Wednesday. 7/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / James Chambers

Violent means

Hong Kong’s yellow umbrella protest movement occupied the streets of the Admiralty district a few months after I arrived in 2014. Coming from London it was a marvel to walk through the temporary camp and see high-school pupils doing their homework under torchlight while brandishing brollies in support of the cause. Fast-forward to 2019’s protests and young people were setting subway stations alight, hurling Molotov cocktails at police and beating up those with contrasting opinions. Hong Kong’s studious and mild-mannered children had become angrier and more willing to embrace violence.

With the introduction of the national security law last year, it was easy to see how this blunt and easily abused weapon could drive a small number of these radicalised activists deeper underground. A week before the national security law (NSL) was passed, I interviewed two prominent – and peaceful – activists, one of whom is currently in jail awaiting trial on NSL charges. I asked them whether the NSL could sow the seeds for a Hong Kong equivalent to the IRA, ETA or Farc. One thought it impossible given the level of surveillance in Hong Kong and lack of space. The one thing that none of us foresaw was that it would be heading in that direction within 12 months.

Yesterday’s arrest of nine suspects, including some teenagers, for allegedly planning to bomb courthouses and cross-harbour tunnels, comes less than a week after a 50-year-old man stabbed a policeman in Causeway Bay before killing himself. Several other plots have been foiled in the past year, although many refuse to believe police accounts. If history has taught us anything it’s that a violent struggle rarely brings about a peaceful outcome. Hong Kongers on all sides should know this. Activists should stick to peaceful means and those in power should extend an olive branch. Sadly for Hong Kong, plan A is to turn the security screws even tighter and there appears to be little sign of a plan B.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Hungary

Unspeakable truth

Viktor Orbán has become the first EU leader to be included in the latest press freedom “predator” list by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Reserved for leaders deemed responsible for curtailing their respective nations’ independent media, the list’s other new additions include Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. During Orbán’s time as Hungary’s prime minister, Fidesz party-friendly oligarchs have acquired huge stakes in the media: estimates suggest that the government now controls about 80 per cent of the industry. The few remaining independent outlets face crackdowns or even closure. This all comes amid a backdrop of frenzied debate over Hungary’s place in the European Union. “Orbán has been one of the few EU leaders to have used the coronavirus crisis to crack down on media freedom,” Pavol Szalai, head of the EU/Balkans desk at RSF, tells the Monocle Minute. “Although the efficiency and sophistication of Orbán’s predatory techniques are unique for an EU member state, they inspire his allies in Poland and Slovenia.”

For more on Hungary’s inclusion in the RSF index, listen to today’s ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Finland

Feeling the heat

Canada might have had the hardest time with hot weather in the past few weeks but the Nordic region has also been engulfed by an exceptional heatwave. In Finland, the national meteorological institute registered its hottest June temperature since records began 177 years ago and in Lapland’s Utsjoki, the temperature peaked at 33.5C earlier this week. As Finnish households rarely have air conditioning, hotels are benefitting from the exceptional weather.

Demand for rooms has reportedly increased as people seek an escape from the heat and a good night’s sleep – welcome news for a hospitality sector still facing hardship in the absence of international tourists. And for those Finns who haven’t booked a stay? One of the country’s best-known television hosts says that her secret for sleeping comfortably involves using her dog’s cooling mat. Her comment, inevitably, has meant a higher than usual footfall in Finnish pet shops.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Canada

Roots of change

Mary Simon, an Inuit former diplomat and news broadcaster, has been named as Canada’s new governor-general. She is the first indigenous person to hold the largely ceremonial role of head of state and joined prime minister Justin Trudeau in a ceremony yesterday at the Canadian Museum of History on the bank of the Ottawa River. Simon (pictured) replaces former astronaut Julie Payette, who resigned in January following an official investigation into bullying and harassment at Rideau Hall, the governor-general’s official residence. Speaking in both English and Inuktitut (she noted that she was barred from learning French at the federally run school she attended), Simon acknowledged the profound reckoning that is currently taking place over Canada’s historic abuses of its indigenous populations, and vowed to contribute to the debate. Her presence at the head of a system of government instituted in the colonial era is a potent sign that an attempt at meaningful reconciliation in Canada is underway.

Cinema / France

Ready for action

The 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival returned yesterday with an impressive line-up. This year’s eclectic jury is led by Spike Lee and includes singer Mylène Farmer and Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho. Here are three films we’re looking forward to seeing:

‘Annette’ (Leos Carax). This exciting choice for the festival’s opening film (pictured) is a collaboration between the band Sparks and its stars, Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. It tells the story of an opera singer and stand-up comedian whose lives change after having a baby – but don’t expect a traditional love story.

‘Benedetta’ (Paul Verhoeven). After the controversial and excellent Elle, director Paul Verhoeven is setting his sights on the 17th century for this much-expected polemic. Starring Virginie Efira, it tells the true story of Benedetta Carlini, a nun who begins a love affair with another woman.

‘Memoria’ (Apichatpong Weerasethakul). This English-language debut from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is typically meditative. It stars Tilda Swinton as a woman whose mind starts to unravel as she travels to Colombia.

For an on-the-ground look at the return of the Cannes Film Festival, tune into the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle24.

M24 / The Stack

Fine print

This week on The Stack we feature a newspaper about vintage airline route maps, a new title showcasing the best of Pakistan, and a conversation with broadcaster Peter Tatchell and the director of new Netflix documentary Hating Peter Tatchell.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Design Awards

Monocle launched its inaugural Design Awards in early 2021 to celebrate the world’s best and brightest talents in architecture, graphic design and industrial design. We invite you to meet a global cast of winners as we celebrate pioneering design projects that make our lives healthier and happier, our cities smarter and our work more creative.

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