Monday. 15/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

Tightening the noose

Reporters Without Borders releases the latest World Press Freedom Index later this week and the results will most likely make for alarming reading. Attempts to silence members of the press have been on the rise (see our story on Australia, below) – but censorship is also creeping into other walks of life.

It is disheartening to see the London School of Economics tie itself in knots over a sculpture of a globe on campus that shows Taiwan in a separate colour to mainland China. Outrage from Chinese students has sent the university into a panic, pitting integrity against commercial interests, as it pictures its sizeable renminbi revenue going up in smoke. Press freedom is under threat but so too is intellectual freedom and the freedom to express an opinion. The world could do with ranking this as well.

Tax / USA

Many happy returns

Today is tax-deadline day in the US – the last chance to file returns for 2018. And while this may mean a last-minute dash to get over the line for many Americans, one person who seems decidedly more lethargic about all things tax-related is president Donald Trump. The current Potus is the first commander in chief in four decades not to publicly release his tax returns, dismissing them as “boring”. Now the Treasury Department has said it can’t meet the request to see Trump’s returns (as demanded by the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee), saying it needs more review time. Democrats are licking their lips hoping the department finds something juicy – but whether they’ll get to see anything at all is still unclear.

Politics / China & Tibet

Rules for reincarnation

The Dalai Lama (or Tenzin Gyatso to friends) might be a mild-mannered octogenarian who travels about the world touting kindness, enlightenment and compassion – but to the Chinese Communist party he’s a dangerous separatist. That’s why it has been watching the Tibetan spiritual leader’s recent health scare (he was discharged from hospital in Delhi on Friday with a chest infection) with interest.

The Chinese apparatchiks restated last week that in the event of the Dalai Lama’s death, any future reincarnation (Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama) would have to be recognised by the government. “It’s clearly ludicrous for an atheist Communist party to draw up rules for reincarnation,” says Isabel Hilton, an author who has written on China’s relationship with Tibet. “But Beijing wants to maintain the appearance of a system that the Tibetans are attached to and seize the narrative in the event of the Dalai Lama’s death.”

Media / Australia

Silent witnesses

Gagging orders are usually associated with philandering celebrities but breaching them can have serious consequences. Today Australian journalists and news organisations, including editors at The Sydney Morning Herald and the Herald Sun, appeared at the Supreme Court of Victoria after breaching a gagging order around the trial of cardinal George Pell. International outlets widely reported that the former adviser to Pope Francis was found guilty in December of sexually abusing minors; while no Australian outlets actually named him at the time, several reported that an important story in the public interest was being censored. If convicted, the journalists face fines and possibly jail time – a worrying sign for anyone concerned about threats to press freedom.

Society / North Korea

Moment in the sun

Today might be Monday but it’s Sun Day in North Korea: an annual holiday that celebrates the birth anniversary of the country’s first leader, Kim Il-sung. Last week, the leadership of the Hermit Kingdom underwent a reshuffle, a move that foreign observers have interpreted as its current leader, Kim Jong-un, consolidating power. His South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, has been in Washington, where, in spite of an unsuccessful summit in Vietnam earlier this year, US president Donald Trump suggested he might be willing to arrange another meeting with Kim. John Everard, a former UK ambassador to North Korea, says that for ordinary North Koreans, 15 April “is a big day and many will be practising their dance steps”. For their despotic ruler, things aren’t looking too bad either.

M24 / Eureka

The Office of Angela Scott

Angela Scott is the founder of The Office of Angela Scott, a women’s shoe brand all about elegance and functionality. After working in construction and estate management – and learning of the impracticality of high heels – Angela wanted to create a line of boots and shoes that celebrated women, using the same craftsmanship she was seeing in men’s shoes.

Film / Switzerland

Zürich, Geneva + Basel: The Monocle Travel Guide

This book celebrates the richness of these three Swiss cities and dives beneath the surface to bring an unexpected mix of creativity, entrepreneurialism and design. All aboard for a tour of the most impeccable hotels, world-class galleries and best spots to take a dip.

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