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Fortune's maths points to a bleak future

HONG KONG is finished. About to become a 'global backwater'. How do we know? Because it's in Fortune magazine, that's why.

America's biggest business magazine stirred up quite a few people here yesterday with their cover story whose title says it all: 'The Death of Hong Kong'.

We managed to get a copy. The first paragraph ends with the devastating punch: 'The naked truth about Hong Kong's future can be summed up in two words: It's over.' Actually, this looks more like three words.

We checked this with Professor John Joseph, head of Hong Kong University's English Department, who said: 'I think it's perfectly fair to say that this is three words.' A small point, but hardly a good start.

Here's what 800,000 Americans are reading about us at the moment: On society: 'Hong Kong, like the US during its civil war days, is now rife with wrenching family dramas in which friends and family members are deeply split over the best means for survival.' After '97: 'Troops of the People's Liberation Army, which has already formed links with the powerful local criminal gangs known as 'triads', will stroll the streets.' Some of the stuff is just baffling. For instance, why point out that publisher Jimmy Lai finds it's difficult to hail a taxi in Quarry Bay? Are pro-Beijing taxi drivers refusing to pick up a democrat? A symptom of infrastructure neglect? After studying the accompanying photo, may we suggest that Jimmy should try standing away from yellow lines and he would have better luck.

Comatose NEW figures from the London Stock Exchange last night about the amount of dealing in non-UK shares. In some cases, not much.


For instance, the company based in Fiji managed to see no trade at all in London in the first three months of this year. Bahrain and Lichtenstein companies were similarly comatose.

The reason why companies list in places other than their home is usually because they think trade will be more active. Given that listing requires a hefty annual fee, to see total inactivity must be a disappointment.

There seems to be some trouble with the London stock exchange's computer. Maybe it needs a kick.

Botswana has a company listed in London that managed to trade 3,000 shares, but with no money changing hands. And Lebanon's data is just a blank.


Set and match ANOTHER day of Great Speeches at the talk-fest at the Convention Centre yesterday, a Far Eastern Economic Review event sponsored by tobacco makers Philip Morris. As we commented yesterday, given that there are no under-16s attending we were a bit baffled why the nicotine team would sponsor it.

Our thanks go to the many readers who pointed out that Philip Morris just wanted their name associated with the politicians, pundits and other well-known types who were speaking there - a much more sophisticated form of promotion than old-fashioned sports sponsorship.


One reader pointed out that it seemed a bit strange for Chris Patten to speak there, sticking his head photogenically below the Philip Morris logo as shown above.

Is this the same chap who gave up smoking 12 years ago and told a youth anti-smoking rally: 'Save money, save your health and don't smoke'? It is.

His predecessor, David Wilson, was always wary of tobacco-linked events but Chris doesn't seem so bothered. He even took Princess Anne to a tobacco-sponsored tennis match when she was here a few months ago.


Joking apart FORMER chief justice and chief secretary Sir Denys Roberts, now judging away in sunny Brunei, has written a truly bizarre piece for The New Gazette , where he asks himself questions, then answers them.

It's much better than the stuff in Fortune . And it's meant to be funny. Examples: DR: Why were you appointed as Chief Secretary in 1973? DR: Probably because the governor wanted a CS who didn't think for himself and could carry out what the Governor wanted. I was quite effective so long as I did not have ideas of my own.

DR: Do not think you were a good administrator? DR: I always looked at a man's desk. If it was empty, he was efficient, either at dealing with the work or making sure that the files went to someone else.


DR: What did you do to enhance the status of judges? DR: I gave them all tea once a quarter.

We must admit that the sight of Sir Denys' remarkable eyebrows staring out from the page was quite a surprise.

Is this the start of a comeback campaign?