Thursday 2 February 2017 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 2/2/2017

The Monocle Minute

Image: Courtesy of CUHK

Overstepping the mark?

According to the Chinese zodiac, the Rooster is supposed to usher in a year of change but Hong Kong’s lunar year began with a disturbingly familiar saga: the sudden disappearance of a prominent resident and speculation that he was smuggled to authorities on the mainland. Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese billionaire with political ties, has not been seen in a week; some reports said he was spotted being escorted out of his residence at the Four Seasons. Parallels have been drawn with the case of Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo who vanished in 2015 only to return months later after an international outcry. If it’s revealed that Xiao was picked up by police from the mainland then Beijing’s presumptuous attitude towards Hong Kong – and its separate legal system – is getting even more brazen.

Image: Alex Milan/PA Images

Keep up the good work

The notion that an organisation promoting liberal ideals has done well out of the early, chaotic days of Donald Trump’s presidency may sound contradictory but that’s exactly what has happened to the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit that works in courts and communities to defend Americans' rights and liberties. Since Trump’s immigration executive order, ACLU received $24m in donations last weekend alone, six times its annual income. The organisation has now been accepted into the annual start-up incubator Y Combinator, which will try to help it manage its windfall. It’s the latest show of support by the technology industry after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos pledged the full legal resources of his company to fight the travel ban.

Image: Courtesy of

Fermenting success

New Zealand’s craft brewery Tuatara was sold to Dutch giant Heineken this week and the sale has triggered worries among Kiwi beer connoisseurs that the local scene has reached saturation point. Double-digit industry growth in recent years has broadened the variety of New Zealand-made labels and independent brands are being pushed to merge with multinationals for greater market shares overseas. Some say this could threaten the experimentation and quality of small-batch production but optimists see the potential for New Zealand turning the craft-beer industry, long overshadowed by its wines, into a major export. Living up to the “Made in New Zealand” stamp will be a challenge as the industry expands – Tuatara, for its part, has promised to retain its winning team and recipes.

Image: Kyodo News via Getty Images

On again…

The Japanese government has announced that it plans to restart construction work on a controversial US airbase in Okinawa as early as next week. The problems with the existing airbase at Futnema – a densely populated area – are well known: the locals would like to see the base relocated somewhere else entirely and have been battling plans to move it to quiet Henoko Bay for years. Work started in 2015, was stopped in 2016 and is now set to start again: 200 blocks of concrete will be dropped into the subtropical waters, which are home to coral reefs and a population of dugongs. Okinawa’s governor Takeshi Onaga has pledged to stop the work; the fight continues.

Giving back

French entrepreneur Alexandre Mars has made a fortune from being on the right side of the technology industry. He’s now on a mission to reinvent philanthropy – and he thinks he’s found a formula that works.

Sharpen up

From the historic centre of pencil-making to the world’s biggest trade fair, we profile Staedtler, the pioneering German stationery brand taking the pencil into the 21st century.


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