Tuesday. 23/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

No end in sight

There are two questions that we in Hong Kong keep asking each other. First, do you think Carrie Lam, the chief executive, will resign? Second, how will Beijing respond? Following another weekend of violent unrest, we could soon find out the answer to the former – but in the long run, the latter will be of far greater importance.

China has been noticeably quiet about the protests, doing little more than issuing a few strongly worded denouncements. Indeed Beijing has – rather ironically – appeared to honour the so-called “one country, two systems” political arrangement by allowing the Hong Kong government to take care of its own domestic situation. The official narrative is that it was Carrie Lam’s decision to introduce the extradition bill that was the catalyst for the protests – so this is her mess and she should clean it up.

However, the latest incident could prove to be the one that forces Beijing to act – and that would be a major turning point. On Sunday protesters marched beyond the usual symbols of Hong Kong authority, ending up outside the so-called Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government. There they daubed the building in graffiti and defaced the Chinese national emblem. It is the first time this year that the central government in Beijing has become the direct target of protesters’ ire and it could represent the moment when this movement moves beyond its original goal of ending the extradition bill.

That leads us on to a third question: how does this all end? Certainly not with Carrie Lam stepping down – that would only be the start.

Politics / UK

Boris’s battle

In all likelihood, today will see controversial Tory MP and erstwhile foreign secretary Boris Johnson crowned winner of the Conservative leadership contest – and therefore the UK’s new prime minister. He will have to hit the ground running. On top of the all-consuming Brexit dossier he needs to tackle damaged relations with the US (following the diplomatic leak fiasco) and fraying international consensus on Iranian nuclear sanctions. At home the government faces criticism over chronic underfunding of the police service and schools, as well as a housing shortage. Plus, he will have to address all these issues without a majority in the Commons. Johnson is known for possessing a surfeit of self-belief but the tasks ahead will take more than blond ambition.

Society / The Philippines

Controversy reigns

For an hour and a half last night, Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte did what he does best: rile his base and appal his opponents with an audacious speech. During his fourth annual State of the Nation address, he defended his notorious war on drugs (thousands of Filipinos have been killed in the three-year campaign, earning the president the flippant nickname Duterte Harry). He also called for the return of the death penalty for some drug offences and a tax hike on alcohol and cigarettes. Thousands demonstrated outside the House of Representatives in Manila during his speech; accusations from critics and international human-rights groups over his targeting of political opponents are mounting. But it appears that there is little appetite among Filipinos to see him gone: Duterte still scores well in popularity polls.

Employment / Tokyo

Work wonders

Yesterday Tokyo began a city-wide experiment to reduce overcrowding on public transport in time for the Olympics next summer. Until September, companies will pilot staggered working schedules and encourage employees to work from home. Meanwhile the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will increase the number of trains at peak times and restrict the number of cars allowed on the roads. Such measures should enable the city to function when the expected 650,000 visitors flood in for the games, but there is a more subtle consequence. Some are quietly hoping that introducing flexible-working patterns will lead to a more relaxed approach to Japan’s stringent work culture. Employees here work some of the longest hours in the world, the Olympics present an opportune moment for the government to take the lead and help relax the schedule.

Tourism / France

Louvre boat

The world’s most visited museum will take to the seas in 2020, although it’ll be leaving its collection onshore. The Louvre has partnered with French luxury cruise line Ponant for two educational voyages – one across the Persian Gulf and the other through the Adriatic Sea – with the museum’s experts. Aboard the nine-day Persian Gulf cruise will be the Louvre’s director of Islamic arts, while the 10-day sojourn through the Adriatic will include talks from the director of decorative arts and an expert on Greek sculpture. While you can find plenty of the latter inside the sprawling Paris-based museum, the cruises are designed to offer a deeper understanding of the regions from which the treasures originate. Avoiding hordes of selfie sticks may prove worth the $4,410 (€3,900) ticket alone.

M24 / The Monocle Culture Show

‘Apollo 11’

As we celebrate 50 years since Neil Armstrong took that notorious first step on the moon, we watch this thrilling and moving documentary of one of the greatest feats of humankind. Robert Bound is joined in the studio by Anna Smith and Andrew Mueller to review Apollo 11, which is made up entirely of original footage of the most famous space mission.

Monocle Films / Czech Republic

Sound of Prague

The Czech National Symphony Orchestra has struck an international chord, with its redoubtable musicianship attracting big-name pop and music-score clients from Ennio Morricone to Sting.

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