Nothing to sneeze at

This was to be the week of chaos on the buses – the End Time of Hong Kong’s transport network, when striking drivers would leave millions of commuters stranded miles from the office, and the streets would be either totally deserted or jammed solid, according to taste. Instead the industrial action fizzles out, partly because the difference between the labour side’s pay demand and the management’s offer is too tiny to bother with, and partly because “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains” never caught on here, where the existence of rival pro-Beijing and pro-democracy umbrella unions strengthens employers’ hands.

Those of us expecting a great excuse not to go to work for several days are therefore bitterly disappointed. Or at least we would be if we had ever though there was a realistic prospect of labour militancy bringing the Big Lychee to its knees, as envisioned by semi-messianic proletarian spokesmen and an excitable media. The only time within living memory for most of us when daily life seized up in this city was SARS, the 2003 pestilence inflicted on us by official cover-ups on the Mainland, which drove the hordes of tourists away for a couple of months of glorious, peaceful, uncrowded bliss.

Otherwise, it is one disappointment after another. One of the hugest anticlimaxes of recent years officially came to an end just yesterday when we were informed that “The world is no longer in phase six of the pandemic alert.” That was WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, formerly Hong Kong’s Secretary for Health, now Serving the Community on a global scale by ruling over a sprawling bureaucracy that issues dire warnings of swine flu plague that are ignored by most right-thinking governments. Our own leaders, possibly seeing the Chan-led WHO as a sort of extension of Hong Kong’s (or at least the Civil Service’s) ‘soft power’ onto the world stage, took the international organization seriously up to phase four or five or so. But even our own Centre for Health Protection gave up flogging this dead(ish) virus last May. (That said, you can be sure they are still beavering away collecting reams of statistics on the barely noticeable disease, and will be for decades to come. Sorry, no data on the damage caused to people’s lungs by air pollution, because it’s sort of icky, but would you like a non-communicable diseases watch?)

No, that's not GlaxoSmithKline's profits forecast

I may not have been totally awake while brushing my teeth this morning, but I could have sworn that I heard radical medic Dr Lo Wing-lok mischievously suggesting on the radio that the whole swine flu scare was little more than a way to induce authorities around the world into enriching pharmaceutical companies by buying vast quantities of H1N1 vaccine. A scandal? More like a wacky conspiracy theory, surely. The very notion that a former Hong Kong senior civil servant would get herself a post-retirement position in which she could collude with big business at the expense of the public is unthinkably shocking. It was obviously my doziness, or the station’s appalling AM reception. I had to wipe a mouthful of frothy Colgate off the bathroom mirror, so ridiculous was the idea.

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3 Responses to Nothing to sneeze at

  1. Che says:

    You should welcome all stalled revolutionary gestures before the big push. Anything which helps the grand fester is helpful. Hundreds of bus drivers toil in their sweaty compartments for a pittance and the steam rises a notch.

    Another way of looking at things is…that the thesis that Hong Kong people do NOT Deserve Better is proved yet again.

    HK people want rights on a stick, on a roll, as a handout.
    But we all know that rights are never given or deserved, they are demanded, taken and the people denying them – and, importantly for you, the class they serve – are just… shot.

    Viva la revolucion! Vivo Fidel!

  2. The Prodigal Son says:

    How agreeable.

    I was recently explaining to my significant other that Hong Kong is an eminently egalitarian city compared to the sprawling misogyny of Greater Asia: I did so with the intention of assuaging her mother’s misgivings about her daughter being led to the Big Lychee.

    Being from Asian American stock, her mother is aware only of the drudgery of life and oppression of women which was a part of the Korea from which her own mother escaped earlier in the 20th Century. She is therefore understandably squeamish about her beloved daughter being subject to a bona-fide Asian society.

    I shall raise Margaret Chan aloft like my little red book. See! In the Worker’s Paradise, a woman can excel and reach the highest echelons of political superfluity! She can even carve out the same potential earnings from skullduggery and mendacity as a talented male politician!

    Even if Mrs Chan has not availed herself of the munificent teat that is her right as a senior member of a global NGO, she has at least proved that no barrier exists to her exaltation.

  3. Boutros Boutros Ghali says:

    Mrs. Margaret Chan is one of the most dynamic, dedicated and selfless international civil servants I have ever met.

    May I please have my tax-free annual US$500K pension now?

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