Reading between the lines a bit, the Standard sort of announces that the Hong Kong government is going to transfer – via our favourite intermediaries, the property developers – the land along the border to Mainlanders. Welcome to the visa-free economic zone, presumably to be named Locustland. This is much bigger in scale than previous proposals to speed up that wonderful lovely integration with Shenzhen that we’re so desperate to have. Under this plan, the Lok Ma Chau Loop will just be where the hordes of visitors wipe their feet.
Those of us who by nature like to look on the bright side might see some advantages. The busloads of Mainlanders who come here to buy the tacky Made-in-China European designer label fashion will be able to do it up in the distant New Territories rather than in our downtown neighbourhoods. The vast Armani, Bulgari and other outlets in Central and Tsimshatsui will close down and the premises will gradually decay and return to nature, with creeping vines growing up the walls and little furry animals building nests.
The more negative among us might be worried about environmental degradation, overcrowding, illegal immigration, the swamping of schools, hospitals and housing, and a thousand other problems that might happen when you let 1.3 billion people into your front yard.
Cynics, on the other hand, will wonder whether perhaps the Standard is pushing an agenda. The idea of a visa-free zone for ‘high-end production, service industries and retail business’ comes from the One Country, Two Systems Research Institute. The ‘individuals of social standing’ behind this quasi-think-tank comprise nearly all our most highly respected property tycoons and other plutocrats (I defy anyone to look down the list and spot more than a mere one, well maybe two, in ten who is or has been involved in some sort of alleged corruption, insider trading, illegal basement-building, luxury yacht-sharing or other jiggery-pokery (extramarital dalliances not included)). And, yes of course, Charles Ho – proprietor of the Standard and Sing Tao – is among them. As is the Honorable Lau Wong-fat of the New Territories’ Heung Yee Kuk.
The property cartel has accumulated land in this part of Hong Kong. If Chief Executive CY Leung is going to divert more resources into affordable housing for local people, the tycoons would love a separate slice of the city that they could bundle up for sale to the money-launderers and princelings from up north. The services-sector possibilities are endless: the ‘My Father is Li Gang’ private college for gifted rich kids; the Gu Kailai luxury retirement community; the six-star Robert Mugabe Resort Hotel; a supermarket stacked full of guaranteed non-poisoned milk powder; and the Guangdong Province Corrections Department Number-One Harvested Organs Transplant Clinic. But…
Over at the South China Morning Post, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, while ‘vague on the idea of the policy for the border area’ (and who among us, in all truth, isn’t?), seems fairly sure about one thing…
Maybe the Research Institute will have to rename itself One Country, Two Systems, No Locustland.