It’s a life of surprises, watching Hong Kong’s social and political ferment over the years. Each time the rulers suppress or ward off discontent, it pops up again where you least expect it. Our leaders thought the people agitating for reform down at the Star Ferry in Central in the 90s had wandered off out of boredom; instead, they poured out in the early 2000s to demand and get Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s head. After Beijing made it clear there would be no democracy, the malcontents turned historic and occupied the Star Ferry site to defend the city’s heritage. Now the local administration has started to get on top of that issue, the masses rise up over something else: ‘Mainlandization’ and, specifically, ‘locusts’.
Noodles being dropped on trains, overcrowded maternity wards, cinema closures, unaffordable housing, guttural slurring chatter on the Mid-Levels Escalator, kiddies doing pee-pee in public, Dolce & Gabbana luxury hegemony, baby milk powder shortages, signs in simplified characters – it’s all coming to a head, not least in the world’s press. And while we’re not quite getting to pogrom/Kristallnacht levels of viciousness, ‘bastard running dog’ Hong Kong emotions are definitely getting borderline nasty where the entomological allusions are concerned.
For all its apparent efforts to convince its citizens to love the motherland – through National Education, Olympic flag-waving, astronaut visits and TV anthems – the Hong Kong government has successfully alienated local people from the nation and arranged the demonization of Mainlanders as the cause of Hong Kong’s biggest problems. It is the Hong Kong government that for years has had ample funding to ensure adequate maternity and other hospital capacity, but has chosen not to spend it. It is the Hong Kong government that throughout much of the 2000s has squeezed land supply to deliberately push up the cost of housing and business rents and cut supply of affordable homes. This is where the burgeoning ethnic/cultural hatred of voracious, swarming, chomping, ‘locusts’ comes from.
Our policymakers and planners were, in all fairness to them, perhaps too dense to foresee what size footprint a tiny, middle-class slice of the Mainland’s 1.3 billion people could stamp on the city. Or perhaps they are in fact more cunning, and this is all part of a plot by unpatriotic CE Sir Donald Tsang, the British running dog still in power, to split Hong Kong from the People’s Republic, use it as a base from which to subvert Party rule and treacherously deliver the country to evil foreign imperialist forces. Who knows?
Meanwhile, Beijing’s struggle to counter local reactionary devils continues. The accepted wisdom among the chattering classes is that tycoon Robert Kuok bought the South China Morning Post from Rupert Murdoch back in 1999 as a gesture of loyalty to Beijing, to keep the organ out of hostile hands, and that the paper has been a headache for the family ever since. How many of the Magnificent Seven post-Murdoch editors can you name? (Answer in the second-from-last paragraph here.)
Staffers at Asia’s greatest English-language newspaper are now joining the company’s Party Cell for struggle sessions and trying to get their tongues and throats around the irrrrr-ggghhhh cadences of Mandarin, as editor Number (lucky) Eight assumes office and wonders how long it will be before he wishes he were back at China Daily…