“Combined with state contracts, loans, and grants for the more fortunate among the well-to-do Parliamentarians, and with the profits made from money-lending and land speculation, the system … helped to widen the gap between rich and poor, and to exacerbate relations between landed and moneyed men.” Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714
The violent overthrow of Britain’s semi-feudal system in the 1640s, and its replacement after the glorious revolution of 1688 with constitutional rule by nice, decent people like us, will not be repeated in the Big Lychee. One reason is that, as the above passage reminds us, in England the interests of aristocrats who lived off land were at odds with the interests of merchants who lived off trade. In Hong Kong, they are the same people. To say they have reconciled any possible conflicts between these two highly esteemed of our various sectors would be putting it mildly.
Another reason is that Britain’s civil wars, religious persecution, decapitation of a king, Puritan dictatorship that banned Christmas, bloody restoration and ultimate ejection of a secretly pro-French/Papist monarchy all suggest a certain absence of harmony. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, we have the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.
The details in the Standard are cruelly buried under a mutual exchange of platitudes between Hong Kong and mainland officials, but the CGCC plans to mark the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by dispensing coupons for cheap meals to thousands of the Big Lychee’s poor and hungry. Cynics will scoff. How, they will ask, can such petty, patronizing and facile gestures by a few wealthy men address the misery, injustice and inequality inevitably driving our restless millions to riot and rebellion? But, unlike their British forbears, our plutocrats and oligarchs – mindful perhaps of the rise of the Communist Party to which they today pay fealty – understand how the underclass think. Nothing is being left to chance. The ragged penniless hordes won’t be hit for extras like tea and sauce. We can all sleep at night. Peace still reigns throughout the land.