The story so far: Financial Secretary John Tsang had always said that handing out the government’s surplus cash to everyone was not possible. More and more people said he was wrong, but for weeks and months he insisted he was right. Then one day, after even many of his best friends had started to call him rude names, he suddenly changed his mind and said everyone who was a permanent resident could have HK$6,000. Then everyone started to say that new immigrants from the Mainland should be entitled to get the money, but he made it clear that this was not possible. And then even the people who had just become best friends with him again went back to calling him rude names. Now read on…
Mainland immigrants who are still not permanent residents of Hong Kong will get the government’s much-celebrated HK$6,000 generous free money gift – but in a different guise. Rather than a straight handout from the treasury, it will come in the form of a grant from the Community Care Fund, the pile of dough extorted from property tycoons last year in an amusing attempt to make them less hated. And it will be means-tested.
The fact is it’s another hideously embarrassing U-turn, albeit on a smaller scale. It looks superficially like a separate charitable donation, but we all know it’s the same deal designed – not without a certain degree of optimism – to save face and avoid making other non-permanent residents jealous. Some poor schmuck has to announce this and pretend it was the result of a serious, independent process, not ordered by Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s panicky bed-wetting administration frantically making it up as it goes along.
Take a bow, Bunny Chan. Stalin’s USSR had people’s hero miner Stakhanov; Mao’s China had self-sacrificing and noble soldier Lei Feng; Sir Bow-Tie’s Big Lychee has Bunny. The difference is that Bunny’s devotion is not stage-managed by the black hands of the propaganda department. He really means it. A glance at his bio reveals devoted service on a plethora of insultingly obscure and irrelevant public bodies, each one a slightly less degrading pat on the head than the previous one. Luring him along this humiliating path are the medals: the humble Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2004, and a Silver in 2009. It’s an upward curve, and for a mere self-made entrepreneur to get the Gold – routinely tossed at billionaire buffoons who inherited a money-printing licence from daddy – it will take some more shoe-shining work yet. But fronting this mass-handout from the government (via an organization not originally intended to make mass-handouts) that is not a mass-handout from the government won’t hurt.
Is anything more shameful than Bunny’s current unhappy task? Oddly enough, something is. We can now expect non-Mainlanders who have not yet qualified for permanent residency to resume their anguished complaints about missing out on the HK$6,000. Most embarrassing of all will be the whining letters to the editor from people with, typically, Anglo-Celtic family names and addresses in moderately pricy neighbourhoods, bemoaning their lack of a six-grand handout – despite being salaries taxpayers – just because they have lived here less than seven years. “Not fair,” they will moan.
I can only shudder at such a faux-pas. What kind of people are willing to admit in public that they are so unaccustomed to even the merest shreds of wealth that the sum means anything to them? Not the sort we want as permanent residents.
What they need to learn, aside from how to avoid being horribly uncool about money, is that most newcomers and migrants to Hong Kong, from Indonesian maids to American investment bankers, come here to better themselves. The poorer Mainlanders who will be getting this HK$6,000, on the other hand, have come here to suffer. After years on a waiting list, they left spacious homes and modest but rising communities to find themselves living in hovels, often with a vile old husband, and fortunate to get a job sanitizing telephones in offices. And there’s no going back. The HK$6,000 is to shut them up. It’s Bunny to the rescue.