The news on the radio this morning suggested that Iran is modifying its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz. This is obviously a Good Thing, though there is a nasty and sordid voice within me wondering what I could sell oil shares for if it happened, and lamenting a lost chance to see the regime in Tehran getting a good thumping. (Chances are that they can’t do it anyway.) In a similar vein, we all politely hope that Hong Kong’s latest pesky pestilence problem will be just a brief snag, both easy to explain and to fix. Decency and good taste require us not to drool over the tantalizing possibility that it is the tip of a huge scandal.
Legionnaire’s Disease has been found not just in Education Secretary Michael Suen’s washroom at the lavish new Government Headquarters in Tamar; it’s in the East Wing, the West Wing, the Legislative Council building sitting symbolically in the shadow of the giant white elephant, and it’s in the boxy little structure opposite. The HK$5 billion complex is riddled with the deadly disease.
There are probably various humdrum explanations as to how the bug managed to move into, spread around and make itself at home in the barely opened monument to fiscal waste and official vanity. The bacterium is common and could easily gain access to any building floating through the usual water systems. So it was just bad luck that it happened to settle in the Sir Donald Tsang Stately Pleasure Dome. Could have happened anywhere. Government workers are mopping and scrubbing the place as we speak; the bug will be eradicated before long and the whole episode forgotten. That’s the probable outcome.
But what if it is not that simple? What if the microscopic beasties managed to infiltrate the Sir Bowtie Mega-Palace because of an engineering fault in the pipes or storage tanks? What if the architectural pointlessness of the Government Citadel’s form somehow exposes the inhabitants to microbial risk in a way that ordinary oblong buildings do not? What if the lavishness of the design contains elements that are in fact unhygienic and breed germs? What if officials desperately rushing to get the monstrosity open in time cut corners or swept something under the carpet, leaving the way open for an influx of plague? What if the problem can only be fixed by sending half the civil servants back to the old dump at Lower Albert Road for six months, or by spending another half billion dollars on retrofitting accidentally omitted filters or something?
it’s all way too much to hope for we all hope it isn’t the case.
Pure bad luck, or human error. There is a third explanation for the visitation of sickness upon Zhongnanhai South: divine intervention. Even being omniscient, God probably doesn’t minutely follow the workings of the Hong Kong government. But He can’t have helped noticing by now how infuriating and irritating Michael Suen is. Personally, I’d have covered the Education Secretary in boils, but that’s just me.