Tag Archives: legco

You dirty Ho! HK lawmaker gives democracy a kick in the teeth

7 Mar

Those of you (both of you?) that regularly read this blog may detect a certain implicit distrust of the establishment and tendency to side with the underdog in many of my posts.

albert hoWell, in the interests of balance, I’ve decided to focus this week’s rant on former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho, who decided to do something rather silly during last Wednesday’s budget speech.

Having resigned his chairmanship of one of the SAR’s numerous “pan-democrat” (ie anti-Beijing/establishment) parties following poor performance in the 2012 elections, Ho is now the secretary general of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

More importantly, he’s the rather portly and well-tanned member of Legco who helped Edward Snowden escape to victory, or er, to Moscow, during the time the sysadmin was holed up here following his high profile dash from the evil US empire (ie Hawaii, where he lived in relative affluence with his pole dancing girlfriend).

62-year-old Ho, who’s an outspoken pro-democracy and universal suffrage advocate, was photographed in the chamber last week browsing through pictures of bikini-clad hotties on his tablet. All of this as finance minister John Tsang gave arguably one of the most important policy speeches of the year.

Now I’m all for lawmakers browsing the interwebs to buy gifts for their loved ones and I’m sure that all Ho was doing was looking for a nice swimsuit for his niece, or daughter, or … wife’s birthday? Or perhaps his secretary’s.

Anyway, you’ve got to play the game Albert. You can’t be on your iPad when you should be taking notes on an, albeit dreadfully dull 90 minute-long, important budget speech.

It’s what you were elected to do matey. Fannying around, almost literally, when you should be at work is the preserve not of elected politicians but those employed by social media and digital marketing companies.

Your campaigning for greater democratic accountability among Hong Kong’s leaders, including support for the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement which is pushing for true universal suffrage, has been rather undermined by the fact you couldn’t wait 90 minutes to look at some fanny.

What Ho should have been doing was taking apart Tsang and his “fiscal advisors” dire warnings that Hong Kong could face a structural deficit of HK$1.54 trillion (£115bn) by 2041, miring the place in Greek-style levels of debt.

Now Hong Kong is, I believe, the only country/state/call-it-what-you-will which actually runs a budget surplus. Yup a surplus. Every year it gravely predicts a deficit – the last fiscal year a HK$3.5bn one (£269m) – but each year lo and behold a surplus appears. This past fiscal year it was a whopping HK$64.9bn (£500m).

The reason? It makes the US seem positively generous with welfare and social spending. Yes the SAR is starting to increase spending on the poor and ageing but it’s still a pittance.

For years the government has relied on good old Confucianism to ensure families look after their elderly members and it still allows a fifth of its population, over one million people, to struggle below the poverty line – with tens of thousands ‘living’ in cage homes little bigger than a coffin.

So should we believe the dire financial warnings from the government? Nope, I smell vested interests trying to scare the populous and justify continually, shockingly, low welfare spending.

I’d love to think the pan-democrats could effect some serious change in this regard, so come on guys, do it for the Noodle. It’s my way or the Ho-way.

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China: Be the best, screw the rest

13 Nov

typhoonThis week saw the world’s biggest ever shopping event. It was in China, obviously, where coming first at stuff has become a national pastime, and it was 11.11 day – an event made up by retailers to sell more shit on the country’s most popular e-commerce platforms, run by Alibaba.

Now I mention this because Alibaba recorded a staggering $5.78 billion in sales on that single day, double that of the year previously. If any event could define a nation at a single moment in time it would be this – Chinese shoppers scrabbling desperately to hoover up as many online bargains as possible, like so many chavs bursting down the doors of Primark on Boxing Day. Spend, spend, spend and forget the state-sanctioned human rights abuses, the endemic corruption, and the cancerous smog.

I also mention this because at the last count, China had failed to offer a single penny of aid to the typhoon-wracked Philippines. With large parts of the country totally and utterly flattened, thousands dead and an estimated 600,000 displaced, two-thirds of whom are still without food, water and medicine, it’s not a big ask. The Chinese Red Cross has offered a paltry $100,000 – not much but it’s something. Actually it’s 0.0017% of the money made in the 11.11 sales.

There are a few reasons why the response from the world’s second largest economy has been so feeble, and they offer a neat insight into the Chinese psyche, or more pertinently, the Communist Party’s priority list. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated recently over that old chestnut, territorial claims in the South China Sea. In this case, China is claiming a group of rocks known as the Spratlys just 100 miles away from the Philippines. Then there is the lingering anger at the lack of a formal apology from Philippines government for the 2010 hostage bungle, in which several Hong Kong tourists were killed when their bus was captured by terrorists in Manila.

Hong Kong, for the record, is still um-ing and ah-ing about official aid – waiting for a Legco ruling to approve a HK$40m disaster fund. This despite the fact that over 100,000 Filipino maids work in the SAR. In the meantime, local charities are taking the initiative themselves and seem to be doing ok. Even HSBC has donated more than $1 million. It also seems, according to my friends at Shanghaiist, that even the loyal state-run media in China is angry at Beijing’s lack of movement on this so far. When you’re being made to look miserly and petty by a bank, and the media outlets you control with an iron fist are having a pop, it’s probably time to rethink your position.

No wonder China’s soft power efforts are somewhere behind North Korea’s at times.