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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Penang's LRT project gets conditional approval from Transport Minister


GEORGE TOWN: Waves of excitement swept through Penang when the Transport Minister announced that the Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) has received conditional approval.

It is seen as a move to reduce traffic congestion in the city and create a next wave of growth for the state.

The approved 29.9km Bayan Lepas LRT will bring convenience not only to the local folk but also tourists and investors, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock.

Ooi, who is positive that the project will spur growth on the island, believes the LRT will bring in another wave of development into the state.

“The LRT will divert traffic congestion. It will attract new investments, make life easier for our workforce.

“I believe it will boost the state’s economy with another wave of growth,” he said yesterday.

Following the Transport Ministry’s conditional approval of the project, Ooi added that it is the first step for a change in landscape and behaviour of transport mode in Penang.

Yesterday, the Transport Ministry gave conditional approval to the Bayan Lepas LRT project.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke in a statement said that after a detailed study of the application by Penang Economic Planning Unit (BPEN) to develop the Bayan Lepas LRT project, approval with 30 conditions for the state to comply was given on Tuesday.

Loke said the conditions included a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) approval including traffic, social and heritage assess­ments.

The state must now exhibit documents on the project for three months, and the final go ahead will only be decided after the public responses are evaluated, said Loke.

“I welcome public participation from the people, NGOs and all stakeholders in this public review.

“The relevant documents are to be exhibited in public places including government offices.

“The state government must also upload a copy of these documents on a website for online viewing.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow thanked the Federal Govern­ment and said the state is committed to fulfilling all requirements.

“We will wait for the official letter from Transport Ministry to proceed and initiate public viewing of the documents,” he said.

The RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas LRT together with a monorail, cable cars and water taxis, is part of the state government’s RM46bil Penang Trans­port Master Plan (PTMP).

This LRT will begin at Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and head south through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Penang Interna­tional Airport, ending at the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) development.

It is expected to provide a fast route to the airport and will traverse densely populated residential, commercial and industrial areas.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Religion restrictions growing worldwide, bad marks on US: Pew report

Highest levels on religion curbs found in several countries, social harassment of religious groups in the US among worst in the world

People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station in Geneva, Switzerland. 
People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station in Geneva, Switzerland.

NEW YORK — Government restrictions on religion have increased markedly in many places around the world, not only in authoritarian countries but also in many democracies, according to a report surveying 198 countries that was released Monday.

The report released by the Pew Research Center, covering developments through 2017, also seeks to document the scope of religion-based harassment and violence. Regarding the world’s two largest religions, it said Christians were harassed in 143 countries and Muslims in 140.

This was Pew’s 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. It said 52 governments, including those in Russia and China, impose high levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 governments in 2007. It said 56 countries in 2017 were experiencing social hostilities involving religion, up from 39 in 2007.

Pew said the Middle East and North Africa, of the five major regions it studied, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion, followed by the Asia-Pacific region. However, it said the biggest increase during the 2007-2017 period was in Europe, where the number of countries placing restrictions on religious dress — including burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women — rose from five to 20.

Among other measures in 2017, Austria enacted a ban on full-face veils in public spaces and Germany banned face veils for anyone driving a motor vehicle or working in the civil service. In Switzerland, voters in two regions have approved bans on face veils and voters nationwide backed a ban on the construction of new minarets.

In Spain, according to the report, some municipal governors have introduced bans on burqas and face-covering veils and have also restricted public preaching and proselytizing by such groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Circumcision of boys also has been an issue in Europe. Muslim and Jewish groups in Germany and Slovenia have complained of government officials interfering in their religious traditions by trying to criminalize circumcision for nonmedical reasons.

Globally, among the 25 most populous countries, those with the highest level of government restrictions were China, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Indonesia, the report said. The lowest levels of restriction were in South Africa, Japan, the Philippines, Brazil and South Korea.

In terms of government harassment of religious groups, Pew said the phenomenon was most pronounced in the Middle East-North Africa region, but two examples from Asia were highlighted. The report noted that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims were sent to reeducation camps in China, while in Myanmar there were large-scale abuses against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority, leading to massive displacement.

Another category in the report was religious harassment by individuals and social groups. The United States ranked among the worst-scoring countries in this category in 2017, in part because of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist protesters displayed swastika flags and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.

Pew said the biggest increase in religious hostility by individuals occurred in Europe. Victims of violence, in incidents cited in the report, include Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine and a rabbi and a Muslim woman in Belgium.

In Germany, Pew said, there were reports that thousands of refugees were pressured to convert to Christianity after being warned they might otherwise be deported.

Jocelyne Cesari, a professor of religion and politics at the University of Birmingham in Britain, views governmental and societal discrimination against Muslims in Europe as a threat to the broader principles of religious freedom.

She also suggested that headscarf bans and similar laws play into the hands of radical Islamist groups “that build their legitimacy among some segments of the Muslim youth in Europe by presenting the West as the enemy of the Islamic religion.”

Jonathan Laurence, a political science professor at Boston College who has written about Europe’s Muslims, said the continent’s debate over headscarf bans has strengthened the hand of populist parties while failing to bridge social divisions.

“Ironically, headscarf laws that were intended to force integration have instead accelerated the creation of publicly subsidized religious schools where children may wear what they like,” he said in an email.

Religious discrimination and persecution will be the topic of a three-day meeting hosted by the US State Department starting Tuesday in Washington, attended by hundreds of government officials, religious leaders and other participants from all regions of the world.

Previewing the event, Sam Brownback, the US government’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, noted that religions of all sorts are vulnerable to persecution.

“Almost every faith that’s a majority somewhere is a minority somewhere else and often gets persecuted where they’re a minority,” Brownback said at a State Department briefing. “So that’s why a big part of our effort is to get the faiths to come together and to stand for each other.”

“We’re not talking common theology here — nobody agrees on theology,” he added. “We’re talking about a common human right.”

Pew’s annual reports are compiled by researchers who annually comb through numerous sources of information, including annual reports on international religious freedom by the State Department and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, as well as publications by European, UN bodies and nongovernmental organizations.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Trump is the biggest threat

Not much help: Despite his use of tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US firms, the very industries Trump has tried to help have become the weakest links in the otherwise solid economy.

WASHINGTON: At rallies and whistle-stop campaign tours, President Donald Trump proclaims a renaissance in US factories rebuilding the nation with “American steel”, “American heart” and “American hands”.

But in reality, despite his relentless use of punitive tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US companies, the very industries he has tried to help have become the weakest links in the otherwise solid economy.

With just over a year to go before he faces re-election, Trump takes credit for the most vigorous economy in the industrialised world, with the expansion entering its 11th year and historically low unemployment.

But while services and office jobs dominate the US economy, Trump continues to promote the factory and mining jobs that were the lifeblood of the economy in the last century.

“American steel mills are roaring back to life,” he declared last month in Florida – the same day US Steel announced it would idle plants in Michigan and Indiana until “market conditions improve”.

And to West Virginians he said, “The coal industry is back.”

But in fact each of the sectors Trump has championed – coal mining, steel, aluminium and auto manufacturing – have been buffeted by a combination of market forces and changing technologies – factors beyond his control – or damaged by the very things he did to protect them, economists and analysts say.

Last month, a national survey of manufacturing activity hit its lowest level in nearly three years – narrowly avoiding slipping into contraction – while regional surveys have also seen record declines.

In March, the number of workers in US manufacturing shrank for the first time in nearly two years and it is now growing more slowly than the rest of the American workforce.

Trump has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions in imports, renegotiated trade agreements and dangled the threat of worse over China and Europe and Mexico – all while publicly browbeating companies that close US factories or move production offshore.

But weak foreign demand, a strong US dollar and a decades-long evolution away from domestic manufacturing have progressively shrunk America’s industrial sector, said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics.

Trump’s world trade war has not helped either.

“The policies that have been implemented in terms of protectionism have hurt the very sectors they were meant to protect. There’s no escaping that,” Daco said. - AFP/The Star

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China can effectively sanction US companies who sell weapons to Taiwan: experts

The US is deploying a double standard by calling China's proposed sanctions on US companies for arms sales to Taiwan a "foolish action," Chinese mainland analysts said on Sunday, pointing out that the sanctions could not only cut base material supply to these companies including rare earths but also block their non-military products from entering Chinese markets.


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Sunday, July 14, 2019

China-Hong Kong union needs sense of inclusion

Hong Kong. -Bloomberg pic
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While the China-Hong Kong union still sits uncomfortably at times two decades on, the road ahead is slowly but surely being paved.

IT’S lunch time in Hong Kong, but the soya sauce chicken rice seller at Queen’s Road in Shek Tong Tsui is looking distressed as the crowd isn’t up to expectations.

Rental is high in Hong Kong and customers are obliged to share tables in small eateries like the one I was in.

Once eagle-eyed restaurant owners spot the conclusion of a meal, patrons are swiftly handed their bills, subtly suggesting they leave the premises to make way for incoming customers. Otherwise, they’d earn short shrift from irate staff.

Life is hard in HK and most residents feel that it has become much harder.

The older ones are more tolerant and patient because they have lived through the country’s high and low points. They include those born in China who came to the island with their parents.

Retired civil servants complain of promotions bypassing them because the top posts were reserved for the whites under British colonial rule. They felt humiliated and have never forgotten this marginalised treatment.

The young ones are becoming angrier now. They see HK deteriorating, reflected in their inability to buy a flat the size of a car park lot, because something even that small would probably cost millions of ringgit.

HK is a crowded city where space is at a premium. Space, meaning a hole in the sky. Landed properties are for the super rich in a land where being rich alone isn’t enough.

Regular visitors to HK will tell you that the streets are filled with people for a simple reason: it can be claustrophobic living in a 400sq foot – or less – flat.

HK residents sometimes joke that they need to leave their flat to provide “privacy” for newly married children who sometimes can’t afford their own homes and still need to live with their parents.

“The walls are too thin, and it is best we give them some space, you understand what I am saying, right?” said my HK friend as we chuckled about the reference while dining on dim sum.

The waiting period for public housing is five years, if you are lucky, and it’s not uncommon to see an entire family living in one room in many parts of downtown HK. Apparently, more than 200,000 people live in subdivided homes.

Forget politics for a minute and let’s talk facts. An international survey reportedly showed HK sliding 12 places to an embarrassing 41 as a liveable city for Asian expats, its worst ranking in a decade.

“We call ourselves Asia’s world city, but Asians have given us the thumbs down as a liveable city. That’s a paradox that should shame us,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper reported.

Over the last two decades, HK people have found themselves priced out of the home market. The cost of living has gone up, but the standard of living has dropped sharply.

The smog has worsened and there are regular reports of hospitals overflowing in the winter months every year, ushering in the routine flu outbreak.

The competition for space is a serious concern in HK. The resentment towards China is simply because people in HK have found it hard to compete with the deluge of mainlanders.

Each time I go to HK, I can’t get past the sight of long queues of people from China – with deep pockets – at luxury goods outlets at Central.

“Last year, 65 million tourists flooded Hong Kong. That’s only about 10 million fewer than for the whole of the United States. Almost 80% who came were mainlanders, most of them day trippers who swarmed residential areas to buy groceries, ruining the quality of life for locals.

“How can life quality improve if you add the four million mainlanders who come monthly, on average, effectively raising Hong Kong’s population to well over 11 million?” pondered columnist Michael Chugani in the SCMP.

Milk powder is a favourite item of the mainlanders when it comes to groceries because of food safety concerns back home. Every mum and pop shop in HK seems to share a similar inventory.

HK people are loud and opinionated. And often crude and crass even, especially, when speaking in Cantonese. This is a city of very hardworking and motivated people. It’s commonplace for a person to be doing two or three jobs to ensure ends are met, but these people also acknowledge the city has long passed its prime, with stats indicating its lost position as one of Asia’s top cities.

It has surrendered its edge as a financial hub to Shanghai and even nearby Shenzhen.

Chronicling the events of the last two decades reveals how those fortunes changed. Imagine that in 1997, China was very much reliant on HK, largely because the global superpower had not yet made it into the ranks of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which was stunting and limiting its export trade.

So HK’s position as a channel for entrepôt trade was exploited to deliver mainland-made goods to the rest of the world via its ports, and crucially, by circumventing the WTO’s trade restrictions. But that all changed when China entered the organisation in 2001, and from then HK began to play a diminishing role. The island went from handling half the republic’s trade in 1997 to a measly 12% today.

“In terms of total size and wealth, Hong Kong has also shrunk relative to China, which has experienced more than three decades of astoundingly high economic growth. In 1997, Hong Kong’s economy was one-fifth the size of China’s, and its per capita income was 35 times higher. By 2018, Hong Kong’s economy was barely one-thirtieth the size of China’s. Hong Kong is still richer, but the gap is narrowing, with its per capita income now five times higher than China’s,” claimed the New York Times International.

And to exemplify China’s newly accrued wealth, on a trip to Guangzhou, my jaw dropped when I saw the homes of the mainland Chinese in a sprawling gated property built by Forest City.

The HK film industry has nearly collapsed. With only the TV dramas in Cantonese keeping some actors home, most HK movie stars and singers have moved to China, where they are better paid and command bigger audiences.

Some still struggle to speak fluent Mandarin and drop their Cantonese accent, but most have successfully made the transition.

Knowing the realities of the huge China market, and not wanting to offend their audience, most of these big names opted to stay away from the recent HK protests. Pro-Beijing Jackie Chan was lambasted for pleading ignorance of the protest march.

Still, HK has its assets, though. It has an efficient administration system and remains an important channel. In China, tighter capital control measures are making it increasingly difficult to access outside money, the SCMP said.

“Hong Kong is also a top offshore yuan trading centre, leading the way for wider use of the Chinese currency in trade and finance – a priority for Beijing as it pushes for the yuan’s internationalization.

“... Hong Kong can also do more down the road. It can foster an ecosystem for the yuan currency, developing derivatives and indexes to convince people to hold the yuan in larger amounts,” Oliver Rui, a professor of finance and accounting in China, was quoted.

But China needs to do more to secure the faith of the islanders.

HK people understand and accept they are a part of China. There is no turning back and nothing is going to change that.

Hoisting British flags may be the manifestation of frustration for the idealistic young, but it won’t change their destiny.

At the same time, China needs to wake up to the fact that only 3.1% of those aged between 18 and 29 in HK see themselves as broadly Chinese (China nationality). This compares to 31% in 1997, according to a report based on a survey by the University of Hong Kong.

And we know that many of those who took part in the recent street protests included secondary school children, some not yet even 18 years old.

Even though China has overtaken HK, particularly from an economic standpoint, Beijing needs to foster and maintain a sense of inclusion, especially when the islanders don’t feel they are a part of China.

There was a time when HK residents laughed at mainlanders, calling them the disparaging “Ah Chan”, or village simpletons. However, mainlanders are growing richer and more powerful now. But like all good “bosses”, China needs to treat the island’s residents with respect, and it needs to motivate and win over their hearts and minds. China must make them proud to be Chinese citizens.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Housing woes: death spiral or virtuous cycle?


THE World Economic Forum estimates that the global cost of corruption annually is at least US$2.6 trillion (RM10.9 trillion) or 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the World Bank, businesses and individuals pay over US$1 trillion (RM4.2 trillion) in bribes each year.

Corruption adds up to 10% of the total cost of doing business globally and up to 25% of the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.

I gathered these shocking facts at a conference. There are other alarming statistics that shed light on the damage brought about by corruption and its dreadful impact on the economy.

Corruption leads to further impoverishment of the poor and other issues in many countries. The average income in countries with a high level of corruption is about one-third of those countries with a low level of corruption. In addition, corrupt countries have a literacy rate that is 25% lower.

The Corruption Perception Index 2018 released by Transparency International shows that on the scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean, over two-thirds of 180 countries score below 50, with the average score of 43.

In the index, Denmark ranked first in the world followed by New Zealand second. Finland and Singapore were tied for third with a score of 85. Malaysia was ranked 61st in the world, scoring only 47.

We were ranked the third highest in the Asean region, after Singapore and Brunei. Our country is doing better now with the ongoing investigation of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal and other prominent cases.

In TI’s report, Malaysia is one of the countries on the watch with promising political developments against corruption. However, more solid action is needed in combatting all elusive forms of corruption.

According to Transparency International Malaysia, corruption had cost our country about 4% of its GDP value each year since 2013. Added together, this amounts to a high figure of some RM212.3bil since 2013. For 2017 alone, that figure was a whopping RM46.9bil!

As a comparison, our development expenditure in 2017 was RM48bil. If the value of corruption above was accurate, our development fund was almost “wiped out” because of corruption.

Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said: “This is our estimate. It is likely to be higher in reality (on the value of corruption).”

No country can eliminate corruption completely. However, we can learn from good practices shown in some developed countries, such as the Scandinavian countries which all scored high on the Corruption Perception Index.

Corruption leads to poverty as money collected is not used for the welfare of the nation. As a result, the people end up suffering and paying for the leakage in the system.

If a country is corrupt-free, it will reduce the need for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs advocate for the rights of marginalised groups. The government can take care of those group when it has a surplus in the budget.

A clean government and system will have a positive impact on many aspects including affordable housing, one of the prominent needs of the people.

Whenever there is corruption, there is a compromise in the delivery of goods and services. The same situation applies to affordable housing.

Someone mentioned to me in the past that “the government isn’t interested in affordable housing as there is literally ‘no money’ to be made in it”!

Things have made a dramatic change for the better since May last year. Our new government is working on a platform of clean government and improving transparency. It plans to build one million affordable homes within two terms of its administration. To make this a reality, the government needs to put in real money to make it happen.

Corruption causes a death spiral that leads to various problems. Without it, a virtuous cycle grows that ensures every part runs smoothly and the marginalised in society are looked after.

With a promise of a cleaner government, we hope we will soon see a virtuous cycle that makes the one million affordable homes an achievable target.

By Datuk Alan Tong, who has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email bkp@bukitkiara.com. The views expressed here are solely that of his own.

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Monday, July 8, 2019

Let’s talk economy – the sequel of education

I WAS not done the last time, so let’s continue our talk about the economy.

In the last article, I wrote that we must spend our way out of the recession and we must act now. We have to spend it on the right things, for the right reasons, using the right people, at the right value.

In the ’80s, we spent on massive highway infrastructure and got ourselves out of the recession. As I said, today we need a different solution that will hit various sectors that will have an overall impact not just on themselves, but also our fundamental way of life.

Where then shall we stake our economic salvation to spark growth in our economy and blaze a path to recovery of the Malaysian nation as a progressive one that will pave our way to be developed?

I say we build on education. Fundamental education. We reform, revamp and rebuild our education infrastructure, systems, administration and human resources. To be specific, primary and secondary education.

Think about it – the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is to be built at a cost of RM44bil. Imagine the number of people, companies and all and sundry subsectors that will benefit from a massive capital investment like this in education, not just in the short term but in the long term as well.

Today, Malaysia has in actual fact, a dilapidated, outdated and obsolete – primary and secondary – education infrastructure and system. Our administration and human resources are geared towards upholding this obsolete education model. We need a full revamp and rebuild.

Most public schools are in shambles – old and poorly constructed and poorly maintained buildings; run-down facilities with no air conditioning in this tropical climate. Basically, the hardware of our schools needs a total replacement.

We also need a full revamp of the teaching software – the administration and teaching human re­sour­­ces currently operating our education system. Over the last 30 years, our obsession with seemingly racist policies and religious fundamentalism has produced an ethnic and religious-centric education system, curriculum and teaching profession and administration that is not capable of producing a scientifically and technologically advanced and humanistic progressive majority.

Why else would we have people in government and authority making stupid pronouncements that liberalism and pluralism are dangers to our society?

If you don’t believe our education is so bad, I give you Exhibit No.1: a public university that proclaims so-called religious-based “scientific findings” such as that the various geological age of the Earth did not happen. And you know your education system is in trouble when your professors start theorising that dinosaurs were actually ‘djinns’.

We need a complete revamp of curriculum – what should be taught and not taught in our public schools and who are really qualified to be teachers and administrators for the education of our children. And we need new, well-designed and well-operated places for them to learn in.

For half of the ECRL budget, say RM20bil, we can start the investment and pump-prime the economy beyond our wildest dream. In addition, this spending will fundamentally change the majority of our society to one that is modern and progressive instead of the one we have today, backwards and inward-looking.

It would be something we could call The Great Malaysian Education Revamp Investment.

I would take this initiative away from the current Education Ministry. A ministry that has produced this failed education system cannot be entrusted to carry out a revamp of this nature. An academic, especially one who is steeped in an education based on religious beliefs, is not equipped to lead a major reformation and capital investment initiative. This is a major professional corporate-level investment initiative.

It has to be carried out by a select group of corporate and education professionals supported in the team by various governmental functions on-loan from ministries such as Works, Finance and Legal. This must be a one-stop centre special projects task force. This task force should be separated into

two segments, namely Education Reform and Infrastructure Rebuild.

It is really not that difficult to see what kind of schools we need, both in terms of infrastructure and curriculum. Go to the international schools in this country which cater primarily for children of first world countries – get their blueprint, work with them to understand why they do what they do and implement them.

Look at their infrastructure, see what they have as teachers, what and how they teach, their content and curriculum, and how they administer – and copy them.

If you want to become develop­ed, follow those who already are. Life is that simple.

To all you ethnocentric and na­­tiona­listic purveyors of such pride, I have this reminder. You do not go to Nasa and say, “Show me how to build the Saturn V rocket so I can get to the moon and then decide I need to modify its fuel mixture because I need the ingredients to reflect the national identity.”

That doesn’t work. You will be blown to pieces at the launchpad, which is exactly what happened to our education system the day we decided to do that. You want to reflect national identity? Don’t change the fuel. Paint the fuel tanks with our flags, that’s all.

I hope people get the hint.

Hence, this is what we should be investing in – a developed educational infrastructure, curriculum, teaching resources and a small but efficient administrative capability of international standards. Let’s spend tens of billions on it as capital investment. The rewards will be astronomical and will be far reaching all the way into generations.

It will fundamentally change our society. Imagine international schools for our public school system for primary and secondary education. Imagine the society that creates. Imagine, imagine!

So you may ask, what then should we do with our current infrastructure and resources? You do not move from your house in the ghetto to a spanking new bungalow in the suburbs and bring along your old furniture, do you? You transition only the ones that can fit into this new home and leave behind all the rest.

Sounds harsh? Of course it is. If something or someone is capable enough to be part of a developed infrastructure and resources, you test them and take it with you. If they don’t, you leave them behind. Eventually, close them down one by one until the entire ghetto is gone. Then you bulldoze all of them down.

Some will say that what I am saying is utopian, idealistic or not achievable. Here is my answer to that. Look around the world. Don’t look around underneath our tempurung. Changes are everywhere and they are coming fast. This is the 21st century. You either get on with it or you are going to be left behind. Industries are closing down and being replaced by those we never even imagined before. Never imagined.

Where are the telephone operators at the exchanges today? They don’t exist anymore. Anybody using landline phones in homes lately? Are we holding a telephone or a camera? Or is it a miniature laptop or a recorder or a photo album or ... oh well. I don’t know what it is anymore. Cry all you want, but the taxi industry is going to cease to exist. Satellite TV? Wait till 5G comes along.

Disruptions in industries are the norm. In the 21st century, it is moving at breakneck speed. Sometimes I wonder how long general medical practitioners or pharmacists, as we know them today, can survive, or even conveyancing legal practitioners.

Education is not a sacred cow, especially if we want our nation to survive. We either get on with the programme or we wait for our time to perish like that proverbial frog in the slow-boiling pot.

We must change or die. Going back to economics, we are actually living precariously on borrowed time on the credit of our oil money. The other parts of our economy chip in here and there, but it’s very much oil money today. We need to change that narrative now and produce citizens who can compete and create new economies for the 21st century.

We cannot have this education system that turns our people into sheep, rather than thought-provo­king industry creators and innovators. We need to stop this nonsense.

If we continue on this path, we will see the collapse of our civilisation. Sounds alarmist? No, I am being a realist. People complain that our university graduates are still earning starting salaries of those about 20 years ago. It’s true, but it’s not the employers’ fault. As Bill Clinton used to say, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The economy will pay what its cost structure can stand for it to be viable. You can fix a minimum wage but if it cannot sell because no one can afford to pay for it, it will close down. And then no one gets paid. There is a reason the Human Resources Minister suggested that we look at African labour.

This is because our other neighbours’ wages have risen to that of what we pay that they don’t have to come to work here anymore. This is because our economy has not grown with the growth of our population, that’s why.

The signs are all there to see, but we refuse to see it. The worse thing is, our civil service and government-­linked company sub-economies have artificially provided shelter and complacency among the majority population, fully financed by taxpayer debts and diminishing oil money. I guarantee you that the retorts to this article, as was to many of my articles, will come from such subsidised mindsets.

Today in Malaysia, mediocrity and unproductivity is rewarded. This cannot, and will not, last for long. We need to change our condition. That change must come with education. Since our economy needs vigorous pump-priming, we might as well go all in with massive investment in education. And in that, we need a true revamp and rebuild of our education.

Let’s just do it.

Siti Kasim is a proud liberal, a non-conformist and a believer in the inalienable rights of individuals to choose their own path as long as no harm is caused to others.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Sunday Star

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Can you spare a minute to look at this? http://chng.it/bbZwKBNg 1⃣ 网民重启老马当教长运动 2⃣支持者秒速联署反映惊人 3⃣这匹马不行就换另一匹马 4⃣你签署了吗?

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Hong Kong's social problems stem from British rule, faces risk of Beijing rule as UK's ‘toothless threat’ against China

https://youtu.be/OISpOGZJ5pA

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Graffiti reading ‘Cancel Functional Constituencies’ is seen on lawmaker desks after protesters entered and vandalised the chamber of the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong in the early hours of July 2. — Photos: Bloomberg
Graffiti reading ‘Cancel Functional Constituencies’ is seen on lawmaker desks after protesters entered and vandalised the chamber of the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong in the early hours of July 2. — Photos: Bloomberg

LAST Monday, I watched the live telecast of protests in Hong Kong in horror as hundreds of protesters forced their way into the Legislative Council building, ransacking the chamber and defacing the emblem of the Hong Kong Government.

July 1 marked the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, when British colonial rule and humiliation ended, but it turned out to be one of the city’s darkest days.Protesters were seen waving large Union Jack flags in the middle of the chamber, searching for documents and destroying computers. Watching the TV footage was worrying and mind-boggling. Western media, including CNN, reported that there was no leader – but to me, the chaos seemed organized.

Hong Kong, which had been under British colonial rule for 155 years before 1997, is now under the jurisdiction of China. Hence, the display of the British flag lent credence to Beijing’s accusation that Britain was one of the Western forces behind the series of protests in Hong Kong.

In vandalising the building and its interior, protestors showed a complete disregard for the rule of law – the core value of keeping public order in this international financial centre.I continued to monitor the news on various international news channels until past midnight, when the armed police finally moved in in heavy trucks to clear the rioters. A key reason the police stayed away from confronting the rioters was due to a directive from China’s President Xi Jinping to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam that “there must not be blood”, according to local newspaper Apple Daily.

Before marching to the Legislature on Monday, protestors had already taken to the streets previously in an attempt to disrupt a flag raising ceremony carried out by officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (as Hong Kong is formally known under China’s rule), but they left after a scuffle with the police that left many hurt.Peaceful pro-democracy street marches on July 1 have been an acceptable annual routine ever since the 1997 handover. This year, however, the situation was tense due to massive demonstrations in earlier weeks against the tabling of an amendment Bill to Hong Kong’s extradition law.

The Bill was first proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 in response to a 2018 murder of a woman by her boyfriend while the Hong Kong couple was visiting Taiwan. Since Hong Kong has no extradition treaty with Taiwan, which is part of China, the Hong Kong boyfriend could not be sent to Taiwan to face the law.

The Bill, based on United Nations model used in the West, is meant to target fugitives suspected of one or more serious crimes. But it rules out targetting people based on political and religious grounds. In essence, the Bill is meant to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a sanctuary for fugitives and criminals.

However, anti-China activists have argued that this Bill will facilitate the sending of suspects to Beijing, whose law is harsher. They say it will destroy the Western rule of law and freedom now enjoyed by people in Hong Kong.

This wider interpretation has spread fear among ordinary residents, who are grappling with the high cost of living and housing in Hong Kong. The main objective of the Bill seems to have been overlooked completely.

Among the vocal protestors are pro-democracy activists, advocates of Hong Kong independence, China critics and dissidents, opposition politicians, and people who conduct shady commercial deals and crimes on the mainland. Also unhappy with this Bill, according to several YouTube narratives, are Taiwan and foreign governments with regional intelligence headquarters in Hong Kong who fear being rooted out from this centrally located “paradise” which gives them much needed “immunity”. Perhaps this is the reason why Western forces have been supportive of the protests.The upheaval has forced Lam to suspend tabling of the Bill.

On June 10, as protests were fast gathering momentum, the state-owned Global Times said in an editorial that, “Some international forces have increasingly collaborated with the opposition in Hong Kong.... Washington has been particularly active in meddling in Hong Kong affairs, and some radical opposition members in Hong Kong are (working) hand-in-glove with the US,” it said.Global Times reported that two opposition groups visited the US in March and May to notify the Americans about the amendment to the extradition law.

After these visits, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Bill threatens the rule of law in Hong Kong. The British and Canadian governments also issued a joint statement disapproving of the Bill.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has, on several occasions, publicly warned foreign forces not to meddle in Hong Kong’s affairs.

The violence of the July 1 protests may have embarrassed Westerners who support Hong Kong demonstrators. But some attributed the violence to a lack of response from the government to opposition demands.

Despite widespread condemnation of the July 1 crimes, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed that the Hong Kong protesters “have inspired the world” and their courage should not be ignored.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted on Monday: “... want to stress UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is unwavering on this anniversary day. No violence is acceptable, but HK people must preserve their right to peaceful protest.”

The next day Hunt warned Beijing that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 and setting out the terms for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, was “to be honoured ... and if it isn’t there will be serious consequences”.

As stated in the Joint Declaration and under the “one country, two systems” principle, socialism practised in mainland China would not be extended to Hong Kong. Instead, Hong Kong would continue its capitalist system and way of life for 50 years after 1997.

In anger, China responded by lodging protests with Britain over Hunt’s warning.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had made “stern representations” over the comments, and accused Hunt of still harbouring “colonial illusions”.

“We called on the British, especially Hunt, to stop being overconfident and grossly interfering in Hong Kong affairs. This is doomed to fail,” Geng said.

Hong Kong became a British colony at the end of the First Opium War in 1842. Although it was returned to China in 1997, British and Western influence is still strong.

China’s state media reminded Hong Kong’s citizens of the disastrous consequences of past “revolutions” promoted in many countries by the West. When these countries were in turmoil and needed economic assistance, the Western countries shied away, various media said in their commentaries and editorials.

There were also reminders that the semi-autonomous territory’s destiny is tied to the mainland, and that Beijing has looked after the interest of Hong Kong well.

It is not known whether the arrest of people responsible for the July 1 riots will spark further major protests, but if Lam resigns and the situation gets out of control, Article 18 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law could be invoked to allow China’s military forces to take control, according to an analysis from the mainland.

Article 18 of the Basic Law reads: “In the event that the National People’s Congress decides to declare a state of war or, by reason of turmoil within Hong Kong that endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the government of the region, decides that Hong Kong is in a state of emergency, the Central Government may issue an order applying the relevant national laws in Hong Kong.”

“For those people demanding the resignation of Carrie Lam, you had better not allow her to quit, as her stepping down can be construed as Hong Kong being out of control,” says one YouTube commentator, Tey Kok Seng.

Another, Mei Han, says in a video: “Stop the ‘one country two systems’ principle immediately, take back Hong Kong now,” adding that she is organising an online petition that has collected more than 10,000 “support” clicks.

China has been patient with Hong Kong’s demands and protests, but it is also time for Hong Kong’s residents to respect the principle of “one country, two systems” that has brought prosperity and stability to the territory.

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During an interview Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt still refused to directly criticize the violent protesters who stormed and vandalized the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Instead, he superficially stated that the UK condemns "all violence" and warned China again. He did not elaborate on the "serious consequences" that he previously warned China that it may face, but said the UK is "keeping options open" over China.

Almost all analyses believe Hunt is putting on an air. Nobody believes the UK will send its only aircraft carrier to China's coast. Nor would anyone believe the UK will punish Beijing at the cost of hurting trade with China. The UK has been dwarfed by China in military and trade. Hunt's inappropriate statements make many British people nervous: Will Beijing cancel an order from the UK to warn British politicians?

If China-UK relations deteriorate, will expelling Chinese diplomats become a card for London? This was the way that the Theresa May government used to deal with Moscow when a former Russian spy was poisoned in the UK. BBC reporters asked Hunt about the possibility for expelling diplomats. But it seems more like these BBC reporters, who bully politicians for pleasure, were using the unreliable option to make things difficult for Hunt.

Launching a diplomatic war against China leads to nowhere. European countries will not stand by London on the Hong Kong issue. By worsening diplomatic relations with China, the UK will only isolate itself.

What's important is that Beijing has done nothing wrong on the Hong Kong issue. It is obvious to all that China persists in the "one country, two systems" policy, and Hong Kong's system is different from the mainland's. The Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, proposed by Hong Kong regional government, was a small cause of the unrest. It was politicized and magnified by opposition factions. The situation escalated according to the logic under Hong Kong's system, not that of the mainland. But such storming and vandalizing is not acceptable under Hong Kong's system or any system worldwide.

Instead of blaming violent protesters, Hunt directed his ire against Beijing, which is based on his selfish interests to win the election. Hunt wants to defeat Boris Johnson. In charge of diplomacy, Hunt believes the Hong Kong issue is a chance that dropped into his and the UK's lap. But this is not the 19th century when the Opium War broke out. The UK has gone past its prime.

Hunt knew that Beijing would sniff at his threat of "serious consequences." But he still said it because he needed to play in front of voters. This is political fraud. Hunt obviously believes that the British people can be manipulated like a flock of sheep.

But Hunt's stunt has no good effect. Many British people are more worried whether Hunt's words would lead to "serious consequences" from China. Purpose and ability should match in diplomatic strategy, but Hunt is obviously outwardly strong and inwardly weak. Even the British people think his performance is amusing.

In a few short years, one minute the UK calls its relations with China the "Golden Era," and the next minute it warns China of "serious consequences." Although these statements are from different administrations and politicians, the UK still shows inconsistency in policy. The country also swung from side to side on Brexit. The UK's politics have become politicians' coffers and plots. They are undermining the UK's image.

Under such circumstances, we should not be too serious when dealing with the UK. Regardless of whether it shows a friendly or an opportunistic gesture, we should remind ourselves this will not be its first or last attitude toward China, and by saying that we mean it will be in a relatively short time, to be specific.

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Friday, July 5, 2019

American China Experts open letter against Trump's China policy; Hong Kong attacks a political act

‘China is Not an Enemy’ Says Open Letter Signed by 100 American China Experts to Trump


U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: VCG
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: VCG
Experts tell Trump that China is not the enemy, so who is?

https://youtu.be/1hf5VAKG-TU

https://youtu.be/cE1jENtaEJY

 A hundred American academics, diplomats and experts from the military and business communities signed an open letter calling on President Donald Trump to reexamine his policy toward China. The letter was published Wednesday in the Washington Post.

In the letter, titled “China is Not an Enemy,” the signatories express concern over the negative orientation of the Trump administration’s China policy.

“We do not believe Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere,” the experts say in the letter.

The five authors are M. Taylor Fravel, a professor at MIT; J. Stapleton Roy, a former U.S. ambassador to China; Michael D. Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Susan A. Thornton, the former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and Ezra Vogel, a professor at the Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

The deterioration of the bilateral relationship is not in the interests of the U.S. or the rest of the world, and Trump’s attempt to “decouple China from the global economy” will damage the U.S. global reputation, according to the letter.

“The United States cannot significantly slow China’s rise without damaging itself,” the authors write.

“The fear that Beijing will replace the United States as the global leader is exaggerated,” the letter says. “Most other countries have no interest in such an outcome, and it is not clear that Beijing itself sees this goal as necessary or feasible.”

The key message of the letter is that the U.S. should not make China its enemy, especially in a rash manner, said Li Cheng, director of the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center, who signed the letter.

Signatories are representative as they hold different views toward China — some are pro-China and others are more critical, Li said. But they all disagree with the Trump administration’s China policy, Li said.

“I won’t say we are the majority,” Li said. “Maybe we are the minority that can’t change some people’s extreme views, but among those who reexamine the U.S. policy on China, many have started reconsideration.” Additional scholars have endorsed the letter after its publication online, he said.

A better policy orientation for the U.S. would focus on building long-term alliances that support economic and security objectives based on a realistic assessment of China’s ideology, interests, goals and actions, the experts write.

“We believe that the large number of signers of this open letter clearly indicates that there is no single Washington consensus endorsing an overall adversarial stance toward China, as some believe exists,” the letter concludes.

Views toward China vary significantly among different social groups in the U.S. and also inside the government, Li said.

“There is a need for different voices to let China know that there is no consensus on America’s China policy, and there won’t be one for a long time,” Li said.

Most of the signers are older experts who don’t represent the views of younger Americans, some observers said. Although the open letter originally targeted senior scholars with strong academic backgrounds, Li said it’s inappropriate to argue that younger scholars view China in a more adversarial way. A public poll showed that Americans under 29 are actually friendlier toward China, Li said.

Older scholars and officials have a better understanding of China after witnessing the country’s changes over recent decades, but members of younger generations will also know China better as time goes by, Li said.

“A proper discussion of China policy is very important, and it shouldn’t be limited inside the government,” Li said. Although it is unclear whether the letter will influence policy, he said it sends a strong message that “the views toward China between the U.S. government and scholars are different.”

Since last year, the two countries have been locked in a trade war, slapping tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump agreed last week at a G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, to resume trade talks. The U.S. also agreed not to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports.

This story was updated with Li’s comments.

By Qing Ying, Ren Qiuyu and Han Wei

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com); Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com)


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Read more:

 

An encouraging consensus - Letters

 
Trump urged to  take 'wiser'  approach with  Beijing in open letter from China experts in US The Straits Times

US actions hurting relations with China, 100 academics, policy ...

 

Letter to exert positive impact but unlikely to be taken seriously by White House: experts

An open letter to US President Donald Trump signed by scores of Asia specialists including former US diplomats and military officers has revealed that rational voices are emerging to challenge paranoid ideas, Chinese experts noted on Thursday.


China insists all trade war tariffs must be eliminated as part of a trade deal


https://youtu.be/IrWn9zl2N24

'Hong Kong attacks a political act' - Asean+ | The Star Online

https://youtu.be/dUtOjDf1iyY

https://youtu.be/Vu3Z2gsOzvI

https://youtu.be/GSZ73pNdsFg


During an interview Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt still refused to directly criticize the violent protesters who stormed and vandalized the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Instead, he superficially stated that the UK condemns "all violence" and warned China again. He did not elaborate on the "serious consequences" that he previously warned China that it may face, but said the UK is "keeping options open" over China.

Almost all analyses believe Hunt is putting on an air. Nobody believes the UK will send its only aircraft carrier to China's coast. Nor would anyone believe the UK will punish Beijing at the cost of hurting trade with China. The UK has been dwarfed by China in military and trade. Hunt's inappropriate statements make many British people nervous: Will Beijing cancel an order from the UK to warn British politicians?

If China-UK relations deteriorate, will expelling Chinese diplomats become a card for London? This was the way that the Theresa May government used to deal with Moscow when a former Russian spy was poisoned in the UK. BBC reporters asked Hunt about the possibility for expelling diplomats. But it seems more like these BBC reporters, who bully politicians for pleasure, were using the unreliable option to make things difficult for Hunt.

Launching a diplomatic war against China leads to nowhere. European countries will not stand by London on the Hong Kong issue. By worsening diplomatic relations with China, the UK will only isolate itself.

What's important is that Beijing has done nothing wrong on the Hong Kong issue. It is obvious to all that China persists in the "one country, two systems" policy, and Hong Kong's system is different from the mainland's. The Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, proposed by Hong Kong regional government, was a small cause of the unrest. It was politicized and magnified by opposition factions. The situation escalated according to the logic under Hong Kong's system, not that of the mainland. But such storming and vandalizing is not acceptable under Hong Kong's system or any system worldwide.

Instead of blaming violent protesters, Hunt directed his ire against Beijing, which is based on his selfish interests to win the election. Hunt wants to defeat Boris Johnson. In charge of diplomacy, Hunt believes the Hong Kong issue is a chance that dropped into his and the UK's lap. But this is not the 19th century when the Opium War broke out. The UK has gone past its prime.

Hunt knew that Beijing would sniff at his threat of "serious consequences." But he still said it because he needed to play in front of voters. This is political fraud. Hunt obviously believes that the British people can be manipulated like a flock of sheep.

But Hunt's stunt has no good effect. Many British people are more worried whether Hunt's words would lead to "serious consequences" from China. Purpose and ability should match in diplomatic strategy, but Hunt is obviously outwardly strong and inwardly weak. Even the British people think his performance is amusing.

In a few short years, one minute the UK calls its relations with China the "Golden Era," and the next minute it warns China of "serious consequences." Although these statements are from different administrations and politicians, the UK still shows inconsistency in policy. The country also swung from side to side on Brexit. The UK's politics have become politicians' coffers and plots. They are undermining the UK's image.

Under such circumstances, we should not be too serious when dealing with the UK. Regardless of whether it shows a friendly or an opportunistic gesture, we should remind ourselves this will not be its first or last attitude toward China, and by saying that we mean it will be in a relatively short time, to be specific. - Global Times



Read more:


How is China reshaping its role in the global economy?


https://youtu.be/bQGZJpqKuzo



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