Update from Hemlock

Global markets are crashing, London’s in flames and the Syrian regime is slaughtering its own people – or, as its more understanding friends put it, working for inclusive dialogue. Meanwhile, here in our safe Hong Kong home, we are swaddled in goodwill, warmth, affection and even mutual adoration.

Helmut Sohmen, the businessman who married shipping tycoon YK Pao’s daughter and who ranted so much against democracy back in the 1980s (for which, perhaps being Austrian-born, he was largely excused) writes to the Standard with a charming idea: name the exciting but unsightly new multibillion-dollar government palace at Tamar after Sir Bow-Tie.

Critics will dismiss Sohmen’s proposal as a shabby little bit of shoe-shining, but is there not something exquisitely appropriate about it? Of all the overpriced and unnecessary construction projects Donald Tsang has strewn around Hong Kong, one needs to be named for him. We owe it to our grandchildren to immortalize the visionary who spent so lavishly on these curiously peaceful and uncrowded concrete adornments to our city. We could have the Donald Tsang Bridge, gateway to exotic Zhuhai, the distant town of which we know little and care even less. Or the Donald Tsang Express Rail Line, with its empty trains gliding between the West Kowloon Contemporary Cantonese Opera Hub and that Guangzhou suburb we can never remember the name of.

But no. The new government palace it must be. Extravagant in style, occupying an inappropriately prominent position and by all accounts publicly inaccessible: The Donald Tsang Government Centre – a big building for small people trying their best.

Just a stone’s throw away across over the Standard’s daily Sudoku for people who find the Telegraph crossword too hard, the loving awareness that permeates the Big Lychee continues. Sing Tao editor Siu Sai-wo crafts a touching and adulatory column singing the praises of Shirley Yuen, the 17-year-old former civil servant who has just taken over as Chief Executive. Of the HK General Chamber of Commerce, that is.

Malcontents and nitpickers would ask why a business lobby group is appointing a former bureaucrat to its number-two position when it needs to be a stern critic of much government policy if it is to promote the interests of commerce. They might add that the chamber already enjoys strong public-sector links via its chairman Anthony Wu, a big friend of Donald and a sitter on numerous government, quasi-government and pro-government committees and boards. Luckily, the Sing Tao Group’s mission in the world is to banish such negativism and surround us with tenderness and nice thoughts. The fewer people running the chamber of commerce who have any real business experience, the sweeter and calmer life will be for us all.

And, as the ever-vivacious Administrative Officer Winky Ip will confirm, more than a few of the more fragile and sensitive AOs are fleeing the civil service these days in search of calmer climes where no Legislative Council committees will eat them alive and no media will mutilate them whatever they do. I think it’s most generous of a chamber of commerce to open its doors to one of these refugees from the cruel world of government.

According to the press release, Shirley was involved in the ‘formulation’ of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA, the so-called free-trade agreement between Hong Kong and the Mainland. In practice, CEPA was a PR gimmick; perhaps it was Shirley who, in conjunction with Mainland officials, drew up a lengthy list of tariff reductions on goods Hong Kong was in no danger of exporting across the border (the highly protected Mainland market obviously couldn’t be opened up to a free port). Harder work than it sounds.

She was also administrative assistant to Henry Tang when he was Financial Secretary. I’m not sure what an administrative assistant does exactly, but I do recall that Henry had an eager young lady working with him at the time who would churn out ‘Lines-to-Take’ – soundbites to talk up government policy when public opinion was too dense to comprehend its wondrousness.

Since I may be wrong, I will confine my thoughts to one that presumably could not have been hers, could it? How can anyone not feel snug, secure and loved on reading such positive, life-affirming bullet points?

Click to hear ‘Government Center’ by the Modern Lovers!



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7 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Joe Blow says:

    In the 80s some people opposed construction of the MTR.
    In the 1880s some people opposed construction of all railways.

    In 2011 some people oppose the rail link to Panyu, sub-urb of Guangzhou.

  2. Probably says:

    If London’s Burning now (cue for obligatory Clash reference) is it going to put on the Hong Kong Travel Black List along with the Phillipines? I fear I can no longer venture to Camden Lock market without fear of being looted by a gang of teenage hoodies.

  3. Real Tax Payer says:

    I just LOVE the idea of naming the new Tamar govt HQ after Sir Donald. I can just think of all the funny nick-names that it will soon attract to recall his true legacy : ” The Duck House”, ” U-Turn Building” , “Bow-Tie Plaza” ( to name just the first few that spring to mind : maybe more as I chuckle on during the day )

  4. Stephen says:

    To name the building after an undeserving ineffectual bureaucrat is wrong. Sir Donald can exit stage right next July confident in the knowledge he did not “Get the job done” – doubtless a seat on one of those ludicrous rubber stamp CCP committees await – Enjoy.
    As for the name, err Tamar would seem appropriate as it’s the name everyone knows the site as.

  5. Vile says:

    This brings to mind the MTRC’s recent smug “sorry for digging the place up and being such a nuisance for the last 30 years” advert, safe in the knowledge that “the digging will go on for a good few decades yet so you may as well get used to it, ha-ha”.

    I still object to the MTR. It’s primarily a catalyst for bad planning, encouraging long-distance commuting leading to separation of residential and commercial districts and basing its roues not on how many people need to get from A to B, but on how big a property development the MTRC can squeeze into A and B.

  6. Joe Blow says:

    Imagine they will call it the SIR Donald etc Building.

    How ironic will that be.

  7. jing says:

    “more and more members of the public” want to see a Legco THAT works

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