The morning gets off to a bad start as I grapple with an uncooperative mobile device and accidentally call someone’s number for a brief second. Minutes later, a woman listed in my contacts calls me back, excitedly assuming that I have phoned to say Happy Valentine’s. I let her down gently.
At least I have not been standing half the night on a sidewalk between Des Voeux and Harbour Roads. Like a snake consuming itself, the line around the block east of Hang Seng Bank HQ in Central has no beginning and no end. Here are all four corners at 8.30am…
The lengthy throng seems to overlap at some point outside the Bank of China, where the last in the queue stand in a column beside the first, separated by Hong Kong Police barrier tape. Like Dutch tulips, McDonalds Snoopy dolls or iPhones, it’s all about the madness of crowds, each individual who sniffs a quick killing attracting another three or four petrified of losing out. The Mainland’s historic financial institution has printed a mere 1.1 million 100th anniversary Hong Kong banknotes, and people are selling them on for six to 10 times their face value. So it says here. Waiting patiently for hours to make several hundred percent profit is perfectly rational – but who are the idiots buying the things at such a mark-up?
And so we turn to the ongoing soap opera that is Hong Kong’s quasi-contested Chief Executive quasi-election. After a shockingly lame smear campaign aimed at contender CY Leung, we now have a similarly pathetic non-scandal in retaliation (with a bit of help it seems from Ming Pao newspaper). And it is seriously pathetic. Illegal structures? That’s the best you can do? It’s an insult.
Illegal structures are Hong Kong’s great leveler. If you do not have one it is because you are boring and live in a modern-style rabbit-hutch apartment (and probably collect 100th anniversary banknotes). The original, free-thinking, liberty-loving rest of us – the wealthy in Kowloon Tong detached houses, the grasping peasant mafia in New Territories villas, the bohemians in crumbling Soho tong lau and the underclass in rooftop fire-trap huts – all have them.
By definition – and like their owners – all illegal structures are endearingly eccentric, and Henry’s is no exception: a sinister cellar, with blood stains on the floor and chains on the walls, and mysterious windows in the ceiling so it can be viewed from the bottom of a shark-infested swimming pool. Or at least it’s a vintage wine stash. Obviously, people who live in some soulless Flat E, 17th Floor, Block G mass-produced by Sun Hung Kai will be jealous.
So just as my instinctive longing for truth and justice leads me to side with CY Leung on the Kowloon Arts Hub conflict-of-interest non-issue, so my love of life, liberty and the pursuit of decent-sized living space places me alongside hapless, grinning Henry on this one.
To read Asia Sentinel, local tycoons are having second thoughts, and Henry’s candidacy is on the brink of collapse (and the article predates this ‘Cellargate’ outrage). We should be so lucky for life to turn so interesting all of a sudden.
Such a scenario implies that Henry stands down (back strain from cellar-digging, say) and the Mainland officials trying to direct this farce behind the scenes introduce a last-minute replacement whom people like Bank of East Asia’s David Li and ex-Monetary Authority boss Joseph Yam can seamlessly embrace as if nothing had happened. But the comrades won’t do that over the laughable anti-Leung smear. They, after all, are the ones who, in their desperation to boost Henry in the opinion polls, surely instigated it. And they’re not going to do it because of an illegal structure. No-one ever does anything over an illegal structure.
The queues remind me of those idyllic days when people would queue to pick up a prospectus for the latest shonky Mainland company IPO. Days when the market was bullish and bonuses sweet sounding. I tell the kids in the office about those days when downsizing was unheard of, but they don’t believe me.
It’s amazing isn’t it what greedy people will do for easy money. The fact that a profit can be obtained for FREE, even if it involves ball-aching hours of queuing, gives it a special KIASU appeal in Hong Kong. The KIASU alphabet:
Always must win Never mind what they think
Borrow but never return Outdo everyone you know
Cheap is good Pay only when necessary
Don’t trust anyone Quit while you are ahead
Everything also must grab! Rushing and pushing wins the race
Free! Free! Free! Sample are always welcome
Grab first talk later Take but don’t give
Help yourself to everything Unless it’s free forget it
I first, I want, I everything Vow to be number one
Jump queue Winner takes it ALL! ALL! ALL!
Keep coming back for more Yell if necessary to get what you want
Look for discount Zebras are kiasu because they want to
Must not lose face be both black and white at the same time
Before i leave Hong Kong, I am going to fill a large pit with offal and manure, then scatter a few hundred banknotes of different denominations in the stinking mass.
Then I will place an ad in the SCMP advertising THE RINKY DINKY TREASURE QUEST, sit back and watch the fun. How many people will sink and drown in the mass of ordure for the prospect of a soiled, putrid 500 dollar note?
Anyone like to join me in funding this cavalcade of fun one day?
And that is why HK will never really be Asia’s World City…too many half-wits lining up like brain-dead lemmings for useless crap.
A colleague told me that at the North Point branch, the people who had secured their commemorative notes were selling them to those further back in the queue for a stiff profit.
The price apparently went up the further away from the bank a person was standing, so presumably the notes were flipped several times before some doofus paid his life’s savings then turned around and found he was at the back.
Hemmers – we must have been cloned
The first 2 points I focussed on today at 06.00 AM using SCMP on-line ( to which I subscribe) were :
a) the silly folly of these new bank notes, and I bet myself there would be queues as long as for free MacDonald’s Hello Kitty dolls (indeed there were, and how !)
b) enery’s wine cellar fiasco
OK No 7 York Place has been vacant for a few years, but imagine what kind of money does the ‘orse ( cheval) has to leave a HK$50 ( 100?) K / per month property vacant ad infinitum
Me , real tax payer with a HK$250K annual tax bill ? I can’t even afford room for a goldfish bowl , let alone a non-used swimming pool with a wine cellar underneath it
I wonder how much personal salaries tax the ‘orse pays. it would be interesting to find out .
And there was a SynergyNet Leader in today’s SCMP which (quote) says that 90% of HK companies pay zero corporate tax, yes that ‘s ZERO ! And 90 %
SH1T … does that make my employer a total fool ? We are legally registered in HK, we employ only a dozen staff in HK , we make a profit of H$ 30 – 40 Million per year and pay HK$ hundreds of thousands in tax ( so forget your farking HK$12k rebate Mr John Whiskers SIR / spelt CUR )
What the farking FARK is going on ?
Now I am getting seriously pissed….
…too many half-wits lining up like brain-dead lemmings for…..Rugby 7’s tickets…
Has anyone noticed that besides not wearing a tie these days the enery is not wearing a smile anymore ?
Maybe he was advised to drop the village idiot persona for a more casual, man-of-the-filthy rich-people approach.
In terms of its design, Tang’s house looks like something out of Jacque Tati’s ‘mon oncle’. There is something very HK about a man whose ‘family’ owns a number of adjacent $45 m houses, one of which is vacant and even he’s not sure which one he lives in. Very HK when even the prospective CEO ignores Government rules a la Heung Yee Kuk/Fuk Lam Moon. Yet on the other hand, we have codgery waiting for hours in the cold to onsell a piece of paper to someone else further down the line at a profit. The results of which will be splurged on a lunchbox or maybe juk from Maxims instead. So very HK.
a) don’t have any illegal structures in/ on/ under / next to my rabbit hutch
b)I pay my taxes without cheating
It’s kind of tough to think that the enery probably cannot tick either of those two boxes with a clear conscience
OK, time to go to FLM and push the traffic wardens to book a few more tycoon-mobiles ( now my daily sport / great fun / try it ! )
Did anyone watch the Pearl Report last night? Enery, Jabba the Gut and CY all rolled out their families for our entertainment. Interesting stuff (not really) because Enery’s daughter declined to answer questions in Cantonese and opted for English. There was a David Brent moment when Enery smiled in embarrassment at the camera.
Meanwhile Jabba was all remorseful about ‘not being around for his kids because he was fighting for democracy.’ His daughter looked pleased he was not around.
This really should deflate HKers smug sense of superiority re: Mainlanders. oh wait, HKers at least form a queue. Nevermind.
“We are legally registered in HK, we employ only a dozen staff in HK , we make a profit of H$ 30 – 40 Million per year and pay HK$ hundreds of thousands in tax”
which can be minimised by
payment to a company pension scheme
sourcing income / profits from PRC
tax exemption / apportionment of contracts made outside HK
senior employees becoming self-employed on commission
@ The Regulator
Yes I’m sure we can play all those tricks ( legal tricks )
And I guess that’s how the most of the 90% of HK companies legally evade – sorry – AVOID – tax.
But we find it’s simpler just to do normal accounting and pay our fair amount of corporate tax , same as I do with my own personal tax
Which takes us back to the ‘orse. Not only does he apparently not know which house he lives in ( !) but he has registered his properties in Bermuda or some other off-shore / tax free haven. Now why on earth would our ex – FS / ex – CS need to play around with such tax fiddles ( sorry AVOIDANCE SCHEMES) ?
It comes back to the same question : how much tax does our enery pay ?
I would love to know the answer to that question …. you too?
Reminds me of Bin Laden’s compound.
You couldn’t write a better farce than the saga of “Henry-the-Horse-gate”!
So Slimebag’s nephew spilled the beans according to ATV news!
This reminds me of the Flanders and Swan song, last stanza :
We’re terribly House & Garden, as I think we said before
But though 7B is madly gay
It wouldn’t do for every day.
We actually live in 7A,
In the house next door.
The SCMP mockups of Henry’s underground bunker remind me of this story:
Why is a bank allowed to sell Hong Kong currency at a 50% markup? Why isn’t this illegal?