The Monocle Minute – Wednesday 3 June 2020


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Opinion / James Chambers

Flicker of hope

Tomorrow evening will bring the lights down on a long-held tradition in Hong Kong. For the first time in more than 30 years there won’t be an official candlelit vigil in Victoria Park to commemorate the Chinese Communist party’s deadly crackdown on student protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (pictured). Hong Kong’s police refused permission earlier this week, citing coronavirus restrictions. This came as little surprise as the government extended the ban on public meetings of more than eight people a few weeks ago, though that has not stopped the commemoration’s organisers from crying foul.

But the cancellation of the mass gathering might prove to be a positive development for pro-democracy advocates. First, it spares any blushes. Protests have been sparsely attended so far this year because of fears of catching the virus and being caught by the police for breaching physical-distancing guidelines. Moreover, the annual vigil had become endangered long before the pandemic or the national security bill. Younger activists, born long after 1989, have been boycotting the peaceful event in recent years in favour of taking more forceful steps to highlight the city’s ongoing oppression by Beijing.

Second, there’s nothing like a police ban to inject some spark into an ageing anti-establishment demonstration and make it fit for purpose. This year, organisers are asking participants across the city to light a candle at 20.00, a potentially zeitgeist-defining act of defiance. The visual spectacle will be combined with a minute’s silence, although Hong Kong is unlikely to stay quiet for long. Renditions of the city’s protest anthem, Glory to Hong Kong, will carry extra gusto on a day when the city’s parliament is expected to approve a bill that would make it a crime to disrespect the Chinese national anthem, the March of the Volunteers. So little about what’s happening to Hong Kong is voluntary.

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Society / USA

Resisting racism

Yesterday was dubbed Blackout Tuesday in the US – a day of solidarity with the fight against racism that saw millions post black squares on social media following the death of George Floyd. This morning we offer the words of professor Deborah Archer, of New York University’s School of Law, to explain what is taking place in her city and across the country: “We have to separate the protests from the looters and the violence. I believe that the protesters in New York are fighting for the same thing [that] they’re fighting for around the country. They’re asking for people to recognise the fundamental dignity and humanity of black people. They’re asking for people to stop conflating brown skin with dangerousness and criminality and inhumanity, and they’re asking for an end to the weaponisation of law enforcement against people of colour. We see that problem in every city around the country – where police are using excessive violence against black and brown communities. It’s one of the systemic problems in this country that we need to address if we actually want to achieve reform.” For more from Deborah Archer, and coverage of the demonstrations, listen to The Briefing  on Monocle 24.

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Economy / EU

In it together

The EU hopes to significantly expand its common approach to dealing with disasters, from wildfires to pandemics. The European Commission in Brussels has proposed that the budget for its RescEU disaster-management programme be increased by €2bn (to €3.1bn) for the next long-term EU budget cycle, which runs from 2021 to 2027. It would mark a major shift away from the current system, in which many member states rely on help from their neighbours in the event of an emergency.

EU commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic (pictured) said that the coronavirus outbreak had exposed the limits of relying solely on the goodwill of bilateral relationships, as no EU member state was able to spare capital or equipment once the pandemic began. Instead, the EU Commission will now lead an effort to create a common stockpile of protective materials and medical equipment, in what should be a positive and co-operative step towards solving a difficult problem.

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Tourism / Canada

RV there yet?

Canada hopes that domestic tourism will make up for a shortfall in foreign visitors this summer and offer a lifeline to an industry that employs one in 11 Canadians. While the country hosted a record 22.1 million international visitors in 2019, the federal tourism marketing agency Destination Canada predicts that tourist spending will fall by a third this year. As a result, economic development minister Mélanie Joly has announced that Canada will redistribute some CA$30m (€19.9m), which was earmarked for attracting foreign visitors to Canada, among its provinces and territories. Each will determine how best to spend the funds to lure domestic tourists this summer. Expect Canadians to flock to the great outdoors rather than take city breaks. Early numbers suggest that the RV, or campervan, industry is poised for a boom, while campgrounds and national parks, including Banff National Park (pictured), are likely to see influxes of visitors too.

Technology / South Korea

Making tracks

From drones delivering medical supplies in China to robots handing out meals in Singapore, Asia has been at the forefront of using technology to battle coronavirus. This hi-tech approach is continuing in South Korea, where it has been announced that, from 10 June, visitors to venues including nightclubs, bars, concert halls and gyms will have to scan a QR code at the door. By doing so, their details will be logged in a new system that will help to track potential carriers. Some European countries have also been busy developing their own technological solutions to contain the virus. The National Health Service’s track-and-trace service, for example, was launched in the UK last week – but it is not mandatory and relies on government advice to get users on board. South Korea’s method of capturing people’s details when they enter public places could prove to be an effective alternative.

M24 / The Big Interview

The Chiefs Edition: Scott Malki

Monocle’s editor in chief, Tyler Brûlé, talks to Scott Malkin, the CEO of Value Retail, about the luxury fashion industry’s response to coronavirus, changing consumer habits and how disruption might be an opportunity to fix physical retail’s enduring problems.

Film / Food & drink

Artisanal Ice Cream

In an ode to summertime, Monocle films hits the road to sample artisanal ice-cream makers with a difference. In Denmark, Japan and Canada we meet the innovators challenging taste buds one scoop at a time.