At least 18 dead, over 50 injured in ‘chaotic’ Hong Kong double-decker bus crash

The double-decker came to a stop tipped on its side on Tai Po Road. Photo: Felix Wong

Cause of accident that took place on Tai Po Road not yet established, but multiple passengers say vehicle was going fast

Shirley Zhao  Kimmy Chung


Cause of accident that took place on Tai Po Road not yet established, but multiple passengers say vehicle was going fast

At least 18 people were killed and over 50 injured in a double-decker bus crash in Hong Kong’s New Territories on Saturday evening.

The fatalities included at least 15 men and three women. They were confirmed dead at the scene.

At least 19 of the 37 people hurt in the crash were in serious condition. Photo: Felix WongAt least 19 of the 37 people hurt in the crash were in serious condition. Photo: Felix Wong

As of 9pm, at least 47 people were sent to 12 hospitals across the city, and 19 were in serious condition.

All passengers were rescued from the bus as of 9.30pm.

Dozens of first-aid workers were tending to the injured at the scene. Photo: Felix WongDozens of first-aid workers were tending to the injured at the scene. Photo: Felix Wong

Several passengers said the driver was driving very fast before the crash. One said he had been upset.

The force said it received multiple calls around 6pm to report the accident after the KMB route 872 bus, heading from Sha Tin racecourse to Tai Po Centre, flipped on its side in Tai Po Kau, Tai Po Road.

The cause has not yet been established.

The bus crashed on a downslope near Tsung Tsai Yuen. The roof of the double-decker was torn off in the crash. Police said a 30-metre skid mark could be seen at the scene and that the speed of the bus before the accident was under investigation.

The roof was torn off, but the cause of the accident was unknown. Photo: FacebookThe roof was torn off, but the cause of the accident was unknown. Photo: Facebook

A male passenger said of the driver: “He was late for 10 minutes. He was grumpy because some people criticised him for being late. He then started to drive the bus like he was driving a plane.”

Another passenger said: “He was driving very fast, extremely fast, even if he was driving down a slope.”

A passenger, who had his right leg bandaged, said the double-decker was going fast when the accident happened.

It was like the tyre slipped, and the bus turned

injured passenger

“It was much faster than I normally felt in a bus,” he said, sitting by the road. “And then it was like the tyre slipped, and the bus turned. It was really chaotic in the bus. People fell on one another and got tossed from side to side.”

The man said he managed to get out of the bus by himself.

“My leg feels numb,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion. “My leg really hurts.”

Many injured passengers were sitting by the road awaiting medical help. Many had bandages wrapped around their heads. Dozens of first-aid workers were tending to the injured at the scene.

Several people were carried away by stretcher, their head covered in blood.

Most of the injured were sent to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Ho Man Tin and United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong.

There were no signs that he was exhausted

KMB’s Godwin So, of the bus driver

KMB general manager Godwin So Wai-kei said at the crash scene that the company would issue HK$80,000 (US$10,000) as a condolence allowance for each injured person and deceased person’s family.

The company is setting up two hotlines: one for inquires on the allowance and one for psychological counselling for anyone affected by the accident.

So said the driver had joined the company in 2014 and last September changed to working part-time.

“There were no signs that he was exhausted,” So added, saying the driver had been working for seven hours each of the past four days and was on a four-hour shift on Saturday.

He had experience in driving the route and the last time was in mid-January, So said.

The general manager added that the company would launch an investigation on the cause of the accident, led by independent directors of the firm, and that it would hand in the report to the Transport Department in a month’s time.

At least 20 people were known to be trapped inside the bus. Photo: FacebookAt least 20 people were known to be trapped inside the bus. Photo: Facebook

The accident is one of the worst since 2003, when 21 people were killed as a double-decker plunged off a Tuen Mun flyover after colliding with a container truck.

In 2008, a speeding bus careered out of control at a Sai Kung roundabout, leaving 18 people dead and 44 injured.

Last September, three people were killed and 29 injured when a double-decker bus mounted a pavement and ploughed into pedestrians at the junction of Yen Chow Street and Cheung Sha Wan Road in Sham Shui Po during rush hour.

The number of traffic accidents grew from 14,776 in 1997 to 16,079 in 2016. Given the increasing population this is to be expected but, marking a positive trend, while there were more accidents, less resulted in fatalities, with 243 in 1997 versus 132, last year

SOURCE: Census and Statistical Department, Hong Kong 

SCMP graphic by Marcelo Duhalde


Eighteen killed after KMB double-decker crashes

Eighteen killed after KMB double-decker crashes

Eighteen killed after KMB double-decker crashes

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the accident. Photo: RTHK

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the accident. Photo: RTHK

Jimmy Choi reports

At least 18 people have been killed, and dozens injured, after a KMB double-decker bus lost control on Tai Po Road, near Tsung Tsai Yuen, on Saturday evening. It’s not certain what caused the accident.

The number 872 bus had been on its way to Tai Po from Shatin racecourse. Footage showed the bus had flipped over onto its side with debris strewn along the kerbside. Dazed passengers and the injured were also seen sitting, or lying, on the kerb. 

The driver has been arrested for dangerous driving causing injuries and death.

It’s Hong Kong’s worst bus accident since 2003, when 21 people died after a bus plunged off a Tuen Mun fly-over. In 2008, 18 people lost their lives when a bus lost control at a Sai Kung roundabout. 

But the SAR has also witnessed more recent fatal bus accidents. Last September, three people died when a double-decker ploughed into pedestrians in Sham Shui Po, and earlier in the year there was a fatal accident near the Eastern Harbour Crossing when a bus overturned. 

KMB expressed regret over the fatal accident. 

“We’re deeply sorry for that accident. We will form a committee, that will be led by our independent non-executive directors, to investigate the accident,” said Godwin So, KMB’s general manager in charge of corporate planning and business development. 

So also said the driver, who joined the company in 2014 and started working part-time last year, had had sufficient rest before beginning his shift.

KMB officials said he has a good driving record and it was not the first time he was driving the route. They also said he was rostered to work four hours on Saturday. The bus company said it will give HK$80,000 to support each affected family and will also help them claim insurance.

The Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she will order an independent inquiry to see whether there are any systemic problems with the city’s bus operations following the accident. She said the commission will be headed by a judge and she expects it to come up with suggestions to ensure Hong Kong’s public transport system is safe and reliable. 

Speaking to reporters after visiting the injured who had been sent to the Prince of Wales Hospital, the CE said the government is deeply grieved by the accident. Lam said authorities had activated emergency response mechanisms to provide financial and psychological support to the families affected.

The fatalities include 15 males and three females.

The government says, as at 10pm, 10 people are in a critical condition in hospital, 15 are serious and 29 are stable. The condition of seven others is unknown. One person has been discharged.

Police have set up a hotline, for those wishing to enquire about the dead and the injured. The number is 1878999

Last updated: 2018-02-10 HKT 23:04

What’s Singlish for ‘schadenfreude’?

by biglychee

Pro-Beijing sex-symbol Lau Siu-kai ponders the ideological tests Hong Kong has introduced out of nowhere in recent years to keep opposition activists off the ballot in elections. Yes, they are vague, he admits. Maybe you’ll be barred from running if you don’t support National Security laws. (So what the hell do you put in your platform if you want to win votes?) But maybe, he adds, it would be OK if you opposed them on grounds of timing. Who knows? Best not to have a position on anything, presumably.

The SCMP quotes the European Union as saying that this sort of thing damages Hong Kong’s reputation. We will be hearing more about this as Beijing continues to chip away at the city’s rule of law.

The background…

So far, we have seen the twisting of process for political reasons. Examples include: the barring of candidates from the ballot for their supposed telepathically-inferred beliefs; the disqualification of lawmakers for incorrect oath-taking; and selective prosecutions of, and appeals for tougher sentences for, protestors.

Then there is the device of ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law by the (rubber stamp) NPC standing committee, whereby Beijing can summarily change the apparent meaning of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, with retroactive effect. The local judiciary now seems to accept these quasi-amendments without question, and Beijing can use this method to pre-empt the outcome of a court case (as it did with lawmakers’ disqualifications, and might do with some of the other politically-driven administrative decisions).

An even more draconian approach is a decision by the (‘highest organ of state power’) NPCSC, which is essentially an imperial edict overriding or bypassing even the Basic Law. Beijing recently resorted to this method to justify the transfer of high-speed rail terminus facilities to Mainland jurisdiction, and could use it to impose other decisions on Hong Kong as ‘national policy’ – anything it feels like (subject to implementation by rubber-stamp-to-be local legislature, hence above-mentioned disqualifications, etc).

All of this – especially the persecutions and exclusions of young photogenic opposition activists – has attracted international attention. The New York Times is the latest.

Which leads us to the interesting part…

Some members of Hong Kong’s legal and business community have recently noticed that a growing number of (particularly Western) companies are asking that Singapore rather than Hong Kong be named as the jurisdiction for contract enforcement and arbitration purposes. Especially where deals involve Mainland parties.

It seems that the Lion City’s officials are rubbing their hands with glee at Beijing’s attacks on Hong Kong’s rule of law (or at least surrounding press coverage). The scoundrels are dropping discreet but unsubtle hints that, to be safe, businesses should use the Lion City’s dependable, high-quality, oh-so classy British Common Law system, guaranteed unsullied by the Chinese Communist Party’s dirty fingers.

This is no doubt unfair. The infringements of Hong Kong’s legal principles are so far aimed only at what Beijing sees as threats to the CCP’s monopoly of power. More to the point, the Singaporeans are being massively hypocritical, given that their own legal system starts from a far inferior base in terms of human-rights protections, and Hong Kong business law more closely replicates UK legislation.

But what’s fairness got to do with it? Hong Kong is handing Singapore business promotion officials self-inflicted reputational damage on a plate – of course the city-state scumbags will bad-mouth their now-Communist-run rivals.

As Lau Siu-kai’s blather and the NYT’s reportage suggest, the decline of Hong Kong’s rule-of-law substance and image is just beginning. All Hong Kong’s government will be able to do is bleat more and more desperately and unconvincingly that all is well.

On the subject of decline: when a Hong Kong National Treasure calls it quits, it’s a bad sign.

Protesters demand take over of Fanling golf course

Protesters hand over their demands to task force chief Stanley Wong. Photo: RTHK

Protesters hand over their demands to task force chief Stanley Wong. Photo: RTHK

Andrew Wan talks to RTHK’s Priscilla Ng

Dozens of protesters rallied outside the government’s headquarters on Tuesday ahead of a meeting by the Task Force on Land Supply, calling on task force members to advise the government to take back the Fanling golf courses and develop much-needed housing there. 

The Democratic Party and the Concerning Grassroots’ Housing Rights Alliance accused the administration of exaggerating the usage of the golf courses by saying that 120,000 rounds were played there last year. 

They also slammed authorities for playing down the number of flats that could be developed on the 172-hectare site. 

Sources say according to a government assessment, only 13,000 flats can be built on the plot, which is nine times as large as Victoria Park. 

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan told RTHK’s Priscilla Ng that’s a drastic under-estimation. 

“According to the estimation by Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area, their 220 hectares can locate about 220,000 people. By this ratio, in this golf course 170,000 people and at least 50,000 flats can be built.”

Wan also said the claims that 300 rounds of golf are played on the courses everyday is simply absurd.

Would the HK government lie about land?

by biglychee / Yesterday, 11:38

The Hong Kong government is caught in an embarrassing situation. On the one hand, it must maintain the fiction that there is a ‘shortage of land’ to justify current high housing prices and long-term multi-billion mega-projects to reclaim artificial islands. On the other hand, there is spare and underused space all around in the form of land zoned as agricultural or industrial, supposedly military sites, Disney/cruise tourist facilities, luxury developments for Mainland money-launderers, and much else.

If the ‘shortage of land’ is real, it follows that the city cannot devote a huge area to a golf course at Fanling. But the government’s buddies value their exclusive recreational club above the needs of the overall population or economy. So officials will falsify the site’s potential for affordable housing. Will the pro-dems be able to get their act together and make a suitably awkward issue out of it?

On the subject of officials pushing BS, here’s a response to the Hong Kong’s government’s ever-child-like thrill at receiving the World’s Freest Economy prize every year. And to mark the freezing weather hitting the city, here’s an analysis (for those following this sort of thing) of how China presents its Arctic ambitions. Not least – a Chinese Communist theoretician’s view of the Western Concept of Journalism, as opposed to that derived from Victorian-era London based German, Karl M.

Light relief from the land of vintage album covers courtesy of (no infantile snickering, please) The Beavers

So – a 1964-style combo in matching outfits clearly modeled on the Beatles, with McCartney-style Hofner bass and mop-top hairstyles. The group is Japanese, and this seems to be from 1967, which suggests Japan was woefully behind the times in those days. But maybe they were cooler than we might think, as it says here (in an apparently neo-Marxist forum, so who knows) that they were banned from TV for their freakiness. Click on the pic to judge for yourself (quite with-it garage stuff, under the circumstances).

Activists to call on Teresa Cheng to resign

Activists said on Saturday they plan to stage a demonstration next weekend to call on the Secretary for Justice’s resignation.

The Civil Human Rights Front said they have not yet received a letter of no objection from the police, but they plan to march on February 11 from Wan Chai to the Department of Justice’s offices in Central.

They say Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng should resign over her failure to disclose the illegal structures at properties that she owns, as this raises questions about her honesty and credibility.

They also accused Cheng of pressuring election officials into barring some individuals from standing as candidates in next month’s Legislative Council by-elections because of their political beliefs.

The League of Social Democrats’ disqualified lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung described Cheng as Hong Kong’s “Secretary of Injustice”.

He said he doesn’t expect the government to act to remove Cheng as a result of the protest, but hopes the demonstration will mobilise people to express their anger.

He added that if Cheng doesn’t resign, then the Chief Executive Carrie Lam should be held responsible and she should step down.

GRAY SERGEANT: PM’s Visit to China – One conversation about Hong Kong is not enough to fulfil British obligations

by Gray Sergeant / Yesterday, 22:07

Human rights advocates should welcome Theresa May’s promise to raise Hong Kong’s political situation with her Chinese counterparts but should not be complacent.

theresa-may-xi-jinping-reuters_650x400_81517557019.jpgHuman rights contribute to economic prosperity. China’s economic relationship with Britain will flourish best if China develop an international reputation for respecting human rights and rule of law, and so Theresa May promised to have “frank discussions” with Beijing, while also seeking new economic opportunities for Britain in China. Upon arriving in China, she told the press that she would raise the issue of Hong Kong with President Xi Jinping himself.

In part, the media, human rights organisations and vocal politicians who have stood up for Hong Kong’s freedoms and democracy can take credit for this. In recent days Mrs May must have felt some domestic pressure to raise democracy in Hong Kong with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Now the pressure must continue. Discussions on Hong Kong cannot be raised and quickly swept to one side. This should not be another forum for Britain to raise a number of human rights concerns only to have them ignored or dismissed as matters of Beijing’s internal affairs. Such remarks, and the use of economic statistics to hide behind, are commonplace CCP tactics. Previously, the UK-China Human Rights Dialogues have been criticised for lacking results. Let’s hope leader to leader talks do not follow suit.

Of course, this is the problem with private talks, while they are useful diplomatically, it’s hard to hold politicians to account.  

We hope that the Prime Minister was brave while dining with Xi and that there was no backsliding or complacency.

Getting Beijing to acknowledge the relevance of the Joint Declaration should not be seen as a big win but rather as a bare minimum expectation. The treaty is legally binding and lodged at the United Nations not a historical piece of paper, as the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed last year.

Going forward it is important that Britain pressures Beijing to honour the spirit of the agreement and urges China to push forward with democratic reform in Hong Kong.

Recent events, including the disqualifications ahead of the March by-elections, shows why Britain speaking out is so important.

Yet this is only the start of it. May’s promise to raise Hong Kong should become the norm. No Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary should be able to travel to China without discussing the situation in the Special Administrative Region, either publically or privately. When there is progress, that should be a topic of celebration, and if there is further regression then that must be discussed. 

Let’s hope that in future years, when the British Prime Minister next visits China, that Hong Kong will be even higher up the UK government’s political agenda.

Gray Sergeant is a trustee of Hong Kong Watch

Lam’s ‘We connect’ slogan turns ‘We divide’

The pan-democrats hold a rally outside Government Headquarters on Sunday to protest against a government decision to ban Agnes Chow, a Demosisto student leader, from contesting a Legco by-election on grounds of her stance on self-determination.By Chris Yeung –

At an Chief Executive election televised debate in March, former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah upset Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when he said Hong Kong feared she would become “divisiveness 2.0” if she was elected. She made a strong rebuttal. Seven months after she became the Chief Executive, Tsang may have proved to be right.

Pledging to mend the wounds of the society inflicted by her predecessor during her campaign and after she won the election, Mrs Lam has done the opposite since taking power on July 1.

On Saturday, the Government moved to ban Agnes Chow Ting, a student leader of Demosisto, from contesting the Legislative Council by-election. It has deepened the city’s political rift. Worse, it has seriously damaged the fundamentals of Hong Kong’s governance system and rule of law.

Defending the decision, Mrs Lam insisted it was done by the book. “Any suggestion of Hong Kong independence, self-determination, independence as a choice, or self-autonomy, is not in line with Basic Law requirements, and deviates from the important principle of ‘one country two systems’.”

Chow, a founding member of Demosisto, was seeking to regain the Legco Hong Kong Island geographical constituency seat left vacant after the party’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung was disqualified for his convicted failure to comply with the oath-taking law.

Anne Teng, returning officer of the Hong Kong Island constituency Anne Teng, who gave the green light to Law’s candidacy in 2016, thwarted Chow’s bid. She argued each case must be considered on its merits, but admitted that she has considered Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law provision on oath-taking.

Six pro-democracy lawmakers, including Law and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – who has signed up for the by-election in the Kowloon West constituency – were being disqualified following the National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law.

Yiu’s fate in the balance

Yiu, whose candidacy is still in balance at the time this article was posted, revealed he was asked by a returning officer in Kowloon West constituency to answer four political questions. They include whether he accepts Beijing’s interpretation of Basic Law Article 104 on oath-taking and his views of a Taiwan group, which advocates self-determination. Yau had attended a forum hosted by the group last year.

Mainland officials were quoted by the media as saying independence and self-determination are different in terms of expression, but are the same in substance.

In their manifesto, Demosisto advocates a referendum on the city’s post-2047 future with constitutional effect. Even though they do not call for independence, they agree that independence should be one of the options in the referendum to realise the principle of “sovereignty comes from people.”

Agnes Chow of Demosisto is out. Will Edward Yau the next?

Agnes Chow of Demosisto is out. Will Edward Yau the next?

Although Chow has not even announced his election platform, the election officer ruled Chow do not support the Basic Law in view of her affiliation with Demosisto.

Under existing election law, political thinking and affiliations of election hopefuls are not factors to be considered by returning officers when they judge whether whey support the Basic Law. Contestants are required to make a declaration of their support of the Basic Law as required in the post-1997 constitution.

Chow stripped of political right

That Teng, the returning officer, banned Chow’s candidacy on the basis of her political affiliation has not only damaged the apolitical civil service system but also fair election. It also contravened with the safeguards of freedom of expression and rule of law in the Basic Law. Chow was found guilty and stripped of her political right to stand for election without being given a chance to defend herself.

As HKU law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming has rightly opined, the Chow case is a blatant case of political censorship against dissent and “putting politics above the law.”

More accurately, it is a case of “Without Law, Without Heaven,” a notorious Chinese saying associated with the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, but with one more “without”. The decision to bar what the authorities deemed as “pro-independence” and “self-determination” advocates from sitting in Legco is without common sense.

If anything, the votes Nathan Law got in the 2016 Legco election (50,818, the second-highest in the HK Island constituency) have testified to their popularity, particular among the young generation. It is clear their advocacy for self-determination is not so much about a call for independence, but a demand for a say in their future and, also importantly, their voices be heard.

The Government’s failure to connect with them is one of the underlying factors of the Occupy Central movement and the prevailing divisiveness of the society in recent years.

Mrs Lam had campaigned on the slogan of “We Connect” in the CE election. She spoke in length of her initiatives to address young people’s livelihood concerns and connect with them in her maiden policy address in October.

But by first unseating six pan-democrat lawmakers including Nathan Law and then banning Chow, she has adopted the “friends-foes” mentality and approach in dealing with the student leaders and their supporters.

Not to mention the high cost of damages to the city’s sound systems, she will pay dearly for making enemies with a sizeable chunk of the populace, most of whom at young age.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photos: Alvin Lum, CitizenNews

In Defense of Democracy by Chris Patten – Project Syndicate

Democracies have had a bad few years, but that is no reason to tout the virtues of dictatorships and authoritarianism. History shows that, when it comes to prosperity and human wellbeing, societies that defend economic and political freedom come out on top.

SYDNEY – Imagine that you, like me, are a typical product of Western liberal democracy, and are invited to give a lecture to a group of Chinese students in Beijing or Shanghai on its benefits. Ignoring the fact that, in reality, the Chinese government would never allow such a lecture, ask yourself: What would you say?

First and foremost, it would be advisable to acknowledge that you do not speak from a position of moral superiority. Western civilization in the first half of the twentieth century was not very civilized. Human rights were trampled. Class war destroyed entire political systems. There were large-scale violent conflicts and much ethnic cleansing. Given this history, Westerners are in no position to lecture on civil liberties or humane values.

It is also worth noting that the global march toward democracy, which seemed nearly inexorable after the fall of the Berlin Wall, now seems to be reversing. According to Stanford University’s Larry Diamond, several countries that were democracies at the beginning of this century have since shifted to different systems.

Of course, elections alone do not a democracy make. Consider those cases when elections empower a majority ethnic or religious group, which then rides roughshod over minorities – an outcome that has been seen all too often in the Balkans, for example.

Then there are the cases when the election of a leader is treated as if it somehow legitimizes the subsequent emergence of dictatorship. This has been the case in Russia, which, since President Vladimir Putin’s first electoral victory in 2000, has become a Potemkin democracy. This year, another election, neither free nor fair, will give Putin another term in office.

In a real democracy, free and fair elections are complemented more broadly by the rule of law, due process, an independent judiciary, an active civil society, and freedom of the press, worship, assembly, and association. In fact, it is theoretically possible – though unlikely – for political systems to have all these elements without elections at all. (The political scientist Samuel Finer, in his comprehensive study of different sorts of government, found just one society that was liberal but not democratic: colonial Hong Kong.)

Democracies depend on institutional software, not just hardware. The people who make them work accept a set of norms that often do not have to be codified. The problem comes when the people – or, worse, their leaders – refuse to adhere to democratic norms. That is what is happening today in the United States, as US President Donald Trump challenges some of the foundational rules, norms, and principles of American democracy.

Trump threatens (as President Richard Nixon once did) to use his power to pervert the rule of law to target his opponents – most notably Hillary Clinton, whom he wants “locked up.” He assaults the freedom of the press, implicitly encouraging supporters to attack journalists, say, by tweeting a (since-deleted) parody video of himself body-slamming a man with a CNN logo on his head. He attempts to subvert America’s system of checks and balances. And he seems to place a higher priority on advancing his family’s own commercial interests than the interests of the American people.

While some parts of America’s democratic political system – for example, the judicial check on executive authority – have proved resilient, others are breaking down. But Trump is a consequence of this breakdown, not its cause.

The real problem is that the Republican Party has, over the years, become a hollow instrument of lobbyists and extremists, and both Democrats and Republicans seem to have abandoned their commitment to governing by consensus. As a result, the constitutional brakes that America’s founders created to prevent the election of a huckster like Trump have failed. Propelled by popular discontent with rising inequality and seemingly self-dealing elites, the political system is spinning out of control.

Economic challenges, together with fears about migration, have created similar pressures in Europe, reflected in sizable support for right-wing populist parties in elections in Germany and France in the last year, as well as the rise of “illiberal democracy” in Hungary and Poland.

Countering such assaults on democracy will require political leaders to show courage and vision – as French President Emmanuel Macron has so far – in defending the values that underpin democratic governance. In the European Union, this means that leaders must not turn a blind eye to elected governments’ assault on the institutions that safeguard freedom. After all, the EU not just a customs union; it is a union of shared values. If it fails to act accordingly, it will crumble.

The bad few years that democracies have had is no reason to tout the virtues of dictatorship and authoritarianism. History shows that, when it comes to prosperity and human wellbeing, societies that defend economic and political freedom come out on top. In the 1930s, some admired Adolf Hitler’s autobahns and Benito Mussolini’s success in getting the trains to run on time. But it was clearly not worth the cost.

The same is true of China today. Yes, the country has become an economic powerhouse in recent decades. But if a system cannot survive basic dissent – from legal challenges to television parodies – can it really be as strong as its leaders claim? And if a crackdown on corruption is carried out by a corrupt dictatorship, can it really be considered legitimate?

Contrast this with India, which may have lost the economic race in the last few years, but has held together since independence, despite vast ethnic, religious, and linguistic differences – without needing to create a Bamboo Gulag. This does not mean that there is no dissent or disagreement. But, no matter how much Indians argue, they are not locking up or “disappearing” dissidents, thanks to the safety valves afforded by their democracy. No society can manage indefinitely without such mechanisms. Even Karl Marx, I think, would not have disagreed.

Chris Patten

Writing for PS since 2000 
86 Commentaries


Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and a former EU commissioner for external affairs, is Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Why HK should consider property-linked crypto coin

by Ko Tin-yau / Today, 17:04

Venezuela is one of the world’s leading oil producers. However, the nation has been grappling with political turmoil and spiking inflation. Governments had in the past issued excessive currency, leading to a situation now where many local residents have lost confidence in the bolivar.

The nation’s inflation rate is expected to further soar 2349 percent this year from a spike of 626 percent in 2017, according to IMF data. That means a piece of bread may cost 10,000 bolivar at the beginning of the year, but the cost may soar to 234,900 bolivar at the year end. The nation is now mired in a deepening economic crisis.

To counter the hyperinflation, Venezuela plans to issue 100 million units of “petro” cryptocurrency, on February 20. Each token is priced at US$60, and its value will be pegged to price of a barrel of crude oil.

The petro currency can be used for buying food, paying for fuel, healthcare and to settle education fees.

Backed by oil, it is hoped that the purchasing power of the new currency will be more steady compared to the traditional unit.

Venezuela also intends to overcome US sanctions with the new currency. Using the blockchain technology, the petro currency stands a good chance of circulating in the international market.
The country can thus hopefully use it for trade settlement.

In Hong Kong, our problem is not hyperinflation, but rather property prices which have been soaring and creating a lot of problems,

There are a huge number of residents who feel increasingly hopeless about their chances of owning a property.

Anxious about not being able to afford a home in the future, some of them have used their parents’ life-long savings to fund their home purchase

Such demand has in turn further pushed up home prices to new highs.

The government can follow the example of Venezuela to issue some kind of mini-flats coin. The coin’s value can be linked to the average per square foot price of property, which would be around HK$15,000.

For those who cannot afford a home, they can invest in the coin to earn some money, which can somewhat narrow the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Those who have plans to buy properties but do not need a place to live immediately can store the home purchasing power with the coin.

Such measure can also cool down housing demand in the short term.

Hong Kong government is now sitting on a huge budget surplus, and the public is calling for cash handout like what authorities did in 2011. Offering one free mini-flat coin to each resident is perhaps a better idea than doling out cash.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 2

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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