The story of five Hong Kong booksellers

Today brings the revelation of Hong Kong citizen, publisher and bookseller Lam Wing-kee that in October last year he did not voluntarily cross the border into China to meet waiting law enforcement officers, in order to repent his sins for selling rumour-laden, sensationalist, gossip factory books about Chinese leadership in a televised confession.

He was rendered by Chinese state security operatives, against his will, as he crossed the border from Hong Kong to neighbouring Shenzhen, taken to the coastal port of Ningbo and made to sign papers waiving his right to a lawyer (an inalienable right, even in Chinese law). After months of house arrest and torture he eventually made a broadcast confession, reading from a pre-prepared script. A confession he now wholly refutes.

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Recent absence is only a few months old and I’m already writing an apology for not posting updates. But this is not to give excuses or ‘manage expectations’. Writing a blog is doing everything I hoped it would. It’s made me more thoughtful and reflective, given me a creative outlet, improved my typing and web design, been a space to focus on myself and my place in the world and given me a sense of concrete achievement. I have no intention to stop now. It is simply that in the past month I’ve only found the time to escape other duties, sit down and put in several hours writing on a couple of occasions.

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House prices and rent controls

There have been two news stories in the past fortnight on the same subject, house prices, but it’s been framed in two different ways, for two different political ends. In this post I want to address the substance of both announcements, consider their utility, and address the white elephant they both show a determined effort to ignore.

Houses in Styal, Cheshire
Victorian worker’s homes in Styal

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Communism and Home Ownership in China

  1. China is a communist country.
    The Communist Manifesto calls for “Abolition of property in land” and the Chinese constitution states that “Socialist public property is sacred and inviolable”.
  2. Home ownership is a core cultural norm.
    Husbands are, by and large, expected to at least have a deposit down on an apartment before asking a girl’s hand in marriage. Preferably the property is already owned outright. I only know one person over the age of 28 who is renting, and that’s because she was recently divorced.

Clearly there is a serious tension between these two principles.

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Obama’s inappropriate remarks on Brexit

Barrack Obama is truly a frustrating character to me. In seemingly equal parts he appears to:

  • Be unwilling to do or say very much on important issues – such as black rights in America;
  • Say some deeply profound things and reveal the extent to which he’s been completely roadblocked in his ambitions – such as his 20,000 word interview in The Atlantic;
  • Rail against corporate interests and structural disadvantage – as in most of his campaign for the White House in 2008;
  • Support the very worst of American foreign policy – big business first asymmetric trade deals like ACTA, TPP, TTIP, and clandestine drone and assassination operations.

And so, just as I was beginning again to warm to this reflective, increasingly outspoken Obama in his last year in power I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find myself confronted by his other side. His remarks about the British European Union referendum in June are completely inappropriate.

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A Conversation about Japan

I am, for the vast majority of the time, a quiet person. As I’ve written before I’m vexed by internal doubt and so very slow to make up my mind, and slow to judge others. Privately I often rail and seethe, but take small pride in my insistence to let people and ideas have their say.

anti-Japanese sign in a guesthouse
Sign in a guesthouse in Fenghuang, South Central China. A very popular ancient town.

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Let’s Encrypt

I have disabled Cloudflare and enabled Let’s Encrypt on

It’s free, open source, and backed by every big player on the Internet. Big thanks to my host, SiteGround, for implementing a two-click installer so quickly.

I have also loaded a WordPress plugin to enforce https, so as you browse and use my site, make sure you’ve got a little padlock icon like this in the top left corner of your browser at all times.


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