Mainland China is now up to its ears in giant rubber ducks, inspired by – or blatantly and unquestioningly copied from – Florentijn Hofman’s installation in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. Chinese state media denounce the phenomenon as a danger to the nation’s creativity (it is actually a symptom rather than a cause; there are also concerns about the more prosaic issue of intellectual property). Meanwhile, as the anniversary of the 1989 Beijing massacre comes round, several of the vast waterfowl turn up in lieu of tanks near Tiananmen Square.
Lest anyone imagine that June 4 is too sacred or tragic an occasion for parodies, Hong Kong’s own pro-democracy movement joins in. The Big Lychee’s radical protestors never saw a message they didn’t want to dilute, and it is usual for a single-issue gathering to acquire a multitude of causes and slogans. Almost as a caricature of this tendency, so it is with, of all things, this year’s 6-4 vigil. The burning question: should we adopt a new, extra slogan this time – one that sounds pretty much like a pro-Communist Party one? The answer, after much bickering: um… no.
In view of today’s date, the South China Morning Post discreetly suspends its ongoing ‘Celebrating Hong Kong’ campaign, launched last week to mark its 110th anniversary. A quick glance at the promotion’s announcement on Day 1 had me hastily turning the page. That was no accident: the editors and designers’ aims were clearly to please the boss and hope readers would sympathize and not pay much attention.
Which I duly did. I think I saw former Chief Secretary Sir David Akers-Jones, a selection of second-tier tycoons and deputy tycoons, possibly one of those Olympic cyclists who crop up all the time, plus a handicapped person succeeding against the odds, and maybe something about children? On the back page was a selection of historic photos showing Hong Kong since 1903, with a rather labored emphasis on those occasions in the last 10 years when the city has wheeled happy smiling children out to wave Chinese flags for visiting Mainland athletes and astronauts.
It would be like shooting low-hanging fruit in a barrel, and I ignored it. Then Asia Sentinel did a vicious little piece mocking the SCMP as a Singaporean-style ‘captive monkey grinding the government organ’. This strikes me as a tad unfair. The Lion City’s state-guided media and publicity machine do a highly professional and indeed slick job, often managing to appear semi-convincing to at least a few of the more credulous among their increasingly aware and media-savvy audience. The SCMP campaign, lacking Singapore-type official propaganda specialists to enforce quality control, looks more like a lampoon than a serious attempt to persuade.
And lo – parody it surely is. On Sunday, what promises to be a regular feature on Outstanding Rich and Obedient but Still-Nice Hongkongers of Today focused on one Brandon Chau. ‘Big name, big ambitions’. On closer inspection, we find Brandon to be the offspring of Brenda and Kai-bong Chau, the king and queen of inoffensively tasteless celebrity from years back. Brenda and Kai-bong, about whom innuendo swirled, are also a sort of code word among those in the know to indicate when something in the press is a joke and not intended to be taken seriously. The SCMP slaves tasked with putting the 110th rah-rah project into print are having a great laugh here, and I think we should all join in. The city’s Chief Executive, CY Leung, approves the paper’s ‘Celebrating Hong Kong’ crusade as “a great way to bring people together,” and if it is going to be satire this well done, who am I to disagree?
On an even brighter note, HK Magazine celebrates its recent acquisition by the lavishly funded SCMP by interviewing an inoffensively tasteless but hitherto unaffordable non-celebrity, complete with a pictorial representation of absolutely uncanny likeness.