Monday. 2/8/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / James Chambers

Parting words

An army of volunteer “field workers” has been knocking on doors in Hong Kong, carrying red messenger bags and encouraging residents to complete the city’s once-a-decade census. As harried households work their way through the form before this week’s deadline, one question will hit home more than usual: will you be in Hong Kong during the second half of this year?

After a slow start, every one of us now seems to know a few friends who are planning to leave: mine are a mixture of national security law exiles and opportunists making the most of relaxed immigration rules in the UK, Canada and Australia. Anecdotal evidence began to emerge as the school summer holidays approached and the coronavirus clouds started to clear. Suddenly there were long waiting lists for tuberculosis tests (a British requirement) and schools were going out of business because of a spike in pupil withdrawals. Then, in the past few weeks, came the airport scenes: pandemic-hit departure halls crowded again with teary-eyed family send-offs.

It’s all part of the ordinary ebb and flow of Hong Kong, according to the government, which believes that flighty second-passport holders will return once Hong Kong’s economy takes off again, just as they did after the handover in 1997. Boom times for big business do indeed feel right around the corner: auction house Christie’s last week inked a 10-year lease on swanky new premises. But what strikes me is the type of people heading for the exit. There are professionals and creatives quitting comfortable jobs, filial duties and blue skies. The formerly timid and unadventurous are now willing to risk their life’s savings on building a new life. Results from the census might help to put a figure on this latest exodus but no amount of data collection will be able to count the true cost to those leaving Hong Kong – or the city they leave behind.

Image: Alamy

Travel / Canada

One-way traffic

In spring the US heaped pressure on Justin Trudeau to reopen its land border with Canada, which has been closed to all but essential travel since March 2020. Now the tables have turned. Ottawa has issued a timetable for the border’s gradual reopening: fully vaccinated Americans will be able to enter Canada from next Monday (unless scuppered by strike action from Canadian border officers). But Washington has refused to say when its own border restrictions will be eased. The White House says that it is simply following scientific advice as the Delta variant spreads in regions of the US where vaccination rates are stubbornly low – an excuse it has also used to limit transatlantic travel. But given that more than half of Canada’s population has now received two vaccine doses – surpassing the US vaccination rate – it is only right that pressure on Washington to reopen to two-way traffic should increase.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Eswatini

On the ropes

Eswatini is making its Olympic Games debut in Tokyo since it formally changed its name from Swaziland. It is represented by four athletes gunning for gold in boxing, swimming, and athletics events. But back at home, anti-government activists are hoping to attract international recognition of a different sort as violent clashes with security forces continue to rock the landlocked African nation. Following the arrest last week of two pro-democracy parliamentarians, the banned People’s United Democratic Movement party is expected to launch an international boycott of Swazi products linked to Eswatini’s royal family this week.

Could the move convince King Mswati III (pictured), Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch, to change course? “Every king needs money to survive,” Zweli Dlamini, editor of Swaziland News, tells The Monocle Minute. “If the boycott goes ahead, it will certainly affect King Mswati and his funding of the security forces.” Should Mswati continue to suppress political dissonance, going for Olympic gold might be the only luxury he can still afford.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / UK

Ride share

Walking and cycling in the UK will soon become safer, thanks to planned updates to the rulebook that governs behaviour on the country’s roads. The updates are due for parliamentary approval in autumn. The most significant new measure proposed for inclusion in the country’s Highway Code will see the onus of responsibility for road safety placed on those in charge of the largest vehicles. Lorry drivers and car owners will be required to “reduce the danger” (read: drive safely) around more vulnerable users, starting with pedestrians and followed by cyclists. The move will be supported by new minimum overtaking distances and strengthened pedestrian and cyclist priority at junctions. While it’s true that such measures don’t necessarily guarantee safety, it’s a significant step towards creating a culture in which cyclists and pedestrians are welcomed on the country’s thoroughfares. Paired with plans for more bike lanes, it should hopefully make walking and cycling in cities more appealing.

Hear more on this story from Monocle’s resident urbanist Nic Monisse on today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Culture / USA

Show don’t tell

Plenty of cultural institutions around the world are staging exhibitions that deal with environmental issues in an effort to influence public opinion but not all of them are taking practical steps to improve their own credentials. In Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca) (pictured) has been awarded a grant from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative, a programme aimed at encouraging environmental action from cultural venues. The money will go towards a plan to make the institution fully powered by green energy within the next few years. This is not the first time that Moca has exhibited such priorities: the museum made headlines recently for successfully redirecting a solar-energy project in California that would have damaged wildlife and archeological remains, as well as restricting access to Michael Heizer’s land-art piece “Double Negative”. With such efforts, Moca is raising the bar for cultural institutions to use their reputation, credibility and respectability to set a tangible example.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Historical series: The Iran Hostage Crisis

In part four of our historical summer series, we travel back to 1979 to examine the Iran Hostage Crisis. Where is Ayatollah Khomeini going with this? What are President Carter’s options? And how, why, and when did relations between the United States and Iran deteriorate to this perilous point? Andrew Mueller speaks to Ramita Navai, Holly Dagres, Vali Nasr, and Lew Lukens.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Homes

Allow us to introduce you to The Monocle Book of Homes. A guide to exceptional residences, the title is packed with beautiful photography, inspiring stories ­and few tips on making the most of your living space. So what are you waiting for? Come on in. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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