A good weekend for Hong Kong’s Filipino community, as the city’s fervent interest in international relations finally switches away from the Manila tourist bus massacre to Devil-Country Japan’s occupation of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands and arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain. Protestors numbering well into the dozens mounted a semi-invasion of Exchange Square, where the Land of the Rising Sun has its consulate. Hoping to avoid police, veteran activist Tsang Kin-shing, ‘The Bull’, clambered up the flower bed between the waterfall and the escalator leading into the office block’s atrium. I have always wanted to do that.
As my contribution to the glorious motherland’s quest for the Tokyo-administered territory, I can offer a little-known bit of trivia: the Japanese phrase ‘Senkaku’ is merely a translation of the English title bestowed on the place by a British naval ship on island-naming patrol back in the 19th Century – the Pinnacle Islands. This adoption of outsiders’ styling surely weakens Japan’s claims to long and historic ties to the region (though their case seems to rely mainly on more recent administration of the area, as in “We already run it so what are you talking about and please go away”).
Meanwhile, unknown to most of our 7 million people, the Big Lychee is being dragged into a political struggle in the United States: the Pennsylvania US Senate fight between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democrat challenger Congressman Joe ‘when I was a navy admiral’ Sestak. Unlike his counterpart in the Delaware race, Sarah Palin-lookalike, anti-masturbation Tea Partyist Christine O’Donnell, Toomey is a staunch establishment-style figure who did not practice witchcraft in high school. With the polls showing Toomey a good 9-10 points ahead, the Democrats need to dig up some dirt on him.
Enter Hong Kong into the picture. Toomey made his fortune in investment banking on Wall Street, which is bad enough at a time when people are blaming financiers of any stripe for the ongoing collapse of civilization. What’s more, he also worked overseas – a perverse and disturbing thing to do in the eyes of many Americans (though more typically ones who vote Republican). Sestak denounces him thus:
Look when he was in Hong Kong, working for a Hong Kong billionaire, he actually worked on those currency swaps that helped China keep down over the years those, the, the value of, of the, the [yuan].
Other detractors claim that Toomey “helped a billionaire anti-democracy Chinese nationalist with a project on capital markets.” Cooler heads say it was capital markets not currency swaps, but either way, witchcraft pales into insignificance.
I can never hear the expression ‘billionaire anti-democracy Chinese nationalist’ without thinking immediately of the cherubic visage of Ronnie Chan, the man who inherited Hang Lung Properties from daddy and massively reduced its local market share, and who was a director of Enron. And it is indeed Chan for whom Toomey worked.
The wit and wisdom of Ronnie Chan… To be fair, Ronnie is quite amusing to meet (unless perhaps you are one of the disadvantaged youths he is rumoured to try saving for Jesus on the streets at night). But Google around a bit, and you will find many a quote that Toomey would prefer not to be associated with. Why democracy is a bad thing, and why the Western world is a failure. (One of my favourite Ronnie-isms, though probably of little interest to voters in the Keystone State: “The good thing about Confucianism is it makes Asian people willing to suffer pain.”) And there is the simple fact that Ronnie is a bumptious, annoying, name-dropping little buffoon.
It might also be an idea to lay out how he came to be a billionaire, namely by exploiting a corrupt-but-legal land system to suck the wealth out of the pockets of value-creating working people in his home city. That sort of thing must resonate among mortgage-strangled rustbelters. With opportunities to cast guilt by association like that, how can the Pennsylvania Democrats fail?
So that’s Diaoyutai saved for China and a Senate seat for Obama, and it’s not even lunchtime.