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Samizdata quote of the day

“We didn’t always know it at the time, but Hong Kong has been a kind of bellwether for the state of freedom in the wider world.”

Tyler Cowen.

He’s right, which is why, despite the mockers, I am writing about this topic quite a bit and intend to keep doing so.

44 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Julie near Chicago

    Johnathan: Please do.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s almost possible to feel sorry for mainland China. People start bitching about the militarisation of islands in the South China Seas, the Dalai Lama refuses to die, and the ingrates of Hong Kong want to do more than just make money! As well as that, democracies refuse to respect it! Democracy is all right for barbarian countries like Australia, but they are supposed to elect Chinophile parties. Where is the respect?
    Q. How many Chinese cops does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. Just leave one policeman alone with the bulb for an hour, and it will have changed its’ mind, and be ready to sign any confession you want!

  • Michael Taylor

    All my life Hong Kong has been a call option on globalization and growth.

    Now, alas, it is a put option on the death of the same.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Chip, thanks for the link. One of Mr. Bass’s “tweets” includes a link to this piece at the Wall Street Journal:

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/prepared-to-die-hong-kong-protesters-embrace-hard-core-tactics-challenge-beijing-11565038264

    And I must say his advice is disturbing….

  • Johnathan: Please do. (Julie near Chicago, August 7, 2019 at 7:29 am)

    Seconded. It is peculiarly appropriate for a libertarian blog to be aware of an area that has been noted for having significantly less statism than most of the western world in our lifetimes, and now faces having a lot more statism than the western world forced upon it.

    Michael Taylor (August 7, 2019 at 7:57 am) says something similar in appropriately trading-focussed language.

  • Jacob

    Authoritarian regimes are seldom overturned by force, especially not force of protests. The die, or change, when the dictator is old and/or weak (as Gurbachov or Mubarak or Ceausescu).
    A strong dictator represses the mob by force, sometimes very brutal force (like Tienanmen).

    So which is it now? I’m afraid the later.

  • Stephen W. Houghton II

    You are in the right. HK is a part of the Anglosphere as well as part of China.

  • ROBERT SYKES

    Xi and China are not Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. The Chinese are still believing communists, and more than a few are Maoists. The Soviets no longer believed in Marx or Lenin and actually wanted to be part of Western Europe. Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Medvedev, and Putin all wanted a “united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. That killed the USSR.

    Xi and the Chinese Communist Party will put down the Hong Kong demonstrators, and the Uighurs and the Tibetans, and they might do it violently. We will see.

    Over at EU Referndum, the so-called Brexiteers are exploring ways to overthrown the legitimately elected Johnson government. It looks like a coup d’etat. They (and you) will get Corbyn if they succeed. Prince William should short-circuit the whole process and seize power.

    And here in the US, we have a Democrat Party, which has the support of a majority of Americans, openly pushing for socialism and a socialist totalitarian state with a strong seasoning of racism.

    And then there is the EU, self-appointed bureaucrats running rough-shod over whatever democratic institutions are left in Europe.

  • Andrew Douglas

    When the Royal Navy, in its wisdom, sent me as a young Midshipman to Hong Kong to serve in HMS Yarnton for the Summer Leave from University, I was astonished how everything just worked. This was right at the start of the Thatcher era, and the immediate memories were of the Winter of Discontent.

    Wearing a T shirt I bought there bearing the slogan ‘Capitalism is alive and well, and living in Hong Kong’ certainly enlivened many economics tutorials and earned the enmity of many Bristol lefties.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Johnathan P: “He’s right, which is why, despite the mockers, I am writing about this topic quite a bit and intend to keep doing so.”

    Johnathan, you seem a little defensive. And the answer to feeling defensive is … Action! Do something tangible for the people of Hong Kong.

    Why not start a movement to force UKGov to offer sanctuary to any English-speaking residents of Hong Kong who wish to leave? The UK could do this unilaterally, or even with the concurrence of China’s government. With good negotiators (I know! I know!), the UK could make this into a Win-Win for both the UK and China.

    China would get rid of the problem of those people in Hong Kong who don’t like China’s government. The UK would get the incalculable benefit of a million or more ethnic Chinese Hong Kongers who are used to living in freedom and who (if the stereotypes are close to real) are highly intelligent, very well educated, entrepreneurial, and hard-working. This would provide an enormous boost to the UK economy at a time when it would be very useful, following separation from the EU. Smart UK negotiators could probably even get China’s government to pay for the airfares.

    Of course, if the UK is to take in a large number of people from Hong Kong in a short period, the UK will probably have to make some accommodations – cease taking in Muslim refugees for some years; roll back regulations which prevent the construction of housing; roll back regulations which would inhibit those entrepreneurial Hong Kongers from starting up new businesses in the UK. That would all be positive.

    What is not to like? Instead of Brits having to endure some pain to do something positive for the people of Hong Kong, Brits would gain! Go out and start that movement today!

  • You go, Jonathan.

    Trump’s tariff tomfoolery is coming at the worst time. There’re many libertarians in the Communist Party in China, and they just passed a massive tax cut and policy to expand the ‘US of China’ concept with diverse economic zones and more free trade. Polls in China show capitalism is more popular than socialism.

    This is a disaster for the far-left in the US, who cycle between saying we should be more like China and no, they’re too authoritarian… What is being hidden by the left media is there’re two forces at work in China: the Communists and average people receptive to ‘Li-bao-tai-Ren’ backed by leaders of the Li clan vs. the Red Army dreaming of a Communist Imperial China.

    Trump just walked right into it.

    BTW, the libertarians there have stopped supporting the protests in Hong Kong. They say according to LPD (Libertarian Poll Data Group) ‘Red Army infiltrators are streaming in to screw things up and provoke incidents. ‘

  • bobby b

    “Why not start a movement to force UKGov to offer sanctuary to any English-speaking residents of Hong Kong who wish to leave?”

    The security issues inherent in this are a bit frightening. Given who would probably run the HK end of the immigration chain, you could end up with an entire new layer to your criminal enterprises.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    bobby b: “The security issues inherent in this are a bit frightening.”

    As you know, bobby, anything worth doing has challenges. Nothing worth achieving is easy. But because of history, the UK is uniquely positioned to offer to take those highly valuable discontented Hong Kongers. And because the Chinese Communist Party would very likely prefer not to have another Tiananmen on its record, the Chinese rulers may actually be constructive partners. Of course, unless people in the UK act, we will never know if this sanctuary movement would be feasible.

  • Stephen Houghton

    Personally, I think we need to get President Trump to rent several of the south china sea reefs on 99 years from the Philippines. Then he can build up the islands and build the New Victoria Trump Tower and the adjoining city of New Victoria, the Venice of S.E. Asia. Then we can let the Hongkongers move there. Crazy enough it might work.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Stephen — creative idea! Of course, it would not have to be President Trump or the US. The investor could be the UK, or it could be EU, Russia, the UAE — but the obvious choice of investor would be … China, as part of their Belt & Road initiative. Whoever the investor would be, he would probably have to hire Chinese companies anyway to do the construction work, since the Chinese are the ones with recent relevant experience on building up reefs in those seas. 🙂

    Side issue — what is happening in that other former European colony on China’s coast, Macao? The Las Vegas of the East. Its administrative status is fairly similar to Hong Kong’s, but we don’t seem to hear much about it.

  • Gavin Longmuir (August 7, 2019 at 6:39 pm), Hong Kong includes Macau for all practical purposes. Certain kinds of gambling are (or were when I was last there, but sounds like neonsnake was there more recently) discouraged in Hong Kong for the sole reason that it gave Macao an economic reason to be – the Hong Kong Chinese went to Macao for the casinos. (My friends and I spent our time upstairs with the dodgems and other fairground stuff provided to entertain the Chinese kiddies while their elders placed their chips and watched the spinning wheel.)

    As regards your immigration proposal, if it were proposed to exchange statistically hard-working non-violent Hong-Kongers on a one-for-one basis with expelling illegal immigrants, I expect the UK electorate, though not all of the UK’s great and good elite, would be quite keen. Perhaps the US would join us in this arrangement. (As with government spending, so in other cases, the difficult question is not where will you spend but where will you save to compensate, not whom will you take in but whom will you throw out.)

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Gavin writes: Johnathan, you seem a little defensive.

    Well, I wasn’t much impressed by your shoulder-shrugging stance that venting about what is going on out there in HK was “tut-tutting”.

    Believe me, there is plenty I and others can do to keep raising awareness of this and keeping it in the public mind. And the immigration point is one that I and others have made before and will continue to do so.

  • neonsnake

    but sounds like neonsnake was there more recently

    Likely 🙂

    I spend roughly a quarter of my life “overseas”, in either the Far East or South America. Since roughly 2010, I’ve spent at least two months of my life per year in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Vietnam and Indonesia, plus a month in Brazil/Argentina.

    Over time, I’ve seen the changes, and none of it has been in the right direction, as it were. Gambling, yes – horse racing in Hong Kong, all of that, I’ve seen all that, but not casinos – that was for Macau, largely.

    I’ve seen Shanghai turn into an corporatised city, where you pay more for your number plate than your car. I’ve watched my friends in Hong Kong go from openly asking me about “the best type” of Christianity to being very secretive about it. I’ve visited Tianenman Square and been scared.

    My colleagues have become my friends, and I worry for them. I’m not great at staying objective when I have skin in the game, I’m afraid (I’m sure you’ve noticed 😉 ). Those colleagues may be Hong Kong-ese, or Mainland Chinese.

    Either way, its distressing, and I see no way to help them.

  • neonsnake

    Well, I wasn’t much impressed by your shoulder-shrugging stance that venting about what is going on out there in HK was “tut-tutting”.

    In attempt to play “peace-keeper” –

    Gavin – the situation is HK can be personal to the UK, as I’m sure you understand? It’s mildly different to Venezuela, which is mildly more abstract to the your average UK resident?

    Jonathan – Gavin is frustrated by virtue-signalling on our part, I think? I have some sympathy.

    Let’s not fight amongst ourselves here, lads? We’re pn the same side. Beers all round? I’m buying.

  • pete

    The ‘wider world’ will let China do what it wants with Hong Kong, and express little or no concern about freedom and democracy.

    In the free world China is too important a trading partner to annoy, and liberals who tell us of the importance of respecting human rights will be unconcerned about its oppression of Hong Kong as it is not on the best of terms with the USA, their bete noire.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Johnathan P: … venting about what is going on out there in HK was “tut-tutting”

    Clearly we failed to communicate on that point. The reference was to Social Justice Warriors who are famous for littering up the internet by implying how superior they are to the rest of us because they really, really care!. It does not matter what they happen to care about that day, whether it is transsexual bathrooms or homosexuality or the evils of eating meat. They care more than anyone else and that makes them better than the hoi-polloi. In their minds, it also absolves them from any responsibility to Do Something! about what they claim to care about.

    That is the SJWs. Given their existence and their behavior, it behooves those of us who are not SJWs to be careful not to sound like them. Seriously, “raising awareness”? I am sure you did not mean it that way, but it sounds straight out of the SJW handbook. For most of us, our awareness is raised by following the news, not by reading Samizdata. What is of interest in this kind of forum is — What’s to be done?, to borrow a phrase from Lenin.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    neonsnake — Thanks for being the adult in the room. Much appreciated! Let me buy this time. 😆

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall K: “Hong Kong includes Macau for all practical purposes.

    That is why it would be very interesting to find out if the residents of Macao are as restive as the people in Hong Kong. Or is Hong Kong’s problem basically a rather incompetent administrator in the form of Ms. Lam?

    I have not been able to find out much relevant info about the situation in Macao — one of the penalties of not speaking Portugese, I guess.

  • The security issues inherent in this are a bit frightening. Given who would probably run the HK end of the immigration chain, you could end up with an entire new layer to your criminal enterprises.

    If I could wave a magic wand and make it happen, I would grant every single permanent resident of Hong Kong a full British passport. It would be the start of an economic boom in the UK the likes of which have never been seen before.

  • Nico

    @Robert:

    Trump’s tariff tomfoolery is coming at the worst time. There’re many libertarians in the Communist Party in China, and they just passed a massive tax cut and policy to expand the ‘US of China’ concept with diverse economic zones and more free trade. Polls in China show capitalism is more popular than socialism.

    You’ve lost me. I’ve never heard of this “US of China” concept, or how it would expand liberty. Economic freedom w/o any kind of social or political freedom, is not freedom.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Correct, Nico! At least, unless every single “against-freedom” law specifically excludes every economic transaction, anyway. Suppose you have you have an otherwise-totalitarian regime run by The Great Beelzebub. Then you couldn’t express any anti-Beelzebub thoughts at all. And may the Great Frog help you if you commit any actions (including speaking or otherwise showing) that could raise suspicions only among the craziest paranoiacs of anti-Beelzebubism. Except, of course, for economic transactions in which one party sells a “Down with Beelzebub!” T-shirt and another party buys it, paying with an illegal currency, or even by barter.

    This by the way would also mean that T.G.B. could not dictate either wages or prices….

  • Julie near Chicago

    Let me change the wording slightly:

    “…that that could raise suspicions only among the craziest of those who fear anti-Beelzebubism.”

  • Rich Rostrom

    1) Physically, China can do whatever it wants in Hong Kong and no one can interfere.

    2) Political control of Hong Kong is a very high priority of China’s leaders.

    3) Compared to Mao’s China, present China’s rule over Hong Kong is very restrained.

    4) China is a gigantic economic and diplomatic force in the world, whose cooperation is often of immense value.

    Given these facts, it’s not at all surprising that other nations are reluctant even to attempt to interfere.

  • neonsnake

    Certain kinds of gambling are discouraged in Hong Kong

    Niall – I was inspired to ask some questions; I don’t gamble, so the non-visibility of gambling, other than horse-racing, hasn’t ever blipped my radar.

    So, yes, you’re quite right – gambling is apparently illegal in a large part, and extremely regulated where it isn’t illegal. The regulations aren’t just a “turn a blind eye” type, either, they’re actively enforced, and there is a general sense that “gambling is bad” is being pushed from the top – except in the very specific case of horse-racing.

    Charities to manage “gambling addiction” are apparently fairly common. I got the sense from my friend that these charities exist more to reinforce the idea that “gambling is bad”, than to actually help recovering gamblers, if that makes sense.

    Presumably, this explains the popularity of day trips to Macau.

  • China is too important a trading partner to annoy (pete, August 7, 2019 at 8:27 pm)

    By that argument, the EU is far too important for us to annoy – but we seem willing. Trump, for reasons that likely include, though are likely not limited to, domestic and reelection concerns, seems willing to annoy China.

    What is of interest in this kind of forum is — What’s to be done? (Gavin Longmuir, August 7, 2019 at 8:31 pm)

    Gavin, I made one concrete proposal about how to engage a constituency here with the HK problem. Granting immigration status to free-enterprise capitalists (who, neonsnake tells us, may also ask where they can find the best type of Christianity) will be very unpopular with immigration’s usual supporters here, but maybe that can be turned to Hong Kong’s advantage. I also suggested a US variant that would let Trump say he was no enemy of lawful immigration of non-caucasians while infuriating his enemies. As always, rational critique of whether the idea has any life in it is welcome. I guess it depends how great the great realignment can be.

    A second point of discussion is the talk of needing a second amendment in Hong Kong. China has plenty to lose in shooting a few scenes from the battle of Stalingrad in Hong Kong’s high-rise environment – though Hong Kong also has much to lose. Artillery is key in urban fighting, but there is no doubt that an armed populace would certainly give Xi an additional thought to think if he planned to Tiananmen HK. I can imagine reasons, both objective ones and ones bedded in HK culture, why such ideas may be well beyond the realm of practical politics, but signs demanding a 2A for HK have appeared there, so we can discuss what, if anything, they could mean.

    I have also argued that a comment need not involve a concrete proposal to be worth making. Burke had the same complaint made to him in the 1790s – that he described very well what was wrong with the French revolution but failed to indicate a concrete action-this-day plan for how Frenchmen suffering under it could overthrow the regime. Attempts were made, in Toulouse and La Vendee, but as it took 22 years of almost incessant warfare to achieve that goal, I think Burke can be excused. It was in the context of discussing this that Burke noted the unwisdom of launching premature rebellions that were sure to fail, while asserting the wisdom of writing and speaking. I have benefitted from reading Burke’s writings on the French revolution. Burke predicted, in 1790, that the French regime would eventually become the despotic rule of a capable general (as happened in 1799 – looking back, we do not realise how extraordinary this prediction was compared with what all the ‘smart’ people ‘knew’ in 1790) and that was part of his caution. When your own theories predict that any but a wholly successful overthrow of the regime will likely just accelerate its replacement by the rule of its most successful general, that makes for caution.

  • Julie near Chicago

    So China bans gambling except in Macao….

    https://china-underground.com/2017/08/09/popular-chinese-gambling-games/

    China has a long and illustrious gambling culture that dates back more than 1000 years, with traditional games like Keno, Mahjong and Pai Gow an others regularly played in China then and now, and further afield at leading land and virtual casinos across the world.

    Today most forms of gambling are banned in China with the exception of state-run lotteries, Keno, sports betting, scratch cards and virtual lottery terminals (VLTs), which are similar to slots. However, despite this ban China has a vast ‘underground’ gambling culture that encompasses traditional games, Western casino games, and unofficial lotteries.

    The only permitted Chinese land casinos are located in the country’s special administrative regions of Macau and Hong Kong, which were introduced decades ago when they were still Portuguese and English colonies, respectively.

    China’s regulatory stance on gambling is highlighted by Article 303 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was adopted in 1979 and revised most recently in 1997.

    It states: “Whoever, for the purpose of profit, gathers people to engage in gambling, runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also be fined.”

    Despite the threat of imprisonment, however, due to their high frequency the majority of gambling offenses in China are rarely punished by more than a fine. Perhaps it’s for this reason that although free slots sites have “popped up everywhere” many Chinese and other players actively seek out popular, traditional and lucrative Chinese gambling games like: Mah-Jongg, ….

    Followed by explanations of Mah-Jongg, Pai Gow, and Keno.

    Does anyone know just when China instituted a gambling ban? (And on what grounds or excuse?) Or has it been OK, then not-Ok, then OK, then — etc.?

  • Julie near Chicago (August 8, 2019 at 9:55 am), I always took it for granted that the gambling ban was imposed by the communists (but cannot recall an exact reference). Socialists hate gambling since it represents a conspiracy by the common people voluntarily to differentiate themselves into a few significantly richer people and a mass of very slightly poorer people.

    (This fact became obvious when Margaret Thatcher introduced the UK’s national lottery back in the 80s. The Labour party hated it and hated even more its ‘new thing’ popularity. Being aware it was taxed at roughly 50%, I almost never played – and was content that some of the taxes be paid by those who did. I was never quite able to sympathise with the fury of the hero in Heinlein’s ‘Glory Road’ at the tax imposed on his lottery win – I guess a shadow of my Scots puritanical ancestors still lies on me in that I get more easily annoyed at taxes on my work than on my lottery wins.)

    Hein Lein would make a great name for a Chinese hero. 🙂

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Interesting points on immigration. Side issue: there is now a pretty big market globally for what have been dubbed “golden visas”. Countries including the UK, US, Singapore, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova (oh yes!), Montenegro, Portugal, Spain and sundy Caribbean islands sell passports/citizenship/residency for sums ranging from as low as $100,000 with conditions all the way up to $2 million-plus. (These schemes have been sometimes attacked for encouraging money laundering, and there is probably some truth in that). With the demise of Swiss bank secrecy, these places create a sort of alternative bolt-hole for wealthy people. (It is also worth noting that inside the US, states such as Delaware and New Hampshire are, by some definitions, tax havens, and are more opaque now than Switzerland, which sort of shows how much humbug there is in the world.)

    Obviously these programmes don’t work for the broad mass of the population.

    I agree 100% with Perry that if I had the means, I’d help fund the emigration to the UK of as many of these guys as possible, for entirely selfish reasons to do with the work ethic, character and entrepreneurial vigour they have. The influx of Indian immigrants from Uganada in the 1970s, to give a specific actual case, has been a boon to the UK.

    Gavin, having a go at the crummy arguments used to justify China’s behaviour (“the Opium wars were terrible”) is not the same as virtue signalling, unless it means that expressing outrage on this blog is always wrong. (Reminder to self: you don’t write to please the commenters.) There is the equal and opposite mistake that all too many on the Right make which is to go out of their way to mock any expressions of moral outrage about losses of liberty, and adopt a sort of worldly “there is not much we can do apart from a few practical things, so don’t be such a drama queen” sort of nonchalant pose, which I find irritating, and in some ways just as fake, if you see what I mean. If we want to win people over towards liberal ideas, especially the young, a certain amount of “virtue signalling”, which is a pejorative way of saying having an opinion and expressing it, is necessary.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, sorry. The article implies, but not straightforwardly states as a fact, that the current (at least) ban was enacted in 1979’s Artigle 303 and updated in 1997. “…[S]tance on gambling is highlighted by Article 303….”

    It’s reasonable to suppose that that’s what the article thought it was doing, but in this current era of sly speech one never knows for sure.

    One would have to read the actual text of Article 303, and frankly I don’t care that much … at least, not at the moment.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, thanks for your input. It occurred while I was writing up my paranoia about taking every statement for what it seems to mean as opposed to what it actually says.

    I hate this blasted hair shirt that I can’t seem to remove without amputating my arms and head. :>(

  • Snorri Godhi

    What is of interest in this kind of forum is — What’s to be done? (Gavin Longmuir, August 7, 2019 at 8:31 pm)

    I missed most of the discussion on this topic following the previous post … and also in this post. It seems to me, however, that what is of most interest in this forum is counter-propaganda: fighting the culture war.

    Of course, discussion of what’s to be done is also welcome; and also discussion of what should have been done, but wasn’t (such as, perhaps, granting UK citizenship to all HongKongers who do not have criminal records, before the handover).

    BTW i read Tyler Cowen’s article and this strikes me as weak:

    Freedom is not merely the ability to buy and sell goods at minimum regulation and a low tax rate, variables that are readily picked up by economic freedom indices.

    True, but it hardly needed saying. Indeed, that is probably why Westerners seem to emigrate to Singapore in preference to Hong Kong.

    Cowen follows up with this:

    Freedom is also about the narratives people live by and the kind of future they imagine for themselves. Both of these are greatly affected by the legitimacy and durability of their political institutions.

    So if people keep telling themselves the same narratives, and imagining the same future, it becomes irrelevant that political institutions are losing legitimacy and becoming unsustainable? It makes no difference to Hong Kong residents that any of them can be extradites on trumped-up charges, as long as they tell themselves that that won’t happen?

    As if to prove the superficiality of his thinking, Cowen follows up with a non-sequitur aimed at Trump.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Gavin, having a go at the crummy arguments used to justify China’s behaviour (“the Opium wars were terrible”) is not the same as virtue signalling

    I should think that the opposite is the case:
    ‘crummy arguments’ such as “the Opium wars were terrible” are virtue signalling.

    Why are you defensive, Johnathan, when it is time for a counter-offensive?
    (Also, it was not Gavin who spoke of ‘virtue signalling’.)

  • neonsnake

    Also, it was not Gavin who spoke of ‘virtue signalling’.

    True.

    It was me.

  • neonsnake

    I always took it for granted that the gambling ban was imposed by the communists (but cannot recall an exact reference)

    I found this article which covers the history of it pretty thoroughly, at a glance. I’ve only skimmed it, and I have no prior knowledge, but it does indeed seem that it has “been OK, then not-Ok, then OK, then — etc” – and then the Republic Of China issued a blanket ban in 1912, although it appears to have continued anyway (tacitly supported by corrupt officials) until 1949 when Mao flat-out banned gambling (and enforced it). Then, in the years since he died, it appears that the rules have been loosened slightly, albeit I think all gambling is still under the control of the government (I might have misunderstood that bit, though).

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Julie n. C. quoted: “Whoever, for the purpose of profit, gathers people to engage in gambling, runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also be fined.”

    There is so much about China that is opaque to those of us who do not speak or read Chinese, and have to rely on what we see on the internet. I have very limited direct experience in China — one trip to Western China, much less than Neonsnake. Walking about the streets, it was not unusual to see open commercial Majong parlors, with lots of people playing. There is what seems to be a fairly big industry manufacturing & selling majong tables which do the hard work of mixing and stacking the tiles.

    One happy memory of my limited time in China was the evening our hosts took us out for an excellent meal, followed by more than one or two beers, ending up in a majong parlor where the guys played until the wee hours. (Their Chinese good manners prevented them from taking advantage of my limited familiarity with the rules of the game). There was no sense of concern that we (or the parlor “boss”, to use the Chinese expression) were engaged in any activity that might be illegal.

    In China, there seems to be many a divergence between what one is reads and what one sees with one’s own lying eyes.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    What’s to be done (constructively)?

    Perhaps my British colleagues can advise. Sometime ago, I seem to remember hearing about an unusual UK provision where on-line petitions could be set up with Parliament, and UKGov was obliged to respond if the petition received more than a set number of signatures. Does this kind of procedure exist?

    If it does, then those who have strong views on the situation in Hong Kong could presumably set up a petition to request UKGov to grant UK passports with Right of Abode to all English-speaking Hong Kong residents who request it. And then campaign to get enough people to sign the petition. Hard work, of course, but it would be constructive — and beneficial for the UK as well as for the people of Hong Kong.

  • neonsnake

    In China, there seems to be many a divergence between what one is reads and what one sees with one’s own lying eyes.

    Oh, indeed.

    In this instance, I have next to zero knowledge of either modern approaches, or historical approaches. According to the article I linked to above, it seems that from 1966 until the 80s, the mere act of playing mah-jong was illegal (with or without gambling!), and was then repealed.

    To my understanding, over the past few decades, China consciously re-connected with some of the older ways, including some of the old culture.

    I personally believe it was deliberately done to foster a sense of nationalism and pride that had been somewhat lost in China since the ’50s – and by pure coincidence foster a culture of belief in the superiority of your elders, therefore of those in authority, and therefore superiority of the state.

    Which speaks to why they think they have a mandate to take over Hong Kong, to an extent.

    But I could be wrong 😉

  • Paul Marks

    J.P. is correct.

    People who do not care about liberty in Hong Kong do not really care about liberty anywhere.

    Everyone who wants to prevent the sort of future that “Google” and so on want (a future where a few mega corporations working hand-in-hand with the state, a state that will prevent any real choice, crush individual freedom) need to stand with the people of Hong Kong.

    “But the People’s Republic of China has lots of money” is an “argument” used by people who do not understand that without the principles of liberty, capitalism itself will eventually die.

    The very megacorportions that back unlimited government and wish to utterly crush individual liberty (and just as much in the West as in China) are siding with a monster that will eventually turn on them.

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