The insurmountable horrors of standard working hours and Occupy Central

The committee considering statutory maximum working hours in Hong Kong will take up to three years to produce its recommendations. Sounds as if the body is practicing an extreme version of what it has yet to preach, by strictly limiting its efforts to no more than – what? – 30 minutes per week.

Officials insist that it’s technically a very complex issue. It used to be. Standard working hours raise interesting questions. What about forex traders who love 90-hour weeks? What about people whose irregular tasks mean they goof off some months but occasionally have to do tons of overtime? But policy wonks elsewhere sat down and solved these dilemmas years ago. Hong Kong could do worse than just pull Singapore’s system off the shelf, or Australia’s, or someone else’s.

The real problem was summed up by the committee’s chairman, Leong Che-hung, who said: “We will not underestimate the difficulty for society to reach consensus.” Where there should be a modicum of leadership we have a void. And that brings us back to yesterday’s subject (which, to the disappointment of level-headed observers, produced only one comparison of Margaret Thatcher to Hitler among the fashionably near-psychotic feedback).

As if working hours weren’t bad enough, everyone is gearing up for the biggest urban civil conflict since Beirut: next year’s Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign to force Beijing to deliver 100% pure universal suffrage in 2017. The worst/best-case scenario is that for a few days traffic gets re-routed around the main business district, and commuters have to walk a bit further than usual. That’s it.

But no-one has an interest in being calm and relaxed. Beijing, fearing a mass movement and international attention, sets the nervous tone. Local patriots spy an opportunity to whip up popular feeling against the pro-dems by claiming such civic action will paralyze the entire economy and irreparably wreck Hong Kong’s international reputation as a place where people don’t sit in the street, or something. The pro-dems, more excited than they have been for years, half believe they are capable of such enormities. Egged on by one another, everyone ends up wetting themselves, as RTHK reports:

Pro-government lawmakers [yesterday] wanted to know if police had enough officers to deal with the Occupy Central protest – planned to involve at least 10,000 people – if the district should become paralysed and the protest turn violent. They also asked whether psychological counselling would be available to the officers who’ll have to deal with the protesters, and invited the police to come back to Legco just in case they want additional resources.

And, in regards to a budget item about the cost of government flying service taking part in emergency exercises, they also asked if perhaps the PLA Garrison in Hong Kong might be invited to join in an emergency drill. Pro-democracy members, on the other hand, wanted to know if police plan to employ a giant loudspeaking device – dubbed an “acoustical weapon” – whether Hong Kong stadium will be reserved as a holding pen for arrested demonstrators, and whether psychological counselling would be available to officers who were sympathetic to pan-democrats and would become stressed by having to round them up.

So mutual is the freaking-out that you could easily rearrange the terrors. For example, it could be the pro-dems rather than the pro-Beijing camp who raise the dreaded possibility of the PLA running everyone over with tanks, or it could be the pro-Beijing folk rather than the pro-dems who ask if the cops will use their space-age ‘acoustic weapon’ to turn protestors’ brains to jelly that oozes out of their ruptured eardrums. Top prize for colourful imagery must go to whichever pro-dem asked about herding arrestees into the stadium – where presumably Chilean or Guinean soldiers will be waiting. Interestingly, both camps maintain that our law-enforcement personnel are such weenies that they will need counseling after this forthcoming trauma.

One way for the government to pull the rug out from under Occupy Central: pedestrianize the whole area by July 2014 as a long overdue anti-pollution measure, and install park benches everywhere so everyone, pro-democrat or pro-Beijing, can sit in the middle of Queen’s Road as much as they please.

Click to hear Count Five’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’!

 

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10 Responses to The insurmountable horrors of standard working hours and Occupy Central

  1. Sojourner says:

    Hmmm …. So, Hemmers, anyone who demurred with your views on the Iron Lady is guilty of “fashionably near-psychotic feedback”?

    Innnnnterrrrressssting, as Larry David would put it.

  2. Property Developer says:

    Like postmodern novelists who incorporate, and thus defuse, literary criticism into their discourse, there are some days when public HK figures must be semi-humorously self-parodying.

    They’ve obviously read too much Beckett and Xu Xi, have given up trying to solve society’s problems and have decided to simply play to the gallery, or perhaps even to the gods, and so produce the killer reductio ad absurdum, the ultima thule of nitpicking simultaneously leading and rhetorical questions.

    It’s almost as if they knew they were going to feature in Hemlock and his Forum, and so did their utmost to head off any chance of reasoned analysis or constructive debate.

  3. maugrim says:

    Sojourner, I’d be interested to hear your views about what the UK would have been like if Thatcher hadn’t been elected. Perhaps we’d still have triumphs of British technology, engineering and overall quality such as Leyland cars.

  4. Sojourner says:

    Congratulations, Property Developer, for being the first person EVER to mention ultima thule on “The Big Lychee”.

    And you’re right, there is a palpable whiff of self-parody in the air.

  5. Sojourner says:

    I’d love to oblige, maugrim, but I’m afraid my bon mots would inevitably degenerate into near-psychosis.

  6. Big Al says:

    I don’t see why everyone’s worrying about the Occupy movement NEXT YEAR as we’re all likely to be taken out by an errant nuke (aimed at the US of A) from the North Koreans who, I am sure, are rapidly running out of belligerent hyperbole and so might actually have to do something. In all likelihood probably something less spectacular than fireworks over the Harbour, but, will be interesting to see how this pans out …

  7. arm bears says:

    I think it’s time to stop feeding the troll, ladies.

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    “…pedestrianize the whole area by July 2014 as a long overdue anti-pollution measure, and install park benches everywhere so everyone, pro-democrat or pro-Beijing, can sit in the middle of Queen’s Road as much as they please”

    Excellent idea ! This would also solve all the illegal parking at a stroke

    ( PS: I am also wondering if we could ask N Korea to nuke all the tycoons next time they have a jamboree bean fest at some golf club or whatever – not a very charitable thought I agree, but then again the tycoons have never shown us plebs any charity )

  9. Sojourner says:

    “I am also wondering if we could ask N Korea to nuke all the tycoons next time they have a jamboree bean fest at some golf club or whatever ,,,,”

    My fantasy exactly, RTP.

  10. Curious that you should choose to remind us what a murderous bastard Augusto Pinochet was only a day after extolling the supposed virtues of his best buddy Maggie. A Prime Minister is known by the company she keeps.

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