It’s as if the Gods of News have all fallen ill or maybe gone on strike. Developing stories have been abandoned to sag and fall in on themselves, like mushy, failed soufflés. The meticulously intertwined threads of current events have been left to loosen and come apart like strands of DNA in a diseased cell. The tide in the affairs of man has mysteriously failed, leaving the waters still and stagnant. That sort of thing.
To no-one’s great surprise, a court declares that the signatures on the will leaving late tycoon Nina Wang’s entire estate to grinning feng-shui toy-boy Tony Chan Chun-chuen were forgeries. The tax officials are circling around Chan like vultures, and his new hairstyle seems to have been designed to save the Correctional Services Department the bother of doing it.
But the saga is unresolved and unsatisfying. The towering pile of unctuous audacity that is Tony Chan* is perhaps looking for a new lawyer to appeal the ruling. We have no idea how much the estate is worth (HK$10 billion? HK$100 billion?). The charity Nina’s family want the money for is a cipher of a chimera of a known unknown. And then we have what the Standard calls ‘flamboyant’ property tycoon Cecil Chao congratulating the family, and reminding us that Wang’s fortune was simply shoveled into her lap courtesy of the Hong Kong government’s high land-price policy, at the expense of the city’s home-dwellers.
Similarly, to no-one’s surprise at all, the Democratic Alliance for the Blah-Blah of Hong Kong has ‘decided’, after putting on a show of not instantly obeying orders from Beijing, to boycott the forthcoming by-election. Again, this is a non-story. Where is the crunchy, chewy substance here? The only prospect of a worthwhile sound-bite comes from the mainland officials with their mental hair-triggers poised to detonate an explosion of mouth-frothing, screeching rage at any moment about how referendums that aren’t taking place are forbidden by Basic Law clauses that apparently don’t exist.
Other than that, it has all the makings of a big flop. The government and its supporters are mumbling words that sound vaguely similar to Beijing’s about how the pro-democrats’ actions are sort of, well, un- (da-dee-da) -consti- (dum-dee-dum) -tutional. Legislator Emily Lau will ask the increasingly tragic Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam today (Item 5) to make it clear. “Spit it out, you smarmy, weasel-faced, born-again dog-dropping,” she’ll scream – “legal or illegal?”
The pro-democrats who have resigned from the Legislative Council would, if they had an ounce of wit, produce handcuffs at a press conference and dare the authorities to arrest them or shut up. If they had half a pound of wit, they would declare the by-elections to be nothing other than (say) a vote on the property tycoons. If you think they’re evil exploitative scumbags undermining our economy and society – come out and vote (for any candidate!). If you think they’re upstanding pillars of the community creating jobs and prosperity – stay at home. But that would be too simple, too attention-grabbing and too irresistible. We can’t have that.
Then, a final, depressing, lumpy, grey mass of gruel-like reportage: sex-offenders name-shame background checks shock trauma outrage horror!!! You’ve read the story everywhere else on the planet, now it’s our turn. My eyes glaze over. I suppose I should read the article, but just a quick skim is all I can bear. I don’t have kids. I don’t molest kids. I have no idea whether the sex-beast phenomenon is an ever-present evil, a recently erupted threat due to plastics in the food chain, or a big scare created by the media. I am fairly certain that, if someone is a danger to anyone else, they should be locked up, and if they’re not, they shouldn’t be – in which case they should not have any past crime tattooed on their forehead, be fire-bombed or be used for modern-day bear-baiting.
I don’t hire people for childcare positions, so I am clueless. But is a workplace or neighbourhood safer accommodating an ex-offender with a criminal record for burglary, or knifing old ladies for spare change, or pyromania, or racist murder? For any of them: if they’re still a threat to us, put them back in detention.
The Gods of News are helpless with this one. It is, if my skimming is correct, a modest scheme to enable various people to check various things about various other people in a well-intentioned attempt to reduce an unquantifiable risk of something bad or maybe very bad, but in such a way that nothing serious will happen as a result in practice, give or take a small mountain of paperwork. Maybe that’s reading too much into it.
The South China Morning Post mentions that background checks will include foreign workers, such as Southeast Asian maids who look after people’s kids. So every middle-class Hong Kong family will be trying to contact whatever authorities exist in some dirt-track village in Indonesia to ask if the 23-year-old girl they’ve just hired is a weenie-wiggler. There might just be a news story there.
*Yes, I would have serviced the old girl for a few million bucks a time, too – no-one’s saying they wouldn’t have.