Actually, now I think about it, I probably don’t. I just wondered how it would feel to write it. Bandwidth limitations forbid a full inventory of all those I don’t love, but let’s say the list would probably get rather sweeping, to the extent that some ‘different age groups and social classes’ would appear in it about two thirds of the way down, before I started to seriously generalize. The expression of universal amity comes from Executive Council member Leung Chun-ying, who we may conclude is getting a little desperate in his unspoken quest to replace Donald Tsang as Chief Executive of Hong Kong next year.
The Standard’s report suggests that uber-tycoon Li Ka-shing has already openly and unambiguously expressed support for Leung’s nice-but-dim rival Chief Secretary Henry Tang. In fact, Li was replying to a question about a typically silly comment Henry had made about him (young people should stop complaining and seek to emulate the rent-seeking property cartel lynchpin), but the newspaper is displaying some good old-fashioned Hong Kong pragmatism here. The fact that Li mentioned Henry is good enough; this is part of the gradual unfolding, and at some point we will all have come to accept that the equine-visaged scion of a Shanghainese textiles quota fortune is the natural choice for next CE.
This is bad news for poor CY, so he feels a need to make grandiose statements about loving young, old, rich and poor. The sad thing is that, being of relatively humble origins himself and having pushed for a minimum wage and better housing provision, he is a man of the people in comparison with Henry, yet his ardor is unrequited, and the citizens consistently rate him their least favourite of the potential next CEs.
At the other end of the scale we have people whose hearts seem filled with hatred and loathing, and one of the more entertaining – unwittingly, at least – must be the South China Morning Post letter-writer Pierce Lam, last noticed back in April. He is one of a number of contributors to the paper’s letters page whose trenchant, nativist Hong Kong-for-the-Chinese views always provoke a flurry of indignant responses. Lam’s big hang-up is the exalted and privileged position of the English language, and if he tilted his argument slightly he would make good sense.
A big chunk of the Hong Kong population are in effect made second-class citizens because of the importance attached to English. The civil servants, the professionals and the traders all see to it that their children learn in an English-speaking environment and can therefore inherit their political and economic power. The other 90% of the citizenry’s offspring have to make do with the vernacular or quasi-English schooling this same elite designs for them, leaving them largely ineligible from the start ever to be a top bureaucrat, a doctor or an international executive; the most they can aspire to is being a high-flier in insurance sales or a property agency.
Rather than question this elitist set-up and demand better education for the masses, however, Lam picks on the English language – an innocent bystander whose global role was thrust upon it by fate – and demands that it be downgraded in favour of Chinese.
The defensive blather about how five Chinese cities appear in the Globalization and World Cities Network’s list of ‘Alpha cities’ is hardly impressive; over a fifth of the world’s people are Chinese, so they should manage at least eight of the 42 just to be averagely good at creating such urban centres. It is a funny list, in which Manila ranks Beta + and some place called Curitiba gets a mention. It is largely compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the same Beijing-run bureau that comes up with the index that shows Hong Kong to be barely more ‘competitive’ than Shanghai, even though it produces five times as much wealth per capita.
Lam’s argument that China has a long history of cosmopolitanism looks even more desperate, relying on Jacob d’Ancona, a mythical Marco Polo-type figure whose memoirs of China many Western academics believe were faked by British writer David Selbourne. (It’s a bit like the baloney about China discovering America in 1421.) It doesn’t help that Lam describes the 13th Century British Isles as being in the Dark Ages (which, to the extent they even happened, had long since ended) and being inhabited by ‘tribes’ with mutually incomprehensible languages (Cornish and Manx were still around). It was the century that gave the English-speaking people the Magna Carta, which, without getting over-romantic about it, enshrined principles that China’s leaders still resist today.
If Lam is patient, he will find that the English-language’s dominance that he simultaneously denies and hates will decline as technology makes automated and instant interpretation and translation a reality. It will be interesting to see what xenophobic rants he comes up with then – the undeserved preponderance of Arabic numerals, perhaps, or the evil prevalence of the Roman alphabet.
Meanwhile we can only wonder what nastiness he suffered to turn him into such a chauvinist. There are quite a few people who have understandable chips on their shoulders following colonial-era experience of white racism and arrogance, but this seems more personal. My theory is that he tried to get a kid into an English-language school and failed, and so it is a matter of spite: if he can’t have it, no-one else should be allowed to, and it’s garbage anyway, so there.
“A source from the pro-Beijing camp said the one who will be the next chief executive already knows who HE is”.
Does that mean Rita is already ruled out ? No HK Iron Lady ?
I quite agree, Pierce (why use an English name?) almost certainly tried & failed to get his children into ESF. I expect they failed the English competency test that children need to pass to get in. Pierce is now either having to pay a fortune to get his children decent schooling or sadly seeing his children struggle in a local school they were allocated.
It is high time this racist git got pierced through the chink in his armour.
Having been in HK since the days of the bombs in the street in the 60’s it seems obvious this in-need-of-therapy a-hole has been attacking the ESF for several years now, hypocritically using the English language in the letters’ page of the English language SCMP to advise all that HK is a Chinese place and all others should foxtrot over – so does that mean the 300 dialects of Chinese beyond Mandarin and Cantonese should not be in Hong Kong also ? I wonder what the Shanghainese bankers or Chiu Chow tycoons think about that ? Well who needs the Tangka water people and the Hakkas (whole of the NT) anyway.
I speak fluent Cantonese and I have a message for Lam which sounds like ‘delay no more’ for those who understand the vernacular. For those who do not understand Cantonese you are missing out on what the locals say about gweilos and ah cha’s under the presumption that what they mutter would not be understood – and ham gar chan is not a form of burger.
Pierce sounds like one of those Cantonese geezers who walks around in a light coloured suit and bow tie, thinking that it’s a classic classy look, because he once saw a Brit ex-pat dressed that way when he was young and impressionable in the 1960s.
“Look how well I have learned your English!”, Pierce’s subconscious cries, “Yet I still reject* your English culture!”.
* However, not enough to give up his Anglicised first name. It’s important to retain that to distinguish himself from the less educated masses.
The man is like a fundamentalist Christian preacher who rallies against gays, yet pleasures himself to pederast porn. Except Pierce bears his self-loathing fetish a little more openly.
Five “Chinese” cities? I count three…
HK doesn’t really count because it most likely wouldn’t be anything like what it is today if it weren’t for the Brits.
Singapore also doesn’t count, as a place with lots of ethnic Chinese who, like all Chinese outside Greater China I’ve met understand the difference between Chinese ethnicity/culture/nationality (something the Chinese of China I swear will never get their heads around). Multi-racial Singapore, from what I can tell, also uses English as it’s the one language they have in common (reminds me of indiginite Hakka NT friends, where their BBC offspring who never learnt Hakka & Caribbean relatives who never learnt Cantonese, have to use English when everybody gets together at LNY).
Anyone with a hang up about language like Pierce & the others like him writing the SCMP have a real problem & thankfully it’s not shared by the Form 4 dropouts working in the junk yards, the triads selling petrol, the grannies collecting rubbish & all my other neighbors in Tin-&-Tar-Paper-Shack Tsuen – all who genuinely, like myself, accept each other & figure out a way to communicate despite my lousy command of English, Cantonese, Mandarin & Hakka.
Pierce, in all likelihood, is not Cantonese & either he or his ancestors came from somewhere else in China. Mother tongue in my part of HK is Hakka, mother tongue in my girlfriend’s family is two inland dialects. I think it was in the 90s that 3 out of 4 HK ethnically correct residents were either mainlanders or descendants of immigrant mainlanders – makes this mother tongue stuff a right load of bollocks, IMHO.
For a people who make such a big deal about their history & culture, it never ceases to amaze me how they all throw away an important part of what makes them who they are (those BBCs never learn Hakka, my girlfriend can’t really function in any of her family’s mother tongues). There is nothing better than ripping into these people about that – especially when it comes from a foreign devil & you can accuse them of “slapping themselves in the mouth”.
With respect, Hemlock, I think you’ve simplified matters a little. The perceived threat to people who wish to reduce the role of English in Hong Kong is not only the language itself, but the values it embodies. In other words, the identity of Hong Kong is at stake: should it draw inspiration from places outside China?
As PhB says, it’s the confusion between skin colour and nationality that is at the root of many of these problems. To acquire Chinese nationality, it’s very useful to look more or less Chinese; the national government treats ethnic Chinese worldwide differently from the rest; a Chinese can rarely be a “foreigner”; and few of these preconceptions are “reciprocable” ie nobody objects to the concept of a BBC, but few accept the existence of CBBs or CBAs.
Mothertongues have never survived as living languages in the face of supply and demand. I suspect that’s a more important component of declining standards of English in Hong Kong and a certain improvement in quantity (if not quality) of Mandarin. The Big Lychee seems to be slowly becoming less international and more integrated with the motherland. I’m sure if Henry is anointed by the Party he will follow his predecessors and do his bit to get us out of that “top cities” list.
Speaking of confusing nationality PD, while I was watching the Manila tour bus incident unfolding live on the telly, I wondered if they were all really HK people.
CCTV’s live coverage referred to them as Chinese nationals, but five who were killed were Canadian.
China is one of those countries that doesn’t recognize dual nationality. It is against the law.
How many thousands of HK’s ethnically superior people are criminals because they didn’t renounce one of their nationalities when they returned from Canada/Australia/where ever with a “passport”?
They shouldn’t even have BNOs. Say, does anyone remember the BNOs traveling in South Africa a while back who got in a bit of a pickle & SCMP reported the Chinese consulate was the one who assisted them?
Will the Chinese consulate help me – also a BNO? Somehow I doubt it.
Vile: I can remember when locals wouldn’t be caught dead speaking “guo yiu”. Boy, what a change!
I can remember a when walking on the streets of HK was a game of hop scotch, dodging all the gobbets of phlegm. Now we look down on the Mainlanders for their hawking and spitting habits. How quickly we forget.