China has impressive control of its overseas students

I find the CCP ability to control overseas students to be extremely impressive. Whether this was a plan instigated decades ago or just luck is a good question to ask.

Chinese students go to university in the West. They feel isolated because no locals are jumping to be their friends. They are not special, they’re just ordinary students. Naturally they hang out with other chinese students.

They continue to get their media through Chinese channels, almost exclusively wechat. They then discuss what they’ve read with other Chinese students that have got their information from the same place. In most cases their English is at a level where they would need to spend a lot of time and effort to read an western academic paper or even a typical news article, so they don’t bother.

Then, having been physically in the West, they can say they have not been restricted to only Chinese media. It’s hard for them to definitively be labeled as brainwashed.

Due to being excluded from local social groups, no longer having access to 10 yuan meals, needing to cook themselves, they have shit social lives and eat shit food. They then say the west is boring and the food sucks. They hate it and want to go back to china where they’re comfortable.

The result is a large amount of Chinese people who have experienced the West first hand, have an increased love for China and the Chinese government and can argue they were educated in the west and are therefore not brainwashed.

This has run completely counter to typical western theory, where the west expected once an oppressed people were in a ‘free’ country they would see the light and switch sides. How wrong they were.

FIVE THINGS FOR VOTERS TO REMEMBER WHEN DECIDING BETWEEN JOE BIDEN AND BERNIE SANDERS

FIVE THINGS FOR VOTERS TO REMEMBER WHEN DECIDING BETWEEN JOE BIDEN AND BERNIE SANDERS

1. Joe Biden is exactly the kind of weak establishment Democrat that Donald Trump can beat  — Donald Trump excels at running against members of the Democratic establishment. When he beat Hillary Clinton, it was because he attacked her for being pro-Wall Street, responsible for free trade agreements that shipped American manufacturing overseas, a supporter of the disastrous Iraq War, and embroiled in corruption scandals. Joe Biden is exactly the same: he was in the pocket of credit card companies (and helped them make it more difficult for poor Americans to get out from under crushing debts in bankruptcy), voted for NAFTA, was a key supporter of Bush’s catastrophic war, and has his own corruption scandal. Worse, Biden has lied about things like his Iraq war support. These lies will be the subject of constant, and effective, attack ads in a general election. 

2. Joe Biden does not have the ability to inspire voters or the strength necessary to fight Trump. — Throughout this campaign, Biden’s fundraising has been anemic and his events poorly-attended. Biden’s public speeches are rambling and incoherent. His “gaffes” are near-constant to the point where it is often not clear he knows where he is or what office he is running for. One does not want to make fun of this and it is a delicate subject but we are talking about making someone President of the United States and problems like these will be pounced on by Trump.

 It will be impossible for Biden to produce a reason for young people to turn out and vote for him, because he has long stood in the way of social progress—such as by partnering with racist senators to oppose racially integrating the school system and expand the prison system—and represents every tendency in the Democratic Party that has turned off progressive voters. Biden’s interactions with voters are often painful to watch: while Bernie Sanders is good at engaging voters he disagrees with and can get even a Fox News audience cheering for his socially progressive agenda, Joe Biden swears at voters, insults them, and tells them to go and vote for his opponents. It’s a terrible approach to politics: Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney learned the hard way that when you insult voters themselves, you turn them off. Biden will see his support tank as voters realize he is incompetent and he continues the approach that caused him to tank in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

3. Joe Biden has very serious vulnerabilities that are going to be exposed — Biden has a history of lying about himself. His first presidential run ended in scandal, because Biden was caught fictionalizing details of his autobiography, making up awards that he had never won and lifting autobiographical details from the speeches of other politicians. Biden still does this: he has been pretending to have been a Civil Rights activist, lying about his voting record, lying about his support for the Iraq war, and making up fictitious incidents in his life that never happened. Biden’s pitch to America is that his moral character is superior to Donald Trump’s, but it will be impossible for him to make that case clearly when multiple women have accused him of inappropriately touching them and Biden has a long history of telling lies. 

4. Bernie Sanders does not have any of these weaknesses and is clearly the candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Bernie Sanders has not lied about having been part of the civil rights movement, because he was actually part of the civil rights movement, and has earned the endorsement of the legendary Jesse Jackson. Bernie Sanders has consistently shown better judgment than Joe Biden on the issues that matter: he was a staunch opponent of the Iraq war, which reveals the kind of foreign policy judgment a president needs. When Joe Biden was pushing for cuts to Social Security, Bernie Sanders fought to make sure seniors had the safety net they needed to be comfortable in old age. Joe Biden has been a lifelong friend of the the political and economic elites, while Bernie Sanders has been a lifelong champion of the rights of ordinary people. 

5. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who can deal with the most pressing challenges of our time. — Climate change is one of the most serious challenges of our time, and while Joe Biden’s campaign is stuffed with fossil fuel industry executives and their allies, Bernie’s plans for a Green New Deal represent the best chance we have of taking the necessary action to stop climate change. There is a reason why polls have shown Bernie as a better general election candidate against Trump in key states: Bernie can inspire independents and win back Trump’s own voters. He knows the struggles people face in their day to day lives: Bernie wants a healthcare plan that covers everybody, while Joe Biden would leave millions uninsured. Even people like Joe Rogan, who we might expect to be sympathetic to Donald Trump, trust Bernie Sanders because he conveys authenticity and compassion in a way that politicians like Biden do not. Bernie is the best weapon the Democrats have for taking back the White House. If Democrats don’t choose Bernie, they will be saddled with a nominee who will fumble and go down in flames, turning off the next generation of Democratic voters (who overwhelmingly reject Biden) and handing reelection to Donald Trump. 

JOE BIDEN WILL LOSE TO TRUMP. 

IF DEMOCRATS NOMINATE HIM, THEY WILL QUICKLY REALIZE WHAT A DISASTROUS DECISION THEY HAVE MADE. 

Given the stakes of this election for the planet and the fate of democracy, we cannot take a risk like Joe Biden. 

Bernie Sanders will win back the Midwest and is the Democrats’ ticket to victory in November.

To save the country from Trump, we must stop Democrats from the disaster of a Biden nomination. 

For more, see: “Democrats, You Really Do Not Want to Nominate Joe Biden” Article, Audio, and Video

And Intercepted podcastWe Need to Talk About Joe” 

Originally posted at https://docs.google.com/document/d/131FJihDQhWOp3-r5hZ6R2b95Ff1UvbgjLtKsSfijWek/edit

UK based Registrar in Anaesthesia & ICM on Coronavirus

From a well respected friend and intensivist/A&E consultant who is currently in northern Italy:

I feel the pressure to give you a quick personal update about what is happening in Italy, and also give some quick direct advice about what you should do.

First, Lombardy is the most developed region in Italy and it has a extraordinary good healthcare, I have worked in Italy, UK and Australia and don’t make the mistake to think that what is happening is happening in a 3rd world country.

The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity.

We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of patients with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.

Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.

My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they con only offer some oxygen. Ortho and pathologists are being given a leaflet and sent to see patients on NIV. PLEASE STOP, READ THIS AGAIN AND THINK.

We have seen the same pattern in different areas a week apart, and there is no reason that in a few weeks it won’t be the same everywhere, this is the pattern:

1)A few positive cases, first mild measures, people are told to avoid ED but still hang out in groups, everyone says not to panic

2)Some moderate resp failures and a few severe ones that need tube, but regular access to ED is significantly reduced so everything looks great

3)Tons of patients with moderate resp failure, that overtime deteriorate to saturate ICUs first, then NIVs, then CPAP hoods, then even O2.

4)Staff gets sick so it gets difficult to cover for shifts, mortality spikes also from all other causes that can’t be treated properly.

Everything about how to treat them is online but the only things that will make a difference are: do not be afraid of massively strict measures to keep people safe, if governments won’t do this at least keep your family safe, your loved ones with history of cancer or diabetes or any transplant will not be tubed if they need it even if they are young. By safe I mean YOU do not attend them and YOU decide who does and YOU teach them how to.

Another typical attitude is read and listen to people saying things like this and think “that’s bad dude” and then go out for dinner because you think you’ll be safe.

We have seen it, you won’t be if you don’t take it seriously. I really hope it won’t be as bad as here but prepare.

Originally posted at https://twitter.com/jasonvanschoor/status/1237142891077697538. Edited for clarity.

Bloomberg is a fraud

Bloomberg doesn’t relate to the majority of Americans [1]

There’s a way to slowly decrease the benefits or slowly raise the eligibility age for medicare and social security, there’s ways to have more co-pay on medicaid which will two things. 1) the users will pay a little more but 2) they’ll think twice before they use services – Michael Bloomberg, Mar 29 2012 [2]

It is about as dumb a policy as I can think of [raising taxes on those earning more than $500,000 to fund pre-K programs] – Michael Bloomberg, Oct 8 2012 [3]

I, for example, am not in favor, have never been in favor of raising the minimum wage – Michael Bloomberg, Jul 29 2015 [4]

I could teach anybody — even people in this room, no offense intended — to be a farmer. It’s a… you dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. – Michael Bloomberg, Nov 17 2016 [5]

If you show up, with prostate cancer. You’re… 95 years old, we should say have a nice life, there’s no cure, we can’t do anything. – Michael Bloomberg [6]

[If I had the ability] to design the system… you would say we’re going to cut the number of teachers in half, you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all of the bad ones, just have good teachers. Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students – Michael Bloomberg [7]

Jan 1 2007 – Dec 31 2013. Bloomberg compared teacher and civil liberties unions to NRA extremists [8]

Nov 17 2008. Bloomberg blamed the poor for causing the 2008 economic collapse [9]

Mar 20 2012. Mayor Bloomberg banned food donations to homeless shelters [10]

May 31 2012. Mayor Bloomberg vetoed, then refused to enforce, a living wage bill passed by the New York City Council [11]

Jan 1 2020 – Ongoing. Bloomberg owns more wealth than 125 million Americans, combined [12]

Bloomberg is not running an honorable campaign [13]

[I couldn’t run for President] unless I was willing to change all my views – Michael Bloomberg [14]

There was a guy, Bernie Sanders, who would have beaten Donald Trump. The polls show he would have walked away with it. – Michael Bloomberg [15]

Nov 21 2019 – Jan 31 2020. Bloomberg has spent at least $450 million on ads since launching his campaign [16]

Jan 31 2020. The DNC removed a debate rule that allowed Bloomberg to participate in the ninth debate, after missing the first eight [17]

Feb 1 2020 – Ongoing. Bloomberg is paying hundreds of influencers to post endorsements and send friends positive messages about him [18] [19]

Feb 19 2020. Bloomberg doctored a segment of the 2020 Democratic debate to make himself look good [20]

Bloomberg is racist [21]

There’s this enormous cohort of black and Latino males aged, let’s say, 16 to 25 that don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know that the — what their skill sets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace, where they have to work collaboratively and collectively – Michael Bloomberg, Aug 4 2011 [22]

95% of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25. – Michael Bloomberg, Feb 5 2015 [23]

[You don’t need a nanny], all you need is some black who doesn’t have to speak English to rescue it [your baby] from a burning building. – Michael Bloomberg [24]

I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little – Michael Bloomberg [25]

I would argue that today we are more segregated in America certainly than we were in terms of race than we were a dozen years ago. And yet, we’re just finishing up eight years with our first black President. Why are we more separated than we were before. That is the question … ask the President [Obama] that’s his job. – Michael Bloomberg [26]

The way you get guns out of minorities’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them – Michael Bloomberg [8]

Jan 1 2002 – Dec 31 2013. Bloomberg implemented stop and frisk as NYC mayor [27]

Bloomberg is sexist [28]

All of you girls line up to give him [oral sex] as a wedding present. – Michael Bloomberg, Jan 1 1989 [24]

What the hell did you do a thing like that [get pregnant] for? – Michael Bloomberg [24]

Kill it [your baby]! Great! Number 16 [women who are pregnant or new mothers at the company]! – Michael Bloomberg [24]

And Mike [Bloomberg] came out and I remember he said, ‘Are you going to kill it [abort the pregnancy]?’ And that stopped everything. And I couldn’t believe it. – David Zielenziger [24]

I’d like to do that piece of meat. – Michael Bloomberg [24]

If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s – Michael Bloomberg [29]

I know for a fact that any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction site and doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one. – Michael Bloomberg [29]

What a bunch of misfits [the British royal family] — a gay, an architect, that horsey faced lesbian, and a kid who gave up Koo Stark for some fat broad. – Michael Bloomberg [29]

What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for? – Michael Bloomberg [29]

If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people – Michael Bloomberg [29]

Bloomberg is out of touch with younger generations [30]

[Y]oung people listened to [Bernie Sanders] and they said, ‘Yeah, Democratic: That’s good. Socialism: Yeah, that’s that social media stuff – Michael Bloomberg, Dec 8 2016 [31]

Originally posted here

Fear and loathing in Hong Kong

By Bruce Livesey in News | February 5th 2020

I meet Sze Lai Shan in the bustling Sham Shui Po subway stop on a sunny Saturday morning in Kowloon. Stern-looking and attired in a cream-orange pantsuit, Shan is a social worker and has agreed to take me and two Japanese journalists to show us one of the dark, ugly realities of life in Hong Kong.

Kowloon, a vibrant, colourful shopping and entertainment district in Hong Kong, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Shan works for the Society for Community Organization (SoCO), an anti-poverty and human rights NGO.

We grab a taxicab and drive a few blocks to a nondescript building and pile out in front of a stairway and a sign advertising an acupuncture and massage clinic. We climb half a dozen narrow flights before Shan knocks on the door of an apartment.

Shan has brought us to see what are called caged apartments – which is a misnomer. In reality, a caged apartment is either a literal cage, or a wooden box the size of a large refrigerator. As many of these cages or boxes are then stuffed into your average-sized apartment unit.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE READING

In this case, Shan opens the door to a room with 15 caged units, either stacked on top of each other or bolted to the ceiling. Most of the tenants are men, some elderly, with all of their worldly possessions stuffed in these boxes.

The room is crowded, dark, noisy and rodent-infested. One of the residents, an excitable portly man in his 30s, wearing shorts and a grimy T-shirt, shows us bite marks on his arms and torso from bed bugs. The tenants can pay up to $2,000 Hong Kong dollars per month (the equivalent of $342 Canadian). “Many of the people here suffer from mental health issues and depression,” Shan tells me. They share one toilet and a small kitchen.

I was in Hong Kong to get a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the protests that have roiled the city and captured the world’s attention. Ostensibly, the protests began last year when Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, introduced an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be deported to mainland China to stand trial. At one demo in June, organizers claimed that as many as two million outraged residents poured onto the streets.

But after Lam withdrew the bill in October, the protests continued, even becoming more violent.

The question was why?

Protesters heading to a demo of 600,000 strong on Hong Kong Island on Dec. 8, 2019. Photo by Bruce Livesey

Hong Kong is a pressure cooker of grievances and frustrations

I soon discovered that Hong Kong is a pressure cooker of grievances and frustrations that have little to do with the extradition law. Behind its prosperous veneer and polished bank towers, Hong Kong is facing a raft of social problems — in particular growing poverty, inequity, a housing crisis and low wages.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Photo by Bruce Livesey Hong Kong is a pressure cooker of grievances and frustrations that have little to do with the extradition law.

“Many social issues and economic issues have been accumulating over the past 22 years,” Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a 42-year-old progressive member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s governing body, tells me when we meet at his cluttered office in the council’s building that broods on the edge of Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island. “Our government inherited (from the British) an unfair economic system from the colonial government before 1997. … And therefore, when the government is heavily relying on revenue generated from land sales, it continues the monopoly of the local economy by real estate developers. And that leads to widening rich-poor gap and skyrocketing housing prices, and that generates a lot of grievances among citizens, particularly the younger generation.”

Youth are alarmed about their futures – and Beijing’s reach

As it turns out, Hong Kong’s youth are pissed off and alarmed about their futures. A 2018 survey by the Hong Kong Playground Association said one in three young people are experiencing “mild to extremely severe” levels of depression.

I meet Ian and Helenus at a quiet British-style pub in Kowloon one mid-afternoon. Helenus is 20, thin and pale, and earns a meager and irregular income as an English-language tutor. Suffering from a bone disease, she wears a white mask to cover her face. She is an active protester. Ian, meantime, is a self-confident university student.

“The property market has been skyhigh for so many years,” explains Ian. “A lot of people got rich because of that. As the property market is not going down, we are just getting into the job market. And there are people coming into Hong Kong to compete with us, people, especially from mainland China. And that just compresses the salaries that we can get. And we basically cannot secure any sort of future in terms of owning property at the same time.”

“I would say a lot of people in Hong Kong, a lot of young people live with their families,” adds Helenus. “But those who have to move out, they’re mostly moving into subdivided flats.”

“It is a combination of the lack of occupations, as well as the wages issue, as well as the turnover rate is much higher than before,” says Ian.

Ian and Helenus say the influence of mainland China on all aspects of Hong Kong life is growing — and often in an insidious manner. “A lot of people who got involved in the movement, they weren’t interested in politics at all before the extradition bill came along,” explains Helenus. “But they got involved because they saw that, ‘Yeah, we can’t change our future, no vote will make a difference. So we’ll come out onto the streets’.”

Hong Kong has worst housing shortage in the world

The most pressing social problem facing Hong Kong is a devastating housing crisis that is the most severe in the world. Housing prices have more than tripled over the past decade, with more than 200,000 Hong Kong residents living in the so-called cage, cubicle or coffin homes.

Caged home resident in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Photo by Bruce Livesey

Helenus herself lives in a coffin apartment on the sixth floor of an apartment building in the Mong Kok neighborhood. It was once part of a larger unit that has been subdivided by the landlord. She and her roommate share 80 square feet — a tiny room with no separate kitchen or bathroom. “This is pretty typical for someone of my age group,” she remarks, when we go check the unit out one afternoon.

“Generally, I leave my roommate here a lot,” Helenus informs me. “So nowadays I don’t actually stay here very much.”

“And where else are you staying?” I ask her.

“Just actually sleep over at like some other friends’ couches sometimes. Sometimes I just spend the night in McDonalds walking around.”

More than 1.4 million residents living in poverty

Founded as a fishing village before it was taken over by the British in 1842, Hong Kong is now home to more billionaires (93) than any city in the world other than New York. Income inequality has reached its highest level in more than four decades: more than 1.4 million of its 7.4 million citizens live below the poverty line. A recent survey found 84 per cent of protesters said they were angry about class inequality and 92 per cent said the wealth gap was unreasonable.

One in three HongKongers aged 65 or older are living in poverty. A study by Oxfam indicated that more than 190,000 children aged 15 years old or below are in the same boat.

Homeless woman sleeping on the streets of Hong Kong by Victoria Harbour. Photo by Bruce Livesey

The Our Hong Kong Foundation has said livability in the territory is deteriorating. Indeed, it is one of the most overcrowded cities in the world, with 27,400 people per square kilometre, against 7,400 in neighbouring Shenzhen, and 4,457 in Toronto.

Exacerbating the housing crisis is an almost Victorian labour-rights situation. Hong Kong workers enjoy few legal protections, with no social security, weak labour laws and weak unions.

Lee Cheuk-yan, general-secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. Photo by Bruce Livesey

“In Hong Kong, you know, the whole system is rigged against us,” says Lee Cheuk-yan, the garrulous general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, whom I met in a large park on Hong Kong Island one Sunday afternoon where a protest of 600,000 people was gathering. “We have no protection against union discrimination. So you can form a union. The employer can dismiss you. And then you cannot be reinstated because there is no rights to reinstatement in Hong Kong that are meaningful… Also working hours – we don’t even have a law on working hours. So workers in Hong Kong can work for 24 hours or even 48… So imagine Hong Kong is so modern, but our laws are so out of date and it’s even worse than that 100 years ago in Europe.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has also lost its economic importance. At the time when Hong Kong was handed over to mainland China in 1997, its GDP was equivalent to 18 per cent of the mainland’s. Most of China’s foreign trade passed through Hong Kong while Chinese companies raised the bulk of their money on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Today, things have changed: In 2018, Hong Kong’s GDP was equal to less than 3 per cent of the mainland’s while less than 12 per cent of China’s exports now go through Hong Kong. And Chinese companies can raise money on the markets in London, New York, Frankfurt and Toronto.

Still, many Western cities, even entire nations, are experiencing the same social problems Hong Kong is currently facing. What makes this city so different are constant battles on the streets with police – because the social problems are not being solved.

Hong Kong’s city government is fatally flawed

A big issue is a stilted democratic system, which has allowed problems to fester.

When the British agreed to hand Hong Kong over to China in 1997, the plan was also to turn the Legislative Council – which had previously been an advisory body – into a functioning local city government. The idea was “one country, two systems.”

The Legislative Council building on Hong Kong Island. Photo by Bruce Livesey

But there was a flaw in the design. Of the council’s 70 seats, only half are voted into office by average voters. The rest are controlled by industry groups, which are usually pro-Beijing (indeed, Beijing has assiduously wooed Hong Kong companies in recent years, promising them access to the mainland’s enormous market). Given there are also pro-Beijing parties in Hong Kong, this means the balance of power on the council resides with pro-Beijing and pro-big business forces.

Thus, for example, the powerful development industry, which profits from the housing crisis, enjoys enormous sway with the council. “Unable to push through tough reforms to subdue vested interests, as China’s government is doing on the mainland, the (Legislative) Council is also vulnerable to the influence of real-estate developers eager to block measures that would lower prices, such as the allocation of land for more public housing,” noted Andrew Sheng, a fellow of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong, in a recent opinion piece.

Carrie Lam, the city’s current chief executive, was voted into office in 2017 by 777 people from the 1,200-person “Election Committee,” many of whose members are business people with close ties to mainland China. “So half of the Legislative Council is not elected by the people,” explains Cheuk-yan. “That’s the deal. And with that deal, the businessmen and professionals control the other half, and therefore the pro-democracy forces are not able to get a majority vote for 22 years. And the most we can get is about one-third. And so, with that deal, of course, the Legislative Council is very weak in defending workers rights or improving housing and social rights for the workers.”

With the council under the influence of business interests and pro-Beijing parties, local residents feel their grievances are not being heard. Further fanning their fears is evidence Beijing is encroaching on all aspects of the city’s life. And given Communist Party boss Xi Jinping’s disdain for human rights and dissent, this is generating alarm.

Paul Zimmerman, Hong Kong businessman, environmentalist and politician. Photo by Bruce Livesey

“This is scaring people in Hong Kong,” Paul Zimmerman, a local businessman, environmentalist and politician, tells me in the offices of his graphic design company when we meet one morning. Zimmerman points out many people came to Hong Kong originally to escape life under China’s communist regime. “People are here because they left China because of the Communist Party. Their grandparents left China because of the Communist Party. And what people see is a kind continuous intrusion of the Communist Party and Beijing in Hong Kong affairs.”

“The Communist Party is determined to continue the unfair economic system inherited from the colonial government and it tries to add on that style of authoritarian rule,” observes Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, the Legislative Council member. “So what we have is the worse combination of both colonial rule and Beijing authoritarian rule. That makes people desperate.”

Beijing cracking down on pro-democracy activists

China’s influence on Hong Kong also means that open violence towards pro-democracy activists is growing.

Last July, Lam Cheuk-ting, a member of the Legislative Council with the liberal Democratic Party, heard that a gang of men were assaulting protesters who had entered a Hong Kong subway station. “Suddenly, one hundred gangsters stormed into the station, using batons, wooden stake or other weapons to attack the civilians inside the station indiscriminately,” says Cheuk-ting, when we met at his offices.

Lam Cheuk-ting, Democratic Party politician, at his offices in the Legislative Council. Photo by Bruce Livesey

Cheuk-ting rushed to the metro station, where he saw Hong Kong police refusing to stop or intervene in the assault. “At the later stage of the attack, the gangsters recognized me and they collectively assaulted me,” says Cheuk-ting. “And I was hit by a baton and my head was injured. My mouth had a deep cut with 18 stitches, and I got a bone fracture on my right hand.”

Many of the attackers were believed to be members of Hong Kong’s triads, the local organized crime groups. “On some occasions, I strongly believe Beijing makes use of the triad members to do dirty things that the government couldn’t do,” says Cheuk-ting.

The rule of law is also breaking down, say activists. Prior to becoming a politician, Cheuk-ting was an investigator with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), a renowned British-era agency designed to root out local corruption in Hong Kong. “The corruption problem of Hong Kong is getting worse and it’s really worrying,” says Cheuk-ting. “And since the handover, several senior government officials have been prosecuted for the corruption offenses. … I do think there is collusion between top government officials and the business sector, which is getting worse because of the political system of Hong Kong.”

Indeed, in 2013, the commissioner of ICAC himself, Timothy Tong, became the target of investigation for giving inappropriate gifts to mainland officials and traveling excessively at great expense. Yet he was not prosecuted — possibly because of his close ties to Beijing.

Avery Ng, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. Photo by Bruce Livesey

Overall, activists say they are in for a long, protracted struggle. “I have to remind people that the Communist Party is the single most powerful, most resourceful, authoritarian regime in humanity’s history,” says Avery Ng, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, a progressive political party in Hong Kong, when we met at a café on Hong Kong island’s waterfront. “I have to say, unlike any other previous movement, there is no end game. If you really want to talk about the end game, it will be the end of the Chinese Communist Party. That will be the end game. Otherwise, this is going to be a long, long and hard, hard fight. And I think this is just the first step because you see Xi Jinping consolidating his own power… The fight is going to get harder.”

“And I’ve got a message for the international community: this fight is not Hong Kong’s fight, it’s an international fight. It’s not anything to do with just sovereignties: it has everything to do about humanity and shared values of freedom and democracy.”

Originally posted at https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/02/05/news/fear-and-loathing-hong-kong?fbclid=IwAR3kE-0L5y6–ERYfrtIp1iXnKrpmj3S346YtEkoDn4w49oD0hwYXNWuvNg

An open letter from a group of immigration staff to the Hong Kong Government

As the Novel Coronavirus is raging, many medical experts have long called for escalating epidemic prevention measures including a full closure of the mainland-Hong Kong border. As all confirmed patients so far have been to Wuhan, the only way to stop virus importation is to immediately refuse entry to all mainland residents.

Yesterday, the Hong Kong government officially imposed an entry ban for Wuhan residents and mainland residents who have been to Wuhan within the last 14 days. However, these measures are not only counter-productive but will also put the lives of frontline immigration staffs at greater risk. As for the closure of the six border checkpoints, none of them apart from the High-speed Railway and Hung Hom Direct Train are main entry points for mainland visitors. Such partial closure will only draw mainland tourists to enter through other checkpoints and worsen the congestion at these checkpoints.

In contrast, Macau has not only imposed an entry ban for Wuhan residents but has also demanded the departure of Wuhan residents. Entry bans of Wuhan residents have also been imposed by other provinces. The delay on the Hong Kong border closure to affected persons is resulting in a large influx of mainland visitors seeking to enter Hong Kong. Such a huge influx has led to a shortage of manpower at several major checkpoints along the border. Even with staff from other divisions serving as reinforcement for colleagues at border checkpoints, there is simply an insufficient supply of preventive equipment and places to serve as waiting areas. Most frontline staff, especially colleagues who were sent in to support on short notice, are only equipped with triple-layered surgical masks and latex gloves.

Customs officers responsible for entry processing are also unwillingly confined with a large crowd of mainland visitors, leading to a greater chance of cross infection. Even with protective clothing, our colleagues do not dare go to the toilet, as there may not be a clean set of protective clothing due to the shortage of supplies. And the small number of n95 masks provided by management are only meant for industrial use which can only filter out dust. They cannot provide sufficient protection for our colleagues who are responsible for repatriation. 

Our frontline colleagues have also been physically and verbally abused by a number of visitors who were denied entry. Their actions include the use of force, tearing off officers’ masks, and spitting. However, management has not provided sufficient equipment for crowd management, such as shields. Nor have they sought reinforcement from airport security or the special police force to deal with the fierce resistance from rejected visitors and to ensure the safety of our colleagues. 

Frontline personnel have no way of knowing whether visitors have been to Wuhan or have made contact with infected persons within 14 days. Questioning visitors is time-consuming and they may not even answer truthfully. If they feel the need to conceal their medical history when being admitted to hospitals, then it is highly likely they will also lie when questioned by immigration staff. Therefore, border interrogation as a means of discerning the travel history of mainland tourists is extremely inefficient and ineffective.

What bothers the frontline staff most is that management has not put into place appropriate measures for restricting customs clearance. In terms of transportation arrangements or liaison with the mainland border, senior management has not done their due diligence to communicate. Such lack of communication has resulted in extreme difficulty during the repatriation process and the accumulation of a large number of rejected visitors stranded at the checkpoints. 

Meanwhile, the Commissioner, the Security Bureau, and even all four guilds have gone missing. They have not provided any explanation to the public and immigration staff.

They have not learned lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003 and have failed to take sufficient precautions.

For this matter, we make the following demands:

 1 Immediately close the entire border and deny entry to all mainland visitors. Also, request the mainland authority to stop all mainland residents from entering Hong Kong. We have not asked for the complete cessation of operations at all borders, but only for an entry ban of mainland residents. The suspension of new endorsements by the mainland government can only reduce the number of people who can come to Hong Kong, but there are still many people holding valid two-way permits and endorsements. Examples of such include W (a one-week permit) or T (for visiting relatives) endorsements, and even passports for transit connections.

 2 Recall all Immigration staff who provide support to the police, and supply them with crowd control equipment. Those staff should be immediately sent to checkpoints, especially at the airport, Luowu and Lok Ma Chau, etc., with the duty of guarding, repatriation and escorting rejected visitors.

 3 Arrange charter flights immediately to repatriate those rejected for entry directly to Wuhan to prevent them from further travels within the country. After the flights, the aircraft should be disinfected before carrying Hong Kong people stranded in Wuhan back to Hong Kong. The returnees shall be quarantined for 14 days before re-entering the city.

 4 Immediately increase the supplies of protective equipment to frontline staff, especially for staff at checkpoints. Arrange for staff from the Department of Health to provide guidance on the proper methods for putting on and taking off protective clothing.

 5 Customs clearance time for Hong Kong residents should be reduced at major checkpoints except at the airport. That would require opening all E-channels; reducing staffed counters; and arranging daily disinfection after closing. Hong Kong residents returning to Hong Kong should quarantine themselves after their return.

In addition, the government has announced that flights from mainland have been reduced by half. However, as the epidemic spreads, more rigorous immigration checks will be implemented in other countries. As a result, the number of mainland Chinese who are denied entry will inevitably increase. Generally, people who are denied entry to another country will be repatriated to the last port of entry. If the relevant authorities do not take immediate action and continue to allow mainland residents to pass through Hong Kong before transiting to other countries, this will not only increase the risk of the virus spreading globally, but also lead to more mainland residents being sent back to Hong Kong. With the current tightening of entry to affected persons in mainland, mainland residents who have not been repatriated will likely be stranded in Hong Kong, increasing the risk of infection in the local community. Therefore, government authorities should immediately coordinate with mainland authorities, airlines, and SkyPier to handle related cases and plug all loopholes in order to prevent further spread of this epidemic.

The Hong Kong SAR government should act immediately. As the prime time for epidemic prevention has passed already, the government should at least make a last ditch effort to remedy the crisis.

In fact, after several days of operations, frontline colleagues are now exhausted. To make things worse, we have just received news that a colleague at the border has been quarantined due to fever.

If the Government does not take any further action, the border will inevitably fall, together with the health of Hong Kong people. Frontline staff will continue to perform their duties, but we cannot last this way for much longer as we are just ordinary people. Wearing a uniform does not make us immune to the virus.

However, as civil servants, we must put public interest at the highest priority and use all feasible methods to protect the safety of all Hong Kong people – whether they are colleagues working at the border, medical personnel, or other Hong Kong citizens.

To our high ranking government officials, please repent and rectify the situation by carrying out your responsibility properly.

From a group of Immigration staff who stands in solidarity with Hong Kong people

Dated: January 28, 2020