Wednesday 24 February 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 24/2/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Karina Tsui

Identity crisis

Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong last summer prompted the UK government to announce a new visa scheme, allowing those in the city with British National Overseas (BNO) passports a way out for good. It has left many here pondering a simple question: to stay or to go? So far, about 5,000 people have applied, both at the city’s British Consulate and remotely, for those already in the UK. Many others, perhaps those still in Hong Kong who are more reluctant to appear in person, patiently waited until yesterday when a new app for the travel scheme was made available online.

The UK Immigration: ID Check app quickly became the one of the most downloaded free titles in Hong Kong’s Apple Store. Its popularity indicates how many people are toying with the decision to leave. Among them is John (not his real name), a former civil servant who moved to London in December. His BNO entitles him to stay in the UK for six months at a time but he’s hoping to be granted a visa, to make the move permanent. He left Hong Kong to avoid pledging loyalty to the city’s government. “Had I stayed and not pledged allegiance, I would have been deemed unsuitable to serve and eventually I would have been fired,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

And he’s not wrong: China announced a new set of restrictions on Hong Kong’s electoral system yesterday, requiring pledges of allegiance from district councillors and other office holders in an attempt to sift out candidates who are deemed disloyal to the Communist Party. “There’s the internet term ‘little pink’, which is often used to describe jingoistic young Chinese nationalists,” says Colby Lam, a soon-to-be father of four who is also considering leaving. “These people were taught to wholeheartedly trust and respect the government. We don’t want our kids to turn out that way.”

Karina Tsui is a journalist based in Hong Kong and a regular contributor to Monocle. Listen to her new five-part series ‘Leaving Hong Kong’, playing throughout this week on ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Africa & China

Medicines and frontiers

While most world leaders are preoccupied by domestic vaccine rollouts, China has built an expansive freezer near Addis Ababa’s airport and is expected to move more than a million doses of its coronavirus vaccine through this new Ethiopian hub this week. It’s part of an attempt to give China’s soft power a shot in the arm in key regions (across Africa, South America and Asia) that have previously been cut off from vaccines due to cost or access. Russia and India have also been making their own attempts at vaccine diplomacy. It stands in marked contrast to the efforts of the UK, the EU and the US, which have so far prioritised inoculating their own populations first. Several Western nations have pledged billions in financial contributions to a UN-backed vaccination scheme known as Covax but have only just begun discussions on sharing vaccines with the developing world. They’ll be playing catch-up with China when they begin in earnest.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / New Zealand

Fit to fly

Air New Zealand announced this week that it will be among the first to trial a digital vaccine passport, a development that could bring the future of air travel into focus. A three-week trial is set to begin in April on the airline’s Auckland to Sydney route. Customers will be invited to download Travel Pass, an app that securely stores your test and vaccination data, matches it to your passport and indicates at check-in whether you meet the requirements for boarding.

The trial won’t be mandatory for passengers but with the airline indicating that the app will “speed up the check-in process”, it’s looking likely that some form of vax-to-fly is set to become a reality. With confidence in flying low and pandemic travel-advice websites harder to decipher than your in-flight crossword, all eyes will be on the South Pacific to see whether this pilot programme can get off the ground and take us into the skies again.

For more on this story listen to today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Media / USA

Declarations of interest

So that their decisions can be scrutinised, governments and businesses in the US are required to issue public notices for initiatives that will affect the communities they operate in. These notices provide a lucrative advertising stream for newspapers, running to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But a number of US states have sought to shift these notices to government websites lately, which raises questions of transparency. Column, a five-month-old public-benefit start-up, is working to streamline the process for both sides and give governments less of an excuse to circumvent it. Recently it partnered with a number of state press associations and newspaper groups, including The Washington Post, to upgrade their public-notice presentation. “Our platform helps news outlets to invest in an enhanced digital experience for their communities to engage with public notices,” CEO Jake Seaton tells The Monocle Minute. It should ensure that the populace keeps a watchful eye on government and business in the process.

Image: Courtesy of Japan Post Holdings Co.

Society / Japan

Pushing the envelope

Japan’s postal service has described it as “an event of historic significance”. That’s perhaps something of an overstatement but the first new ¥1 stamp in 70 years is welcome news for the country’s philatelists. Since 1951 there has been only one design option: the forbidding face of Hisoka Maejima, the bureaucrat who founded the country’s modern postal service. But now he has an ursine rival in the shape of Posukuma (literally “Post Bear”), Japan Post’s mascot. As announced by Hiroya Masuda, the postal service’s president, Posukuma will soon be an alternative face for the ¥1 stamp. It seems that whereas Japan Post was happy to stick with Maejima, the public had been calling for a cute alternative. The simple, timeless drawing of Posukuma does the job without straying into saccharine territory. Budding collectors can buy the first stamps – sold in sheets of 50 – from 14 April. Don’t say we never keep you posted.

Image: Alamy

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