Milton Friedman has long believed Hong Kong to be the model success story of laissez-faire economics. In the eyes of the WTO, the ex-colony’s status as the world’s freest economy is an ideal for the rest of the world to aspire to. In reality, the ‘capital of capitalism’ is anything but non-interventionist and the city today should stand as a warning to libertarians and corporate defenders the world over.
Mind the gap Although the territory has seen a huge growth in the number of millionaire residents, the local census Gini Coefficient shows inequality to be at its highest level for 30 years. As it celebrates 15 years of Chinese rule, the UNDP states that the wealthiest 10 percent of the populace control more than a third of the city’s income, whilst the bottom 10 percent share only 2 percent. A meagre minimum hourly wage of US$3.5 was only introduced last May and, with little corporate regulation or competition controls, a small handful of rich tycoons and their conglomerates reign freely. It has resulted in Hong Kong having the worse inequality amongst all OECD members; a fact that should make it a poster-boy for the failures of ‘free trade’. Yet income disparity is only set to worsen as the aging population and low birth rate give rise to an ever-shrinking workforce.
Standby to unleash your feathery fury! Feel the fervour of cushony rage!… This year’s Pillow Fight Day will take place on March 31st in Statue Square, Central (near Central MTR exit K). Join the event on Facebook. [Suported by Timable.com.]
Abandoned ‘ghost island’ Yim Tin Tsai was once home to 1000+ Hakka people. By the late 80s/ early 90s, all of the inhabitants had resettled elsewhere in HK, in Britain and Poland. It is now home to just a caretaker, a small organic farm and a small, recently restored UNESCO protected chapel. Many of the buildings are now being slowly reclaimed by nature as it is often not known who owns them.
There are several $35 public ferries from Sai Kung pier on weekends and holidays only. Departure times from Sai Kung: 10am, 11am, noon, 1pm, 2pm… Departure times from Yim Tin Tsai: 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 4pm, 5pm. There are snacks available on the island – it is only around 1sq km, so an afternoon visit of around 4 hours would be enough to complete the short hike around the village, cemetery, lookout point, well and abandoned salt farm.
This hike traces the south western coast of Lantau from Shek Pik Reservoir to Tai O. Here is a full-resolution gallery of the pictures below. It’s a relatively flat hike of around 3-4hrs or 20km.
Catch bus 11 from Tung Chung, alight after the bridge over the reservoir. Continue from the reservoir for around an hour/5km and take the first trail on the left after the waterfall. If you trace the coast, it continues through woods, abandoned villages, old farmland and empty beaches. Fan Lau Tsuen is a ghost village at the mid-point that was once home to 200 people.
Towards the end of the hike are some abandoned salt plains where you’ll now find mangroves (and a terrible amount of washed-up litter).
A 30 minute detour takes you to the 300-year old remnants of Fan Lau Fort.
On Saturday, October 15th 2011, hundreds of protesters occupied Exchange Square in Central. Since then, dozens of activists have been occupying the space beneath Central’s HSBC building. Here are a few links to local/international coverage:
Tom on Reuters (video), on TVB (video) Sina (press), CRI English (radio) and a longer quote on RTHK 3 (radio) after the Exchange Square protest on 15.10.11.
An unpublished piece I wrote about the relevance of #OWS in Hong Kong…
At a time of deep cuts and austerity measures in Europe and the US, booming Hong Kong is enjoying such a surplus that the government is offering personal US$700 bail-outs to all residents, subsidising electricity bills and allowing families in public housing free rent for 2 months. However, not all is as it seems beneath the Tiger Economy’s glittering skyline.
Last Saturday, over 300 ‘Occupy Hong Kong’ activists gathered at the city’s Stock Exchange. As the freest economy in the world and the third most favoured tax haven, one would doubt that the thriving ‘Capital of Capitalism’ would have seen anything of the Occupy Wall St movement. However, the turnout exceeded all expectations as demonstrators were keen to raise awareness of the territory’s shameful growing income disparity.