Hong Kong officials were shocked two months ago when they proposed taking around HK$14 billion of the public’s money and chucking it down the toilet. Rather than responding with the meek acquiescence the bureaucrats realistically expected – or the lavish and adoring praise they secretly hoped for – the people insisted on finding fault with the idea.
If we look at the plan in detail and in context we can see that the popular opposition was not simply due to perceived waste of a relatively trifling sum of cash. What the government was suggesting was that it chuck HK$14 billion down the toilet (along with a further HK$30 billion already earmarked for being flushed away so it doesn’t count), and in return the Big Lychee would be inundated for several weeks in 2023 with even bigger-than-usual hordes of tourists coming to watch slightly dim but fit men and women from across Asia run around and throw things.
Looking on the bright side, we might all be dead in 2023. But Hongkongers in this day and age focus on the negative. They could think of better things to do with money than host the Asian Games. They doubted the government’s claim that the event would turn us into avid sportsmen or boost social cohesion. Some pointed out that the city is too crowded already, while others saw a plot to channel their wealth into the pockets of officials’ rich tycoon friends. Even the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment Etc of Hong Kong, a local front for the Chinese Communist Party under orders to obey Beijing’s appointed rulers at all times, opposed the idea.
Some of us looked at the government’s consultation paper and wondered whether the whole thing was just a joke to humour the Velodrome lobby, a tiny group of self-appointed sports heroes who think a city where the average family has 400 square feet of living space should devote sprawling acres of land for feeble-minded athletic pastimes. In other words, the proposal wasn’t intended to be taken seriously. If this was the case, the cunning bureaucrats are doing a good job of pretending to be promoting the project by now producing a counter-proposal: we’ll halve the amount we chuck down the pan, OK?
The Standard’s headline calls this a bid to meet the public halfway. But of course it isn’t. To genuinely reduce by 50% the gap between what the citizens wish for and what their apparently Martian overlords want, we must go further. We must halve the other HK$30 billion already earmarked to be chucked down the toilet. We must halve the number of cyclists, Wushu-ists and muscular, steroid-addled chess-players attending the mass bore-fest. And, not least – not least by a world-record-breaking throw of a javelin – we must reduce the number of pestilential tourists clogging up our streets, polluting our air, driving rents sky-high, and just generally being here.
In sum: the government wants a pile of poo 100 yards high; the people say they don’t want a pile of poo; the government gives in, screams “Consensus City!” and creates a pile of poo 50 yards high. Hong Kong democracy in action.