Monthly ArchiveMarch 2009
Society newlight on 20 Mar 2009
It looks whenever the UK government wants to appear tough on immigration, it would announce some half-hearted measures to make the immigration process a bit more unpleasant. The points-based system is a great improvement. But then came the hiking of visa fees, changing the time required for permanent residency from four to five years and retrospectively applying it (hence the protest and law suit from those came with highly skilled migrant visa), and the mandatory English test etc. which all looked good as a headline but won’t change much in practice. The points-based system was meant to attract the most qualified migrants, yet it seems those additional measures keeping popping up are purely there to make the application process a little bit more annoying, time-consuming and expensive.
The new “migrant tax”, a £50 extra visa charge to non-EU migrants, is just one of them. The migrants have already paid whatever cost their application would incur directly. They have paid the visa fee. They bring spending money with them. In the case of international students, they will pay the full university tuition fee (ranging from £4,000 to £18,000 per year) as well. Once they are here, they will pay the living costs and pay tax if they work, and are not eligible to pub fund for some time in most cases. If this country takes them as part of the community, surely they should contribute, equally as the other members of the society, to the public services and infrastructures, through the tried and tested general taxation?
Environment newlight on 19 Mar 2009
Guardian’s Jonathan Watts, when reporting the dust storm in northern China, introduced us to this excellent blog, livefrombeijing, by Vance, an American engineer working on clean transportation for China. Vance’s blog explains the environment and emission related data rather well while providing useful insight.
Society newlight on 03 Mar 2009
So the Chinese collector Cai Mingchao refused to pay the 28 million euro he bid for the two bronze heads at the Christie’s. Intentionally or not, this is an effective publicity stunt, forcing the story of disputed auctioning back to the news agenda. A point has been made again that no matter how legitimately Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé acquired and owned the sculptures, the fact remains that they are war plunders, looted from China’s imperial palace.
Incidently, the 8th Earl of Elgin, James Bruce, who ordered the destruction of Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace, where the bronze heads were looted from, is the son of the 7th Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, who removed the marbles from Acropolis and shipped them to Britain. The Greek government, like Chinese government, is asking for the return of the national treasures.
A lot of cultural artifacts of China have been looted, stolen, smuggled out of China over the years. Most of Chinese won’t demand a blanket return of all the treasures. However, the arrogance of Pierre Bergé, who bizarrely linked the return of the sculptures with Tibet issue, and the insensitivity of the Christie’s, escalated the dispute. The two bronze heads, which may not worth the inflated 14 million euro price tag, are seen by many Chinese as a reminder of national humiliation. To put too much symbolism on to them may not be totally rational, but buying them back by the state, as suggested by the Times, doesn’t sound right. Some would justifiably feel being robbed twice.