country, two systems” rule runs out and he’ll finally be able to experience what it’s like to live in a proper tyrannical state. Although by then, no doubt, we’ll all be speaking bad Mandarin and defecating in lifts.

It’s erection time in Hong Kong – get your poll face on

8 Sep

If you’ve tutted yourself to sleep over the past few days bemoaning the woeful state of British politics, and then woken up again screaming at the thought of failed bell-ringer Jeremy Hunt in charge of the life or death of the NHS, spare a thought for Hong Kong.

It’s erection, sorry, election time here and the streets are filled with sinister looking people smiling, waving, handing out leaflets and leaning out of curb-crawling cars bawling into loudspeakers. They could be politicians but they look more like members of a particularly unforgiving cult.

Now, Hong Kongers are particularly passionate about their democractic voting rights – well you would be after having basically been denied them under colonial rule and with the one-party shadow of the motherland China casting an imposing darkness over all. People turn out here in embarrassingly large numbers, putting established democracies like good old Blighty to their eternal shame, although the problem is the elections aren’t really democractic.

The boss of HK, CEO CY Leung, for example, wasn’t directly elected by the people but chosen by a mainly pro-Beijing bunch of businessmen selected for the job. Then there are this week’s elections for legislative councillors. The LegCo, as the ‘parliament’ is known, has been expanded from 60 to 70 seats but only half are directly elected, the rest being divided into functional constituencies representing various professional sectors. Not everyone gets to vote for the latter, with professional bodies granted block votes which kind of distort any sort of democratic accountability said seats would have. Also, the voting system is quite frankly baffling and no amount of even more confusing TV ads mouthed in cheery voices – which have been running almost non-stop in the past fortnight – will change that.

Anti-Beijing sentiment has been rising in Hong Kong, and if enough pro-democracy legislators are elected on Sunday then universal suffrage could be introduced as slated in 2017 – if not then pro-China parties could block such a decision. If there’s one thing the folks here don’t like, it’s being told what to do, even if it’s for the greater good of a unified Han empire.

That anti-Beijing sentiment has bubbled up most recently in the form of protests at the planned introduction of national education classes in schools. It has been on the cards for years, but that shit is only now getting real, with the fear that, if introduced, these “patriotism classes” will indoctrinate young’uns in the ways of the Dark Side, sorry, teach them to love communist China and all it stands for. Several people are already on hunger strike…it’s all getting rather tense. Although schools ultimately have the final say on what they teach, no-one knows how rigorously these ‘suggested’ guidelines will actually be implemented. One school has even forbidden parents from seeing the curriculum, which doesn’t inspire much confidence.

These people aren’t paranoid, well they might be a little, but as the old saying goes: “Just cos you’re paranoid don’t mean China’s not watching you.” The insidious pro-Beijing bias is seen no-where more blatantly than in this TV news piece, on Hong Kong TV mind you, which rather obtusely tries to lay the blame of the national education protesters on foreign interference. Crazy.

Hong Kong turns 15, hacks revolt

3 Jul

Hong Kong colonial flagHong Kong. It’s easy to forget sometimes staring goggle-eyed at the splendorous neon-skyscrapered waterfront or ambling through the whore-infested byways of Wan Chai that this is part of China.

The special administrative region (SAR) turned 15 on Sunday. Well, its new life as an autonomous part of the People’s Republic turned 15 – and like all teenagers it’s getting increasingly riled with its parents.

As new CEO CY Leung was sworn in by Chinese president Hu Jintao hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest the appointment of their new leader – done far away from the troubling spotlight of democratic elections – whom they view as an agent of Beijing, despite his claims to the contrary.

Several protestors even carried proudly aloft the old colonial Hong Kong flag – a symbol of “all we have lost”, they said – while another was bundled into a police van after rudely heckling Hu’s speech.

Back in pre-’97 times democratic rights were similarly limited, but personal freedoms, human rights and the rule of law were more securely anchored. Many feel, rightly or wrongly, that Beijing has gradually chipped away at these things which Hong Kongers had come to take for granted.

One thing they could also be more sure of back then was a free press unfettered by direct or indirect pressure from Beijing.

Looking at some of the anodyne stories in the South China Morning Post these days – most notably the reporting of Chinese dissident Li Wangyang – it’s not hard to see why most Hong Kong dwellers now think the press is actively engaged in self-censorship.

The SCMP faced angry protestor at its gates and a petition signed by staff after it downplayed news of the suspicious death of Li a few weeks ago.

In addition, almost 90 per cent of HK journos think press freedom has “deteriorated significantly” under the outgoing administration, with the government accused of tightening its grip on information by restricting the number of events accessible to reporters and increasing off-the-record briefings.

President Hu did nothing to quell any such fears in his speech at Leung’s swearing in ceremony, as the China Media Project blog picked up:

[We must] adhere to and implement a fully accurate ‘one country two systems’ policy, acting in strict accord with [Hong Kong’s] Basic Law, combining the priorities of upholding ‘one country’ while respecting differences in the ‘two systems,’ preserving the authority of the central Party and ensuring a high-level of autonomy in the Special Administrative Region, preserving overall national interests and ensuring various interests within Hong Kong society, supporting Hong Kong in actively developing international exchanges and opposing interference in Hong Kong affairs by outside forces . . .

These ‘outside forces’, according to the Hong Kong Uni-based project, are journalists, web-based loud mouths and any others who say things in public that powerful people don’t like the sound of.

Stuff like this, then, probably.

I’ll get my coat…