The May 1st public holiday comes early to today’s South China Morning Post, where page 1 is full of Ferran Adria, and page 3 (‘Leading The News’) replete with Annabelle Bond. These individuals (pictured below right) have two things in common.
The first is that we have never heard of them. A quick glance reveals that Ferran is a ‘top chef’, while Annabelle is a ‘socialite’. An unnamed Asian has stumped up a lot of money to have a meal with the forgettable-looking Ferran. The visually scary Annabelle, meanwhile, is in a situation where her ex-lover is suing her current one for child support, or vice-versa, or something along those lines. Which brings us to the second thing they have in common: we have no interest in them whatever.
Over at the Standard, we are invited to believe at least two impossible things before breakfast. First, that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung and other top officials have been prompted to visit Beijing by some comment of Politburo member Zhang Dejiang about how the Big Lychee will be swept downstream if it doesn’t go upstream, or some such meaningless inanity. Second, that Hong Kong’s ‘development needs will [or can] be met if the city joins in preparatory work for the 13th Five-Year Plan’.
Hong Kong’s problems of a downstream-sweeping sort would be: a cartelized domestic economy; artificially inflated rents and property prices; bad air; an unmanageable influx of shoppers from overseas; too few schools of the sort people want; and so on. All of them are the result of government policy. The government is chosen and appointed by Beijing. Back to you, Mr Zhang. (And “…expect a lot more people asking for a 20% pay rise, just so they can afford to keep living in” their own city.)
Back at the SCMP: a profile of Chan Ching-sum, convenor of Caring Hong Kong Power – the most prominent of several pro-government groups to have sprung up in recent years. As the RTHK clip shows, she is an excitable little bundle of venom, and her organization takes what might be called an interesting slant on things, supporting National Education, cheerleading CY for a pastime, denouncing pro-democrats for everything and proclaiming love for China.
CHKP looks and sounds like a classic case of political astroturfing – a fake grassroots movement set up in this case by Beijing’s locally based officials to somehow counteract Hong Kong’s multitude of opposition groups. The presence of paid attendees at a pro-CY demonstration organized by the Voice of Loving Hong Kong and some superficial design similarities in CHKP and (anti-Falun Gong) Hong Kong Youth Care Association publicity materials might support this impression. And, as RTHK points out, where else do you get pro-government marches except in places like Russia and Iran, where they are obviously managed by the local regimes.
These organizations may be accepting some funds from leftist business interests, and may have United Front links (as the HKYCA obviously has) and some Mainland-born members. But it doesn’t follow that they are all fake.
Chan Ching-sum and the rest mostly seem so stupid and obnoxious that they must encourage the average fair-minded person to sympathize with the pro-democrats. (Maybe the CIA/MI6/KMT plot to grab Hong Kong is funding them?) And – a few paid protestors notwithstanding – these people seem all too sincere in their hatred of the pro-dems. They appear less convincing when it comes to professing heartfelt and ardent love for the administration, which suggests that it is spite for pan-dems that drives them.
And that gives us a good pointer as to who they are. There is an older generation in Hong Kong of unworldly, uneducated, mainly poor folk who view the modern world generally with suspicion and dislike trendy opposition activists in particular. Some fought the colonial regime back in the 60s and were blacklisted and despised for decades after.
Chan Ching-sum and her comrades seem to represent the next generation of local Chinese nativism and know-nothingism. They are basically working class, lacking college degrees and engaged in non-professional trades. They resent and despise a particular sort of fellow Hongkonger, like the overseas-educated lawyer who hangs out with foreigners and knows how to use a knife and fork; what better way to get your own back than to support the things he hates and hate the things he supports, whatever they might be? In short, Chan and Co are losers.
In the West, they would outrage the liberal intellectual elite by joining a white-supremacist punk band, a homophobic church or some armed wacko fringe of the Tea Party. In Hong Kong, they rebel by professing support for the system that allows the property tycoons to screw them. It is an amusing but ultimately sorry sight. They deserve pity, and even a hug.