Now for the small investor – the joy of being an offshore RMB business centre

The woman in front of me at the ATM pulled her card out, and then, before I had time to gently nudge her aside – put another one in. An attack of Irritable Gwailo Syndrome started to come on, but she was saved when an offer of a 19.76% annual interest rate caught my eye. Such a massive return is obviously absurd. Even ‘wealth management’ shadow-banking pyramid schemes in the Mainland would blush to advertise such a rate. The extremely precise figure, down to a technical-sounding 76 basis points, gives it a slight veneer of credibility. But the small print contains all the usual disclaimers, making it clear this is not fit for human consumption…


Only in Hong Kong – I expect – would retail banks in residential neighbourhoods distribute this sort of (whatever) derivative product. And even here, these days, the ‘investor’ would have to sign dozens of forms and be tape-recorded.

This morning, I find myself reading much the same pro-forma warnings – ‘you would be insane to even think about it’ – on the risks involved with another investment. This time it is RMB-denominated two-year Chinese sovereign bonds. Since the Chinese government, whatever its other failings, is probably not going to default, you would have thought these things should be reasonably safe. However, the small print specifies that ‘losses are as likely as profit’…


‘As likely’. If true (the wording crops up in lots of prospectuses) it would mean that a portfolio of such instruments would, on average, give you exactly the same returns as money stuffed in your mattress – so what’s the point? If not true, why put the disclaimer there?

The Bank of China HK ads for the bonds in today’s mass-circulation papers plug lame special offers like a microscopic discount on the HK$-RMB exchange rate, and possibly free Hello Kitty dolls. The visuals are Forbidden City/drum/jade, suggesting traditional virtues like integrity and virtue and repaying debts, rather than symbols of the great high-tech China Dream future. It is targeting ordinary and probably conservative retail investors.

While they might be attracted by the 3.45% annual return, they will be running a significant foreign exchange risk (which the announcements hint at). Many China-watchers see the Yuan as overvalued (whatever Donald Trump thinks) and ripe to fall 20% or more in the next couple of years. That would be around a 13% drop in the HK$ value of the bonds after the interest.

But on the other hand, you get to join in the Hong Kong government’s warm and euphoric glow of gratitude towards the Central Government for its clear support in developing Hong Kong as an offshore RMB business centre. I declare the weekend open with the thought that with such a satisfying reward, second only to the frisson we feel at the mention of ‘Belt and Road’, who needs mere money?

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Will the classified ads be full of fake handbags?

Going by the rumours and cagey official statements, we can assume that Alibaba boss Jack Ma is going to buy the South China Morning Post. The question is why.

SCMP-SCMPOne possibility is the Mainland fondness for imitation. Having copied the Amazon business model, he now wants to follow Jeff Bezos in owning a newspaper – and will presumably later launch his own rocket. Another theory is that the SCMP will fit in with his other media interests, even though they are Mainland, Chinese-language, web-based ‘platform’-type things that arguably do not complement a Hong Kong news outlet.

A third explanation is that he has basically been told to buy it. The current owners would obviously love to get rid of the paper: as an investment it has plummeted in value, while reconciling journalism with the pre-emptive shoe-shining of Beijing has been a nightmare. They can/will sell it only to someone approved by the Chinese government, which is now openly tightening its grip on Hong Kong.

The New York Times quotes a commentator as saying Ma could make the SCMP a top-quality paper or a Beijing mouthpiece…


Here’s a clue: the Communist Party has a knife pointed at the heart of his multi-billion Amazon/PayPal/Ebay-with-Chinese-characteristics concession. Jack Ma may well be a genius at reinventing and adapting American e-commerce concepts – and certainly at getting the Chinese consumer to embrace the once-alien idea of payment to/purchases from unseen strangers. But Alibaba’s success inevitably relies on Chinese corporatist state protection and Communist Party patronage. Beijing minimizes foreign or domestic competition and prods the banks into cooperating with the virtual payments process, and presumably the princeling kleptocracy takes a slice of the action along the way.

The Financial Times recalls Jack Ma’s record as an obedient servant of the party-state who will help jail journalists. He is no doubt a nice, decent, charitable ‘self-made’ guy – but this is China and either you do what the Communist Party says, or you do/have/are nothing.

Ma can rest assured that the SCMP is already house-trained (here’s your ‘Belt and SCMP-HK-Zh-brRoad’ blather du jour, by the way). Today’s reports local officials’ statement that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Bridge might be delayed a year until 2017, because it is ‘huge and complicated’ and involves ‘technical challenges’. The story also says the link will cut travel time to the less-than-compelling destination of Zhuhai from three hours to 30 minutes, which is wrong – it’s currently a 70-minute ferry ride, and negotiating the bridge’s vast customs/immigration complex looks set to take half an hour.

If it stays still, that is. Some investigative work from (ex-SCMP) Howard Winn tells a different story. The monstrous white-elephant could be five years behind schedule, as engineers try to build the aforementioned border-crossing facilities on ‘toothpaste mud’. And even if that turns out to be too pessimistic, the tunnel sections at the other end of the link look just as screwed. The funny part, if you find billions of your tax dollars oozing out all over the seabed amusing, is that no-one’ll use the bridge anyway, so 2016, 2017, 2021 – who will notice or care?


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Governance – a multiple-choice test

Owing to abysmal leadership inflicted upon it by China’s Communist dictatorship, Hong Kong has suffered government collusion with tycoons and their cartels, pushing housing prices and rents sky-high and overloading the city with overseas shoppers and tourists. In response to growing public disquiet, Beijing then broke its earlier promises of democratic reform. That created further unrest, which the authorities countered with police violence, abuse of power, intimidation and smear campaigns. The result is an unprecedentedly divided community. Disturbingly, it is the better-educated, middle-class and younger parts of the population that are the most alienated and angry. How can the administration best solve this situation?

AppreciateHK11. Give the public free access to museums for a limited period (conditions apply)

2. Mesmerize the disgruntled with a command to grasp bounteous wealth and opportunity through exclusive exciting magic One Belt One Road® pixie dust

3. Have a mega-brainwave and offer uppity young activists seats on the government’s hugely effective advisory boards, so they can strut around and look important alongside pillars of the establishment like Bunny Chan, Ronald Arculli and Anthony Wu.


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Young people today…

According to the Standard, Hong Kong’s pro-democrats got slaughtered in Sunday’s district elections, yet at the same time the indisputably pro-dem ‘Umbrella soldiers’ were big winners….


In the South China Morning Post, columnist Alex Lo dismisses these young pan-dems’ performance as crap, while the front-page story notes that they grabbed 35.8% of the vote where they ran…


Obviously, the mixed results invite all the cognitive dissonance you can handle, and allow both pro-dem and pro-Beijing camps to celebrate certain selected successes of their own, and to gloat over each other’s particular misfortunes.

One interesting statistic is the yield of seats to votes: the pro-Beijing camp got 70% of the seats with 50% of the vote. Unlike Legislative Council geographical constituencies, with their multi-seat, proportional-representation jiggery-pokery, these are straightforward first-past-the-post competitions, so (leaving aside any gerrymandering) no-one can complain about an unfair structure.

We can explain what is happening in business terms. The pro-Beijing camp had more capital to invest in marketing and PR (grassroots social work and voter registration) and in distribution (campaign workers and transport for the bewildered old folk dragged out of their elderly homes). They also ruthlessly carved up geographical regions among monopoly suppliers to avoid cannibalization of market share. The pro-dems, on the other hand, had far fewer resources to play with, and competed among themselves in some regions while having zero presence in some others.

But – who has the better product and the more-desirable consumer base? The older generation of traditional pro-democrats, the grim grassroots-fixated pro-Beijing ogres and grumpy and bitter onlookers are all understandably wary of disruptive innovation in the form of Umbrella/localist youngsters. But the real story is surely the demographics.

The future of the pro-Beijing camp is to push its dying brand’s putrid product by expanding market share among poor and senile residents of old people’s homes. Compare that with the pro-dems’ unique selling proposition – freedom, love, peace and humour, aimed especially at the exciting youth market. Come IPO time, where would you put your money?

Of course, this is not a free market: the Communist Party is ultimately a monopoly that assumes the right to hold consumers captive, at gunpoint if need be. Next year’s Legislative Council elections will, as usual, be rigged. Small mainly pro-establishment functional constituencies will decide half the seats, and the geographic-constituency races will be tilted in favour of the disciplined and well-financed United Front groups. Hong Kong’s real politics will take place elsewhere. But young activists who can conjure up a third of the vote could seriously stir things up, if they’re allowed to. That will certainly be on Beijing officials’ minds, so soon after having fired Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-shing for his ‘inadequate youth work’…


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District elections round-up

It’s difficult not to smirk, but in all three neighbourhoods I passed through yesterday the forces of freedom and enlightenment won in Hong Kong’s district council elections.

In Southern District’s Wong Chuk Hang, self-confessed FTU/Communist Party front member Suki Chan lost after being outed as a desperate hirer of sullen fake supporters. And in Central & Western’s Chung Wan, the extensively publicized pro-Beijing ‘independent’ Vienna Lau suffered a similar fate. The photo on top right shows some of her assistants packing up tons of campaign paraphernalia as night fell…


And in my own Central & Western constituency of Mid-Levels Escalator-Land, the pro-dem Mr Ng beat the well-resourced closet pro-Beijing incumbent Jackie Cheung. We should add that pan-dem Paul Zimmerman resoundingly beat the youthful but smug pro-establishment interloper challenging him for Southern District’s Pokfulam.

So one cheery conclusion from the elections is that the Hong Kong Island middle class roused themselves in extra numbers in order to give the pro-Communist stooges a post-Occupy punch on the nose.

However, in the less well-heeled parts of town, it was a different story. (Blow-by-blow coverage here.) Having already ensured pro-government candidates were not challenging EC-polarizedone another, and embarked on voter-registration drives, the United Front system mobilized voters with zeal. Many were elderly, frail and, to put it bluntly, perhaps senile – but this is war. Pan-dems left some constituencies unchallenged and cannibalized their vote in others.

Still, ‘pan-dems’ is a broad part of the spectrum. While some older traditional candidates failed to do well, some younger ones met with success.

The overall picture supports the notion of a ‘polarized’ electorate and society. The demographics set older, poorer, less-educated public-housing (and elderly-home) residents on the pro-Beijing side against the better-off, worldly intellectuals and bright young things supporting various pro-dems.

In theory, the former should be in long-term decline while the latter segment expands. But the middle-class birthrate is next to zero, while Mainland immigration maintains a supply of (all else being equal) pro-Beijing voters. Psephologists and number-crunchers can sort it all out – but with planning and zoning systems clustering the population the way they do, gerrymandering should be a cinch. It doesn’t look great for pan-dems in terms of elections.

Beijing’s officials take (rigged) elections seriously as one way of crushing the hostile pan-dems – CIA-backed forces determined to use Hong Kong to bring down the Communist Party. The theory is that if they squeeze the pan-dems out of Legco, fake-democracy and other bills will be passed and all will be well.

But if you see opposition to the government as an effect rather than a cause of our problems, the elections are of relatively little consequence. District councils do little, and the Legislative Council is rigged. As the Occupy/Umbrella movement showed – plus anti-smuggler protests, the backlash against interference in universities, and so on – the opposition mutates and can appear anywhere. The Communist Party thinks it’s being clever sweating blood over sidelining senior pro-dem stalwarts like Albert Ho. Meanwhile, along comes this


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Tycoons’ tiff

The week ends on a mildly amusing note, as public bickering breaks out among several Hong Kong property empires. Companies under Robert Ng’s Sino group and Robert Kuok’s Kerry group are taking legal action against the Town Planning Board’s decision to let the Cheng family’s New World upgrade and expand the Avenue of Stars promenade on the Tsimshatsui waterfront. (The Standard mentions the tycoons by name; the Kuok-owned South China Morning Post keeps it corporate.)

The two complainants are miffed by the project’s impact on trees, aesthetics, pedestrian access, air quality and parking arrangements, as well as the rushed and suspect manner of SCMP-LegalChallengethe decision. These echo previous criticisms by politicians and activists. But the landlords are probably not – you will be amazed to hear – driven by public interest.

The Sino-owned Tsim Sha Tsui Centre mall/office complex and the Kerry-owned Shangri-La Hotel overlook the proposed extended Avenue of Stars, and their awe-inspiring views of the pristine, jewel-like Victoria Harbour will suffer, at least a bit. Perhaps a bigger concern for them is the flow of what the industry calls ‘quality traffic’ – otherwise known as ‘moneyed morons willing to buy overpriced tat’. New World has its own properties in the vicinity and could find devious means to funnel the tourist hordes into its own retail space. Last but probably not least, members of this tycoon caste are not above being jealous and nasty towards one another. The Singaporean/Malaysian/Hong Kong origins of the Ng/Kuok/Cheng clans may even add extra spice to any existing rivalry and bitterness.

The legal action mentions ‘unfairness’, which gives us a clue about what is going on. The Sino/Kerry people are possibly vexed that New World – whose boss broke ranks to back CY Leung rather than tycoon-favourite Henry Tang in the 2012 Chief Executive ‘election’ – got a free lunch here. Or, more to the point, they did not. Recall the other developers’ whining in 1999 when Li Ka-shing’s son Richard got the Cyberport ‘free public wealth gift handout rip-off boondoggle’. And they did not. Funny how cartel members freak out the most when they are left out of the collusion; the rest of the Hong Kong populace and economy just take it on the chin 24/7, decade after decade.

Right-minded people will surely think that the ideal outcome would be for all involved in this squabble to come out of it in worse shape, and preferably suffer horrible and lingering losses of face and fortune in the process. I declare the weekend open with the exquisite thought that, with Hong Kong’s parasitical tourism sector collapsing in on its own greed and short-sightedness, they could all end up losers.

Extreme Snacks Alert… In a fragrant Nepalese store (Queens Rd W, opposite the old Wanchai Market), appropriately near the Dhoom cookies, you will find pickled lapsi. Think of hua mui, the sour salted plums that you get in 7-Eleven or (illustrated below) 759. Except they look like especially evil hua mui on steroids…


But that would be an understatement. It starts with a sudden hit of plasticky/garlic/gasoline – that’s hing. That’s immediately followed by the intense acidic saltiness of regular hua mui frothing and zapping through your tongue-synapses. Then the chili kicks in, and you start frenziedly banging your head against the wall. The weird part of these explosively wince-inducing psychopath-candy things – both in Hong Kong and Nepal – is that their biggest fans appear to be… schoolgirls. There must be an explanation. (More here and here.)

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Thinking out of the rabbit hutch

A South China Morning Post editorial agonizes over Hong Kong’s housing crisis – a predicament now entering its 147th year. The writer refers to the Our HK Foundation’s proposal for sales of public housing as ‘thinking out of the box’, when it is trivial in scale and looks more like sugar-coating for development of country parks. And the conclusion is… reclamation, blah blah, green belt, blah blah, conundrum, tough decisions, blah blah. SCMP-PlanToThis is simply the government’s official line: we’d love to have affordable and decent housing, but the overwhelming problem of land scarcity is totally beyond the control of mankind, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, the paper reports the government auditor’s finding that around 100 schools, many in urban areas, are sitting empty and rotting. And over in the Legislative Council, the Development Secretary half-admits that the ‘small house policy’ for non-existent farmers’ sons, is a ludicrous waste of land, but sees no way out of it. (An interesting story on that rip-off here.) We can all think of ways that Hong Kong keeps land scarce and homes expensive. Developers are free to focus on building investment assets for overseas money-launderers rather than homes for local people. The government land system perversely requires prohibitive upfront payments before anyone can use brownfield sites and industrial zones for housing. Planners allocate more space to oversized road networks than to residential use. There’s five targets for ‘out of the box thinking’ in one paragraph.

Just a little more mental effort reveals further expanses of space just waiting to be freed up. The site occupied uselessly by Disneyland could hold a small city. The parasitical tourism industry grabs yet more space everywhere: in my neighbourhood, three hotels are going up on previously residential lots, and then there’s the vast, empty cruise terminal at Kai Tak. Kill off another sunset ‘pillar industry’ by relocating the container port in the Mainland, and you have another small city or two.

Serious ‘thinking out of the box’ opens up a world of new possibilities. Building codes FloorPlanbased on bygone ventilation/public-health concerns could be relaxed, enabling significantly bigger apartments. You could move malls, sports centres and other facilities underground (the HK-Guangzhou high-speed Mega-Hole would do) or onto platforms above sprawling highway intersections. If our paranoid Communist friends in Beijing could be convinced that a happier Hong Kong would be calmer and more loyal, we could think about slowing Mainland immigration, which these days seems to be more about demographic dilution than family reunion. Or, with the right transport and other infrastructure, we could establish settlements of retirees or telecommuters in offshore enclaves (Shenzhen’s latest lifeless free-trade zone hub, for example).

But of course this assumes that our policymakers see affordable homes – which means additional spending power remaining in the middle class’s pockets – as desirable. If, on the other hand, the idea is to enable a few landed interests to continue effortlessly extracting maximum disposable wealth from the economically productive population, the ‘shortage of land’ must continue.

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HK’s latest fight with China

I don’t usually pay attention to men in shorts running up and down fields. But the event at Mong Kok Stadium last night was different. In theory, it was a pre-pre-pre-qualifying-round World Cup game between two sides with no hope of getting to the big international tournament. In practice, it was another opportunity for the (especially younger) freedom-loving Hong Kong people to defy the creeping totalitarian control China’s Communist regime seems intent on imposing on their city.

That sounds like an absurdly grandiose way to describe fans watching a bunch of guys kicking a soccer ball around, but this is what happens during decidedly weird times.

To my untutored, non-sporting eye, the group of teams in this round was tailor-made to maximize China’s chances (Team Motherland was up against Qatar, Hong Kong, the Maldives and Bhutan – a smaller combined population than Shanghai). And no-one SCMP-Goallessseriously imagines that you could put FIFA and PRC in a room together without some bribing-and-fixing taking place. By all accounts, Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ includes fantasies of World Cup glory. China is supposed to win.

In Hong Kong, the context – we hardly need remind ourselves – is the pre- and post-Umbrella Movement malevolence unleashed by Beijing’s United Front in 2014-15: broken promises on democracy, smears, intimidation, abuse of power. And the ongoing backlash: anti-smuggler protests, anti-MTR protests, localism, cynicism, hostility to Hong Kong and Mainland authorities.

In earlier games, Hong Kong fans had jeered the Chinese (thus also Hong Kong’s) national anthem. No-one in polite society – government, media or sports governing bodies – could acknowledge this for what it was: a highly public and unambiguous symbolic rejection of the Communist regime’s sovereignty over this city. They could only splutter angrily about rudeness and insults. FIFA (a sports bureaucracy that lusts after Mainland royalties and kickbacks) levied a fine on the local football governing body. The Hong Kong government went into full freak-out mode, deeming local soccer fans to be a subversive enemy force no less than, and indeed part of, the Umbrella/pan-dem/pro-independence/Johannes Chan/CIA coalition of evil. And rightly so.

As part of the big clampdown on the Great Booing Soccer Fan Threat, the government got last night’s game switched to the smallest venue it could use, angering old folks and others who couldn’t get tickets. It also planned a vast police presence in the area and reiterated warnings about bag-searches and booing. It is a classic CY Leung tactic: persuading people by massively and gratuitously pissing them off in every way you can devise. Thousands watched the action in a spirit of festive, communal solidarity on outdoor TVs.

There were boos (plus a moment of silence for Paris). Scurrilous wit being an invaluable weapon in this asymmetric clash of cultures and values, the local supporters at the stadium carried banners with the word ‘BOO’. They shouted in Cantonese and English, while (segregated) Mainland fans used Mandarin. The home crowd carried banners saying ‘HK is not China’ and ‘Fight for HK’, which say one thing if ‘HK’ means a sports team, another if it means a place, community or people. CY Leung refrained from expressing support specifically for the Hong Kong team in this match against the sovereign nation. To add to the ingredients, it is a multiracial line-up, hard to envisage in a ‘China’ team.

Obviously, many spectators were eagerly following the game as a sport, in which goal crossbars apparently played a crucial role. But it is hard to ignore the overriding political symbolism. Afterwards, the Hong Kong players bowed to their delighted fans. But Hong Kong had not won. Depending on your political stance, the cup is half-empty or half-full…


For freedom-loving Hongkongers, the main outcome of the 0-0 result is that China’s hopes are dashed – it is almost certainly out of the World Cup. Courtesy of your adoring Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which you are currently trying to trash. It was a pleasure.

I used the phrase ‘decidedly weird times’ above. Try this… The widespread assumption is that last night’s game was switched from the 40,000-seat HK Stadium to the 6,700-seat Mong Kok one to – as the South China Morning Post put it – avoid offending the motherland. A subsequent SCMP report apologized and said the authorities weren’t making it up, and the field was genuinely unfit to play on. Only in Hong Kong circa 2015 will you read an update about playing-field turf and instantly assume that an editor enforcing the Communist Party line has ordered it to appear.


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Please appreciate your city while we wreck it

Stan-SAR-stallsHelped by Beijing’s local Liaison Office, Chief Executive CY Leung has imposed a new style of governance in Hong Kong since taking office in 2012. The gloves are off, and the government and its followers treat critics with undisguised malice, spite and venom. It is – with suitable adaptation to local conditions – the standard Communist United Front approach: crush the small number of hostile dissenters through intimidation, smears and subterfuge, thus scaring moderates into joining the obedient and loyal masses. These are the tactics that have brought such harmony to Xinjiang and Tibet, as People’s Daily reports every day.

But now – a boost for those of us nostalgic for a kinder and gentler Hong Kong! Back to the days of benevolent bumbling arrogance, when inept and patronizing bureaucrats desperate to Serve the Community dreamed up embarrassingly trite measures to divert and amuse their childlike populace. Behold the gloriously pitiful ‘Appreciate Hong Kong’ campaign.

It is, inevitably, brought to us by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who reminds us that it follows the ‘Hong Kong: Our Home’ and ‘Bless Hong Kong’ initiatives that spread good vibes throughout the city with such dazzling effect in 2013 and 2014.

Before we get to the, um, substance, we should note some real evidence that CY Leung’s ‘Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever’ leadership style has shocked the Hong Kong Civil Service into adopting a grittier, more manly, approach to public communication. In the past, a facile publicity campaign (like Let’s All Wash Our Hands, Shall We?) would be accompanied by featureless kindergarten-level grinning comic characters. ‘Appreciate Hong Kong’ uses relatively adult circular colour-coded logos. That’s progress.

In other respects, the initiative has all the ingredients of past attempts to spread happiness, unity and general amnesia, and put trivial problems like unaffordable housing, rising inequality and creeping authoritarianism to one side. You can check them off


  • Free fun stuff (for a limited period, conditions apply) for the simple-minded, easily amused ‘less advantaged’ and disabled members of the community.
  • Generous Government Gifts, in the form of brief free access to things you’ve already paid for through your taxes (in this case, museums).
  • Token participation by a property developer, via its Dickensian charity for the deserving poor, so we will all ‘Appreciate Hong Kong Tycoons’.
  • A fair or market for small local non-tycoon producers, of the sort most cities have all the time as a matter of course.
  • An excruciatingly lame sounding carnival. Or two.
  • A cultural event hosted by some patriotic shoe-shining association.
  • Nothing remotely imaginative that allows local people and groups to get involved through voluntary bottom-up projects because that would be freaky and scary.
  • An underwhelmed ‘is that all?’ ‘John Tsang budget’ feeling, as we realize that the civil servants ran out of ideas at this stage, and this is the end of the list.
  • Depressing line of men in suits at campaign launch to arouse interest and enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, a bank predicts continued increases in local housing prices, officials are still passing the buck on the lead-in-water affair, and the Communist Party is planning the next stage of its Decolonization Rectification Purge of Hostile Forces and Traitors in Hong Kong.


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The weekend in pictures

A hike up Violet Hill to forget the problems of the world, and a vivid illustration of Hong Kong’s wacky weather. What was a calm and dull-gray day at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (elevation 742 ft) was a half-gale-force maelstrom of mist at the peak (1,425 ft), where the path plunged into the swirling cloud.

But perhaps the most interesting sight…


…was a residential tower down near the reservoir. From one angle, you could see clearly into half a dozen or so living rooms in a column. They each had an identically positioned dining table, surrounded by chairs, with a sizable chandelier overhead. Which I guess is partly inevitable, given that the developer designed the space and electrical wiring with this layout in mind – as per every tacky property ad. And if the units are rented, the landlords presumably fit out the homes accordingly.

It just struck me as a sad lack of originality or choice: you live in this sort of place, you will have this furniture, set out this way. Not that I should be surprised – I’ve seen far worse in terms of oversized lighting. I’m not the only person in Hong Kong who lives without a dining table/chandelier, but maybe the only one who indulges in voyeurism of the piano-class-attending-kids caste.

Meanwhile, strolling around Western and Wanchai, we see more District Council election candidates successfully if inadvertently portraying themselves as part of the grassroots community – the chandelier-free world of grimy streets, gloomy doorways and piles of cabbage and cleansing liquids…


As always, we must be careful about judging by appearances. The astoundingly creepy-looking Ng Wing-tak, with his smarmy leer and scary quiff, is in fact some sort of French chef with major Umbrella Movement credentials. That said, generations of fathers’ advice to sons to beware of young ladies with alluring smiles seems as solid as ever.

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