Amid all the chatter about Article 23, tear gas and purges of property tycoons, no-one has yet asked what the arrival of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will mean for equal opportunities. It had certainly skipped my mind until, in my increasingly desperate attempts to occupy myself over the drawn-out holiday weekend, I found myself pondering the next great battle in the war against discrimination: ‘hair-colorism’.
In 1950, 7% of women colored their hair … Today, it’s closer to 95% or more, depending on geographic location. In the ’60s, easy, affordable hair dye in a box hit store shelves, changing the follicle landscape.
Depending on geographical location, indeed. In the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing, a full 100% of the follicle landscape would appear to be the product of easy, affordable hair dye in a box. (That’s among the men; the few women in senior government positions in China seem happy going grey, and look all the more credible for it.)
In Hong Kong, a 60-something politician with a stubbornly black head of hair would probably be mocked, not least by the city’s often-cruel cartoonists. In democracies generally, people essentially assume that if a top leader does not go grey in office, he is not doing his job properly. Our local tycoons, on the other hand, rejoice in their unnaturally youthful, dark locks – just as they embrace phony academic titles and other embarrassing vanities. Ninety-year-old casino king and former ballroom dancing fan Dr Stanley Ho GBM, GLM, GBS, GML, OBE only started letting his white roots show in the last couple of years, following his unfortunate physical and maybe other declines. Perhaps, when the long-awaited purge gets underway, the Correctional Services Department will start stocking Grecian in prison shops so our ex-plutocrats have something to spend their pocket money on after a week’s hard work bashing out road signs.
So Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission will probably not be expanding its noble campaigning activities into the area of hair-colorism. Who would the victims be? We are more likely to discriminate against, or at least laugh at, those without a dash of grey than those with. By contrast, check out a less-ambiguous approach to bigotry in the form of this lady explaining in an intriguingly unhinged-but-calm manner why she is bringing up her two pre-teen daughters to be racist. This story has a predictable ending; the two girls have since ditched white separatism for marijuana. At least it wasn’t hair dye.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post asks whether CY will still meet the people now he’s won? Critics darkly mutter that, just maybe, he mixed with the masses during his campaign simply as part of a strategy to win public approval. The conclusion is that we must in future judge the relatively introverted Leung not by what he does, but by how smoothly he can cynically adopt a fake ‘sincere’ persona while hanging out with grannies in Shamshuipo for the cameras. That’s discrimination.