"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
"Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them." Thomas Sowell
For decades, illegal immigrants entering the colony of Hong Kong faced an immediate return to the Mainland. Each morning trucks carried men and women back over the boundary at the Man Kam To crossing.
This policy, executed with ruthless efficiency, had the full cooperation of the Chinese government. It's worth noting that the British authorities gave scant consideration to refugee status and political asylum claims.
Before the war, the regime was less strict, with people moving with relative ease into Hong Kong. But, in the late 1940s, as China convulsed through a period of instability, more people fled, making their way to Hong Kong. As a result, a crowded Hong Kong faced the prospect of overwhelming numbers pouring through the porous land boundary and sea routes.
That all changed in 1951. In an attempt to stem the influx of people and the strain on Hong Kong, the government created the Frontier Closed Area. This initiative involved creating a restricted area, then installing a fence and watchtowers. The British army and the police guarded the boundary with patrols and ambush points.
Although illegal immigration has long ceased to be a problem, a modern version of the fence still exists. The economic success of China removed the impulse to seek a new life overseas. Yet, decades after the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, the fence is a reminder that this place remains separate and distinct.
By the time I took command of the Man Kam To sector in 1995, illegal immigration had waned to a trickle. On a few occasions, we encountered pregnant ladies seeking to have a child born in Hong Kong. They'd risk squeezing through holes in the fence to cross the narrow stream at the eastern end of the sector and enter Hong Kong even late in their pregnancy.
Snakeheads, who organised these attempts, spread false stories that the family could remain if the child were born in Hong Kong.
One of the more bizarre aspects of the British approach was the Touch Base Policy, which operated from 1974 until 1980. If the illegals made it south of Boundary Street, they could apply for an identity card to remain in Hong Kong.
The Victoria Immigration Centre, on the site of the current Pacific Place, processed the applications. Those caught before getting south of Boundary Street faced repatriation to the Mainland.
The authors of this policy displayed a perverse sense of fair play or sought to assuage guilt by giving the illegals a chance. Either way, typical English woolliness shaped the scheme that allowed plucky illegals the opportunity to win. In effect, they'd turned the dangerous business of seeking refuge into an early version of the 'Hunger Games'.
That all stopped on 24 October 1980. As the influx of illegal immigrants continued, the policy had failed. Henceforth all illegals faced an immediate return to the Mainland. Those already in Hong Kong had a three-day grace period to register, and the compulsory carrying of identity cards came in.
With London's approval, the colonial authorities proved willing to take tough decisions to safeguard Hong Kong society. Likewise, the leaders in Beijing recognised the importance of retaining Hong Kong as a valued asset. Thus, they pragmatically acquiesced in the policies of the colonial government.
Contrast this to the unfolding events in the English Channel. Last week 27 people died attempting to cross this busy sea lane in a flimsy inflatable.
Hong Kong dampened the pull factors that attracted illegals by making it clear they'd go back. However, the situation in the Channel is far more complicated, and much more dangerous for those attempting to cross.
Whether the UK can agree a return arrangement with France, a supposed ally, remains a moot point. You must recognise that Brexit soured relations and other issues complicate matters, including access to fishing grounds.
Moreover, the problem is not new. In 2018, as I cycled through Normandy, it was soon clear that thousands of young men of middle-eastern origin were loitering near the ports. They'd attempt to enter trucks heading to Britain.
As I came into the port of Ouistreham, the police and military had roadblocks and a cordon in place. Meanwhile, in the streets around the harbour, hundreds of young men waited their chance. The police soon chased down those who climbed the fence that secured the ferry boarding area.
Hamstrung by a raft of human rights laws, the UK cannot deport those screened-out as genuine refugees. Thus, the numbers prepared to risk everything will continue to grow. Then you have Border Force staff refusing to implement policies enacted by the government.
The British need to ask themselves several questions. First, how many migrants are they are prepared to take? Factored into that is what is the potential for societal dislocation is due to high levels of immigration? Third, is the government prepared to take the tough decisions that will reduce the pull factors which attract immigrants? Lastly, does the country have the means to implement the policies it deems needed?
Once you establish controls, an orderly scheme to allow migrants to enter is possible. It’s madness to continue with the current confusion of policies, politics and relentless disputes with France that encourage illegal immigrants to take risks.
I have no immediate solutions, Yet, don’t forget that Hong Kong's illegal immigration problem vanished as China prospered. So maybe if the West stopped bombing nations into submission and instead encouraged economic development, people wouldn't need to flee.
For example, the war in Afghanistan has cost $2.3 trillion. That sort of money could lift the country and several of its neighbours out of poverty. Moreover, with decent living standards at home, people are less likely to make themselves migrants. Instead, rational choice theory suggests they'd opt to remain at home.
If there is one lesson to come out of this, it must be that Boris needs to take some tough decisions to secure the UK's borders and protect life. In the end, desperate people will always be tempted to have a go, and many could die if the system tacitly encourages them to try.
If you have to be cruel to be kind, you must accept the unpleasantness that results from your cruelty. But, unfortunately, the unsettling truth of Britain's current approach to illegal immigrants is that society has decided to be kind to its conscience and thus unleashed new cruelty on those seeking to cross the Channel.
"Well, if you think kids spend too much time online now, wait until Mr Z gets his vision up and running."
As Mr Z announced his latest innovation, why didn't he have the courage to call it the "The Matrix"? After all, his "Metaverse" has the necessary dystopian elements with an omnipotent Mr Z sitting atop the virtual mountain. A verdict not helped by Mr Z's avatar displaying more warmth and humanity than the real thing.
I'm asking, are we to allow this flaccid nerd further direct access to our brains because that is what he wants?
I don't suppose Mr Z is evil, but he's driven to prove he's the most intelligent person in the room, and that is a worry. I've defended him in the past, but these days I'm less keen. He controls a global empire that has indisputably done harm — along with much good — and yet he ignores the downside.
Recent revelations by whistleblowers cause me to question whether he should remain the final arbiter of many aspects of life in the West. I'm sure he didn't seek that role, yet that is where he is, given the reach and success of Facebook.
I said the West because Facebook is banned in China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, other countries, such as India, are imposing tighter controls in response to concerns that the platform is feeding extremist behaviour.
Mr Z's Metaverse envisages a 3-D virtual space where you can share an immersive experience. Guess where this is going. Yes, sex is again proving a driver of innovation.
Porn propelled the expansion of the VHS video market, while sex websites did the same for the early internet. Libido was also at the genesis of Facebook; a nerd rejected by a girl because of his poor interpersonal skills gets revenge through a website rating women.
From one million users in 2004 to 608 million six years later, you've got to give Mr Z his due. Facebook has more members than people existed 100 years ago. That's some achievement.
Of course, the marketing teams will trumpet the positives of the Metaverse, and these are real. The potential of such a system is immense; medical care, teaching, entertainment and shopping are all in there. And while a low-resolution version of the Metaverse exists, these proposals take the process a significant step further. What could go wrong?
Well, if you think kids spend too much time online now, wait until Mr Z gets his vision up and running. He is offering them the opportunity to drop out of reality, to spend their time in an immersive fake world without consequences or responsibilities. That is a tempting prospect in a world of trouble.
The technology will use motion detectors that mimic human activity with hand, eye and body movements. We already have that with 3-D headsets. What we don't have is Electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to pick up brain patterns. That's the scary part of Mr Z's proposals.
This technology is playing with the fabric of who you are as a person. It intrudes into the intensely private parts of the brain. That alone is disturbing. Acting in a feedback loop, the Metaverse presents the possibility of a progressive and relentless deterioration of our capacity to control our brains.
The Metaverse also has the potential to put cybercrime on steroids. With fake avatars a possibility, crimes and cyberbullying would prove relatively easy as the line of reality further blurs. In short, Mr Z could control how you experience the world.
We know that Facebook has a history of unscrupulous behaviour, including manipulating emotions, filtering news, and curtailing aspects of free speech.
Then, again, others believe the Metaverse is a long way off. Instead, they see Mr Z's announcement as nothing more than an attempt to distract the media and the public from the allegations made by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
The former employee leaked documents revealing that Facebook appears to have a cavalier attitude towards the company's negative impacts. At Congressional hearings, she said that Mr Z is not a bad person; yet, he is unsuited to the role of CEO. In her view, he's long been aware of the dangers of Facebook and yet doesn't act.
It doesn't help Mr Z that aiding and abetting him is Nick Clegg. Remember him? He's the former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister politician who promised U.K. students no rise in fees. Yet, once he had their votes in the bag, he increased fees as part of a coalition deal. In short, he has few scruples.
Cleggy is now Mr Z's spin doctor with a busy portfolio. He's spent the last few years defending Facebook against allegations it allowed interference in elections, gave a platform to extremists and live-streamed a massacre. Plus, until recently, Facebook came riddled with anti-vaxxing nonsense.
There is a school of thought that Facebook would be considered a rogue state if a country. And yet, Facebook operates with impunity. No legislature, no law enforcement agency has managed to rein in its excesses.
In 1909, the U.S. government acted against Standard Oil under antitrust laws to curtail the companies dominance. Today, is any politician brave enough to deal with Facebook to reduce the stranglehold on social media and how we see the world?
Mr Z has 10,000 staff working on the Metaverse, with billions invested in the project. So we need to watch him like a hawk because, if nothing else, the opportunities for criminality are endless.
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.