"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"Why or why do officials find it necessary to invent intentionally complex solutions to problems?"
This week saw the death of one of my heroes, Micheal Collins. With a steady hand, the valiant Collins piloted the Command Module as his two colleagues went to the Moon's surface to make history. On the dark side of the Moon, he swung out of human contact in his tin can.
Often cited as having had the loneliest job, he was nonchalant about that assertion, making the critical distinction between alone and lonely.
Collins wrote about his experiences in 'Carrying the Fire'. He feared the most dangerous part of the mission was the take-off from the Moon. That depended on a single-engine functioning flawlessly, whereas a redundancy of options covered possible failures at other critical moments. Around Collins's neck was hung several actions cards detailing steps he had to take in each of 18 eventualities. Simple, step by step instructions meant he had few decisions to make.
Our high-paid civil servants who could do with some NASA logic and remember the acronym KISS. NASA took 'Keep it simple, stupid' or 'Keep it short and simple' from the US Navy. It anchored their thinking; always go for simple, easy to comprehend and implementable solutions.
Why or why do officials find it necessary to invent intentionally complex solutions to problems?
My head hurt attempting to understand the new Covid restrictions. The changes sought to achieve a relaxation of the regime but only brought frustration and bafflement.
To help you comprehend the complexities, the above picture is an extract. There are nine pages of this convoluted mess.
By all accounts most businesses have opted to ignore these provisions, retaining the simple, implementable, four-person rule. Few will go for the hassle of enforcing these tangled protocols. Because, of course, the consequence of an honest mistake or oversight means a fine or worse. And the government wonders why its popularity falters.
Here's a suggestion. Allow dining and drinks venues to open with eight people who can prove they've had a vaccination. Other than that, retain the current rules but extend opening hours.
Remember; keep it short and simple. That's what got us to the Moon and back.
"Good byes are not forever. They simply mean I will miss you until we meet again." Anon
Reports suggest that some 3,000 Hong Kongers a month apply for the BNO visa, which provides a route to United Kingdom citizenship. How many people will opt to move to the UK remains unknown.
Covid travel restrictions and a 'wait and see' attitude may cause people to hold off on the final move. After all, opting to migrate is a heart-wrenching decision, fraught with emotional and financial challenges, especially for families with children.
As I've before covered, there are pros and cons of moving to the UK. Some of the cons are now coming into focus.
Moreover, it has to be said, mass emigration from Hong Kong is nothing unusual. In the years before 1997, Hong Kong experienced waves of departures as sentiment fluctuated about the future. An estimated half a million emigrated between 1987 and 1996, with 66,200 leaving in 1992 alone. Once they'd secured overseas passports, many returned. Hence Hong Kong's large contingent of 'Canadian' citizens.
Over time, the impact of departures from Hong Kong proved marginal. With a vast pool of talent on the Mainland, sourcing specialists is relatively easy. Besides, the city continues to draw top-notch expatriate talent.
Of course, it makes perfect sense for the UK to attract hard-working Hong Kong folks. As a recent report on UK racism noted, every ethnic group performs better in the education stakes than the white working-class except the black Caribbean boys. And the top-performing group are the Chinese/Asian kids, who come supported by traditional solid family units.
Thus, an influx of Hong Kong Chinese, whilst causing some initial economic costs and dislocation, in the long-term will benefit the country.
Speaking last week to a professional couple, who are contemplating a move to the UK, it was clear they'd crunched the numbers. They could afford to buy a flat in a decent London borough, while their savings are enough to survive a couple of years. Yet, they'd failed to recognise one significant issue; the UK may not exist in ten years.
In a lead article, last week's Economist asserted, "The bonds that hold England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together are weaker than at any time in living memory." Scotland may be the first to heave away. Never forget that three in five Scots voted against Brexit. Also, a recent poll found that two-thirds of Scots under the age of 45 favour independence.
From a distance, looking at the UK's political scene, I see no eminent person with a clear vision for the future of a 'united kingdom'; there exists no unifying force nor ideology that anchors the times to come. For starters, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lacks the appearance of seriousness, with a propensity for bluff and bluster. He's proven himself incompetent, although he seeks to bask in the reflected glory of the Covid vaccine rollout.
Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party is wandering the wilderness fighting amongst themselves. Keir Starmer, the Labour bossman is an asymptomatic leader: he's in charge, but show no signs. Likely they won't see power again in decades. As a result, Johnson's Tory Party enjoys an unopposed run in parliament.
Into this gap steps Scotland's First Minister Nichola Sturgeon. Sturgeon presents independence for Scotland as the logical choice that gives a more egalitarian future for Scots. There is no ignoring the fact that her message has traction with all classes within Scotland.
She enjoys renown for her deft handling of the messaging around Covid. That's despite Scotland suffering similar numbers of cases to England. Some suggest she's immune to criticism because the Scots detest the 'English' parliament to a greater degree than any of Sturgeon's failings. Maybe?
Moreover, it's significant that she's emerged from her recent troubles undiminished and resolute. That's despite all the media hype that had her finished.
So, for now, the direction of travel is impossible to ignore. The Scottish question won't go away despite Johnson's attempts to ignore the matter. Barring a major upset, I predict that Scotland will get another chance to vote on independence within a couple of years. We will get a taste of sentiment during the elections on May 6th. If the outcome is a strong mandate for the Scottish National Party, separation looks more likely.
Meanwhile, Brexit is reopening old wounds in Northern Ireland. Recent riots show that the underlying political sentiment remains delicate. As Brexit caused disruptions to trade, the loyalist community have grown fearful of separation from the Mainland. On the back of this, the nationalist community sees an opportunity to push for reunification with Ireland. These vexed questions may undo much of the progress achieved since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
And while the situation in Wales is less volatile, if Scotland gains independence, that may change.
During Covid, the UK as a single entity demonstrated some strengths. The vaccine rollout is a notable high-point. But, other aspects of national standing and infrastructure are looking rickety.
Take defence as an example. There are more tanks in the Bovington Tank Museum than serving with the British Army. Then two aircraft carriers entered service without planes or an adequate number of escorts. The largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy account for more than half the defence budgets existing £13 billion deficit.
To top it all, wearing thin is the pretence of an independent nuclear deterrent. All the missiles come from the USA. Plus, should Scotland gain independence, the atomic subs may need to move to France or the USA because no other suitable bases are available. You have to acknowledge this is a mockery of a deterrent. As one military leader observed, "The British armed forces look increasingly like an echelon of the US military."
With the full fallout from Covid and Brexit yet to play out, the UK's economic outlook is unsettled. Government borrowing is 14.5% of GDP, the highest level since World War II. If the anticipated post-Covid bounce occurs, the country can soon offset this borrowing. If not, the prospects are dicey.
Above all, the question remains will the UK still exist as a single entity, or will it fragment?
Let's recognise that those seeking certainty outside Hong Kong may be entering a domain with equally problematic political issues. How Scotland's independence will work remains unclear. The politicians must address a vast array of matters; trade, borders, the military, diplomatic representation and basic stuff like energy supplies.
That's worth reflecting on because the whispers in the wind are that the 'united kingdom' has run its course. And untangling from 1707 may make 1997 look easy.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.