29 June-5 July, 2008
|Mon, 30 Jun
The week gets off to a disappointing start. Where is the anguished wailing? The upsurge in suicides? The accusations of betrayal? There was a time when the news that Shanghai was definitely going to open a Disneyland would have caused uproar in Hong Kong. It would have been seen as the final nail in the city’s coffin and evidence of Beijing’s post-1997 master plan to deliberately run down the barbarian-influenced excrescence and replace it with Jiang Zemin’s favourite city. It would have been the ultimate terror – the denial of a monopoly. How can we survive if someone else in China has a Disneyland? It would have been such a travesty of justice that we would have been tearing our hair out and throwing our children from the window, while senior Government officials with petrified, staring eyes would run round in circles flapping their hands and shrieking how the glorious motherland loves us really and everything would be alright.
Yet Xinhua’s report that the world’s finest employer is to set up one of its tasteful theme parks in Pudong goes almost unnoticed. With 10 times as many thought-provoking performances, 10 times as many highly informative rides and 10 times as many immaculately groomed flower beds for children to pee on, it will surely erase whatever business Penny’s Bay is attracting. Maybe the most ragged and starving of Shenzhen’s street sleepers who lack the funds to get up to Shanghai will still come here, but that will be it, and they bring their own food.
It is even more puzzling given that Hongkongers tend to be at their most self-pitying and tragically helpless when it rains too much. One example I encounter this morning is that I have to reach out over the shoulders of grown, fit adults to help them shove open the slightly heavy doors leading into and out of IFC Mall. It’s the ennui and despair of the summer monsoon – one hiss of “just push it, you half-witted bitch,” and they would break down in uncontrollable sobbing and slash their wrists on the spot. Maybe people are too preoccupied with other things. Perhaps they are wondering why vehicles’ brakes fail on the steep, downhill Garden Road but not on flat streets like Queens Road. Or maybe they are daring to imagine how cynically tacky the upcoming Legislative Council members’ trip to the Sichuan earthquake zone will be – some pro-democracy politicians may go, but only patriots will be allowed to hug orphans for the cameras. Or maybe no-one believes Xinhua.
|Wed, 2 Jul
The morning starts with fragrant Central and Western District Council member Tanya Chan and a gang of thuggish-looking Civic Party workers on the Mid-Levels Escalator in Staunton Street, jostling with distributors of free newspapers to thrust leaflets into middle-class commuters’ hands. She is running in the Legislative Council election on 7 September – a mere… 10 weeks away. A serious surfeit of vaguely electable wannabe politicians will be taking part in this race, so there will be some tears by the time the thing is over. In other words, it will be far more interesting than the 1 July Anti-Whatever March, which continues to attract fewer people every year – 47,000 or 15,000 yesterday, according to taste. The first one, according to the Good Book’s account at least, was quite memorable, both as something to do on a day off and for its subsequent impact. If the marches had stopped once Tung Chee-hwa had stood down, an eloquent point would have been made.
A much larger procession is that of new Justices of the Peace. The token gwailo in the list, Martin Wheatley, is CEO of the Securities & Futures Commission. The token guy-with-a-Pinyin-name is He Guangbei, boss of the local Bank of China operation. No brown person gets the honour this time, which is odd, as they usually get one in leap years. Silliest name on the list is possibly Hendena – as in Hendena Yu, boss at the Mandatory Provident Fund – which sounds like some sort of hair dye popular among Arab women. Another name that not exactly leaps out but is hard to miss for its ponderousness is Ms Shirley Marie Therese Loo. Like Ronald Arculli, Scarlett Pong, Ronald Arculli, Bunny Chan, Ronald Arculli and Philemon Choi, she is one of those all-purpose appointees who pack out the Government’s numerous advisory committees, offer the silent advice Donald wants and enjoy being patted on the head with Bronze Bauhinia Stars and similar baubles. This is the road not taken by Tanya.
As with fellow Anti Youth Sex League member Philemon, her big thing is the propagation of Bible-bashing morality among our young people. (Has anyone told our Central People’s Government up in Beijing that born-again Christians are taking this city over? I can’t believe the Chinese Communist Party ever intended post-colonial Hong Kong to be hijacked by Evangelicals.) As holders of the office created by England’s Edward III in the 1320s (does Beijing know about that too?) the new JPs will have the right to visit prisons to check inmates’ treatment. It is hard to imagine Messrs Wheatley or He doing this, but with the fun-sounding Post-Release Supervision Board being among her many interfering busybody hobbies, Shirley Marie Therese will no doubt be barging into the cells handing out Gospel tracts. Those poor convicts.
|Rogues gallery, right, top to bottom – Scarlett, Bunny, Philemon, Shirley Marie Therese (or at least a prominent Christian youth moralist do-gooder with the same Chinese name)|
|Thurs, 3 July
Hong Kong people tend not to be vegetarian because they are more self-centred than Westerners, according to a renowned expert on dietary culture (and perhaps racist, like that noted abstainer from meat, Adolf Hitler). This reminds me of a dinner some time ago at the home of wild American friend Odell and his Thai wife Mee, with a visitor from the UK called Derek. On the table was the meal Mee had prepared – chicken curry with bamboo shoot, squid salad, greens with tofu, hot and sour eggplant and squash soup, and steamed rice. It was the sort of spread that makes marriage look like a good idea.
|As we passed round the rice, Derek cleared his throat. “Excuse me everyone, but there’s something I need to tell you.” We stopped talking and looked at him. “You see… well, I’m more moral than the rest of you and I don’t eat dead animals. Therefore, I can’t eat that or that.” He pointed at the salad and the curry. “I can only eat the soup, and the tofu with vegetables.” Odell, who can never resist an opportunity to make trouble even if it means telling a blatant lie, said that the soup was based on chicken stock. “Then I can only eat the tofu with vegetables,” the anaemic and boorish Brit replied. “I have no choice – my ethical standards are higher than yours. Naturally, as I am unable to eat the rest, I will have to keep all the tofu and vegetables to myself. No-one else can have any.”
Hong Kong having made us more self-centred than typical Westerners, we naturally dragged him outside and beat him to death with a pangolin.
|Fri, 4 July
It hardly seems a year ago that former senior officials Anson Chan and Regina Ip fought each other for a Legislative Council seat. That’s probably because it was seven months back. Barely have the British-trained, bureaucratic claws been retracted and the clumps of bloody fur swept away, than the two ladies are going to be at it again. At least according to the Standard. Some observers have pondered the possibility of Dame Conscience not running, but if it’s good enough for Asia’s leading free English newspaper, it’s good enough for me.
This time, Regina might have seen fit to at least halfway follow my image advice and stop being ‘the pro-Beijinger democrats might vote for’ and become ‘the pro-democrat patriots might elect’. The logic rests on the demographics of Hong Kong Island and the peculiarities of our very wonderful method of proportional representation, ‘the list voting system operating under the largest remainder formula’. So the one-time much-hated Security Secretary appears to be teaming up with one of her endorsers from last year, Louis Shih, who is connected with SynergyNet – a rational, professional and non-alarming group of vaguely pro-democracy people in spectacles who have come together to form a sort of think-tank-type thing, the exciting nature of which can most eloquently be explained in graphic form…
|By associating herself with these salons-and-orange-papers folk, Regina looks that little bit more sincere when she claims she supports democracy, while still of course being the jack-booted Iron Butterfly of Article 23 National Security Law fame that she must be to win the much-underestimated middle-of-the-road leather-and-chains constituency that went for Rita Fan. If the Standard is right, two clear pro-democracy factions will also run – Anson plus a buddy, and the Civic Party’s Tanya et al. The Democratic Alliance for the Blah-Blah of HK will try to find someone not too grim-looking for the Island’s small population of patriotic elderly and illiterate to elect. There is talk of Choi So-yuk running independently, which would pull the Fujianese North Point vote away and raise the possibility of no mainstream pro-Beijing candidate winning on the Island, but the powers of darkness in the Liaison Office will presumably prevent that. Then there will be the fringe groups, mentally diseased and so on, like the terminally ill Democratic Party. Six seats are up for grabs.
It is ironic that the voting system was designed, back in the days when Martin Lee and friends won elections by landslides, to suppress the representation of the Democratic Party. Today, voting for pro-Beijing candidates has become more socially acceptable, and, as Regina is cannily showing, the very definition of a patriotic camp member is more nebulous. The proportional list arrangement, along with fights among multiple, overlapping factions, introduces an almost-random element into elections. There is no reason why Regina – neither fish nor fowl, in a sort of wolfish sheep’s clothing – won’t be in Legco come September.
Dymocks, IFC Mall
& other HK Dymocks
(some, probably, maybe)
Hong Kong & worldwide
USA & worldwide