A week at the theatre

As the last injured victim is flown back to civilization (Tuen Mun Hospital, to be precise), Hong Kong’s Manila bus hijacking drama enters its third act. After ‘Shock and Horror’ and ‘Righteous Outrage’, we now watch the curtain rise on ‘Squeezing it for all it’s worth’, where the plot goes unashamedly down-market and commercial.

The administration of Donald Tsang has had a good crisis. For a while on Tuesday and Wednesday it was visibly displaying leadership, making decisions without pausing to worry about stakeholders, win-wins or consensus. Now it is returning to form, arguably overdoing the public mourning for fear of appearing uncaring, and taking the opportunity to push the tired and deluded message of harmony/pulling together/strength in adversity that for a dozen years has failed to divert attention from the city’s real problems.

In Beijing – where the shooting of tourists, poisoning of babies or deaths of miners are seen in terms of maintaining Communist Party control – the government has balanced the desire to appear concerned and assertive with the need to keep nationalistic sentiment at reasonable levels. China’s emissaries in the Big Lychee have maintained a high, grief-stricken profile at all the right times, even if the performance is as cold and wooden as always.

Jostling with them for limelight are our political parties (even the unloved and unlovable Liberals with their black protest signs), always eager to score populist points and never more amateurish than when dealing with international affairs. The League of Social Democrats, scourge of national and local administrations, is in its element with a third evil government to denounce.

Of all the people making full use of the tragedy in Manila, none wants to prolong the grief and tears as much as the media. The SARS outbreak, the nearest recent trauma to this, offered plenty of opportunities to exploit nearly every emotional angle: fear, self-pity, heroism and – with nearly 300 deaths – anguish. But not blame. The fault in 2003 lay squarely with Mainland officials who covered up the disease, and it wasn’t polite to point this out. This time, they can point the finger loudly and angrily at a tin-pot police force in a country full of brown people, on behalf of Hong Kong victims in dangerous foreign parts, and you can be sure they will. They must be starting to worry about what they’ll have to print next week.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A week at the theatre

  1. Bullspotter says:

    Donald’s black bow tie was the best bit. Even when he is in public sham vainglorious mourning, his infantile vanity stays put. He looked as if he was going out to dinner. Haha.

  2. Norbert Dentressangle Jr says:

    Blinkin’ ‘eck Hemmers.

    You’re still banging on about the Manila bus f**k up.

    You need to hit the reset button. I prescribe a weekend in Macua.

    Now off you go.

  3. Gerald Simmonds says:

    Can’t find Macua anywhere on the map

  4. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    For some reason, statements by Chinese organisations in English using “strongly condemn” never contain an explicit subject. Presumably it’s “[We] strongly condemn”, but for some reason it’s almost always omitted.

    Strongly condemn this practice.

  5. Doctor Dyslexic says:

    TFF, I read the Liberal Party Banner as saying “Complete disregard for lives strongly condemns the Philippine Government!”

    Perhaps the poster should have commenced “The Liberal Party strongly condemns …”, but some wag (correctly) thought that replacing “The Liberal Party” with “Complete disregard for lives” made absolutely no difference to it.

  6. Carol V. says:



  7. Bill Blass says:

    Well spotted, Bullspotter. I agree.

    As Little Donald climbed the greasy civil service pole under the Brits, the puppy-like bow tie helped him stand out amongst all the other eager shoe-shiners.

    As he became known to the general public, the bow tie became his “trademark”, as he sees it, and sort of like Zha Zha Gabor’s feather boa, he now feels that his adoring public expect and demand it, even to the extent that his vanity dictates that he wear it to a funeral. Pathetic.

  8. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    To be fair to the man – had he worn anything but a bow tie, the HK media would have made that front page news, turning him into the story and resulting in such cynics as ourselves to criticise his attention seeking.

  9. passable says:

    R Singson’s criminal charge has been amended from Trafficking (mandatory 4 to 6) to Possession ((fine or discretionary term) by the HK Govt Lab discovering that it wasn’t 26.1 grammes at all: it was only 6.1 grammes after all.

  10. TG says:

    It appears to be HK’s ‘Diana’ moment of city-wide emotional release, but we didn’t see this for the 7 separate Chinese men who hacked children to death in 7 separate schools this year alone in China. Yet both situations involved single, rogue disturbed individuals.

    This week, I have heard of 3 helpers who have been fired, another Filipino lady pushed in a supermarket and have had a Chinese friend become horribly racist.

    Every column inch of opinion and analysis is redundant, as the only conclusion to be drawn from this all is “Manila-police-lacked-training-and-gear”, nothing more. Sunday’s protest was equally childish and unnecessary and it will only whip up more anger.

    Meanwhile, millions have been affected and killed in Pakistan, though presumably they were born in the wrong postcode?

  11. S. Li says:

    I don”t agree that the protest is childish.
    It shows that Chinese here in HK do something to express their anger, instead of remaining completely silent. It also serves as an emotional catharsis for the masses.
    Anger is unavoidable, though it usually stays inside the hearts of many people. If some member of a family does something terribly bad, it is natural that the neighbours would view this family, all its members, with a little prejudice. This is normal human reaction. The protest also puts a little, however little, pressure on the incompetent Fillipino government to take the matter seriously, not like their president, whose smile is really repuslive and insulting.
    What has happened in Pakistan is mainly a natural disaster, that may have been unavoidable, but what happened in Manila is all human doing.Why always compare this with Pakistan ?

  12. TG says:

    Ok S.Li – why not compare it with the mainland school killings then – why no ‘protests’ then? Both involved murderous madmen… This so-called ‘anger’ is manufactured, it is a sociological phenomenon known as Mourning Sickness, cynically nurtured by a sensationalist press. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning_sickness
    A week later now and yet more unnecessary analysis in today’s Standard which printed a full transcript of the perpetrator’s dialogue. It needs to stop before it descends further into a racist farce.

  13. S. Li says:

    My anger is certainly not ” manufactured “, nor that of my friends.
    We ( myself and my friends, and I am sure many other s ) would have been just as shocked and angered if the killer was an ethnic Chinese. This is no “racist farce.”
    Everyone would be infuriated by senseless killings, but in this Manila case, the incompetence of the Manila police is especially infuriating, as had they done their job properly the killings might have been prevented.
    Were the authorities involved in the mainland school killings ? They were, in this Manila case.

  14. TG says:

    So the slaughter of school children on 7 separate occasions this year in China is not worthy of similar mass mourning/anger/agonising, as the police did their jobs splendidly? I see.

    It’s for the Philippines to conduct an internal investigation. And bear in mind it’s a developing country, billions of dollars in debt, with a large proportion of its populace living under the poverty line. You can’t expect a poor state which struggles to provide life’s very basics to its citizens to have an elite crack-team of SWAT commandos. So what comes of all this redundant analysis and mourning-by-proxy? Are we going to start funding and training a foreign country’s police force?

    The voyeuristic, collective outpouring mostly relates to HK’s own emotional needs rather than any real empathy with the victims, whom most of us had never even met… If you claim the key element was the failure of the authorities, why no similar protests, black ribbons and weeping for the Nepalese fellow wrongly gunned down by an HK officer? There are 100s of similar local, national and global examples of lone madmen killing innocents or police failures, but it appears our compassion is selective. The reason being that it was whipped up by the media. Who benefits? The press themselves, diversion-hungry politicians and cynical companies advertising their ‘condolences’ (alongside their prominent logos) to name a few. As it continues day-after-day, it’s descending into overt racism (e.g. http://www.zonaeuropa.com/201008a.brief.htm#055)

    Such frenzies “gratification derived from a tenuous connection to the misfortunes of others; the gratuitous indulgence of tangential association with tragedy; getting off on really bad news”, so says Robert Yates, assistant editor for The Observer.

  15. Vile Traveller says:

    Nothing like a good moral panic.

  16. S. Li says:

    What are HK”s ” emotional needs ” ? Are they different from other places ?
    I agree with you that compassion can be ” selective “, just as one will be more concerned if something happens to people of his country than somewhere else. If not, then you are , in my opinion, a really good person, or a philosopher.
    I”ll not make any more comments on this matter.

Comments are closed.