It was a really, really small Chinese flag

The New York Times seems to be getting heavy on Hong Kong colonial nostalgia. A couple of weeks ago, one of its columnists offered this moving tale

THE other day I went into a family-run noodle shop and when I paid, I handed over a colonial-era one-dollar coin with the British queen’s head. I instantly felt a pang of regret.

“Sorry, could I swap it? I want to save the one with the queen’s head,” I explained…

In its report on yesterday’s pro- and (mostly) anti-government marches, the paper encounters a carrier of the blue ‘dragon and lion’ banner…

She said that she was displaying the flag as a nostalgic symbol of a time when the Hong Kong economy seemed to offer more opportunities for young people, and when Britain, before the return to China, was granting the people of Hong Kong growing autonomy.

“We’re missing the golden old days of Hong Kong,” she said.

You can dab tears from your eyes, or you can get arrested over it. The Standard (on page 2) says that one group of protesters yesterday sang God Save the Queen – which is borderline surreal – and someone was arrested for burning the People’s Republic of China and current Hong Kong flags. And can it be any coincidence that the street where radical legislator Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung underwent his inevitable detention by the cops was… Queen’s Road Central?

This symbolism is almost calculated to drive a particular type of patriot berserk with rage. But the reports all suggest that most of the marchers on the pro-government assembly, with their uniformly dull, mass-produced placards, were less than passionate, and not simply because their average age seems to have been 20-30 jaded years higher. House News reports that at least some of the people marching in support of Chief Executive CY Leung received HK$250 each. This is no great surprise, until you get to the glorious and exquisite detail: the cash was dispensed by someone operating out of a portable toilet.

You couldn’t make this up. Numbers, on the other hand, are easy to fabricate, and the gaps between police and organizers’ estimates for the sizes of the demonstrations are so wide as to make them worthless. The pro-CY (‘silent majority’) group estimates it attracted 60,000, while the cops say 8,000; the anti-CY organizers claim 130,000 versus the cops’ 26,000. By all accounts, the anti-CY march looked distinctly bigger than some of the more embarrassing July 1 events in years past, but nowhere near government-toppling-size.

The Leung administration has a policy address and annual budget to deliver. It will be interesting to see how the still-new leadership uses the opportunity to unveil attention-grabbing, agenda-setting, populist measures – or at least how it tries to.

CY and gang are long on big, if vague, well-meaning intentions but short on ability to implement. The tycoon-bureaucrat nexus and the pro-democrats are both willing CY to fail in whatever he tries to do, from building more affordable housing to cleaning the air. What his team should do is ask: what can we announce that will attract real people with real signs, rather than paid oldies bussed in by the kaifongs, to the next pro-CY gathering? And do it. But what we will probably get is a slightly jazzed-up version of the traditional policy address/budget formats.

The real silent majority probably stayed at home in the warm yesterday. One thing they might have seen had they ventured out was a new phenomenon in Central’s venerable Gage Street: a line of tourists outside the hovel that is the Lan Fong Yuen stall. Apparently, the centuries-old vendor of Hong Kong’s sickly traditional ‘pantyhose’ milk tea has made it into the guide books. Not all of them were speaking Mandarin, but most were. One was a late-20s woman in nouveau-bourgeois bright leather/sequins/perm with a little boy she loudly called ‘Bobby’. Maybe she thought an English name would help them fit in during their visit to Hong Kong – who knows? Unfortunately, the kid refused to acknowledge it. Then, I’m guessing, it was round the corner and up to the egg tarts place.

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15 Responses to It was a really, really small Chinese flag

  1. Time-dalayed Lois Beluga do not post before 1 pm says:

    Dishonest politicians. The disgrace!

    Let’s select from a really credible sector of Hong Kong citizens…people up to the job…so no schoolteachers, restaurant owners, plumbers, electricians, salesmen, policemen, traffic wardens:

    Legco members..barristers and dodgy businessmen..er…

    Solicitors…no, just joking…er…

    Physicians….drunks, gropers and flashers, extending the illnesses of their patients and prescribing useless medicines…er…

    Dentists…where did all that remaining gold we bought for my fillings go to…er…

    Clergymen…oops sorry boys and girls…er…

    Lecturers…housing allowance cheating plagiarists squatting on their posts…er…

    Trade union leaders….eating banquets with the CCP..er…

    Civil servants…moaning and groaning about their pensions and colluding with big businessmen…er…

    All right…taxi drivers…shopkeepers…small traders..hawkers…triads…pickpockets…hookers…oh all right then…I know…

    Property agents…solid, honest, the pillar of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity…

    Got it!

  2. Sir Crispin says:

    I found a coin from the colonial era in among my change. I presume this might be worth something (ie. more than the face value) to a collector?

  3. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    That queue scotched my father in law’s plan to make my wife and I lunch there yesterday. Thank Christ for that.

  4. Property Developer says:

    The current political atmosphere is like when a black Mercedes tries to do an illegal U-turn: the populace moves quickly to half-block it and an uneasy stalemate ensues, with each side afraid to make any substantial move, for fear of giving traction to the other.

    So it becomes a second-degree tussle, with the subtlest of moves to take away face (glaring, spitting and shouting) and appeals to biased third parties.

    Which of course leaves the commentators without a joib, reduced, like the NY Times, to balancing the viewpoints by overindulgence in semicolons and generally admitting defeat.

  5. Old Timer says:

    I’ve been dropping my Queen’s-head HK coins into a moneybox for years now. God knows how many are in there, dozens at least, but I doubt they’ll ever be worth more than face value for decades, except as part of some modern artwork or something. Possibly. Just a thought.

  6. Stephen says:

    I admit to watching open mouthed as the anti CY protesters sang “God save the Queen” Not hard to almost sympathize with the black boot polish hair dye boys who were probably frothing at the mouth.

    What strikes me is the impossibility of Pro-Dems demands. Hong Kong will not return to British rule, be an independent state, and have the power to remove a CE. Neither will it be fully democratic. When will the Pro-Dems wake up to this last point? I am not saying that full democracy is not desirable, noble or may help improve governance it just isn’t going to happen in the todays PRC. Talk – find out the maximum they can allow and move on – it’s not as if the Big Lychee was short of other issues.

    We seem to be stuck with some of the dumbest politicians God put eyes into who instead of hammering out agreements on Air, Collusion, Poverty, and Real Estate prices etc concentrate entirely on the unobtainable and wave colonial flags and sing the British national anthem to make their point – FFS !

  7. Walter De Havilland says:

    Interesting day yesterday. I took the opportunity to watch the various protest groups making their way through Causeway Bay and Wanchai. The demographic (no pun intended) of the pro-CY lot against the others was marked. Clearly a lot of Grannies were bussed in. I’m pretty sure I saw one old couple marching pro-CY around lunchtime and with the other camp later in the day. Only in Hong Kong.

    On the numbers front, looks to me like the Police were more accurate.

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Stephen

    I agree completely with your views – you are one of the commentators on this blog who does consistently speak some sense (I hope you take that as a genuine compliment given my own rather radical pro- CY views, but heck – I just want change for the better , as do we all. I don’t really care by whom that change comes )

    I stayed at home all yesterday so the first I heard about the anti-anti- whatever marches was the morning news. All so silly.

    What actually amazes me is that Hemmers can get up early enough every day, sober and clear in his mind, read all the news, and write such penetrating stuff ( and really Hemmers, what you write really does hit to the core )

    He must go to bed at 6.00 PM to repeat this day after day.

    OK, in penance the newly reformed RTP who by end of this year will become NTP ( N= Non) will make a New Years resolution : not to use smileys any more in deference to one commentator who seemed to have taken offence at this bad habit of mine

    OK – La ? 🙂

  9. Old Timer says:

    @RTP
    No offence, but if you have “rather radical pro- CY views” why weren’t you out there marching in his support, perhaps with a smiley banner?

  10. Adrian says:

    Instead of the national anthem “God save the Queen”, I’d prefer the protesters to sing the Sex Pistols’ version. The words and sentiment are more fitting.

  11. Maugrim says:

    What Stephen said plus this: firstly, Long Hair and Wong Yuk Man are shrewd showmen from way back who will manipulate existing events to create notable PR stunts. This is why young peiople are flocking to the LSD and why the Dems are on the way out. HK is becoming something out of ‘Bonfire of the vanities’. What a pity our poiticians are smart enough to know what keeps them on our TV screens via soundbytes but too stupid to work out how they can lead HK for its ultimate betterment as opposed to that of their own.

  12. “This symbolism is almost calculated to drive a particular type of patriot berserk with rage.” I think you can delete the “almost” there.

  13. Claw says:

    I didn’t see any mention on the various news broadcasts of the rather smart Falun Gong demo which marched yesterday, complete with uniformed, in-step brass band and chinese drumming and dancing band and a few hundred well disciplined (mostly elderly) marchers.

    Political correctness ? If we don’t mention them, perhaps they’ll go away ?

  14. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Old Timer

    I am much to much of an old timer to do that stuff any more

    Let the younger generation do the marching

    Last time I did a march I actually walked the entire route backwards from Central to Causeway Bay ringing a cowbell to say what total BS all these so called “pro- dems” stand for vs what what HK actually needs = cleaner air, more care for the elderly, cheaper homes etc etc

    RTP ( shortly to become NTP)

    @ Maugrim :You also speak total sense and I agree

  15. Property Developer says:

    An Apple Daily clip — thank God for a free press! — shows that people expressing unconditional support for CY were being paid. Seems obvious now, doesn’t it?

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