I am indebted to Me-Hugh for alerting me to what must be one of the finest moments in the history of Hong Kong government-media cooperation: the Commercial Radio/Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau/Education Bureau Basic Law Rap Competition.
In case anyone is wondering what Basic Law Rap is, the site offers a sample (warning to the frail and hungover: alarmingly sudden and loud intro) and the backing track for you to chant along to. The inevitable Wiki-something website on how to write rap lyrics offers such insightful advice as “Get a good book on writing lyrics, get some ideas from those,” and “If you ever have songwriters’ block, listening to a couple of rap tunes can help give you fresh ideas.” I would suggest iambic pentameter and plenty of references to hookers and sex and degenerate living and music (like Byron: “Few earthly things found favour in his sight / Save concubines and carnal companie / And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.”)
The competition is a tie-in with a forthcoming Basic Law Carnival in Kowloon Park (with Ella Koon, Vangie Tang and Juno Mak, afternoon of December 19, be there) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. For an idea of the socially awkward, contrived and aesthetically repellant nature of such extravaganzas, relish photos of the recent Basic Law Roving Show.
Is this a worthwhile use of taxpayers’ money? Something tells me that this embarrassing charade will prompt far more cynicism and mockery than respect for the Big Lychee’s founding document, so it’s in the eye of the beholder. Thoughtful pro-Beijing folk might grumble that it is a treacherous use of public funds.
Part of the problem is that the Basic Law has already been sufficiently abused by its own promulgator – the Central People’s Government – that it is hard to take fully seriously. Inconveniences, like a clause giving right of abode to an unexpectedly large number of people, or wording requiring a displaced Chief Executive’s replacement to assume office with a new five-year term, have been ‘interpreted’ into nonsense by the standing committee of the nation’s rubber-stamp legislature. A supposedly vital duty on this city to pass national security laws (Article 23) lies ignored a full 13 years after the handover, becoming simultaneously more pointless and symbolically loaded with passing time.
The organizers probably have mixed agendas. Commercial Radio obviously sees an opportunity to shoeshine Beijing and present itself as patriotic and trustworthy, which no doubt helps – or is perceived to help – any Mainland business its directors are involved in. And it doesn’t irritate the public as much as when the station accepted HK$500,000 from the DAB party to broadcast de-facto, prohibited political advertising.
For the schools bureaucrats, it’s a way to tick a box called ‘national education’, which aims to turn the offspring of (the offspring of) Chinese who fled Communism for foreign rule into proud sons of the yellow emperor. It also gives low-level officials something to do: it’s hard work designing all those ugly, childish, pastel-coloured backdrops and arranging the trucks to pick them up and drop them off. For the Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Bureau, it’s probably similar, but with a more serious look on its face.
What will the kids and others who attend make of it? The chances are that most of them will be from the more patriotic parts of the community, and will play the part of dutifully indoctrinated, obedient and malleable youth as convincingly as they can. However profuse their love for the motherland and the Party might be, however, it’s hard to imagine them not being insulted by the condescension and insincerity of it all. Tycoons with vested interests, pop stars whose owners have the same, British-trained bureaucrats going through the motions – all pretending to be taking it seriously, but too bored, unimaginative and out of touch to come up with something more convincing than a sanitized, clean-cut, Canto, yo-slap-dat-bitch-mofucker rap competition. If a true adherent to the Communist Church like Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-shing turns up, the contrast will make the whole thing look even more pitiful.
It sounds potentially unmissable.