Emerging blinking in the daylight after Phase One of Hong Kong’s Winter Hibernations, the still-adjusting eyes glance hazily around the front page of the Standard. The strange thing about tabloids is that you absorb the stories without even trying. Obviously this is deliberate, given that the papers are aimed at readers with limited attention spans. The Shenzhen bus accident is a tragic page-turner, propelled to the front more by the lack of any other news rather than because three Hong Kong residents died. Yet within a second or two all the basic details have leapt into my consciousness, along with an adjoining picture of some sort of berries or seeds encased in translucent dark red pulp and some sort of pinkish fatty cold meat.
Flicking through the following pages, I find myself pondering the inanity of the story on the Y Elites survey of how women post photos on the Internet to win approval from others (or something). Y Elites is a United Front group of the vaguely young, vaguely not-really-elite, which strives to ignite Hong Kong young people’s passion and love for the motherland. On a more zippy, alert and enthusiastic sort of day I would wonder why such an obscure pro-Beijing organization is raising its head at this particular time. But instead, my mind drifts back to the ad photo on the front page. It was pomegranate, clearly, and some sort of salami.
Pomegranates seem to be in season right now. There is even one in my kitchen (they make amazing juice). I remember they were a treat when we were kids. We would eat the juicy flesh and fire the pips straight from our mouths with peashooters without even pausing to think what a miracle of convenience nature had wrought just for sweet-toothed, lightly armed little boys. As for the salami – well, it’s just salami. Actually, the front-page picture next to the bus crash looked a bit more like the little slices of sausage-plastic hybrid you get in a cellophane pack with tonkatsu instant ramen.
The women interviewed by Y Elites in shopping districts are utter bimbos; that seems to be the story. Far more interesting, it is starting to dawn on me, is what a weird juxtaposition that is: pomegranate and sort-of-salami. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I turn back to the Standard’s front cover. It’s ‘fine jewellery’, apparently.
Meanwhile, RTHK reports that National Development and Reform Commission boss Zhang Ping has expressed the hope of closer cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The Standard has it that Zhang Ping praised Chief Executive Donald Tsang for promoting closer cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The government sees things a bit differently, maintaining that Zhang will facilitate cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland.
When stuck for words in the presence of a vast flower arrangement, tacky Great Wall tapestry and the press, ramp up the cooperation, or at least declarations thereof. This must be the eleven thousandth time senior officials from both sides have struck upon the idea. The first time it seemed dazzlingly original and potentially world-changing, but it has faded over the years and decades.
For a while, we heard a lot about ‘cooperating’ over the Lok Ma Chau Loop, a patch of polluted mud on the Hong Kong side of the border but owned by Shenzhen interests. Reading between the lines, it looked like they wanted some sort of cross-border money-laundering zone, though everyone was too polite to say so. Since Shenzhen’s then-mayor fell from grace, we have heard less of it.
Now it is the turn of Qianhai, mentioned in the Hong Kong government press release to assure counterparts across the border that we are oh-so-keen to ‘cooperate’ over the plan to develop an enclave with Hong Kong financial freedoms under Shenzhen officials’ control. Beijing seems to have vetoed the original plans to develop a RMB offshore centre and turn the place into South China’s Manhattan, complete with Hong Kong laws (Hong Kong’s main industry would thenceforth be making pork dumplings). Now, it will be some sort of bonded port – or the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, if you prefer.
Perhaps we should start with something more modest, like some hints on emergency services response. The Shenzhen paramedics took 30 minutes to get to the bus crash, right in the city’s ground transport hub.